http://www.eteknix.com/soldiers-running-4-minute-miles-thanks-to-darpas-exoskeleton/

Running Exoskeletons: Future of Sport or Rehab?

On my morning drive up the coast to work, I was listening to the Joe Rogan Experience with guest Zoltan Istvan. Zoltan is a transhumanist advocate and is intending on running for President on the platform. Interesting idea, but not quite sure it translates to an entire political platform. The part of the podcast that really caught my attention was that of exoskeletons. Recently, there has been increased development and buzz around exoskeletons crafted for the human body.

So what exactly is an exoskeleton? If you’ve ever seen the movie “Ironman”, then this is a good example of an exoskeleton and what it can do. The uses and features vary depending on the application, but I’m most interested in it as it applies to running. Exoskeletons are being developed that will aid a runner in recovery, endurance, and strength. This link from MIT shows an exoskeleton that acts as an artificial knee, increasing the endurance and power of the runner.

http://biomech.media.mit.edu/portfolio_page/load-bearing-exoskeleton-for-augmentation-of-human-running/

http://biomech.media.mit.edu/portfolio_page/load-bearing-exoskeleton-for-augmentation-of-human-running/

DARPA also is developing exoskeletons for the military in order to enable soldiers to carry more, run faster, and fatigue less. Essentially, human robots.

http://www.eteknix.com/soldiers-running-4-minute-miles-thanks-to-darpas-exoskeleton/

http://www.eteknix.com/soldiers-running-4-minute-miles-thanks-to-darpas-exoskeleton/

While this technology is rather rad, I think it brings up some interesting questions, potential problems, and a rethinking of the sport.

I see exoskeletons being really good for the following:

1. Physical Therapy – These devices can help patients relearn how to walk/run safely by allowing the body weight felt to be decreased all the way up to 80% off (similar to Alter-G Treadmill). This allows a patient to rebuild strength and the exoskeleton could also be used to relearn gait. It is my understanding that the exoskeleton can be programmed to help walk or run which could be extremely beneficial for someone who has decreased motor control as well as to teach proper running biomechanics.

2. Lifting Ability – There are a lot of back breaking jobs out there that can potentially put people at risk such as firemen, movers, construction, military, etc. The exoskeleton can help by taking the brunt of the weight so as to allow the moving of heavy objects more safely by less people.

3. Weight Transfer – The exoskeleton by DARPA has the ability to detect injury and weakness in the body and shift the weight accordingly. This allows for continued running despite fatigue and injury over long distances making for a safer sport.

I see exoskeletons posing a dilemma in the following areas:

1. Atrophy – We all know that if you don’t use it, you lose it. Example being astronauts who are not able to stress their tissues, muscles, and bones in space the same way they are able to on earth. As a result, they return to earth with atrophied muscles and bones that can very quickly lead to injury under the standard loading of gravity. If people become too dependent on running exoskeletons for movement, they may be unable to move themselves under their own power.

2. Running Records Dilemma – Lately, I have had a difficult time deciding what is “evolution of sport” and which is unfair advantage. It is something I think the endurance industry is struggling with in general whether it be EPO, Altitude Training, Supplements, or other types of performance enhancement. However, anything that increases performance, is indeed a performance enhancer by definition. It is a blurry line determining which advancements are evolution of sport, accepted as the new landscape and which should be illegal. Example carbon fiber bikes are far superior to steel bikes and are accepted as part of cycling now. On the other hand, EPO is illegal (which I agree with as I see the potential dangers). So who is to decide which is evolution and which should be banned? Where should running exoskeletons fall or will it be a new category? With the DARPA running exoskeleton, soldiers can run a 4 minute mile with a pack on. With those types of abilities the 2 hour marathon would be a joke.

3. Safety – With super-humans running around on their exoskeletons, there comes the issue of safety. Exoskeleton humans would have a huge advantage over non exoskeleton humans in fights, competitions, daily life, and many more areas. There would be a lot of responsibility with having a running exoskeleton and there would also need to be a regulation on the technology and how it is used.

I think the evolution of human movement is very exciting and there is a lot to look forward to in the future. As with anything we need to be cautious about how it is used and regulated. What are your thoughts on running exoskeletons?

Always in Stride,

Jack

FreeDigitalPhotos.net Tom Curtis

I Think I Can: Jump On The Placebo Train

The mind is a very powerful thing as we have all learned by now. If you set you mind to achieve or believe something, then that will become your reality. I recently read a Steve Magness article titled “The Placebo Response- belief, expectations, and why it matters in the world of sport” that goes into the science behind the placebo effect, how it applies to running, and how we see it show up in modern medicine.

