Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Things I forgot to workout 3: Climbing

Climbing involves a lot of precise foot placements, awkward gripping positions, and a myriad of other things that the body doesn't like (for instance taking a 30 foot whipper). Often times, especially when climbing an overhanging roof, a climber has to use their toes to dig into climbing holds to keep the body from taking said whipper. The core muscle play a really important part of keeping the hips near the wall, but everyone knows they need to be doing more situps and less sitting. How about the muscles inside the foot? They're pretty important for sticking to that hold, so why do we ignore them?

The "intrinsic" muscles of the foot are responsible for modifying how your big calf muscles pull and how your toes flex and extend. They're pretty easy to work on, and here's how:
1. throw a dish towel on the floor.
2. with just your toes, pull the towel towards you. Don't move your heel one spot on the ground, we're just trying to pull the towel and ball it up.
3. you can even throw some weight on top of the towel.

That's it. Simple, easy, and it'll help the climber more adequately meet the wall with their feet.

Run to THIS SITE if you really need a good visual. Or if you have plantar fasc.

Monday, July 26, 2010

How _____ saved my running "career".

How ______ saved my running "career" is going to be another one of those somewhat frequent posts that shows up on two feet. Basically you're going to get some "super awesome" tips about how you can learn from my experiences to be a better runner.

Crampons are perhaps the best way to truly learn how to run downhill. Not at the same time, but with the same technique. When walking downhill on glacier ice, you plantarflex (or push your foot down) to meet the degree of decline of the ice. You're trying to fully meet the ground, with your full foot, rather than just slapping your heel on ice. The same thing applies super awesomely to trail running on the downhill. You naturally put maximum tread on ground, giving maximum friction. At the same time, by biomechanics, you're forced to flex at the knee. This removes a ton of vertical force, as the body is able to more flexibly meet the shock of slamming your fat butt (mine at least) down some ridiculous hill in the middle of nowhere.

So Crampons. Super Awesome.

Today was brought to you by the phrase "super awesome". If I ever use this in a blog post again, all of my loyal fans will be getting all of Oprah's favorite things (I learned that she does that while watching 30 rock).

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

To plantarflex? To dorsiflex?

Ankle sprains are a prevalent among anyone spending time on not-asphalt. Not-asphalt is a very special surface, not seen a whole lot these days. It primarily consists of dirt, sticks, rocks, and (unfortunately) beer bottles. Not-asphalt presents a very special problem to the average joe... it's not flat. This lack of flatness present the not-asphalt user with a special challenge, namely how to not "explode" their ankles.

Plantarflexion and Dorsiflexion are two special motions that the ankle joint it capable of. Basically, plantarflexion is ankle towards the ground, dorsiflexion is ankle towards the ski. Up vs down. Terra firma vs the realm of stinging insects. Just what position should your ankle be when it makes contact with not-asphalt?

To make this simple as possible, we'll present a simple scenario. While trail running, our extremely talented runner is presented with a particular technical section of trail, littered with rocks the size of lunch boxes. Our runner is forced into a situation where he or she knows that their next step must be actually onto a rock. The rock is sloped on the near and front side, allowing our runner the option to meet the rock in either a dorsiflexed or plantarflexed position. What to do?

Most go for the plantarflexed position. It presents an easier way to push off, doesn't mess up stride that much, and puts them into an incredibly dangerous scenario, and let's be honest... that's more fun.

Plantarflexion at the ankle actually puts the talus and tibial plafond/fibular distal process (really fancy words for "ankle") into a position of less stability. The talus is tapered in the back, so when it's plantarflexed the ankle has a few millimeters more to roll in. That's not good. This causes ankle injuries.

I believe that it is best to hit the rock with the foot in a dorsiflexed, up, position. This gives the ankle more stability, which greatly decreases the chance of rolling the ankle. It's not practical in all situations, but it really does help the runner who is plagued with ankle injuries. The running stride feels a little out of place, and you have to make sure you make contact with the knee partially flexed (should be anyways), but the safety factor makes it completely worth it.

Go run.

Things I forgot to workout 2: Skiing

Fibular muscle dislocation is the awkwardly specific injury to skiers. Basically your fibularis brevis and longus explode out of their place, behind your outside ankle. It typically happens to skiers when the land with a lot of force, which causes them to contract to protect the ankle. It doesn't work. They explode out of their place. It's pretty sad really.

So how can you help avoid this? You know I'm going to give you ways to workout the fibular muscles, so let's get to it.

1. Get up on your toes! Walk around like this for a little while. It'll burn, that's good.
2. Jump up with your right leg and then land on your left foot. Alternate legs, try it on the same leg, try it with your head. Enjoy.
3. Put a weight or other heavy object on the outside of your foot. With just your foot, try to push the weight along the floor. The point is to only use your fibular muscles. Try not to use your legs.

So... don't explode your fibular muscles. Good luck!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Things I forgot to work out. Trail Running edition 1.

This is going to be a fairly common post topic, as a lot of people manage to forget a lot of different muscles that are very specific to trail running, hiking, skiing, whatever, but are often completely overlooked.

