Basic soft tissue techniques for runners


I have wanted to do a post on this topic for a long time. Self soft tissue work (i.e. massage, tissue release, mobilization etc.) is an extremely important topic for runners. Endurance training is all about pushing the limits of the mind and body. It’s important to realize that at some point tissues are going to break down in our pursuit of this. Break down is inevitable and inherent in our sport. It’s how we get stronger and how we keep pushing back the limits. Are there things we can do to help with break down and accelerate recovery? You bet! This post is about just one of the many recovery tools runners can use to assist with this. Below is a link to a talk I gave to our beginning runners class on self soft tissue techniques. If you know a good massage therapist, chiropractor, ART practitioner, by all means keep going to them! Having regularly scheduled massages and soft tissue work from a professional is an excellent way to keep tissues healthy and performing optimally. The talk below is about what to do in between massage sessions and/or what to do when you don’t have access to the above mentioned resources. Self soft tissue work requires just your hands and a few simple tools that can be purchased on Amazon and/or found around your home. The goal of self soft tissue work is simple: accelerate recovery and keep tissues healthy (so you can keep training with less chances of getting injured and more chances of seeing improvements in performance). Check out the video below to watch some of the actual techniques I have found useful in my own training and also for many of the athletes I have coached and treated as patients. The video is just under 20 minutes. I wore a microphone but actually forgot to turn it on 🙂 You may need to crank up the volume some but should be able to hear it.

If you are looking for ideas on soft tissue techniques for certain areas of the body but don’t have time to search through the whole video, check out my table of contents below the video link. I have labeled the time points where you can find these various techniques according to body region/injury type. I would encourage you to watch the first couple minutes of the video before looking at sections on specific soft tissue techniques. This brief introduction provides a quick overview about the general goals of soft tissue work. Aside from this video I would also refer you to the book “Ready to Run” by Kelly Starrett. It is by far the BEST resource out there I have found for runners/endurance athletes on the topic of soft tissue work. Kelly has an entire chapter devoted to the topic of soft tissue work. He has some excellent ideas on techniques runners can use to keep their tissues healthy. Another useful resource is “Anatomy for Runners” by Jay Dicharry. Jay also has some great ideas for self soft tissue work.

Soft tissue techniques according to body regions/injuries:
1.) Calf/Achilles: 2:30
2.) Inner shin: 5:20
3.) Outer shin: 8:20
4.) IT band: 9:00 *I find that most runners do this one wrong! highly recommend this alternative technique
5.) Inner thigh (adductors): 10:30
6.) Back hip pocket (glutes): 11:40
7.) Plantar fascia/arch muscles: 13:30
8.) Calf stretch: 15:00 *one I think that every single runner should be doing on a daily basis
9.) Quads: 16:10
10.) Hamstrings: 17:30* a good one to check out if you have “sciatica”

*the one area I missed in this talk was the thoracic spine (upper back). this is an important area for endurance athletes too. . . I will do a blog post on this at a later date. for now just know it is also an important area to keep healthy and mobile as well!


Runners don’t settle for less in 2015

Photo compliments of Juliana Hughes.

Photo compliments of Juliana Hughes.

In my last blog post I discussed 3 things every runner should know. That was my cliffs notes version of a few of the most valuable things I feel I have learned over the last 5 years about running and running related injuries. This past summer I taught two classes called “Train2run marathon edition.” The classes were designed to help runners, who at the time, were training for marathons. The focus of the marathon class was to not only to strength train and workout with peers, but also to learn about some key concepts I feel are crucial for all runners to have some knowledge about. Below are 7 links to over an hours worth of video content discussing the topics that were taught during these marathon classes. These videos contain some of the most important things I feel like I have learned about running over the last 5 years of my career as a physical therapist. The videos cover topics related to both injury prevention and running performance. If you are able to watch them all (they are about 10-15 minutes each) my hope by the end is that you realize that injury prevention and improved running performance are one and the same thing. The things you do to reduce your risk for injury are also going to make you a better runner.

After 18 years of being in the sport,5 years of practicing physical therapy, and 3 years of coaching, I am convinced that most runners are running way below their potential. As you begin to make your new running goals for 2015 I challenge you to ask yourself, “Is this really the best that I can do?” Be proactive about injury prevention. Learn your body. Educate yourself about what it takes to become a better runner. I guarantee you that you will do things you never thought you could.

The sky is the limit,
dream big,
don’t doubt yourself.

Best of luck to all my fellow running friends in your upcoming season. Hope you are able to learn something from the videos!

Video #1– Runners are very “quad dominant” athletes. It’s important to work on muscle balance by incorporating “hip dominant” exercises into your training. This talk is important for understanding all of the other videos, don’t skip it.

Video #2– Hip dominant exercises are things like lunges, squats and bridges. The problem is that most people do them wrong. Hip dominant exercises are supposed to strengthen your glutes. The glutes can sometimes be flat out hard to strengthen. This video talks about why.

Video #3- Knee and shin injuries are two of the most common running related injuries. They are also two of the most preventable, if running form is good. This video talks about the importance of proper landing mechanics in running.

Video #4- This video reviews two common types of postures many runners adopt when they run. These two postures will slow you down and make you more prone to injury.

Video #5– Holding a plank for 2 minutes means nothing if you don’t know how to apply this to running. This video reviews why doing all the core strength in the world won’t necessarily make you a better runner.

Video #6- Hip weakness is INCREDIBLY common in runners. This weakness can lead to a host of different injuries and steals lots of potential away from you as a runner. This video discusses how hip weakness affects running gait.

Video #7– Restricted ankle mobility is another common problem in runners. This video discusses how reduced motion in the ankle can lead to a number of different foot injuries and also steal potential away from you as a runner.

This winter we will be offering more classes like the marathon class through our Train2run program at Freeman Rehab and Sports Center. Classes start the week of January 12th. Check out our winter 2015 schedule at the following webpage:

3 things that every runner should know


Anyone that knows me well knows that I love working with runners. I love seeing new runners get involved in the sport. I love seeing people reach their running goals. I love witnessing the transformation that happens when someone goes from hardly being able to envision themselves running a mile to, somewhere down the road, diving into their first marathon. I love the sport of running and the people I share this passion with.

What I dislike about running is that people get injured. Running injury risks are over 80% for those who stick with the sport for any length of time. Overuse injuries in runners are going to happen, period. What I can’t stand about this is that those that are new to the sport are over 2.5x more likely to quit running after an injury. They’re told by doctors that running is not good for them: “It’s hard on your joints,” “you’re going to get arthritis,” “you’re too overweight to be running.” It drives me crazy when people accept these answers because I strongly believe there are better ones. I believe that anyone who wants to be a runner can be a runner, no matter what shape, size, or exercise background. I also believe that running is a sport for all ages and those that wish to run well into the later decades of life can, and should do so. Experienced runner, or new, don’t let the fear of arthritis or injury stop you from enjoying all that this sport has to offer.

With that said, new runners in particular need to know what they are getting into. Yes, injury risks are high, but so are the risks to your health and life if you continue to live a sedentary lifestyle. My main message to new runners (and all runners for that matter) is: BE PROACTIVE. Take the time to educate yourself about running related injuries and how to best prevent them. My goal as a physical therapist is to serve as a local resource for runners about this. I went to my first physical therapy running conference almost 5 years ago out in Colorado. After this conference I was instantly hooked and have since been all over the country attending conferences and courses on running related injuries and how to best treat and prevent them. I have learned from some of the best in the field and have loved every minute of it. While I still have a lot to learn about running related injuries, I do feel like I am at a point now where I can begin to start sharing some valuable information with my local running community about this topic. One of my main goals is to get the message of injury prevention out to new runners, especially since they are the ones most at risk of quitting after an injury. Really though, this is not just a message for new runners, it’s a message for all runners. I have 3 main points. I did not get these points from Google but rather from the research, clinical experience, and coaching I have done with over 100s of runners since that first conference I attended in Colorado 5 years ago. Here are the points in no specific order:

# 1: Knee injuries are the most common running related injury, they are also the most preventable.
I am convinced that over 90% of knee injuries in runners are due to one of three things:
1.) training mistakes (too much too soon, this includes volume and intensity, i.e. mileage and speed work), you’ve got to earn the right to go further and faster
2.) poor running mechanics, landing too far out in front of the body, or with poor posture will overstress the knees
3.) weak hips, runners are notoriously weak in their hips, I’ve done detailed running analyses on close to 100 runners and I see it ALL THE TIME! the research linking hip weakness to knee injuries is also very hard to ignore

# 2: There is no one right way to run, but there are several wrong ways.
Everyone is made different, therefore not all runners will run the same. There are however basic running mechanic essentials that are important to know about if you plan to stick with this sport for any length of time. If basic mechanics are off, you not only will increase your injury risk even more but will also never reach your full potential as a runner.

# 3: Strength training and having a good sense of body awareness are important and just because you are good at one doesn’t mean you are automatically going to be good at the other.

You can spend hours strength training each week and never have it positively impact your running. A great example of this is core strengthening. You can do all the planks and ab-work in the world to get your core strong but if you don’t understand what good spinal alignment “feels like” you will never be able to optimally use your core when running. The same holds true for body awareness. You can be super in-tune with your body and know how to position yourself well mechanically but if you aren’t strong you will eventually break down as fatigue sets in. Runners need to be both strong AND have a good sense of body awareness.

If you are interested in learning more about these topics the clinic I practice at will be hosting several new classes starting the first of the year (week of January 12th) for our local Joplin runners. These classes are for both new and experienced runners. You will work hard in these classes, but more importantly you will learn a lot. Check out our webpage for more information.

Thankful to be an endurance athlete, now it’s time to give back

Shirt design by Brock from Artikats Apparel.

Shirt design by Brock from Artikats Apparel.

As I reflect during this upcoming holiday season there are many things I have to be thankful for as an endurance athlete. I am thankful for friends, family and good health. I am also thankful for the opportunities I have had this past year to stay physcially active and in continual pursuit of finding my next challenge. These opportunities have helped shape my character and have allowed me to make many rich friendships along the way. Training for triathlons and local road races have served as important avenues for me to live an active lifestyle and pursue good health.

