Time after time we are taught to be kind. Be real. It’s still something I’m working on, but it is starting to show itself in my day to day life and tonight I would like to talk about the importance of putting the light out there and staying humble. Everything comes back tenfold, and it truly has. I’m 3 days in to my trip and I keep on saying “I can’t believe it.” But I really can so I’ve got to stop saying that. It’s everything that I’ve been working at. Someone famous once said, “stop discounting yourself. Accept the gifts and roll with it.”

I’m rolling.

Thank you

On a much lighter note please check out my new and improved podcast: MikeDrop Radio. I had the pleasure to sit down and chat with some real beauties in the completely undiscovered world of traditional healing music, Ancient Echoes. Please take a listen and subscribe to the show wherever you listen to your podcasts.

Copy of Mike drop radio

https://anchor.fm/mikedropradio/embed/episodes/Ancient-Echoes-Live-and-In-Conversation-e1dafh

New intro tune. Similar message. “Spinnin’ tracks and lifestyle hacks.” Tune in if you’re into health and wellness and good music. Or tune in if you have a heartbeat or if you’re breathing.

Pre-qualifiers, right? Haha.

Big day tomorrow… a potentially huge shift, pivotal in my career… but here’s the lesson I wanted to get across today.

Be kind, be positive and no matter how hard things seem, they will turn around. You always had the team around you and the time just has to be right for everyone to show up. The time is now for me and boy oh boy are people ever showing up.

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Namaste sweet!

xo

 

M

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If I had a nickel for every time someone I’m working with complained about knee pain (or hips, low back or ankle for the sake of keeping a focus on joint pain I’m summing things up into knees) I’d be rich, for sure.

Wanna know what three things these folks all have in common? Read on. And if you’re doing them and experiencing pain in the lower limb joints, I’d highly recommend discontinuing them. Duh, right?

Alright, here you go.

1. Stop running.

I’m willing to bet that’s your go to “get fit” when you’ve had a shitty weekend of party, binging pizza and beer etc. “I’m going for a run first thing Monday morning!” Yeah. Do that. That makes sense. I mean running is only an Olympic sport people train all of their lives for. Any Joe Blow can just lace up the ol’ sneakers and hit the pathways. No! Stop running. If your knees hurt, you’re likely way out of alignment and likely need a gait/postural correction specialist (like myself!) to begin to fix things. So, start by not running.

Why? 

Well running is nothing but a glorified lunge amplified in intensity through speed and impact. Two things that’ll promote injury with poor muscle recruitment and technique. Let’s try doing 3 sets of 10 lunges/leg. If you don’t know how to do a lunge you should probably not be running and you should pick up the phone or email me.

2. Start weightlifting

It’s no secret weights and resistance training is multi purposeful when it comes to athletic/lifetsyle goals. Lifting weights promotes muscular strength and endurance, makes your bones stronger, helps to reduce risk of injury. There, that’s the one. Bingo! Want to fix your knees? Do lunges, deadlifts and squats.

Why? 

Just do it. Hahaha, just kidding. Actually it’s a great question. Seems counter intuitive, but if you lift weights your body has a chance to remember the movement pattern for the exercise. So, that can be very good if you’re doing the exercise well. That means that you will work out muscular imbalances that may have existed (again, figure out for sure by hiring on a postural correction specialist like myself before you just wing it). When you can lunge straight, you can run straight… provided the appropriate muscles are firing.

3. Start foam rolling

Yeah, it’s simply a must if you want to recover properly. Foam rolling or active release or self-massage is a pivotal rest day technique to help alleviate muscle soreness and tightness and also help to increase range of motion, mobility and increase strength and flexibility of all areas that’d otherwise get all bunched up. Foam rolling also helps to “recruit” muscles. Your body senses a little pressure near a muscle group that has trouble firing or engaging and whammy! That muscle knows how to turn on now. It’s also know as facilitation, where touch helps sense a neurological response to the working muscle tissue and the  movement happens in proper sequence. I’d add it to the end of my session to relieve soreness in my body. Laying down long-ways letting it go across your spine is also really nice and relaxing.