I'll be focusing in on a couple of overlooked muscles or muscle groups that are fairly specific to trail running. Runners are notorious for having awesome quadriceps (thigh muscles), sculpted calves, and that's about all. In other words, most runners aren't well balanced. This is often not the case with trail runners, who typically have a more diverse hobby set. This typically means that they're upper body and core muscles are better off, yet I fully believe that most runners, even trail runners don't really do any work for the following muscles.

1. The neck. Tell me, when's the last time you did any neck exercises against resistance? I haven't for 6 years, since college football. Exercises can be found HERE. I personally am a big fan of applied resistance, but rather using a towel (grab it with both hands, one in either corner) to apply resistance. Runners, I'm looking toward the back of the neck muscles. We spend a lot of time looking down, not up. That means our neck muscles up in the front are great... but the ones in back... nottttt so good. Try the exercises, you should start to notice less cramping in the neck after a month or so.

2. Do you even know what the hamstrings are? Sure you use them a lot when you go downhill, but when's the last time you got intimate with them? When's the last time you made them scream with workout burn? Also, can you even touch your toes?

The hamstrings are the muscles in the back of the thigh, just below the butt. If you want the names, insertions, origins, innervations, arterial supply, action, and contribution to gait, I can tell you more than you wanted to know. You don't want to know these things. You want to know how to not get hurt when running.

Try this. Lay down on the ground, with a bench or chair 2 or 3 feet in front of you. Put your legs up on the chair. Raise your butt off the ground, hold for a few seconds, slowly lower the butt back down to the ground. Now try it with one leg. Cry moderately. Repeat.

Another great way to save the hams? Dribble a soccer ball around. A lot of weird positions, a lot of strange kicking. It works.

The hamstrings are going to keep you safe as you go downhill. The neck keeps your head attached to the body. These are both good things. Don't forget to work on them.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

guard those suckers.

It is well known that cotton is not a suitable material for activities that make you sweat like crazy. It stops breathing when saturated, and in cold weather, lacks insulating properties when wet. As socks, cotton will cause horrific blisters when it gets wet. Yet, I propose another consequence that is significantly more traumatic to the runner or athlete... chafing.

Chafing is caused by extensive irritation to the skin, causing moderate damage to surface epithelium. In other words... it hurts. Cotton chafes when wet. So do open weave synthetics... so play the game as you wish.

Chafed nipples though, that's a whole new ball game. What to do? You can do the same thing that Andy of the Office does and slap some bandaids on them... or you could go high class, high tech and pop on some nip guards!

I admit to using them. I admit to loving them. So deal with it.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The folly of first aid pack for the trail runner

Many trail runners will tell you to run with a first aid kit. I'm hear to say that you are wasting your time. Wasting precious time "dressing" you gashed knee with the cotton webril you carried in, when you really should have taken off your t-shirt (a dirtier but much more resilient option) and then been on your cell phone calling for help. Now this no carry isn't a definitive mandate by any means, yet in most situations you are wasting your time carrying in a first aid pack you probably have never opened, never took stock of what's inside, and more or less have no idea what to do with the junk inside anyways.

This command does not apply to races where a first aid kit is a mandatory part of the running kit. These races are typically many day affairs that are minimally aided and happen to be pretty much directed toward the running bad mo's. See the Alaska Iditarod trail race, and not the one with the dogs.

So what's a person to do if they listened to my advice and something does go wrong?
1. Get yourself into a safe position. If you just fell down a cliff and caught yourself on a branch Cliffhanger style, it's not in your best interest to try to mod a tourniquet out of your sock. Get yourself into a safe spot first.
2. Take a deep breath and access the situation.
3. Triage yourself. Control the blood, check for broken bones, be extremely cautious with any neck or head trauma.
4. Call for help. I ALWAYS carry a cell phone with me on trail runs. It's also not a bad idea to carry a whistle. Not a bad idea. And for those western states super adventurous runners, perhaps you can carry a SPOT? Anyone have any thoughts on that?
5. Start to admin first aid with what you have. Let's be honest, neosporin isn't going to take care of the C. Perfringens infection you got from crushing you knee cap, so try just using the water you most likely carried for hydration. Do be careful though, this may be you only water source if your broken in the middle of nowhere. Make wise decisions.
6. Apply good pressure to the wound with any cloth you have convenient. I used my shorts once to stop a massive bleed from a really badly broken nose... You should have something you can use.
7. Don't take any meds unless told to by someone with doctor in front of their name. It's just safer that way.
8. Only make get moving if you are told to by emergency personnel or if you know you are more than screwed.
9. Oh yah, if something is broken, try to splint it with whatever you can get your hands on.

By no means is this a mandate to not carry first aid while trail running. In fact, it's probably smart... Legally at least.
I personally do carry a smattering of tape and a few other first aid supplies, but I'm trained proficiently in what do with them. And let's be honest, if you are reading this blog post to become better informed on first aid, you probably aren't an expert in first aid anyways. Play it smart. If it's a shorter run, not too remote, and you don't really know you're way around a koalin vs von Willebrand factor argument, then maybe you would better off with less weight on your back.