Having all of these things that I am thankful for makes me consider ways that I might be able to “give back” the gift of active, healthy living. This holiday season our community has been given an opportunity to bless a local family. Almost a year ago this family was involved in a tragic car accident resulting in a number of injuries. The youngest member of the family sustained an injury that left her paralyzed from the waist down with a complete spinal cord injury. Today this young lady is a vibrant, healthy 13 year-old. Prior to the accident she played competitive volleyball for her school team. Since the accident this young athlete has expressed a desire to take up hand cycling. Our community is in a position now to help make this happen. For the next two weeks Joplin’s local triathlon club, Rufus Racing, will be selling t-shirts to help cover the complete costs of the bike. Part of the money has already been raised through the annual Joplin Svitak bike ride that takes place each summer. If we can sell 125 shirts in two weeks, the cost of the bike will be covered. If you would consider helping us give the gift of active, healthy living to this wonderful family please check out the link below to see how you can help with this fundraising endeavor. Special thanks goes to Brock from Artikats Apparel for the shirt design and for giving us a discounted price on these t-shirts. Thank you and happy holidays.

Finish well,

Brian Smith: Cancer Survivor Turned Ultra Marathoner

When I think about what it takes to be successful with racing and training for extreme endurance events there are two things that first come to mind: persistence and discipline. These are personality traits yes, but what’s behind that? What drives someone to persistence and discipline? I think it comes from the people you surround yourself with. We are inspired to do great things when we see others do them as well. I am lucky enough to live in an awesome community where I find myself surrounded by these kinds of people everyday. The man I interviewed below for my “Get Inspired” series I have the utmost respect for. He is 50 years old, has been married 31 years, has 3 kids, 1 grandkid and has served as the Galena, KS School District Superintendent for the last 11 years. He is a cancer survivor and an ultra marathoner. His name is Brian Smith. I doubt you will walk away not inspired.

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Q.) How long have you been a runner and what made you want to start doing ultra marathons?
A.) I ran track in high school and had some success at the state level, but I did not have a passion for running at that time. My passion began years later after I was diagnosed with lymphoma in 2002. During my two years of treatment for cancer, I made of list of things that I wanted to accomplish in my life time. Facing death has a way of putting life into perspective. One of my goals was to run a marathon. I began running the week after my doctor told me I was in remission in June of 2004. At first, I could not run a mile, but slowly I progressed. By that fall, I ran my first half-marathon, the Lewis and Clark in Saint Charles, Missouri. It was the first race that I had run since high school. Over time, I became more obsessed with running.

After running for several years and eventually running my first marathon, I stumbled on to a book by Dean Karnazes. I was fascinated by the idea of running ultras. I have always liked to push my limits both mentally and physically, and I thought this was a great opportunity to see how far I could push myself. I signed up for the 1st Tatur’s Pumpkin Holler Hunnerd in Tahlequah, Oklahoma and ran the 100K. I have been running ultras ever since.

Q.)How many ultra marathons have you completed?
A.) I can’t remember the exact number of ultras, but I would guess around ten. If you count training, it would be many times more because I have had numerous training runs that would have been more than 26.2 miles. I have ran everything from a 50K to 100 miles. Some of those runs have been on flat trails others have been on more technical courses.

Q.) What are some of your most memorable and favorite races you have done?
A.) My favorite ultra is probably the Flint Hills Trail 40 miles. It has beautiful scenery along the trail, the race is well organized, and the distance is enjoyable. Forty miles is a nice distance. It allows you to push yourself, but it isn’t brutal. I did enjoy running the Prairie Spirit 50 miles in a blizzard several years ago because I have been able to tell stories about it. I actually like running in the cold, but that day definitely made running 50 miles more interesting.

Q.) Tell us a little bit more about this blizzard race. . .
A.) The race was scheduled for the end of March, so I thought the conditions would be great. I was wrong. About one week before the race, the forecast was predicting snow. On the eve of the race, the forecast was for winter storm warnings along with blizzard like conditions and a predicted twelve inches of snow. The forecast was correct. The race director gave all of the 100 mile runners the opportunity to drop down to 50 miles, but I don’t think he had any takers. Ultra-runners are fearless, and I think most of us looked forward to the challenge. The morning of the run it was cold and windy, but the wind was at our backs for the first half of the race, so it was really quite enjoyable. It all changed suddenly as we hit the 25 mile mark and headed north into the wind. At first the freezing rain began, and then it changed to sleet and finally snow. I was running with my cousin Amber Lucian Tyree. The wind was gusting up to 50 miles an hour and the snow stung our faces. We just kept our heads down and tried to cut through the wind and snow. I was wearing shorts, so I started to become concerned about frostbite because the snow was caching on my legs. At about mile 35, I had to stop at the aid station to put on some leggings that my wife Marcia had waiting for me. This is why the crew is so critical in a race. In this instance, my wife was the only crew member for us, and she was dealing with the blizzard while driving between aid stations. As we continued the snow began accumulating. It never let up, and the conditions continued to deteriorate. By the time we reached the finish line, the snow was about five inches deep, and we were soaked. Only six 100 mile runners finished that night before the race was shutdown. Some were stranded at aid stations. Some made it to farm houses along the way. We all new what we in for, but no one complained because we are ultra runners and that is what we do.

Brian's well earned hardware after his adventurous 50 miler.

Brian’s well earned hardware after his adventurous 50 miler.

Q.) What has been your most difficult race and what were some of the challenges you faced during it?
A.) The toughest race I have completed is definitely the Prairie Spirit 100 miles. You can never prepare enough for the brutality of a 100 mile race, and the toll it takes on your body. I was blessed to have Nathan Sicher, Jenna Henry Mutz, and my wife, Marcia, to crew and pace me. I would not have made it without them. The Freeman Train2run program was also an important part of my success. In previous ultras, my core muscles had really given me problems. The strength training helped me become a stronger runner. The first sixty miles of the race was relatively easy because of this training and because my crew took good care of me.

Brian's support crew during his 100 miler.

Brian’s support crew during his 100 miler.

My biggest challenges came when the sun set. I don’t know why, but my mind and body started shutting down. That is when your pacers become critical. If I had not had a pacer at this point, I am confident that I would not have finished. Everything that occurred after dark is fuzzy. All I really remember is that I kept praying for the sun to come up and for a cup of coffee.
Brian with one of his pacers, Jenna Mutz, at sunset.

Brian with one of his pacers, Jenna Mutz, at sunset.

The chafing, bleeding, and blistering are all just part of the race, so I was not impacted by any of that. One thing I do remember well is that I never once considered not finishing. As in all ultras I have run, I have always felt the presence of God with me. That is why running ultras is so spiritual for me. My official time was 26 hours and 14 minutes for the race. I was hoping to be under 24 hours, but I strained my calf with about nine miles left in the race. This can be blamed on my lack of focus on proper stretching. In a 100 mile race, every weakness is exposed.

Q.) What are some of the biggest challenges you have come across with your training?
A.) The greatest challenge is time. To be prepared to run ultras, one must train for many hours. On many weekends, I will run up to 50 miles regardless of the conditions. It becomes a second job. Fortunately, I have really only encountered one injury that has prevented me from running for a prolonged period of time. I had been training for a 100K, and I decided to run a trail race in Tulsa about a month before the event. I broke my foot in the race, and I could not run for about twelve weeks. Unfortunately, I wasted a lot of training time.

Q.) How important is it to pay attention to your nutrition when training and racing ultra distances?
A.) Over the years, I have learned the importance of proper nutrition for peak performance. One of the keys is eliminating as much processed sugar as one can from his or her diets. You can take nutrition as far as you want, but I just try to eat healthily. Ultra races are a little different because you have to be able to eat as you run. It is important for an ultra runner to eat during training runs to find out what does and doesn’t work for him or her. During an ultra, it is critical for one to stay properly hydrated and take in enough calories to maintain one’s energy levels. If a runner fails to do this, he or she will not finish. They also risk a number of serious side effects including death. Ultras are not anything to be taken lightly.

Q.) What attributes should one possess to be successful with this kind of training and what advice to you have for those who aspire to run ultra marathons?
A.)The most important attribute one can possess to be successful in ultra marathon training is persistence. One must be persistent to a fault. To those who aspire to run an ultra, I would say you can’t be to prepared for an ultra. Train harder than your plan tells you. Incorporate strength training and speed work into your training plan. When preparing for race day, prepare a kit that has every possible item that could even be remotely needed during the race. The same goes for food. Sometimes there will be a food item that your system won’t be able to handle, and another item that will meet your needs. Also one needs to be prepared for things that you will not be able to imagine until they happen. Some of them I can’t even write about. With that said, I can’t think of anything I would rather do than run ultras.

Q.) What is the most beneficial thing you have walked away with from all of your training and racing experiences?

A.)It is hard to list just one beneficial thing. I have gained many friends who are always positive and supportive. I would trust them with my life. Probably the most beneficial thing is I have become more spiritual. I have become closer to God than ever before. Dean Karnazes wrote, “I have found my church, and it is at the end of a long trail on a distant mountainship. It is there that I feel most at peace, entirely content and whole.” I believe ultra running has made me a stronger and hopefully a better person. Being out on a trail by yourself seeing God’s work definitely makes you realize that good will always prevail. We have each been given the strength to do far more than we could have ever imagine. One just has to take the first step.


Checkout the link below to read more stories like Brian’s:

2014 Lake Placid Race Report


Ok so here it is; my very first Ironman race report. I finished in 13 hours 48 minutes and some change. A lot goes on in an Ironman. It is an experience I will never forget. Below is my play by play of how the day at Lake Placid went down.

Swim (1 hour: 20 minutes)- This year at Lake Placid there was a wave start to the swim. Racers were supposed to seed themselves according to their predicted finish times.

Beautiful Mirror Lake where the swim was held.

Beautiful Mirror Lake where the swim was held.

I was advised to seed myself about 5 minutes faster than I thought I would finish. I predicted a 1:30:00ish finish so I placed myself right in the middle of the 1:21-1:30 group. My group entered the water about 20 minutes after the Pros started. My biggest fear about doing an Ironman has always been the swim start. You hear all of these stories about getting beat up in the water because there are so many people around. With the wave start things were much less crowded and nowhere near as bad as I anticipated. In this swim there was a cable that ran the length of the lake. This was where all the buoys were. I had read somewhere that the best place to be in this race was not right on the cable and not on the outer edges, but in the middle. There was supposed to be much less traffic here. I knew swimming next to the cable would help me go faster (because I would not need to do much sighting to see where I was going) but I did not want to get beat up. My plan was to stay safe right in the middle.
Just before the swim start.