Give it a go and let me know how many times you curse my name. If you need help with any foam rolling techniques or need to know what a roller looks like, please contact me

Remember, you don’t have to be a rock star to start, but you have to start in order to become a rock star. Stay sweet, folks.

Coach Schwartzy

So, you’ve been out of the game for a little while. Maybe you’ve never been there, only on the sidelines in the past. but now, you’re feeling a little more confident, a little more energy and you’d like to take up running. That’s great! You’re just a little concerned about where to begin and how to avoid hurting yourself like your buddy, Tim. He’s shelved now for three more weeks after that tweaked knee… Don’t be like Tim. Take note on these 5 tips to help a smooth transition (back) into running. Specifically, this article is geared towards last minute decisions to enter into a 5, 10 or half marathon, ’cause we’ve all been there…

Technique, technique technique!

At the end of the day, running is just a more intensive, sped up version of the primal movement known as a lunge. So, if you can’t do a proper lunge (gold standard for my athletes is starting in a split stance, pick your back knee off the floor to standing 10 times each leg without falling over…) you have zero business compounding that over the course of 5, 10 or 21 kilometres. Sure there’s going to be body mechanics that are unavoidable based on the way each individual moves, but the basics are the same. We are looking for proper engagement through the glutes, hamstrings and quads and we have to train the muscles to activate. It doesn’t just happen. Unless you’re Usian Bolt or Andre De Grasse. Even then, go watch their training regimen.

A few activation drills I like to work into my regimen for proper engagement of the muscles of the legs consist of: Stationary lunges, “Clamshells” and Peterson Step-Ups. I’ve compiled a quick little demo on my YouTube for anyone that wants to strengthen up their form. Please check out my YouTube library for proper technique when performing these drills on your own!

According to running coach, Jason Fitzgerald – You should think about running with a tall back, landing mid foot, just in front of your centre of mass, with a quick cadence or leg speed… Think kind of like landing softly like a ninja with each step.

Start slow, focus on progress – not perfection

In the grand scheme, you should have probably been preparing for this upcoming 10k months ago. Now you’re ten days out and you haven’t run more than 5k in the past 2 weeks. Just like cramming for that economics exam won’t help you remember the principles of the free market, piling on a bunch of kilometres in a week in hopes to prepare for that run  will do nothing but risk injury on the undertrained body. My suggestion, if you’re ten days out, pick 2 days 3 days apart to run an 8k and a 6k. (ie. Race is on Sunday.. so the prior Monday run 8k, and then run 6k on the Thursday…) and focus on keeping a steady pace that you can maintain for those distances. That way, when Sunday rolls around, you won’t be drained and sore for those extra two kilometres.

Trade the road for the trail

Running is an impactful movement. The more times you land hard on an unforgiving surface the harder it will be on your joints. This can cause injury and at the very least it’ll make your feet, ankles, knees, hips or back hurt. To avoid this, or at least lessen it – try running on the dirt/grass beside the road or better yet, pick some trails to run. The ground is a little softer so you won’t force as much impact into the joints and therefore won’t be as likely to do damage to those areas.

Fuel your body!

In the world of Exercise and Sport Nutrition, the proper fuel can make or break your performance. Think of your body as a car. The oil is water, the food is the gasoline and the fluids are the vitamins, minerals and extra supplements to ensure all systems go. Focus on  raw, whole foods, home cooked when available. Some of my favourite easy to eat foods/snacks that are a great source of fuel are bananas, nut butter and celery or apples and water with lemon. Check out a video I did for an easy to cook and super delicious Pineapple-Ginger Rice Bowl here or read the recipe for a great greens juice here!