One of the areas that I see this most applicable is into training the brain into what we believe we are capable of. One of my co-workers from an old job talked about how he would do workouts at paces faster than he thought he could handle in order to “train his brain” to realize that these speeds were possible too. Magness calls out how coaches will lead their athletes to believe they are running faster than they really are on the track in order to convince them that they can indeed run faster than what they originally may have believed. This leads to confidence that they can now run these new times.

 

FreeDigitalPhotos.net Tom Curtis

FreeDigitalPhotos.net Tom Curtis

This coaching/training philosophy can be a dangerous road, especially if an athlete catches on. Then it can be confusing to know what to think/trust. However, in small doses I am a fan. My high school coach would play head games with me all the time and it led to my best times on the track, I loved it. However, for others it might lead to frustration and disappointment. The key is knowing your athlete and what they respond best to.

The main focus of the article is that if you believe in something, then that in fact is reality to a point. Whether it be injections, pills, copper infused garments, or any myriad of other methods or products, then to a certain extent it does in fact work. A positive mindset can make a big impact on your workouts and performances. Set your expectations such that it will lead you to your ultimate goals.

Always in Stride,

Jack

http://www.runnersworld.com/general-interest/how-does-your-state-stack-up

How Fast is Your State Running Wise?

Runner’s Worlds’ Robert Reese posted a curious article about how the states stack up again each other when it comes to running titled “How Does Your State Stack Up?”. Being the competitive Type A personality that I am, I of course clicked on it to see how California compares to the rest of the country:

 

http://www.runnersworld.com/general-interest/how-does-your-state-stack-up

Overall Rankings, The Darker the Purple, The Higher the Rank

California

Miles Per Capita: 5 out of 50

Runs Per Person: 7 out of 50

Miles Per Run: 17 out of 50

Pace Per Mile: 39 out of 50

Overall Score: 8 out of 50

Now a few things to note:

  • The data was taken from RunKeeper, which only logs mileage when you run with an iPhone.
  • The data does not account for treadmill miles.
  • Take this with a grain of salt as this doesn’t account for the vast majority of runners, especially more serious runners who leave the iPhone at home.
  • RunKeeper has 30 million users.
  • I don’t know of anyone who uses RunKeeper, nor had I heard of it until this study.
  • This is highly unscientific and meant more for entertainment purposes.
  • Mississippi ranks dead last overall. Not too surprised.

Despite the limitations, it is still an interesting data set to consider and see how your state compares.

Always in Stride,

Jack

 

1254880_72709589

Retrain The Brain: Breaking Bad Motor Patterns

When it comes down to it, our brains can be just plain lazy. The brain will always seek the path of least resistance which works both to our benefit and disadvantage. It works to our advantage by allowing us to quickly recognize patterns and act accordingly. This is very helpful in split-second decisions and also whenever we need to go on autopilot. However, it can be a road block when we are trying to break a pattern or bad habit.

At the Rausch Physical Therapy & Sports Performance Lab that I work at, I see many people come through the doors with poor movement patterns that they adopted at a very formative age in life. The brain has become so accustomed to these poor movement patterns, that it is now all that it knows.

Breaking these patterns can prove quite difficult as the brain is not one to embrace change for something it has done for so long. I see this come up a lot in running gaits where people were taught how to run a certain way many years ago and have just kept with it. However, recent research has shown us that there are more efficient ways to run that can also lead to less injuries.

So this begs the question on how to break these bad motor patterns and establish new motor pathways in the brain? One of the best ways I have found is thanks to Podcast #59 by the Gait Guys talking about the motor pathways as it applies to running. Their suggestion was to change the run gait drastically in order to “wake up the brain” to a new pattern. When something is drastically changed, it becomes a new task that the brain must learn, so it pays attention.

One way that we get the brain to pay attention is by cutting the upper body out of the running equation in order to retrain the lower body. When the upper body is restricted by crossing the arms or running with your arms above your head, the brain recognizes this as a new pattern that it must work to learn. This allows the opportunity to retrain the lower body into healthier, more efficient motor patterns.

