Ways to keep your shoes in good smelling shape

Shoes wear out quick enough – 300-500 miles happens faster than you might think!  So don’t let odor be the reason you avoid wearing your favorite pair of running shoes!

Here are a couple suggestions to fight the stink and create a healthy environment for your feet.

1. Remember that odor comes from bacteria.  Bacteria like damp, dark places to grow.  After your workout, make sure you untie and open up your shoes.  Pulling the tongue toward the toe to will open them even further.  This will let the air circulate as much as possible and get the shoe dry before your next workout.

2. Use deodorant on your feet.  I know it sounds kind of weird but why wouldn’t it work? Spray deodorant is easier to apply but if you choose to use the solid, just make sure you’re buying a stick EXCLUSIVELY for using on your feet.  This will keep them dry and reduce the rate of bacteria growth.

3. Make sure you have good socks.  Sock technology has come a long way!  Socks woven with silver threads actually do have antibacterial properties.  If your foot odor is bad, it may be worth investing in high tech socks.  If you don’t want to spend that kind of money, make sure you are changing your cotton socks often.  Every workout at a minimum! But on especially long and hot workout days (August is right around the corner!), you may want to change into fresh socks when you stop for a water break.

4. Tea bags, baby powder, baking soda, and Febreze are all options to deodorize your shoes after every workout.  Experiment and find the product you like the best.

5. Don’t be afraid to wash your fabric shoes — just don’t put them in the dryer!  Wash in warm water with detergent and some ammonia or Oxiclean.  If they are especially gross, you can let them soak.  Just remember: don’t dry them!  The high temps in the dryer (although another great way to kill bacteria) can cause the glue holding your shoes together to fail.  Just run them through the wash, open them up as discussed above, and let them air dry.

The summer is moving along and if you have been sweating in your shoes, it may be a great time to clean them up!  Both for your sake and the sake of your workout partner!


MCT – what is it? And…will it help you?

Medium chain triglycerides (MCT) oil has been popping up around the media (think Dr. Oz and the like) as a way to improve athletic performance.  MCT is touted to improve muscle gain and fat loss. But before you out to get yourself some, let’s look behind the curtain.

First, MCT is an oil not naturally found in this form. Made from coconut and palm kernel oils, which are solid at room temperature, this oil has gone through a process that removed some of the saturated fats from each molecule.  This changes its physical properties from the naturally occurring solid at room temperature to a liquid at room temperature.

One interesting fact about MCT’s, and part of the reason they have gained some attention, is they may be more readily absorbable than longer chain fats.  They are also easily converted into usable fuel for muscle and organ tissues.  This can mean they are less likely to be stored by the body as fat.

Be that as it may, MCT oil comes with a list of side effects ranging from the increased by-product production of ketones and creating an increased workload on the liver (where is it metabolized) to nausea and gastric discomfort.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that research has not come to a solid conclusion on whether the benefits of this supplement outweigh the risks.  It is a case of not enough research to make a determination…yet.

Studies are mixed on whether this type of oil will actually improve body composition and whether, in all cases, it is used efficiently as a fuel source.  And it is a fat — which means it packs a caloric punch.  Adding it to your diet without limiting calories somewhere else is likely to result in weight gain.

You may not want to fall for the hype.  Save your dollars — each nutritious food, train hard, rest well, and let your body do what it was designed to do.  MCT is not the miracle in the bottle some people are claiming.


A Video that explains how sugar effects the brain

With all the talk about sugar and its effects, here’s a short video to give you the basics on why too much too often can have negative effects on your brain!

Can’t see the video? Click here!

Failure — is it holding you back or pushing you forward?

A few weeks ago, I attended a commencement program.  While most speakers try to break out of the stereotypical commencement speech box, the speaker at this particular program went very far afield. His topic was failure and understanding how it can affect you.

His assertion: it’s not whether your succeed or fail at a particular task that is the ultimate test, it is the ability to handle failure that will ultimately determine what an individual will achieve — especially in today’s environment focused on being the best.

This speaker, who now is a cardiothoracic surgeon at a prestigious university hospital, had to learn the hard way that there is always someone smarter, willing to work harder, more naturally gifted, or with a better set of skills than each of us.  Failing (failing to get into your first choice school, failing to make the first choice team, failing to make the clutch play, …) will happen — it’s only a matter of time.  Those of us that bounce back from failure (use it as a motivator to make us work harder in practice, pay more attention during game film review, focus more energy on improving our weaknesses) will be the ones to ultimately succeed.

But that’s the harder, not the only, option.