Rest

Sounds counter intuitive, but your performance in sport is greatly related to how well your body is recovered. I come back to the point that overtraining, especially on short notice will do nothing but risk injury. Proper warmup, and cool down prior to training as well as ample sleep and recovery days are crucial for a successful performance. I have an excellent 6 step movement prep warmup I incorporate before each training run I go on that helps me not only avoid death or death-like symptoms, but properly activates the corresponding muscle groups I’m going to be using in training. Check it out here.

 

As the summer is in full swing here in Calgary, I have been increasingly busy fielding movement and general fitness questions. One of the hottest topics is running. I’ve had many clients, young and old asking me how to safely get back into running. Many have experienced knee, hips or ankle problems in the past, and want to safely get back into the game and run their best without compromising their wellbeing and most importantly, staying away from old injuries. So while there is the old adage of to become a better runner you need to run, the science behind this movement is a bit more complex. I want to share my top 3 tips for getting back into running safely, effectively and without compromising your knees, hips or ankles. Let’s begin –

1. Begin a pre-conditioning strength phase of training

A lot of folks skip this step. I get it. You’re ambitious, excited to get back to your 5K or 10K days, maybe 10 years ago. However, you’re mindset might be right, but oftentimes your body needs to catch back up. Most folks that have retired from running, even for as short as 6 months, run a high risk of injury. Why? Well, they tend to skip warm up and neglect to build strength and endurance in the areas the are needed before efficient running patterns can be established. Here’s what I do with my clients that are eager to hit the road or the trails before they get ahead of themselves.

  • Build a 2-6 week phase of training focused around stabilizing the joints and muscles used by blending stretching and flexibility with strength and mobility drills to build up some strength in areas like the bum (glutes) and the thighs (hamstrings/quads) so we see a better balance to really maximize the power output and minimize wear and tear on the joints from over-compensation of the quads or lack of engagement form the glutes (oftentimes these two are the culprits of “runners knee” or “IT Band syndrome” – something I’ve experienced and wish upon not even my worst of enemies…)

Try this little exercise 2-3x/week to build strength and stability in your run pattern

Stationary lunge (with vertical shin) 

Take a knee with your back foot’s heel up in the air and engaged (as opposed to your top of foot resting on the ground) and ensure your front knee is no further than 90 degrees so as to not extend over the toes too far. Slowly inhaling and with your hands on your hips for stability, drive your front foot’s heel down into the ground and focus on driving your hips vertically until you are standing in what is known as “split squat stance”. Once at the top of the movement, lower yourself slowly again, exhaling slowly, and as your back knee just touches the ground (Don’t crash your knee towards the floor, lower yourself slowly!) focus on keeping your hips square and from creeping forward. You’ll want to keep 90 degrees in your front knee at the bottom of the motion. Once you’re at the ground take a moment, find your balance again and complete another repetition. You should aim for 5-10 on each leg and 1-3 sets to start. Rest as needed between sets. Remember, you want to take things slow and not aggravate any old issues you once had.

2. Focus on building core strength

Over the years I have seen a lot of clients come to me complaining about back pain. Oftentimes runners have no idea how to stabilize their hips through the engagement of their core (muscles in the low back, abdominals and pelvic floor) and within 15 minutes of a quick sweat session, I find out the root of their problem is a weak stability system in their core. Here are a couple of my favourite drills that will help you keep that back, butt and tummy in line when you’re out on the path training for the marathon!

Low Plank (from elbows and knees/toes)

Resting face down, pick yourself up to your elbows and knees (or toes if you’re feeling stronger). Keeping your shoulders vertically right in line with your elbows so you don’t strain your shoulders or neck, ensure your back is nice and flat, head is looking down between your hands and your tummy is tight (think about bracing your abs as if you were taking a punch in the belly…)! Hold this position for up to a minute at a time (most of my clients hold about 20-30 seconds without losing their posture and arching their back, so don’t worry if you can’t hold the position for very long. The key is to remain tight and contract all of your muscles. Squeeze your bum, squeeze your abs, even squeeze your hands. Remember to breathe though, as this one as per most exercise… can be fairly tough without oxygen. Please avoid death or death-like symptoms and be mindful about your slow controlled breathing.  Look to complete 2-3 rounds of up to one minute holds. Rest as needed in between each set.