Just before the swim start.

First Swim Loop (1.2 miles): In the first 100 yards of the swim I was very intimidated. I hadn’t quite gotten comfortable and “in my zone.” I wasn’t getting a ton of body contact but there were still a lot of people around (much more than I was used to) and knew I had a long way to go. I was worried I would get swam over, swallow water, have a panic attack. . . I told myself to ignore my surroundings, suck it up and just keep swimming. The anxiety didn’t last long as I quickly got into my zone. Over the next 200 yards I found myself constantly drifting off to the right which put me directly next to the cable. For the first couple of times I quickly got off the cable because I was afraid of all the fast people that would plow me over if I stayed there. By about the 3rd time of drifting off to the cable I realized that it wasn’t all that bad there. Yeah there were people around, but not any worse than in the middle. I decided then and there that I was going to live on the edge a little. I was going to be aggressive and stay on the cable. At that point I was getting much more comfortable with my surroundings. Body contact really wasn’t bothering me. I stayed on the cable for quite a while. I even tried drafting behind some of the other athletes who were swimming the cable. I quickly realized these swimmers were going way too slow for me. I got out of my draft zone and started passing a ton of people. The pace I was swimming felt really good so I just kept going. My cue to myself was “swim only as fast as you can maintain good form.” I never once felt like I slowed down because of fatigue. I was still passing people and I stayed right on the cable. When other swimmers got close and started knocking me around, I just stayed my ground. I had a lot of fun with this. I pretended like I was a defensive lineman who was defending my position on the cable. I was strong and no one was going to mess with me! I decided during this swim that I think I would enjoy football if I ever played it. I was swimming more aggressive than I ever had in my life. I had no fear. My fear of getting swam over and knocked around was gone. I remember saying to myself over and over again, “I’m not afraid anymore.” This gave me a ton of confidence and I was beyond excited. I was even more excited when I exited the first loop of the swim in 39 minutes, which was a PR for me and 6 minutes faster than my predicted pace. I felt awesome after the first loop and was confident I could do it again on the second loop.

Second swim loop (1.2 miles):
During the second loop I was with much faster swimmers than I had started the race with so there was much less passing. I continued to swim steady and strong right next to the cable. After about 900 yards I started noticing that the sky was getting dark. I knew that there were storms in the forecast. Normally this would freak me out in the middle of an open water swim but today I had no fear. I was going to finish this swim. I stayed in my zone and just kept swimming. It started raining out. No big deal, just keep swimming. . . then I heard thunder and saw lightning. The water started getting choppy. At this point I did panic a bit. This was when being next to the cable was huge for me. I was swimming in an Ironman with people everywhere in the middle of a storm. I knew I couldn’t stop. I was given great advice (thank you Robb Good, 2014 Ironman Texas Finisher) to never stop and look behind or around you in an Ironman swim. Just keep swimming. With the rain and the choppy water (and slight fear of getting electrocuted) I started getting off course and losing my focus. I could feel myself slowing down. I was determined to finish this swim. I knew I needed to find that cable. Just keep swimming. I prayed a lot at this point in the swim. I knew that God gave me the courage to keep going. I found my way back to the cable, the one constant thing I could look at in the middle of this storm. This brought me a lot of comfort having the cable to look at. If I followed it I knew I would get to the shore. It kept my mind off everything else that was going on around me. During the storm I did a lot of reflecting on life. The wind and the waves were all around but I kept my eyes on the one constant thing that was in the water: the cable. I was reminded a lot about how God has served as the one constant thing in my life that has kept me afloat in the middle of my “life storms.” I remembered the story of Peter when he had the courage to walk on water. His courage came from keeping his eyes on Jesus. When he started paying attention to the wind and the waves he started to sink. This was exactly how I felt at the end of the swim. My speed started picking up. It was just me and the cable. I paid attention to nothing else. I was determined to finish. The swim exit arch was so sweet to see. I made it out of the water in 1 hour and 20 minutes. It was a 12 minute PR for me. I thanked God and continued to pray for safety for all of the racers that were out in the storm.

Waiting for the wetsuit stripper. He was awesome!

Waiting for the wetsuit stripper. He was awesome!

Transition: As I ran to transition it was pouring down rain. I was so excited to see my sister and brother in law before I got to the changing tent. I didn’t see my parents but I knew they were there.

My awesome sister and brother in law made the journey out east to come cheer for me.

My awesome sister and brother in law made the journey out east to come cheer for me.

As I entered the tent I was instantly greeted by a volunteer. The volunteer was awesome and helped me quickly get everything I needed for the bike. In the tent everyone was frazzled about the storm. Lots of nervous athletes were everywhere. I kept my focus and just kept moving. I knew there was a huge descent (6 miles long) very early in the first loop of the bike course. I remember praying all week just to not let it be storming during the descent. The descent out of town is scary enough without a storm. I left the tent confident that I would be ok either way. I had no fear. I got on my bike and knew God would give me courage. It was still raining at this point and everyone around me still seemed to be frazzled.

Bike (7 hours: 30 minutes): When I got on the bike there was about an 8 mile climb to get out of Lake Placid. There was going to be over 6,600 feet of climbing on the bike so I knew I needed to take it easy on this first set of climbs. I had done most of my training with a power meter. I used this to judge how hard I was pushing on the climbs. I tried to keep my watts (i.e. how much power my legs were putting out) from spiking as much as I could. I got passed by people left and right. I did not like this at all, but I still stuck with my game plan to keep the watts low to save my legs for the second half of the bike and then the run.

Headed out towards the descent. . . still raining!

Headed out towards the descent. . . still raining!

I finally got to the first yellow truck sign, the one that shows you that you are about to go down a big steep descent. I had arrived at the beginning of the infamous 6 mile downhill portion of the race. It was still raining pretty hard. This was definitely intimidating but I just kept telling myself, “I’m not afraid anymore, I’m not afraid anymore.” I kept my hands on the brakes and just went with it. On the first part of the descent there were two lakes off to the right that served as great cues about how windy the descent was going to be (windy descent at high speeds= very scary to Kendra). I was so happy when I saw that the lakes were relatively still. Fortunately there were no crazy crosswinds the entire descent. I could deal with rain and wet pavement.
Elevation chart for the bike. 6600 ft of climbing and a huge descent!

Elevation chart for the bike. 6600 ft of climbing and a huge descent!

“Ride smart, keep your hands on the brakes” were my mental cues. I got passed here by too many people to count. I was fine with this. My goal was just to be safe. It was a long 6 miles of downhill but I knew it was still only 6 miles and that I had about 20 miles of flat land waiting for me when I got to the bottom. It was still raining a little bit by the time I got to the bottom. Some people were concerned about getting hypothermia on the descent in the rain (it was about 68 degrees at this point in the ride). I never once got cold on the descent and I was wearing a sleeveless tri top. Going slower down the descent definitely helped. I was super happy to be at the bottom and was ready to kill the 20 miles of flat road that lie ahead. Unfortunately at this point of the ride my power meter died. I started watching my heart rate instead to judge my exertion. Luckily I had trained using heart rate as a measure of exertion as well. I did really well on the flats and was able to pass a lot of people. I saw my training partner, Victoria Kline, on this section of the course. It was definitely good to see she made it through the dangerous descent safely. I finally arrived at the 36 mile mark of the course. This is where all of the climbing starts. At this point you’ve got 20 miles to get back to town and then 8 more miles to get out of town to do the descent again. All 28 of those miles were mostly uphill. There weren’t any very particularly challenging steep climbs, just lots of long slow climbing. The plan was again to stay conservative on the climbing. At about the 38 mile mark I met a girl who updated me on what happened in the swim. Apparently I was very oblivious to what was going on. During the storm they started directing swimmers to the nearest shoreline instead of letting them finish the second loop of their swim. I met another girl who said she was 4 buoys away from the finish when they pulled her out. She was on pace for about a 1:24 swim. It turns out that they pulled about 1000 swimmers out of the water (mostly people who were slower than about a 1:25). Many of them were initially told they couldn’t finish the rest of the race, then it changed to they could finish, but it would be considered a “modified” Ironman. I felt so bad for these athletes. They put in so many hours of training only to have this happen on race day. You could see the disappointment in their faces. At this point I started crying because I realized that the swimmers I started the race with were likely the ones that were first directed off shore and pulled from the swim. If I had not been so aggressive on that swim I would have been one of the athletes that got pulled from the water and would have been so devastated. I know that God helped me stay focused and finish that swim strong. I really had no idea just how close I was to getting pulled. I praised God that I was able to finish the swim in record time. I knew at this point I was going to finish this race. I stayed smart on the climbing back into town and was very excited to get back to all of the cheering fans. By the time I got back to town it was really nice out and the storm had passed. In town people were everywhere cheering, it was awesome! At mile 56 I arrived at the special needs station. I saw my dad and Victoria’s mom here. I got off my bike and changed out of my wet socks into dry ones. I took some time to eat a little bit of the sandwich I had packed.
My dad and I at the finish line. So glad he traveled across the US to see me do my first Ironman.

My dad and I at the finish line. So glad he traveled across the US to see me do my first Ironman.

I thought it was funny that my dad was filmed me the entire time I was eating. I really wasn’t doing anything that exciting. He just kept the camera right in front of his face. I think he was excited to use the new ipad my mom had got him for his birthday. It was fun to know that my dad, even at the age of 30, was still proud of his little girl. Even though I was just sitting on the ground changing my socks and eating, he was still proud. I was so glad that he was able to make the race.

After about 5 minutes off the bike I quickly got back on with the rest of my sandwich in hand. Those would be important calories for me so I was very careful not to drop the sandwich. It was turkey with cheese and mustard. It was one of the greatest sandwiches I have ever eaten in my life. As I rode through town with my sandwich there were still people everywhere cheering. It was such a great recharge to be greeted by all sorts of excited people. Before I knew it I was back to climbing out of town as I approached the descent for the second time.

Best sandwich ever!

Best sandwich ever!

