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Categorized as: Jeff’s Blog

Sharpest Spoon in the Drawer: It’s about HOW you start

IT’S NOT WHEN YOU START, BUT HOW YOU START. By Coach Jeff 945477_588961227790008_680079988_n

Recently, I was talking to an athlete, and she was lamenting to me that she felt like she was so far behind her age group peers because she started her active lifestyle just a few years ago.

I thought about it for a moment before I responded.

“But, when you started, you hired a coach.”

So while she was kicking herself for being a late starter, she should be patting herself on the back for hiring a professional to put her on the right path.

A lot of people start training when they are younger, however, they are often doing things incorrectly, with seemingly little rhyme or reason to their training methods.  If asked why they are doing something in a particular way, they will often refer to some “bro-science” they got from the buff 23 year old who’s always doing curls in the squat rack.

Instead, she hired a coach right away, and learned how to perform exercises correctly.  She learned why she was doing the exercises in a particular order, how it applied to her daily life, and has seen the benefits.

So don’t let age be a limiting factor when considering an active lifestyle. Instead, focus on doing things correctly.  In the hands of a professional, you can achieve new heights, regardless, of how old or young you are.

And you don’t have to be the sharpest spoon in the drawer to figure that out…

Sharpest Spoon in the Drawer: Ditch the Support Group…er, shoes.

Ditch the support group…er, shoes. By Coach Jeff. 945477_588961227790008_680079988_n

What kind of shoes are you wearing?  And I don’t mean what brand.  Do they have a small toe box, a cushioned heel, arch support, or lateral support, meant to stop you from pronation, some shocks on the back?

The reason I ask, is because you may be wearing TOO MUCH SHOE.

Over the last 40 or so years, there has been a lot of time, money and technology poured into running shoes.  It’s a billion dollar industry.  Breathable uppers, various foams, gels, and air for underfoot padding, lateral support, no slip shoe laces, blah, blah, blah, the list goes on.

When was the last time you thought about strength training for your feet?   More specifically, when was the last time you went barefoot?

Over the last few years, as I listen to more runners talk of injuries like shin splints, Plantar Fasciitis, and various Achilles Tendon issues, I’ve come to the conclusion (and I’m not the first), that what most people are lacking is a strong foundation.

Tell me if you’ve ever seen this.  You walk into your local Globo Gym.  Lots of buff dudes walking around in shirts that are so tight, it looks like they bought them in the boy’s department at Academy (…guilty!), checking themselves out in the mirror as they lift (…guilty, again!). These same guys have defined, muscular torsos and legs, but as you look at their feet, they wearing shoes that are built like Humvees.  They have more material in their shoes than their entire outfit!

“Well, you see, I have to wear these because I have high arches,” or “flat feet,” or “Plantar Fasciitis,” or whatever they may say.

If you’ve said these things, then join the party, because I’ve said them, too.

But if we want to correct these problems, we need to take our shoes OFF!

What happens if you break your arm and have to wear a cast for 6 weeks?  The muscles in your arm begin to atrophy and become weak.  After 6 weeks, you will notice a difference in size and strength, even if it is your dominant arm.

Now imagine what wearing supportive shoes has done to the muscles of your feet.  They are atrophied and weak.  They need to be strengthened.  But how?

Simple answer? Go barefoot.

Now, I’m not advocating for you to throw away your shoes and get kicked out of convenience stores (no shirt, no shoes, no service?), but I am suggesting that you should start being a little more deliberate about NOT wearing shoes.

Does this mean barefoot running?

Yes… and no.

Barefoot running is a lifestyle that some embrace, and if you can do that, more power to you.  You just saved yourself a ton of money on running shoes!  However, to me, barefoot running is a TOOL, or TECHNIQUE to help build better run form and stronger feet.  My take is that if you run on any man made surface, you should probably wear a man made shoe.  Save the barefoot running for grass fields and drill work.

However, I am suggesting that when you are at home, or maybe behind the closed door of your office at work, to take your shoes off (and get a standing desk, but I digress).  More importantly, don’t just have one pair of shoes that you do all your workouts in.  Have several pairs.  You should not lift weights or do any cross training in your favorite running shoes.  Instead, go buy yourself a pair Chuck Taylor All Stars, or a pair of cross country flats.  Make the muscles in your feet do a little work to support you instead of your shoe supporting your foot.

That goes for your run shoes as well.  When you run intervals, make sure that you aren’t wearing your long mileage shoes.  And when it comes to long mileage shoes, make sure you have more than 1 pair, and I don’t mean 2 pair of the same exact shoe.  Find a brand that has a similar design and fit as your favorite and rotate them.

A recent, first of it’s kind study of 264 runners over 22 weeks revealed that those runners who rotated shoes had a 39% reduction in running related injuries.  Why?  Well, the short of it is that when you rotate your shoes, your feet do not have the opportunity to adapt to the shoe, so in the process, become stronger.

If you have orthotic inserts or were told to wear a certain shoe for a medical condition, talk to your healthcare provider first, before implementing any of the things I talked about.  But, if you’re healthy and willing to experiment on yourself…well, experiment!