Supine (face up) Hip Raise

Laying face up on the ground, with your hands down beside you on the ground for support bend your knees and bring your feet in close to your bum with the soles down on the ground. Driving your heels into the ground, and inhaling slowly, raise your hips up to the sky, stretching your quads and squeezing your bum and hamstrings to get full extension of your hips. Once at the top, hold for a second or two and gently lower yourself with a nice exhale as you return to the starting position. Complete up to 30 of these extensions and rest for a couple minutes. Try to complete 2-3 rounds in the early stages. Nothing too crazy.

3. Slowly begin to build up your endurance

There’s absolutely no sense in just jumping back in to the training you were doing months if not years ago. You’re body isn’t conditioned for it and you will hurt yourself. Treat each week as a progression on your endurance and slowly start to add the distance on your training runs. I like to coach 2-3 days of specific running for most of my clientele just getting back to it. One day focused on sprints, generally a short, 30 minute interval session with a higher heart rate and less rest between intervals and the 1 or 2 more days where distance is slowly added and pace is slowly increased over the course of a few weeks. For my last two marathoners, this style of training kept overuse injuries at bay, something both clients were subject to in the past. I like to ensure that there’s more attention to recovery and efficiency of patterns rather than just going for miles and miles and miles of training. Try this kind of 2 week running set up if you’re thinking about getting back at it.

Week 1

Monday – 20-30 minutes of Hill Sprints 

Find a hill with a fairly sharp grade incline and sprint up that hill for 10-15 seconds, walk back down and take 2-3 minutes to recover. Complete as many rounds as you can in about a half hour.

Wednesday – 40 minute “Easy Jog” 

Keep a light steady pace (if you have a heart rate monitor you’d like to be in zone 2 or about 40-60% your max HR) and try to stop only briefly for a sip of water or quick calf stretch. This jog will gradually build up your “engine” and you will notice over a few weeks your pace, stamina and overall tolerance to the lactic “burn” increases.

Saturday – (Optional 60 minute Jog)

If you’re feeling good, and by that I mean if your legs aren’t really tight and sore this one is very similar to Wednesday. Just keep a nice light pace and see if you can just increase your total time on the path.

Week 2

Monday – Tabata Sprints

Find an open stretch of path where you can really open up your stride and sprint. Careful of Pokemon GOer’s and casual walkers, as they’ll be hazardous to your Donovan Bailey-esque form. You’re going to set your stop watch and sprint as hard as you can for 20 seconds, then walk 10 paces. Then sprint again for 20 seconds, followed by the walk. Complete 8 rounds of this and then rest for a full 5 minutes. Repeat 2 to 3 of these rounds and feel the lungs and legs burn!

Wednesday – 20 minute Flush Jog

Nothing fancy here, just get out for a quick rip around the block a few times. Easy pace, just feel your pattern and your stride.

Friday – 45-60 minute Marathon Pace Jog

Keep it pretty slow, as if you were conserving energy for the distance of a marathon and focus on not resting at all for a full 45 minutes to an hour. This is easy jogging so be mindful of breathing and try not to worry about how fast you’re going.

There you have it. These are my top 3 tips to ensure a nice re-introduction to the running game for anyone looking to get back out there and not hurt themselves in the process. Always consult your health care professional before starting up a new exercise routine and please, please, please ensure you’re properly hydrated and stretched out so you avoid injury. Do this before and after your training. Stretching is great and part of the whole balanced lifestyle. Don’t skip warm up or cool down. As always, reach out to me at mike@armyofharmony.com if you have any comments or questions regarding movement, nutrition and mindset.

Remember, you don’t have to be a rock star to start, but you have to start in order to become a rock star.  Stay sweet, folks!

Mike