Bike (Loop Two): It was beautiful out by the time I started my second loop. The pavement had dried quite a bit and the sun was out. It was more windy than it was on the first loop but really wasn’t that bad. This time around I was much more aggressive on the descent. I still rode cautious but was much faster than I was the first loop. I was no longer afraid of that silly descent. I had conquered it and was no longer afraid! I made it to the bottom of the descent and then hammered the flat section of the course. One thing that I tried really hard to focus on throughout the entire bike was my calorie intake. It seemed like every 15 minutes I was eating something. I started the bike with a Payday (great protein and fat source!) shortly after the swim and then started alternating between Bonk Bars, Honey Stinger Waffles, Infiniti (a high calorie sports and electrolyte drink), pretzels, bananas, and salt tabs (never do an ironman without salt tabs!). In the last 20 miles of the bike I started drinking Perform (another electrolyte drink). Gels never sit well with me so I pretty much stuck with solid food the entire time along with my sports drinks. I am very happy with how I fueled on the bike. I felt like I ate just the right amount and at just the right times. The advice I was given before the race was to take in as many calories on the bike as I could because it would get exponentially more difficult to eat as the race went on. I made myself eat even when I didn’t want to. My heart rate was low enough that I was able to process the calories very well, so I just kept on eating. It ended up paying off because I was able to finish the bike really strong. In the last 12 miles of the bike it started storming again. After hearing about the swimmers that were pulled off the course because of the storm I kicked it into overdrive on the bike. I WAS NOT GOING TO GET PULLED OFF THE BIKE COURSE! I was too close to finishing and I was absolutely determined to get on that marathon course. It was thundering and pouring down rain. I just pushed harder. About 5 miles from the finish the rain started letting up. I continued to push hard and was able to finish very strong. Instead of getting passed, I was the one that was doing all of the passing at the end. I ended up negative splitting the bike course doing the second loop 9 minutes faster than the first.

When I got to transition a volunteer immediately took my bike from me. After getting to the tent to change my shoes and socks I realized I had forgotten my Garmin. I had to find a volunteer to go fetch it from the bike so I could have it for the run. I wasn’t used to the way an Ironman transition worked so my transition definitely wasn’t as fast as it could have been. I will know now for next time!

Run (4 hours : 40 minutes):
This was the part in the race I was most looking forward to. I was ready to conquer the marathon. I started out feeling awesome on the run. The first 5-6 miles were all mostly downhill. It was nice for a change to not be climbing! My plan was to walk at every aide station and make sure I was still taking in calories while I could. My heart rate was still very low, so I didn’t have any problem with this on the first part of the run. Initially I started out eating fruit and pretzels. I made sure I ate something at every station, even if it was just a little bit. The weather was perfect for running. It never really got too sunny and for the most part stayed in the low 70s. I was feeling pretty good until I had to go up all of the hills I ran down at the beginning of the marathon. I walked at the top of every hill to make sure my heart rate stayed low. I remember thinking that I was so ready to be at the halfway point of the run. I could feel my pace start to slow at this point. I got a nice recharge when I saw my family waiting for me at about the 12 mile marker. This time instead of filming me with his ipad, my dad decided to jump on my brother and laws back so he could give me a high five as I ran by. This was quite the scene and I laughed very hard. I hadn’t been smiling much for the past couple of miles, so it was actually very nice to laugh at this point in the race. I was able to pick up my pace quite a bit after getting this complimentary comic relief from my father and brother in law.
By the halfway point of the run I was sitting at a time of 2 hours and 13 minutes. I was happy with this pace and was hopeful that I could keep it up. I was doing great with this until about mile 16. At this point there was a 3 mile out and back stretch on the course where there were very few people cheering. I don’t remember a whole lot about this part of the course; just that it was really, really long. I remember feeling my stomach start to cramp. I couldn’t take in any more fruit, and solid food no longer sounded good. At the aide stations I started taking sips of chicken broth. This was awesome and seemed to help settle my stomach. I tried taking in some Perform but it was way too sweet for me, my body only wanted salt. I was still taking salt tabs about every hour and a half and would maybe have an occasional pretzel or two. In the last 6 miles all I could do was take small swigs of broth at each station. My stomach stayed happy as long as I did this. The last 6 miles of the race were very tough on the legs. A good majority of the home stretch was mostly uphill. The last big hill, just miles from the finish line, had an 8% grade; not a good place to position this one!
Mile 20-24 of the run wasn't the best place to put all of these hills!

Mile 20-24 of the run wasn’t the best place to put all of these hills!

My pace slowed way down at this point and so did my heart rate. Cardiovascular wise I was fine, but my legs just couldn’t go any faster. They were so heavy on those hills. The cumulative effects of all the climbing I had done that day were finally catching up to me. I just kept moving forward and drinking broth. I saw Victoria’s parents on the last steep hill I went up before the finish line. They were very encouraging. Even though I wasn’t smiling I was so glad they were there. The last mile into the finish line was all flat. I was able to pick up my pace here and finish strong into the Olympic speed skating oval where the finish line was. There were lots of people cheering. I was very tired so I didn’t show much emotion. I was absolutely thrilled to be done. I had been in constant motion for almost 14 hours. I had survived a storm and a crazy rainy bike descent, and then ran a marathon. I was an Ironman and I was ready to eat! Victoria quickly found me and got me some food. It was the best pizza I had ever tasted in my life! I was so thankful she brought it to me. I will be forever grateful for having such an awesome training partner to complete this journey with.
Overall Race Reflections: My goal for the race was to be somewhere in the 13 hour range. I was hoping for a 13:30 but I was still fine with 13:48. I had also planned on running quite a bit faster in my marathon. Considering I was on my bike for over 7 hours before running, I think I am ok with that final marathon time. Will there be another Ironman in my future? You bet! I have new goals to reach now and, God willing, I fully intend to reach them one day. What was the most valuable thing I took away from the race? I was reminded of the sheer joy that comes from facing your fears and conquering them. The swim was always the one thing I thought might keep me from doing a Full Ironman and it turned out to be the thing I totally rocked on race day. The words, “I’m not afraid anymore,” will forever be in the back of my mind and have forever changed who I am. I am so thankful that God helped me finish and changed me for the better in the process.



Be Ready for Anything on Race Week

Last week on July 27th, 2014 I completed my first Ironman. 140.6 miles of fun done and completed in one day! I was very hungry afterwards. I am thrilled to share my story with you, but before I get to the race I want to share the adventures I had in the days and hours leading up to my Ironman. Originally I hadn’t intended on race week being so eventful and dramatic. The biggest thing I learned from these adventures is that you always need to be mentally ready for plan B. I spent an entire year (signed up for Lake Placid July 29th, 2013) working on my Plan A. Race week taught me that you’ve got to be ready for anything! You must be able to adapt your plans on the fly and just roll with what the week brings you. Below is an account of my wild and crazy Ironman race week:

Saturday pre-race: Last brick complete- rode 42 miles, ran 3 miles. I got stung by a bee on the ride. This was very painful. I developed a small welt on right quadricep. Stung again later that day by a wasp on the foot. Very painful, small welt again on the right side.

Sunday pre-race: Woke up with bigger welt on quad, didn’t think much of it. Visited my bike mechanic Amy Thomas that afternoon for a last minute tune up (so incredibly thankful for the countless hours she spent helping me with bike issues that came up throughout training). Bike was in great shape, foot and quad not so much. Foot and quad were very swollen by night. Made an emergency trip to the Huffakers house for a home remedy to help absorb venom to bring swelling down. Thank you Kathy Huffaker for fixing me up!

Monday pre-race (my last day of work!!!): Thankful to see swelling and redness in quad way down. Foot and ankle were worse! Foot would not fit into shoe, had to wear slippers to work. Couldn’t walk or stand longer than 30 minutes because of worsening inflammation. Started freaking out a little at this point. Very thankful for my wonderful co-workers and PT student who helped take care of my patients that day while I sat with foot elevated doing some major cryotherapy. Made an emergency call to Dr. Keir Neighmond (also a fellow triathlete and friend) who squeezed me in for a quick clinic visit that afternoon. Was placed on a heavy dose of steroids. Later that day a co-worker hooked me up with some lymphedema wraps to reduce swelling. Prayed that steroids and wraps would help, at least enough to wear shoes for the race. All kinds of fearful thoughts entered my head about not being able to finish the race I worked a year to compete in. It was a very emotional day to say the least.Couldn’t have made it through this dramatic day without the help of my co-workers. Working at a clinic with world class therapists definitely has it’s perks.

Tuesday pre-race: Praise the Lord, steroids are working!!! Foot looked much better by morning. Departed for New York 5:20 AM. Drove for 14 hours with the Kline family. Very hard to sit still all day. The best part of the day was doing a quick midnight run after getting to hotel room near Cleveland,OH. So thankful swelling was down enough to run. Foot almost back to normal! I was very happy.
Midnight run. . . shoes fit!!!

Midnight run. . . shoes fit!!!

Wednesday pre-race: Swelling is completely gone. No more steroids needed! Got to see Niagra falls and ride the maid of the mist. Had a blast! Arrived at Lake Placid late that night.

Thursday pre-race: Woke up early to visit Athletes Village and check in. Rode first part of bike course. Very intimidating, my first time to ride in the mountains. Previewed the infamous Lake Placid descent out of town. It was a 6 mile steep descent down mountains on narrow road with lots of traffic from people arriving for the race. My first time down I thought I was going to die. And to think all this time I thought the place I would die was the ironman swim start. . . good thing I “previewed” the descent before the race because on race day I got to go down this fun mountain in the middle of a storm (more to come on this). I held onto brakes entire way down, hands hurt bad at the bottom.

Yellow truck signs warning about steep grade for miles ahead. Incredibly intimidating to do with all the traffic.

Yellow truck signs scattered through the descent warning about steep grade for miles ahead. Incredibly intimidating to do with all the traffic!

Had to call my good friend Ruth Sawkins for reassurance that I could do the descent on race day. Felt better after the phone call. Ruth has a knack for helping me re-focus. That night Victoria and I hung posters at the hotel made with love from friends back home. Was good to have a piece of home with us in Lake Placid. Felt incredibly blessed to have so many wonderful friends cheering us on.

Signs made for us from friends back home.

Signs made for us from friends back home.