Now, don’t go crazy and head to the mall on a shoe shopping spree, and then tell your spouse that, “Coach Jeff said…”  But do make it a priority to add another brand or style into the rotation.  And do it gradually, too.  Sudden and drastic changes can lead to short term or severe injuries, so be moderate (there’s that word again) about it, okay?

And you don’t have to be the sharpest spoon in the drawer to figure that out…

Sharpest Spoon in the Drawer: Moderation

Moderation. By Coach Jeff  945477_588961227790008_680079988_n

“Well, you probably don’t eat tacos, do you?”

If I had a dollar every time I heard that…

The truth is, I love burgers.  And tacos.  And beer.

Want to know my secret?  Moderation.

When I buy a six pack of beer, it will usually last me a week and a half to 2 weeks.  And I’m very picky with my beer.  I don’t buy the “king of beers,” or the “most refreshing beer in the world.”   I don’t fall for gimmicks like a new can, or spiraled bottled.  No offense intended if those are your choices.

I look for craft beers, from small breweries, where the president of the company is probably the same guy who picks out the hops and yeast.  Beyond that I look for local brewers.  Two of my favorites are Alamo Golden Ale, and just about anything brewed at the Blue Star Brewery.  Beyond these,  I like Shiner and Real Ale, and I’m also willing to try just about anything.

To me, beer is a taste adventure, not just something you slam down your throat to get drunk.  The brewers are artists; craftsman, and their product is something to be savored.  That is why I only have one at a time.  It also fits into my principle of moderation.

The same goes for food.  If you were to come to my house for dinner, I can pretty much tell you what I’m cooking. Fajitas.  I love the aroma of chicken, peppers, onions, and mushrooms grilling in a pan.  I will usually serve my fajitas sans tortillas, on a bed of spinach and kale, with some crushed organic corn tortilla chips, greek yogurt, salsa and shredded cheddar cheese. DELICIOUS! Wash down with a cold beer!

Occasionally, I go out for dinner.  For local Tex-Mex, I head to Taco Garage, and I order the Chicken Puffy Tacos, my favorite, though everything there is mouth watering.  The service is friendly and fast, and the food is always on point.  I will usually order any beer I’ve never heard of to go with my meal.

When I’m in the mood for an awesome burger, I head to the Blue Star Brewery, where every burger on the menu is made with grass fed beef or bison.  My current favorite is the Bacon Cheddar Burger, which I usually split with my wife, washed down with a Texican Lager.  Some time ago, I used to bring people down there to try their Brisket Burger (a religious experience, as most people would gasp, “Oh God!” after the first bite), and wash it down with a Smokehouse Ale, a very different brew that, in my opinion, complemented that Brisket Burger so well! (Bring ‘em back, Joey! PLEASE!)

So, for those of you who think that living a healthy lifestyle means avoiding delicious foods and tasty beverages, think again!  Moderation is the key.  I’m also a huge fan of chocolate (darker, the better) and…DONUTS!  But again, I don’t eat these items daily, or by the dozen.  When the mood strikes, be deliberate in your choices, and make sure that you savor it.  Not only will it keep you sane, but moderation will also keep your cravings to a minimum, helping you stay on track with your day to day dietary choices.

And you don’t need to be the sharpest spoon in the drawer to figure that out…

Sharpest Spoon in the Drawer: Cross Training

Why endurance athletes need to cross train. By Coach Jeff 945477_588961227790008_680079988_n

In a word– durability.

Tell me if you’ve heard this one before:

A triathlete hanging out with friends, gets into a pickup game of basketball.  Everything is fine, until, after a quick juke move to the basket, and POW!  An audible snap, and the athlete falls over, grabbing his knee.

Or maybe this one…

An all around endurance athlete is coaching little league football.  He is demonstrating a button hook during practice, when BOOM!  On the ground in a crumpled heap, muttering words not suitable for little league ears, lays coach.

Unfortunately, the individual in both of these scenarios was me.  In a pickup game of basketball in 2001, I partially tore my right meniscus.  A year later, I strained my MCL in the same knee coaching little league football for 7 and 8 year olds.

The moral of the story, I wasn’t doing the right kind of cross training.

Most age group (non-pro/elite) endurance athletes are considered very athletic and fit by their peers, yet something so simple can take them out of commision and out of races for weeks or months.

Why?

Because endurance athletes focus on specializing in their sport of choice.  They often exclusively run, or swim, or bike, or some amalgam of the three.  And when they do “cross train,” it is often sport-specific exercises.

In 2001, I was 27 years old, I lifted weights 3 times a week and was an avid runner and triathlete.  I thought I was in great shape, but as it turned out, I couldn’t move laterally, a huge weakness that ultimately led to injury.

If you’re a high performing endurance athlete, on the brink of turning pro or landing a contract, then disregard this, but, if you’re not, and you’re still reading this, then I hope you pay attention.

You have a life outside of your sport.  Having a hobby in triathlon will not pay your rent, doing 18 minute 5k’s won’t buy you a car, either.  I’m not saying that these aren’t impressive feats, but you probably have a regular day job, or a spouse, and kids, a yard that needs maintenance.