We could also chose to make excuses, blame our teammates, coaches, or parents.  Blame circumstances beyond our control like the weather, humidity, sleep patterns, or spectators and generally hide from our failures.  When we do this, our ego is eased (maybe) but we don’t learn anything.  We don’t seize the opportunity to improve.  We hide from the factors that caused us to fail in the first place.  We look past the opportunity to improve our skills and/or our work ethic, which limits our future success –not because we failed but because we let our failure dictate our future actions.

So, although no one likes to fail, it makes a lot of sense to give some thought to how you have handled it in the past.  Did you make use of the unique (although often painful) opportunity you’ve been presented with?

Improve your balance

Balance is a key component to any type of athletic performance.  You know this.

But…are you actively focusing on your balance training?

To have great balance, you need to train the systems that work together to keep you moving in the direction you chose.  To do this, you not only need the musculature to pull your body into alignment, you also need the brain to understand what “off-balance” feels like and which muscles it needs to activate to regain your balance.

The best way to work on this is to push yourself to the edge of your abilities with exercises that challenge your ability to balance while you are strengthening.  Here are a couple examples from a recent Running Times article:

Contra Kick illustration

Photo Credit: Running Times

These exercises will not only strengthen the muscles surrounding your hips (which will make your body better able to pull your hips back under you when you step on that root or off the curb) but will also give your brain the opportunity to practice what it feels like to have your hips off center.  It also gives your brain a chance to feel what sensory input comes from the bottom of your feet when you are balancing.

Like all other components of athleticism, balance is built with practice and intentional effort.  Whether you’re a runner, a football or soccer player, or competitive cheer is your sport – balance is key to being able to move your body in the most effective way possible.


Broccoli can help fight the effects of air pollution!

Researchers from Johns Hopkins reported “study participants from one of the most polluted regions in China who consumed half a cup of broccoli sprout beverage were shown to excrete high levels of benzene and acrolein – a known human carcinogen and lung irritant, respectively.

Broccoli contains the compound glucoraphanin.  When it is eaten, it generates sulforaphane which increases a particular enzyme in the body allowing for an increased ability of the body to excrete pollutants.

How cool is that!!

Normally, I don’t get that caught up in all the “detox” hoopla because much of it has no basis in scientific research.  But this seems promising!  And with the summer months here (which means increased time outside in unfiltered air, ozone action days, road runs and rides on exhaust-filled streets, etc), it might just be time to fill up your grocery basket with this delicious green vegetable.  Put it in salads, eat it with dip, roast it on the grill.  We all knew it was good for us but now we have more reason that ever to eat it up!

Another Quick Read in Support of keeping the Play in Kids’ Sports

We’ve talked about the benefits of delaying specialization for youth athletes but the New York Times just published an article to give us more food for thought.

A couple of the interesting bits (emphasis mine):

1. “Nearly a third of youth athletes in a three-year longitudinal study led by Neeru Jayanthi, director of primary care sports medicine at Loyola University in Chicago, were highly specialized — they had quit multiple sports in order to focus on one for more than eight months a year — and another third weren’t far behind. Even controlling for age and the total number of weekly hours in sports, kids in the study who were highly specialized had a 36 percent increased risk of suffering a serious overuse injury. ”

2. “Because families with greater financial resources were better able to facilitate the travel and private coaching that specialization requires, socioeconomic status turned up as a positive predictor of serious injury.

3.” Kids who play multiple “attacking” sports, like basketball or field hockey, transfer learned motor and anticipatory skills — the unconscious ability to read bodies and game situations — to other sports. They take less time to master the sport they ultimately choose.

If you are a parent who wants to instill a love of sport, movement, competition, and health into your child for a lifetime, read this article and take it to heart.  Research shows there is plenty of time for your child to develop specialized sports skills without having them drop all but one sport when they are 6 or 7 or 9.  Let those growing bodies develop with a varied set of sports and skills.  They will be significantly less likely to be injured and their “game sense” have a larger set of background skills to draw on.

How much is Big Food willing to spend to get you to change your habits?

How much does seeing McDonald’s logos (or any other kind of junk/fast food) at your sporting event effect your eating patterns?

On the surface, I would like to say I am not that influenced by their marketing — what about you?

Just for the World Cup alone, Coca-Cola (a top tier sponsor) is spending $25-$50 million and McDonald’s (a second tier sponsor) is spending somewhere between $10-$15 million — just for marketing rights to the World Cup!  And that is not even their total bill for the event.

Junk food company marketing must work.  Otherwise, these very savvy marketing people wouldn’t risk that much of their company’s money to sponsor these events.  Maybe the marketing isn’t working on you — maybe it’s working on the kids.  Maybe it’s working on the rest of the world who doesn’t see themselves as athletes.  But it’s working on enough people to justify the expense.