Friday pre-race : Woke up early to swim at Mirror Lake. It was insanely beautiful and was the best open water swim of my life. Left swim feeling confident again. Following the swim we rode our bike through the run course. Course was absolutely beautiful! Good thing we previewed the course and got to enjoy this beautiful scenery because I remember nothing about the run course on race day.

Opening ceremony was that night. Olympic torch was lit overlooking Mirror Lake. Couldn’t help but feel like I was an Olympian that day. Went to bed that night on cloud 9. It was great.

Saturday pre-race: Spent the entire morning (takes way more time than you would think) preparing transition and special needs bags to drop off by 3 PM. Dropped bikes off at transition. I felt like I was dropping my baby off at daycare for the first time. It was a difficult parting, I don’t see how parents do it.

Got to our restaurant Milano’s by 4:30 PM. Luckily we got their early enough to get one of just a handful of patio spots (patio seats were the only ones you didn’t need reservations for, didn’t think about needing to make reservations). Ordered an amazing chicken dish. Ate outside with a beautiful view of the mountains. Felt like I was preparing for battle eating what may have been my last meal. It was the perfect pre-race meal. So glad the restaurant had room for us!

After dinner we met up with my family for pictures by Mirror Lake. So thankful that they made it in safely.
Got a hotel upgrade that night as a very generous gift from Frank Thompson (fellow triathlete and friend) . Was incredibly difficult to get a room right on the lake during race week. We were so blessed by this gift. The room had a balcony view overlooking mirror lake. Went to bed by 9 PM with alarms set for 3:20 AM. Kinda funny that we thought we would fall right to sleep. We both stared at ceiling until about midnight.

Race morning: Was raining around 3AM just before alarm went off. We knew rain and storms were in the forecast for the day. At this point it didn’t really matter. We were ready to race and face whatever the day brought. Arrived at transition shortly after it opened at 4:30AM. Dropped a few last minute things off in transition bags and then checked air pressure in tires one last time. Had completely left transition by the time I had remembered that I took all of my food off of my bike the night before because I was afraid to leave it out in case it stormed (so glad I made a checklist to help my scattered brain on race morning). Had to go back in transition and load my bento box (place where I store all my food). Loaded my box. Went to close my box. Netting on box that held food in popped off. Desperately got on my hands and knees searching for small piece that had popped off. Never found the piece. Had to come up with another plan for how I would store nutrition. Luckily I had just bought a new triathlon jersey that had several deep pockets. Pockets were where I would keep food that was not provided on the course (honey stinger waffles and pretzels) and sports bra became the new bento box where I could store salt tabs and any food I needed quick access too. Was extra thankful this day that God made me a woman.

Minutes before cannon goes off: Found Victoria’s parents to drop off our dry clothes bags. We did our final checks prior to departing, “Goggles, swim cap, wetsuit. . . check.” We had everything we needed. Time to head to swim start and put wetsuits on. We said goodbye and headed to starting line. Entered the athletes only area by the lake. Sat down to put wetsuits on. After sitting down Victoria (I will forever thank her for this) realized that I had forgotten to put my timing chip on! I think my heart rate elevated higher than it did the entire race within a matter of 0.2 seconds. I had left the chip in the bag I left with Victoria’s parents. Victoria’s parents were long gone and there were thousands of people around with the swim start just minutes away. I was in an extreme state of panic. We found the person with the nearest cell phone and thankfully were able to get a hold of Victoria’s dad. Troy Kline was a true hero that morning. He got my time chip to me in record time and we were able to get wetsuits on and get to our starting positions in time for the official race start.

Final reflections: Yes race week for me did have some drama. No it did not play out exactly how I thought it would, but I did make some great memories. Everything seemed to fall into place by the time the cannon went off. My foot was no longer swollen. My sports bra made for an great emergency bento box. I was able to make it to the starting line in time. I survived the 6 mile descent out of town and my pre-race dinner was in fact not my last. All in all race week turned out to be pretty awesome. I will remember it always.

Stay tuned for my official Lake Placid Ironman race report.

Strength 1st, Distance 2nd: How to use periodization to optimize race performance in 2014


Currently there are over 75 million runners in the USA. This number, I’m sure, is rapidly rising as I speak. These numbers are impressive and encouraging. Anyone who gets into this sport knows how life changing it can be. You start by telling yourself you would like to do a few 5Ks and suddenly somewhere along the way find yourself wanting to train for your first marathon. Why would anyone want to run 26.2 miles for fun? That kind of a race takes a lot of time and commitment and, above all, carries with it a lot of risk. The annual risk of overuse injury for an average runner is 50%. This rises to 90% with marathon training. I am in the health care field and I know that many health care professionals believe that the best solution to this is to simply not take the risk.Their advice: “Stop running.”

As a runner who knows how rewarding these “risky” races can be I am not satisfied with this answer.

If you want to achieve a lofty goal such as running in your first marathon, by all means go for it! In my opinion, the benefits of achieving something you have to struggle to get far outweigh the risks you take to get there. I will however say this: Be smart with your training so you don’t become another statistic!
Right now I am in the early stages of training for my first ironman triathlon. When it comes to ironman training the philosophy of the group I am training with (Endurance Nation- the largest online triathlon team in the US) is “FAST BEFORE FAR.” Before they have their athletes reach the heart of their high volume training weeks they encourage them to get really strong and fast on the front end of their training. They also encourage you to pick just a handful of “main races” to train for each year. I think this is excellent advice to follow because it allows you to add more variety to your training and, more importantly, to get the most out of it. I am all for marathon training. I am not for training for them year round. Pick a few key main races you would like to do well at and then structure everything else around that.

Periodization is a term that doesn’t get used much in running circles. Periodization is simply a plan for how you structure your training season during a year. More specifically it is how you prioritize what you do with your time depending on where you are at in your training. Periodization allows you to focus on different goals at different times during the year. This structured approach helps you get the most out of your training by keeping you from placing too many “conflicting demands” on your body. For instance there really is no way to get stronger when you are spending most of your time focusing on endurance. The peak of marathon training is not the time to be putting 3-4 days a week in the gym strength training. You will simply be wasting your time if you are trying to fit all of that in. The same holds true for trying to develop speed and endurance at the same time. Ask any veteran runner, it is very , very hard to PR in a 5k when you are marathon training. Case and point: You can’t train for everything ALL the time! You have to break your year up into phases. Pick a few goals you want to achieve each year and then structure everything else around that. This will not only make you a better runner but will also make you a more injury-free runner!

What does this look like for the average runner? That ultimately depends on your specific goals for the year. But for an example let me share a periodization scheme I recently came across. These general guidelines are from a webinar I recently watched done by Justine Levine. Justine is the owner of California Fitness Academy out in Visalia,CA. He is also an avid runner, triathlete and strength coach. He recently started a program called “Limitless.”


Limitless was a journey he took to prove to himself that he could run 300 miles straight in under 100 hours. He was able to achieve this goal without getting injured. His goal and mission with this program is to show people that they can run and be injury free (look for a documentary to come out sometime this April about his journey). The periodization scheme shown below is what he uses for general guidelines with the endurance athletes he trains. I have added my commentary below as well.

January- 4 weeks of strength training

• My thoughts: To have a true “strength building stage” in your training you should be doing some form of strength training 3-4 days a week (this includes actually getting to the gym to lift more than just your body weight, you have to lift heavy to get stronger!). In my opinion the strength building phase is also a time when you should be doing speed and hill workouts to improve your power production (power is a product of speed and strength). To get the most benefit from your strength training you MUST reduce your overall running volume. In my opinion this is a period of time when your weekly mileage should be 50% or less of what you are used to doing. This is a time to cut your mileage way back!

February- 2 weeks of strength training / 2 weeks of strength maintenance

• My thoughts: Transitioning to “strength maintenance” requires 1-2 days a week of strength training compared to the 3-4 days/wk you do during your “strength building stage.” This again requires you to get in the gym and lift heavy weights.

March- 4 weeks of body weight only strength training(i.e. no heavy weights)/ Main Race #1

• Justine recommends doing body weight only strength training 4 weeks out from a main race. So with this periodization scheme your Main race #1 would be at the end of March.

• My thoughts: I would treat this as a maintenance phase. Do your strength work 1-2 times a week. If time is a limiting factor, do at least 10 minutes of body weight strengthening for the core and hips 2x a week ( a lot of running related injuries can be linked to weakness in the core and hips). With most training plans, 4-6 weeks out from a race is typically when you will be putting in most of your running volume. This is a time in your training where you NEED to put your miles in. The focus here is not strength building, but minimal strength maintenance.

• If your main race isn’t until April or May you would continue strength training with heavy weights during this stage.

April- 4 weeks of strength training

May- 2 weeks of strength training/ 2 weeks of strength maintenance

June- 4 weeks of body weight strength training/ Main Race #2

July/August- 8 weeks of strength training

• My thoughts: There are very few marathons/half marathons during these months anyways. This is a GREAT time to focus on building strength! Another option is to use this time to cross train. Pick up swimming and/or biking for instance. These are the prime months to compete in a Triathlon, which in my opinion is GREAT supplementary training for runners in the offseason!

September- 2 week of strength training/ 2 weeks of strength maintenance

October- 4 weeks of body weight only strength training / Main Race #3

November- Transition Phase

• Use this time for unstructured training to give your mind and body a break!

December- 4 weeks of strength training

• My thoughts: In my opinion the best time for most runners to do off season strength training is during the months when we get our extreme weather conditions (i.e. extreme heat- July & August, extreme cold- Dec & Jan). The months when we are stuck inside are great times to focus on building strength. However, I will say that our holiday months (esp. around Thanksgiving & Christmas) can also be used as a time of unstructured training again as a way to give our minds and bodies a break! I find that it is very hard for most people to stick to a structured workout plan during the holidays. Use this time to rest and reset if you need it. Don’t worry about getting the structured strength training in if your schedule does not allow it. Get your friend and family time in and then be ready to get after it again come January!