And that is why you need to be very deliberate in your cross training.  Don’t just do exercises that will make you better at your favorite sport, but do exercises that will make you a better human.

We all want to have faster times, but those are short term goals.  Think about life beyond 40, 50, 60, and even beyond 70.  Establish sound movement patterns when you are young, and not only will you perform better in your chosen sport, but when you’re a grandparent, you’ll be youthful enough to play with your grandkids, do yard work, or get out of a chair by yourself.

And you don’t have to be the sharpest spoon in the drawer to figure that out…

Sharpest Spoon in the Drawer: U.C.

The Sharpest Spoon In The Drawer: 945477_588961227790008_680079988_n

Musings on training, triathlon and life. by Coach Jeff

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U.C.

A year ago I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. I know what you’re thinking, “What the heck is that and why should I care?” Well, you don’t have to care, but it is a big part of my life now.

Ulcerative Colitis is a slightly kinder version of Crohn’s Disease, and affects the linings of the large intestine/colon and rectum. It causes an uncontrollable urge to have a bowel movement.

But don’t cry for me, Argentina!

To be honest I didn’t have any grieving period where I cried myself to sleep asking, “Why??!!! Oh, why? Why did this happen to me?? It’s not fair!!”

I just kind of shrugged and said “Okay, how does this affect my training?”

Training, triathlon, life.

I’m sharing this now because I want you to know that your disease or disability does not have to define who you are, or what you do.

I’ve had to make some modifications, for sure. First, I tried dietary modifications. Elimination of gluten and lactose for starters. Then, I eliminated beef. Went on a Paleo diet. Even stopped coffee (Gasp! No!). Nothing worked. After about 6 weeks, my symptoms disappeared without a cause.

And so this is how it goes. Without warning or reason, my symptoms come and go. I will usually be asymptomatic for 1 to 3 months, and then without warning, I’m running to the bathroom. My symptoms usually last for 3 to 6 weeks, during which time I lose weight and have limited energy for training. I still train, though. I’ve learned to scale my workouts and focus on the fact that I still get to do what I love. Coach.

What about being an athlete?

Well, since there is no “trigger” for my conditions, and currently no behavior/dietary “cure,” I will continue to be a triathlete. The wonderful thing about being a triathlete is the focus on cross training. Before CrossFit started the cross training rage, I was a triathlete. Which means I cross train. I swim, run, cycle, lift weights, do yoga. Most of all, I have fun. I love training. I love training more than competing. Training is fun!

And within the sport of triathlon, I have many distance options to train for. So, Olympic distance will be my race of choice, since, even if I have a flare up of symptoms, I can safely complete that distance inside of 3 hours.

What does all of this mean to you? I hope it inspires you to continue your training, or even motivate you to start. You see, even though I have this condition, it doesn’t affect me all the time, and there are athletes out there with more debilitating conditions that continue to train and race. And you don’t have to be the sharpest spoon in the drawer to figure that out…

 

Sharpest Spoon in the Drawer: Unplug

The Sharpest Spoon In The Drawer: Musings on training, triathlon and life. by Coach Jeff945477_588961227790008_680079988_n

Unplug

In our tech toy crazed society, we are all about the gadgets and apps.  What’s my pace, how far did I go?  Did I do a PR?

While tracking your training progress is beneficial, and sharing with your Facebook fans can be motivating, sometimes we can get carried away.

So unplug.

Take off the Garmin.  Take out the earbuds.  Turn off the iPod.  Leave your phone on silent and tucked out of sight and mind.  And enjoy the run.

Remind yourself why you do it.  Listen to your foot steps.  Look at your shadow.  Feel your heart beat.  Lose yourself in the run.

A whole new world may open itself to you when you do, and you just might fall in love with running all over again.

And you don’t have to be the sharpest spoon in the drawer to figure that out…

 

Jeff’s Blog: Sharpest Spoon in the Drawer

The Sharpest Spoon In The Drawer:

Musings on training, triathlon and life. by Coach Jeff 945477_588961227790008_680079988_n

Why a sharp spoon?

A sharp spoon sounds pretty useless.  Especially in a drawer full of utensils.  We are all utensils.  Some of us are spoons, some are knives, others forks.  Beyond that, some of us are very specialized tools.  A bottle opener, corkscrew, or straw.

Aspire to be more than you are.

Don’t settle for being just a fork.  Or just a runner.  Or just a triathlete.  Do more.  Deadlifts, push ups, suicide runs.  Even if you aren’t good at it, do it anyway.  Be more than a fork.

When it comes to cutting meat, I’ll pick a knife, no questions asked.  If I need someone to run 8 miles and then be done for the day, I’ll pick a runner.

But what if I need someone who can haul sandbags after the 8 mile run?  That is when I start looking for that utensil that can do more than one thing.  I start looking for the sharp spoon.

You see, while a spoon is ideal for eating soup or cereal, if you sharpen the edge of the spoon,  it can cut meat.  It may not be your first choice for a salad, but it can get the job done.

Do things you’re not good at.  Be the sharpest spoon in the drawer.