Public health officials concerned with the growing waistlines of the US (and, in many cases, the world) are concerned this marketing is being effective.

My favorite obesity doc, Yoni Freedhoff is concerned about the effectiveness of junk food marketing in sports.

I’m not suggesting we legislate against it or vilify the companies that do it– but I think it’s important to see this marketing for what it really is:

It is a very successful way to get us to buy their products so they can make more money.  It’s the root of capitalism.

But just because their goal is to make as much money selling junk food to us as they can, doesn’t mean we have to buy in (pun intended) to their scheme.  Start with being aware of how many times during a sporting event (from live and in person youth competitions all the way up to the pro’s) — we see junk food cleverly associated with the competitions we love.  All those exposures add up to having us subtly associate the positive feelings we have for what we are experiencing (the sport part) with the logos and commercials we see.  It’s definitely subtle …. but research says it works.

Consciously paying attention to it may open your eyes and help you see how often and how much (and how cleverly) you are being swayed to change your behavior.  (Even though none of us really want to admit it!)

What if you could get real-time status updates on your glucose and hydration levels? This ain’t your momma’s heartrate monitor!

Heart rate monitors are a great piece of training gear but what if your watch could give you real-time read outs on your glucose and hydration levels, too?

New technology developed in Israel by researchers at  Bar-Ilan University is using scattered light can read what’s going on with you metabolically during your training.  According to Medical News Today, the device utilizes the “… so-called “speckle” effect, the grainy interference patterns that are produced on images when laser light reflects from an uneven surface or scatters from an opaque material.”

How the light is reflect indicats different levels of glucose present in the blood stream and can detect changes in muscle strength that accompanies mild dehydration.  This has huge implications for those with diabetes and health conditions where glucose is currently monitors using a finger stick to draw blood to test in a traditional glucose monitor — jabbing yourself with a needle would no longer be required!

But more important for athletes, you would gain a “gas gauge” of sorts!  If you are continuously getting readings about your glucose level, it will make timing your refueling during training and competition that much easy to manage because you can see, objectively, where your glucose levels are at!

Same goes for hydration.  The device is likely to pick up much smaller changes in muscle strength than we are consciously aware (since, hopefully, our mind is fully occupied with training or competition).  This information will give us opportunities to manage our hydration to optimize performance! (at least in theory).

Currently, researchers are working to reduce the margin of error for the device.  For the most part, the error comes from the instability the device experiences during movement.  The researchers feel this device is likely to be on the market for commercial use in the next two to three years.

I don’t know about you but I can’t wait to play around with it!!

For more information on this device, click here!

Win the Day

Excellence can be achieved only today – not yesterday or tomorrow, because they do not exist in the present moment.  Today is the only day you have to flex your talents and maximize your enjoyment.  Your challenge is to win in all aspects of life.  To reach that goal, you need to set yourself up for success by winning one day at a time.  Procrastination is no match for a champion.  –Jim Afremow

Recently, I’ve found myself under a lot of stressful deadlines.  My personal life has been filled with big family events.  A stressful academic workload is signaling the impending completion of my degree. I was asked to serve on a community board responsible for one of our large, local festivals.  Work has been busy with several projects needing attention and, as always, the important work of coaching clients through their process of improving their performance creates time sensitive demands of its own.

During all of this chaos, I’ve been relying on lists to keep my tasks straight and limit the opportunities for me to forget an important deadline.  It has been an  eye opening for me to observe the reliance I have on these task lists and through it all, I have learned something really important.

I get overwhelmed when I feel like there is too much for me to accomplish.

And when I get overwhelmed, I start spending more time managing the feelings of overwhelm than I do working on the tasks that will not only reduce the source of the overwhelm but more importantly, take me to the next step toward my goals.

In the midst of all that was going on, I happened across the book The Champion’s Mind by Jim Afremow.  This book is the source of the quote at the top of the page.

Disclaimer:  I did not read the whole book.  (Obviously, I don’t have a lot of extra time right now). But I did read the first few chapters.

What struck me most was the quote above and the Chip Kelly (Philadelphia Eagles head coach)concept discussed in the same chapter: ”Win the Day”.

In this context, Win the Day means doing the work it takes every day to build a road to your goals.  That is what my lists are.  They answer the question, “What concrete actions am I going to complete today?”

So many times our goals become abstract.  We want to X, so we start training, attend practice, try to eat right, etc.  But somewhere along the way, we forget that every minute we are at practice should somehow contribute to our goal.  Every bite we eat should somehow contribute to our success.

To make that happen, you may just need to reframe your short-term goals to fit into the concept “Win the Day” every day.