I am a big advocate of periodization schemes similar to what is proposed above. You’ll notice there is A LOT of strength training included in this plan. It’s not just about the miles! I think the Endurance Nation motto of “FAST BEFORE FAR” definitely helps point us in the right direction. We must have strong stable bodies if we want to achieve superhuman training feats while staying injury free! For 2014 I personally have my eyes set on 140.6 miles at the end of July (will be competing at the Lake Placid Ironman in NY). My plan is to train according to the mottos of “FAST BEFORE FAR” and “STRENGTH FIRST, DISTANCE SECOND.” Best of luck to everyone with their 2014 training goals!
strength first_distance second

Top 10 Exercises for Runners: #3 Turkish Get Up (Part A)


The number 3 exercise I have chosen is the Turkish Get Up. The purpose of this exercise is to get from laying on your back to standing with weight overhead using the most biomechanically optimal path you can take. Why have I chosen this exercise, and better yet, what on earth does it have to do with running? The more I learn about myself as a runner and an athlete, the more I realize how important body awareness and biomechanics are to optimal human performance. I can think of no greater exercise that teaches these very things. The Turkish Get Up is not an easy exercise to learn. Most people don’t like it when they first try it (myself included). But if you have the patience to stick with it, and work on mastering it, you will learn a lot about how your body moves and how to best position it for optimal performance. In the end I am confident that you will see the connection between this weird looking exercise and running. Below is the video link for the first part of this series on the Turkish Get Up.  Hope you enjoy!


Brian Smith: Hand-Cyclist to Compete in his First Marathon Race

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I want to introduce you to a phenomenal young man. Meet Brian Smith.  Brian is a local athlete from Baxter Springs,KS. This weekend Brian will compete in his first marathon, Joplin’s Mother Road Route 66 Marathon.  Just over one year ago Brian was injured and paralyzed from the waist down. Since the injury it has been Brian’s goal  to race in a marathon. This Sunday, October 13th is Brian’s big race day. Brian will be joined at the race by his friends and family including his wife and 4 kids.  I invite you to read about Brian’s journey and the advice he has for others about not giving up on your goals.

Q.)When did you first get into handcycling and what made you want to start?

A.)I had never considered anything like hand cycling until I went to rehab at Jim Thorpe in Oklahoma City after my injury. There they let me ride a hand cycle around in the hallway once. I decided then that hand cycling would be a good way to replace running which was the way I had burned calories and cleared my head before my accident.  After leaving rehab, some research was done and eventually I got a hand cycle in late June.  I have tried to get out a couple of times a week since then.  It is great getting out in the sun and burning calories.

Q.) What made you want to do a marathon?

A.) I briefly considered running a marathon before my injury but it was never a goal of mine to run one.  Running, along with other exercise, was my way to get out and clear my head.  After my accident I was pretty drugged and may not have been completely coherent when I made the goal to complete a marathon… LOL!  I was in the hospital and knew that I didn’t want to give up exercise and I wanted my kids and family to know that I was going to overcome this so I set several goals for myself to complete within one year.  The goals were to complete a mile, 5K, 10K, half marathon and a marathon.  In May I did a 5K in my wheelchair so that was one goal completed. I have not completed goals 2 through 4 in an actual organized event but I have gone the distances since on my hand cycle.  I will consider them all completed after crossing the finish line at the Mother Road.

Q.) What has been your favorite part about training for this race?

A.) I enjoy training for the Mother Road because it lets me get out and do something physical. Pre paraplegia I enjoyed working out a ton. I only ran in one 5K race and had a pretty good 23 minute time. I enjoyed challenging myself to improve more than competing. After the injury I spent too much time just sitting around feeling sorry for myself. Training for the marathon has re-ignited that spark in me. I find myself pushing to hit a specific time and I get upset when my times aren’t as good as I’d like.

Q.)What has been the most challenging thing about your training leading up to the mother road marathon?

A.)When I first got the hand cycle it was not being in good enough shape. I would go out on a short 3 or 4 mile rides and not be able to get back in my wheelchair afterwards because my arms were killing me. In recent weeks I would say that scheduling conflicts have been the most difficult challenge to overcome. I have been busy at work and also am coaching my son’s soccer team and doing my best to make all the football games my girls cheer for.

Q.) What do you find is the most challenging thing about hand cycling in general?

A.) My biggest challenge has been flat tires. It is no fun sitting on the side of the road waiting on the pit crew. The last time I had a flat I made it a mile and forgot my bag with the new tube and other equipment was in the car with my wife Jen. I was glad I had my phone playing Pandora while I waited on her. Hills are TOUGH!!! I know that the Mother Road will have hills so I have been making myself go a route that has plenty of them. I definitely know that going downhill is much better than going up and my times are much better going downhill too. Going up a steep hill I notice that my arms start to burn and some of the time they shake. I think I’d laugh at myself if I watched a video of it.

Q.) What is your goal time for the race?

A.)I would really like to finish the race in under 2.5 hours. I will be very proud of myself if I can do that.

Q.) Are there any other goal races you have in mind for the near future?

A.) I am considering the Joplin Memorial race and the Oklahoma City Memorial Race next year. I am very new to the sport so I don’t know about too many races yet. I am open to suggestions.

Q.) How important has finding a new way to exercise been to you overcoming your injury?

A.) As I mentioned earlier, running and exercise in general was my way to clear my head, think and relieve stress. Losing it was very hard on me. I knew that I could complete my goals in my wheelchair but it wasn’t the same for me as pounding the pavement. Immediately after my injury I went to inpatient rehab and learned how to take care of myself which included some forms of exercise. I then went to outpatient therapy and enjoyed working out and getting stronger but I was still not in a good place mentally. After I stopped going to therapy I stopped working out all together and this is when my depression really set in. I was miserable! I’m sure that my wife and kids would agree because I’m positive that I was no fun to be around. Before the accident and since, I told people that I always felt better when I was exercising. Sooooo very true! In April we got a car and had it modified with hand controls so that I could drive and that is when things really started to improve for me. I didn’t realize that the loss of independence and the lack of exercise had hit me so hard until I was able to go out for a drive by myself. Then at the Downstream employee health fair I met a rep from Health Essentials and explained my desire to get into hand cycling. He set out to find one and came up with the hand cycle I now ride. It took a little bit of work but he found it. Jen and I were brainstorming about how to come up with the money for it when I was humbled by the generosity of the anonymous donor that purchased the hand cycle for me. That was in June which was when my attitude really began to change for the better. At first I was only able to ride 2-3 miles at a time. I have since built up some endurance and I have been able to ride up to 30 miles.

Q.) What advice do you have for others about overcoming obstacles and adversity to reach your goals?

A. This is a good question…  My original reaction to this was to quote a Winston Churchill speech and leave it at that.  He said something along the lines of “Never, ever, ever, ever, ever give in!”  I do happen to agree with this and believe that it is part of the reason I have overcome as much as I have in the last 15 months. I never envisioned myself as a paraplegic until it happened.  The new obstacles I was facing were HUGE!  I had to find reasons to push through and learn how to function in my new reality.  For me it wasn’t very difficult.  I wanted to show my kids that you can overcome with hard work.  I didn’t want to fail because I didn’t want my kids to learn that quitting was an option.  That helped me to set goals to reach.  I made the list of distances to cover but that was not the first goal I worked to complete.  I didn’t enjoy being away from my family while I was rehabbing from my injury so my first completed goal was to become functionally independent so that I could return home and be with my kids. I think that the best way to overcome adversity is to find the thing that is most important to you and focus on that when working.  It is also very important to set goals that are attainable in both the short term and the long term.  For me I set the goal of getting home as quickly as I could and the goal of completing the marathon.  The first was completed in five weeks and the second will be realized this Sunday.  I have longer-term goals and I know that I will accomplish them by holding what is dearest to me in the forefront of my mind.  My ultimate goal is to walk unassisted again in the future.  I believe that to accomplish this goal a major advancement in spinal cord injury research will have to take place but I have faith that it will.  When that advancement happens, I will gladly put in the time and more importantly the work.  It will be very important to show my children that with hard work and the never give in mentality Churchill mentions you can accomplish your goals.

Never, ever, ever, ever

Top 10 Exercises for Runners: #2 Push Ups (Part B)

No 6-pack needed to perform a good one!!!

In my last video of this series I talked a lot about the importance of maintaining good body alignment when doing a push up.(Click here to see my video about how push up technique can affect your running form). This is important because good body alignment means good core activation. We talk all of the time about how runners need to work on getting stronger core muscles. In reality it’s not always that the core is weak but rather that it’s not working optimally to keep you in good alignment. Practicing perfect alignment during the push up (or any exercise for that matter) is a great way to get the core to perform more like it should. The good news is that you don’t have to have a 6-pack to do this! No, in fact, all you have to be able to do is make a few small adjustments to your body to help “pre-tension” your muscles and joints prior to performing a push up. This type of a push up is what I like to refer to as a “high tension push up” (HTPU). Performing a HTPU is about paying attention to detail and ensuring that you set your body up in the most optimal way possible. Optimal set up will have huge pay offs for training the core in a way that will make you a more efficient and powerful runner. Check out my video below for step by step instructions on how to perform a HTPU.

Top 10 Exercises for Runners: #2 Push ups (Part A)

top of push up copy

Exercise number 2 in my top 10 series is the push up. Push ups have become much more popular and mainstream lately. This is great but, are we getting the max benefit we can from them? I believe that doing push ups on a regular basis is an extremely important habit for runners to get into. I’m not just talking about any push ups, but rather push ups done correctly. I believe that striving for excellent form during push ups can help not only with injury prevention but also with running performance. If you’re interested in learning how check out the video link below. Enjoy!

Top 10 Exercises for Runners: #1 Jump rope

So I’ve decided to do a summer video series called “Top 10 Exercises for Runners.” These 10 exercises are things that I am convinced will benefit anyone looking to improve their running. The number one exercise on the top 10 chart is an old school favorite that will take you back to the good old playground days when you were a kid. . . jumping rope. When you realize that running is really just single leg hopping from one leg to the next, over and over again, you see that jumping rope is actually one of the closest activities to running you can get.


Can adults jump rope? Should adults jump rope? Absolutely. A lot of people see jumping rope as a very high impact activity. In reality jumping rope is much easier on the body than running. Both activities involve repeated jumping with lots of forces being exerted on the body with every jump. The main difference between the two activities is that with one you can jump and land wrong repeatedly over and over again without knowing you are doing anything wrong and with the other, you really can’t.

If you can jump rope comfortably for 30 seconds without getting the rope caught up in your feet then chances are your form is optimal. If your posture fails or you don’t land the right way (i.e. landing in a way that optimally distributes load and maximizes energy return) then more than likely you will either 1.) trip over the rope, or 2.) get exhausted after about 10 seconds because you are jumping in a way that is very inefficient. The nice thing about the jump rope is that it will tell you when you are jumping wrong. Unfortunately it isn’t always as easy to tell if you are running wrong. Jumping rope will teach your body two key things: 1.) how to land right, and 2.) how to maintain good posture. By learning this you will get better at distributing load more optimally throughout your body which is extremely important when doing an activity that requires you to absorb over 2.5x your body weight with each “hop” you take (i.e. running). Not only will this help reduce your chances of getting an overuse injury but it will also make you better at storing and releasing energy. The better you are at this, the less effort you will have to put forth to run at a given speed.

Check out my short video link below to see more about this topic. For a review on “correct” running check out the series I did last summer on running mechanics: running mechanics series or check out Chapter 8 of Jay Dicharry’s book “Anatomy for Runners.” ($11 on Amazon if you haven’t bought it yet. . . this one is a must have for all runners!)

Stay tuned for exercise #2. . .

Are Injuries Just Preventable Disease?


Right now I am working my way through a new book called “Becoming a Supple Leopard.” Dr. Kelly Starrett, physical therapist based out of San Francisco CrossFit, is the mastermind behind the book. His book is fresh off the press and has already made Amazon’s bestseller list. I find this super exciting because the message Dr. Starrett tries to get across is incredibly important. What I love about it is that it radically challenges the current medical model used to treat musculoskeletal injuries. As both a clinician and an athlete I am very tired of hearing the classic “rest and ice” one-size fits all treatment protocol. In most cases rest and ice do not fix problems, they mask them. Pain is an alarm signal that something in the body is not working right. Hitting the snooze button to silence symptoms buys you time but it does not address what caused the pain. Whether we want to admit it or not this is exactly how many of us deal with injuries and is one of the main reasons why injury rates are so high among active adults. Looking specifically at runners, 82% of runners get injured in their lifetime and 50% are injured in a given year. We must do something different if we expect these numbers to change. To quote Mr. Einstein, the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”


It’s time to change the way we look at injuries. One of the main reasons I started this blog is to help get this message across. Our current medical model for treating injuries has to change. I think where we start with this is education. A key point made in Dr. Starrett’s book is that most musculoskeletal injuries are “preventable disease.” We know enough in medicine now to know that things like diabetes and cardiovascular disease don’t happen overnight. This also is how we must look at musculoskeletal injuries. More often than not you do not develop Achilles tendinitis overnight from a 5 mile trail run you did over the weekend on overly fatigued legs. I tell many of my patients that often times things are problems before we know they are problems. In most cases the problem is not the tendon but rather that something else in the body hasn’t been working the way it should. Why did that tendon get irritated? Most likely the calf muscles have been overworking because another muscle group has not been doing its job. Focusing the treatment only on the site of pain may give you a short term fix but it doesn’t address the underlying cause. Until we take the time to address the cause we shouldn’t be surprised when other unexpected injuries pop up in the future. Sometimes these recurring injuries pop up in the same location and sometimes they show up in a different one. Chances are that the recurring injuries, whether they are in the same location or not, were caused by the same underlying problem. Now the million dollar question becomes “how can I find out what might be causing all my injuries?” To that I would say start by educating yourself. Below are 3 books that I think all endurance athletes should own. If you read them I am confident they will help you understand your body better and what you can to do to help it perform better and stay injury free.


Diabetes and cardiovascular disease can be avoided.
Injuries can as well.
We can only hit the snooze button for so long.
It’s time to wake up and take control of our bodies so we can be free to reach our full potential.

Run for Freedom


I realize that it has been a very long time since I have done a blog post. I have all kinds of fun stuff running through my head to share but have just been waiting for the right moment to get back into the routine of posting again. Sometimes you’ve got to wait for a little inspiration to get back to writing. This weekend I found mine at the Joplin Family YMCA Run for Freedom 5k. In my lifetime I have done way too many races to count. This race was, by far, the best one I have done out of them all. At the race I got to walk alongside of an amazing young gentleman who reminded me of what racing is all about. Check out the video link below. I think it will inspire you.

Remember to never quit.Stay strong to the finish. Happy racing to all.

Building an aerobic base:Is there a better way?

I love using my garmin watch when I train. Here is a map plotted out by my garmin from one of my latest and greatest workouts:

You might be asking yourself, “What kind of crazy workout is this?”

Well I wasn’t on a track and I wasn’t out riding or running on the roads. I was actually working out in my garage doing a High Intensity Interval Training (H.I.I.T) workout. This is one of my favorite types of workouts. It’s one of my favorites because although it doesn’t resemble running, it has actually helped my running quite a bit.

What is a H.I.I.T. workout?

H.I.I.T. is a form of strength or anaerobic training that involves alternating periods of intense work with periods of rest or active recovery. There are a number of reasons why H.I.I.T. training is beneficial to endurance athletes. The purpose of this post is just to highlight one of those benefits. Lets use running as an example to talk this through. One of the most important things a runner can have is a good solid “aerobic base.” How do you improve your aerobic base? The conventional answer is to add mileage to your weekly training. How many miles do you think I covered in my crazy garage workout pictured above? Um, yeah, not very many. How on earth could that workout possibly help improve my running?  Here’s a bit more information that might help answer this very question:

The picture below is the heart rate graph my garmin plotted out during this particular workout. The vertical axis is my heart rate. The horizontal axis is time.

Everything above the blue line in the graph is considered to fall within in my age specific “aerobic heart rate zone.”

During this workout I alternated “cardio intensive” forms of strength exercises (kettelbells, battling ropes, insanity/P90xish things) with less cardio intensive forms of strength exercises (lunges,squats,push ups,etc). I did this in 2 minute increments for 40 minutes. The first graph that I showed at the top of this post looks nothing like running. However, the second graph looks very much like how the heart responds when we run. Yes the heart rate does spike and then dip back down several times. However, if you look closely my heart rate only dropped below my “aerobic zone” one time during my entire workout. How does that work if I’m not doing “aerobic training” the entire time?  This is the cool thing about H.I.I.T.:

Although you aren’t directly performing “aerobic training” you do get an “aerobic benefit.”

Why is this?

The aerobic benefit is a byproduct of performing “anaerobic work.”

What is anaerobic work? That’s where the “high intensity” part of H.I.I.T. comes into play. Basically when you are doing your higher intensity exercises your body has to rely on different energy systems (i.e. metabolic pathways) to keep up with the demands you place upon it. There isn’t enough oxygen to rely primarily on fueling your body aerobically so you must rely on anaerobic (i.e. without oxygen) energy systems more than aerobic. Because you are performing intervals of high intensity anaerobic work your heart rate doesn’t have enough time to fall below the aerobic zone, thus you get an aerobic training effect that is very similar to what you would get from a typical steady state 3, 4, 5 mile run. Not only do you get an aerobic benefit but you also actually burn way more calories doing a H.I.I.T. workout than you would a run that lasts about the same amount of time. With H.I.I.T. the body continues buring calories well after you finish your workout to make up for the oxygen debt that occured during your anaerobic intervals (called the “afterburn effect”). Like I said, there are many benefits to H.I.I.T. workouts.

Here’s one last thing to consider:

82% of runners get injured. Most of these injuries occur from overuse.

This is understandable considering the fact that running is really just a continuous series of “jumping” from one leg to the other repetitively. Each time we jump, our legs are required to absorb impact forces that measure up to 2.5x our body weight. That’s a lot of pounding, not two legs, but on each individual leg over and over and over again.

Most runners will turn to additional mileage to improve their aerobic base. What if we started looking for other ways to do this?

Maybe, just maybe there would be less injuries.

Check out the video below to see what H.I.I.T. training looks like.

And if you are really interested check out the link below the video for information about a 10 week class we are starting in less than 3 weeks at the clinic I work at. Yes you guessed it. The class will be doing H.I.I.T. workouts, my favorite.

 Link to information about  October 17th 2012 Freeman Rehahilitation and Sports H.I.I.T. strength training class

Train 2 Run

Eighty two percent of all runners will get injured at some point.

What are we doing wrong?

I strongly believe that if we would focus less on running to train and more on training to run this statistic would change.

As runners we have lots of imbalance in our bodies, mainly because most of us focus primarily on just one thing: running. This sets us up for overuse injuries. It’s inevitable. . .

We run, we get injured, we react

(usually involves resting and then running again).

What if we started being proactive about our injuries rather than reactive?

Would things change then?

I am confident they would.

Below is a short news clip about a class that was started last Spring to help endurance athletes practice a smarter way to train.

After much planning over the summer this class is back and it’s now officially open to the public for registration. The name of the class is Train 2 Run.

The class will be held weekly starting this October at a clinic I am proud to work at, the new Freeman Rehabilitation and Sports Center.

Aside from learning how to train smarter and healthier, what other benefits will you take away from doing a class like this?


Statistics show that about 50% of people who start new exercise programs usually end up quitting within 6-12 months. People who exercise together usually beat these odds.

If you want to be a runner for the long haul, immerse yourself into some type of local fitness community.

Here lies the key to your long term success:

Building relationships and working hard with people who will stand by your side to encourage you and challenge you.

To learn more about Train 2 Run and how you can register for the program check out the following link on the Freeman Health System Website.

Freeman Rehabilitation and Sports Train 2 Run


What is one of the most important lessons I have learned from the races I have done in my lifetime?

You will never know what you can do until you push your mind to do what it thinks it cannot.

Conditioning your body and following a training plan is the easy part of race preparation. Conditioning your mind,I would argue, is where the real work is done. We all know that there is a mental component to training, but do we really think it is all that important?

“What the mind can conceive and believe it can achieve. . .”

We say and hear things like that all of the time, but do we really believe it? Or is it just some abstract lofty idea that inspires us but never really changes us?

This is something that I grapple with all of the time as an endurance athlete. Anyone who has any kind of experience with endurance sports knows what I’m talking about. For many  of us it starts with the 5k run. . . We have each at some point asked ourselves the deep soul searching question: “Can I really push my body to run all 3.1 miles without stopping?” To prepare for the challenge we strictly follow training schedules to ensure that we will be ready to cover the distance.  And then several 5k’s later we realize that running one is really “no big deal.” Before long we find ourselves training for our next big challenge: a half marathon.  With our only experience being the 5k distance we realize that 13.1 miles is definitely not going to be a walk in the park. . . again we go back into strict training mode and we find ourselves asking once again, “Do I have what it takes?” And the cycle starts over. . . we conquer the distance and it too becomes “no big deal.” Once this happens we start getting the urge to take a stab at the full marathon (even though we told ourselves we never would). Wow! How did we go from thinking 3.1 miles was an insurmountable challenge to even pondering the idea of running 26.2 miles?

This is the cycle of the endurance athlete.

I see it happen over and over again.

We are presented with a challenge, we conquer the challenge, then we look for a bigger challenge.

This holds true for competing in race distances we’ve never completed before and in trying to reach personal bests we’ve never set before. Is there something to this? Yes, our overall fitness is improved. Yes, our muscles are stronger and more efficient with distance running. Yes, our heart and lungs get better at delivering oxygen where it needs to go. Yes, our body is in better shape. But what about our mind?

Does our mind work more efficiently and is it stronger?

The photo above is a shot of me at the end of my second marathon at Joplin’s inaugural Mother Road Marathon.  My first marathon was in Little Rock, AR about 3 years earlier. It was all I could do to finish the race in just over 4 hours and 43 minutes. My body hurt so bad after Little Rock  that I told myself there was no way I would ever do that again. Three years later I somehow changed my mind (typical endurance athlete). At Mother Road my goal was to finish the race in 4 hours. My crazy friend Ruth was there at the end of the race to cheer me along and encourage me stay mentally strong through to the finish. With about 3 miles remaining my body was done, I had pushed it to the max. This was the point in the race where my mind had to take over. I was definitely hurting at this point in the run but nowhere near as bad as I did at the end of my Little Rock race. Yes I was in better shape and had more training under my belt this time around, but there was something else that made the end of this race seem a lot easier than Little Rock.  I ended up finishing the race in 4 hours and 9 minutes. I ran faster but didn’t hurt anywhere near as bad? How does that work? I am convinced it was because my mind knew what to expect. My body had been to this point of exhaustion before and I knew I could push through it.

Is there something to the “mental” aspect of training?

Most people have a good understanding about what goes on physiologically with muscles when we train them. We understand that we have to break our muscles down so that our bodies can build them back stronger. We don’t really think about this but the same concept actually holds true for the brain and the mind. When we exercise we are not only physically  breaking down muscles but we are also physically breaking down “brain tissue” as well.  This break down occurs to build existing neurons (i.e. nerve cells) back stronger and to improve their connections to other neurons (which is very important for creating memories, learning and adapting to new challenges). Exercise not only breaks down existing neurons but it also promotes “neurogenesis” (the formation of new neurons) in certain areas of the brain. What does this mean? Every time you stress your body, (in a healthy way and in the right amount) whether it be through exercise or experiencing things your body has never experienced before, you are sparking new brain growth (the last 10 years of research in this area have shown that we can do this even as adults).

The brain has an amazing capacity to adapt to the challenges we place upon it.

And the really cool thing about the brain is that it “remembers” very well. Even if you let yourself get out of shape and fall out of the routine of running you can come back years later and the 5k will still be “no big deal.” It is this way because your brain knows and remembers that you can cover that distance. I think of this as a very similar phenomenon that happens when you go to play a sport that you haven’t played in years but can still do relatively well because your body remembers. As a child I played basketball for years (before I got into all this endurance stuff). To this day I am still able to pick up a ball and  have relatively skilled ball handling and shooting techniques despite not having played basketball for years. When you push and train your body to do new things your brain will remember, even if it’s years down the road. I say all this to say. . .


And there is also power in knowing what exactly goes on inside of our brains when we exercise.

That is the purpose of my next series of blog posts, to educate you about the health benefits of exercise that we sometimes overlook or maybe don’t know all that much about. We know about the cardiovascular benefits of exercise. We know about the neuromuscular benefits. But what about exercise and the brain?  My inspiration behind the series comes from a book I recently finished called “Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain.” The book is authored by Dr. John J. Ratey a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. I must say that reading Dr. Ratey’s book has helped “spark” my passion even more for exercise and endurance sports. It has made me realize that our mainstream view of exercise, and all of the benefits that it brings, is very simplistic. After reading this book I am in awe of how our minds and bodies were created to be so dynamically interconnected. You cannot separate the mind from the body, nor the body from the mind. What we do to make our bodies healthy will also make our mind and brain healthy as well. The neuroscience of the brain and the nervous system has always fascinated me. Learning about the physiological impact of exercise on the brain has made me very excited. I want to share with you all  that I have learned. Stay tuned for more posts on topics about how exercise impacts the health of our brain.

Missouri Road Race 5k Record Holder and Joplin Athlete Olympic Hopeful: Meet Caleb Hoover

For those of you that don’t know him or haven’t heard about him yet, let me introduce you to Caleb Hoover, a graduate of Joplin’s very own College Heights Christian School. Caleb is an NCAA division I athlete at Northern Arizona University. As a freshman he took 1st place in his conference for the 5,000m run in outdoor track this past season. Just before turning 20 years old this summer, Caleb broke the Missouri 5k road race record for 19 year olds.  His record time of 15:09 was fast enough to earn him a first place finish at the Kansas City MLB All Star 5k, where close to 5,500 runners were in attendance. One of Caleb’s major goals is to eventually break the all time Missouri Road Race 5k record of 14:20, which has not been broken in 17 years. Break the Missouri 5k record, piece of cake. . .what else? Oh yeah, 2016 Rio summer games are all ready on his mind. . . Check out his story below.

Q.) When did you first get into running and what made you want to start?

 A.) I first got into running when I was in 7th grade during the cross country season. I did it because I knew I was fast and I wanted to see how I could do against people from other schools.

Q.)  What aspect of your training would you say has contributed the most to the success you have had in your running career?

A.) Every time I have reached a new level in my running, it has always been associated with a jump in mileage from the previous year. I went from 20 to 40 miles a week from junior high to high school. During my sophomore year of high school I went from running 40 miles a week to about 50 miles a week and then I started training all year round. In my freshman year of college I increased my average miles per week to about 65 miles. Staying injury free has also helped me to continue to improve.

Q.) What goals have you set for yourself in your upcoming track and cross country seasons?

A.) In cross country I would really like to be top 60 at nationals. In track my main event is the 3,000m steeplechase and I would really like to take 30 seconds off my time. I believe this can be accomplished by focusing on improving my hurdle form and technique. My PR  in this event is 9:04 and if I can get that down into the low 8:30s, then I would have a great shot at being all-American at NCAA D1 track nationals. That kind of time would also allow me to compete at the USA track and field championship. I  hope to improve my time a few seconds each year and hopefully have a shot at making the top three in the Olympic trials for the 2016 summer olympics.

Q.) How long do you plan to continue running?

A.) I plan to keep on running very competitively well into my 30s and then I don’t plan on stopping until my bones can’t handle it anymore.

Q.) What advice can you give to recreational runners about how to stay focused on achieving their goals?

A.) The best way to stay focused and achieve the goals you want is to focus on the process. If your goal every day when you wake up is to run 10 miles then you will be much more likely to achieve those goals. As you achieve all of your goals along the way, you will have a better chance of reaching your desired fitness which will give a better shot of reaching your time goals. You cannot just say that you want to run under 20 minutes in a 5k and not expect to go through the process needed to run that kind of time.

Caleb, we wish you the best of luck in your upcoming season and with all of your running goals. Your hometown is proud of you! Keep up the good work, AND. . .


Getting in shape can be a daunting task. . .

It seems like people either

don’t know where to start


don’t know how to be successful.

I know that this is a struggle for many people. Most people that I talk to genuinely do want to find a way to become more active. The desire to get in shape is there but the path that leads there isn’t always that certain and is not always rewarding, nor is it easy. I think that the key to conquering this lies in understanding what I call “the 3 laws of exercise” which I believe explain why so many people struggle with getting and staying in shape.

the 3 laws of exercise (according to Kendra):

1.) Exercise inertia– an object at rest stays at rest unless acted upon by an outside force (i.e. without having some form of external motivation you will never change your lifestyle habits and behaviors )

2.) HW+Npr=Nim  (Hard Work + No positive reinforcement= No internal motivation to continue)-  you’ve never had lasting success with any of the previous “fitness” plans you’ve followed so why should you even bother starting again?

3.)  Doing it alone leads to failure– trying to get in shape by yourself is extremely difficult. . . without accountability and encouragement from others YOU WILL MORE THAN LIKELY FAIL.

Here’s a suggestion for

overcoming the laws of exercise:

Y not run?

The class will meet every Saturday at 10 AM for the next 9 weeks (starting August 11th) to train for this years  four states Mother Road 5k. The class includes a training plan with coaching from instructors who are certified by the Road Runners Clubs of America. The cost of the class is $25 for Y members, $50 for non-members, t-shirt is included (for more information about the class you can contact Karen King at the Joplin YMCA, 417-781-9622).

Here’s why I’m confident this class is worth the investment:

1.) It gives you a goal to work towards and a plan for how to get there (i.e. training for a 5k is a definite form of external motivation)

2.) The program works! I’ve met many people who have had huge long term success with the class (i.e. it helped them successfully reach a goal which motivated them to continue running  beyond the class)

3.) It gives you an opportunity to connect with other people working towards similar fitness goals.  Karen King, certified coach and founder of Anyone Can Run,  says this about the class, “By the end of the class it feels more like a team than a class.”  (Connectivity is the key to success! Ultimately I believe this is why this class has worked so well for so many people.)

Anyone Can Run  is an incredible program that the YMCA has done a great job with over the past several years. Each year I have seen more and more people in our community get excited about running and living more active and healthy lifestyles. This class has contributed immensely to this. It is definitely worth checking out if you are looking for some type of “plan” to get in shape and become more active.  This program will not only teach you how to safely and successfully train for a 5k but will also equip you with the tools you need to  truly be successful with your lifetime fitness goals. I am confident you will find that the benefits of this class will extend well beyond the 9 week duration it is in session.

It’s time to find a reason to get off the couch.

 The anyone can run class is a great place to start.

Don’t just take my word for it. I invite you to check out the stories of runners who have been in the class.

(You can find their stories in the athlete success tab to the right or can click here for the direct link)

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