When using a technique like this, I recommend doing it in a controlled environment such as in an Alter-G treadmill where you will not have to worry as much about balance and coordination.

http://www.alterg.com/

http://www.alterg.com/

Always in Stride,

Jack

file6481272219131

Outsmarting Your Evolutionary Psychology

Evolution plays a major role in how we act and interact on a daily basis. Thousands of years of evolution have led us to where we are now, equipping with us with the tools we need to survive and thrive. However, evolution moves slowly and changes can take a while to be noticeable. Some of the traits that are no longer necessary can take a while to be discarded and made irrelevant.

file6481272219131

Outsmart Your Monkey Mind

I find the fear of failure to be one of the most interesting evolutionary stories. The majority of human beings have a fear of failure that prevents them from trying new things or taking chances. Many believe that this instinct is deeply rooted in the tribal mentality.

Before modern civilization, your tribe was extremely important. All members of the tribe depended upon one another in order to fend off predators, hunt and gather food, and for reproduction. If one was cast away from the tribe, it was almost as severe as being given a death sentence. Surviving as a lone wolf was extremely challenging and rarely ended well.In struggles for power and establishing the alpha positions, fights and struggles would take place. These fights would end with winners and losers. The losers would either end up dead, be cast out from the tribe, or be far less respected within the tribe.

Luckily for us, times have changed. A failure is no longer a death sentence. In fact, it is just another opportunity and a chance to learn something. There is no longer a reason to not take a chance. If you ask yourself what is the worst that can happen, it is almost guaranteed to be better than in the days of our ancestors.

I was inspired to write this post after watching Jim Carrey’s graduation speech at Maharishi University. Surprisingly enough, the comedic actor has many gems of wisdom and information to impart to all of us. I highly recommend you watch it and take in what he has to say.As Carrey puts it, it is important to realize that “you can fail at something you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance doing what you love”. There is nothing to lose and the repercussions of failure reside only in your head. Don’t be afraid to make your dreams and aspirations come to life. Others will be inspired by you and feed off of your light.

The fear of failure is no longer evolutionary necessary. Put yourself far ahead of the game by basing your decisions on what you truly want. “The decisions we make in this moment are based in either love or fear. So many of us choose our path out of fear disguised as practicality.” – Jim Carrey. Make your choices based on love and passion. 

Always in Stride,

Jack

This Soul Knows Who Needs a Road?

“If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.” – Steve Jobs

As of August 10th, I left the firm I have been working for since graduation from college. The past two years there were “interesting” and it taught me a lot about what I don’t want, not unsimilar to failed relationships. I had come to the point where showing up meant anger, distaste, depression, and the feeling of wasting away, all being key signs that it was time for a change. To put it bluntly, I hated my place in the world.

After 8 months of groundwork and preparation, I find myself here. Jumping off the deep end. I will be going to work for Road Runner Sports as a Fit Expert initially, with a plan in place to be moved up based on expertise and performance.

Many may not see this as a wise career move given the economy and other factors, but for me there was no hesitation. It came back to my personal and company motto “This Soul Knows It Needs to Run”. Many have asked where this phrase comes from and it comes from the Song and Video of the week that was released via a Salomon Trail Running video this past December. My motto came from a misinterpretation of the lyrics which are supposed to be “My Soul Knows Who Needs a Road” as opposed to “This Soul Knows It Needs to Run”. Regardless, my motto was born.

This motto applies to me bother literally and figuratively. The literal version being obvious, nothing makes me happier than running. Figuratively, I know I must always be in a state of forward progress working towards my life’s goals. My last job was sending me away from my goals and making me less of a person. It was time to run. I have always lived my life with a forward looking vision as well as paying mind to my past. I came up with my own little rule for working called the 5/95 test. Do what the 5-year-old-you would enjoy and what the 95-year-old-you will be proud of. My most recent position failed these criterion in every sense of the word failure.

My life, well-being, happiness, and financial security are now in my hands and my hands alone. With that comes both benefits as well as consequences. This has led to emotions of joy, exultation, amazement, and promise as well as distress, anxiety, and unknown. I

So now I move forward working for a company I truly believe in and one I believe truly cares about my interests, goals, and life. I do not know where the path will go and if I am even on the correct one yet. All I can know for sure right now, is that it is a far better path than the one I was on before.

Now who needs some coaching or some new running shoes? J

Always in Stride,

Coach Jack

Song – Sign Post Sound – Who Needs A Road

Video – Road Runner Sports Has a Good Feeling

Salomon Trail Running Team

10k-trail-fun-run-shoe-guide-300x192

Before You Blame the Running Shoe

bomb24n-6-webImagine this scene. It’s a dark alley in New York City with the fog billowing up from the sewers. A city cop is talking to a distraught woman in running gear. She is in a lot of pain and appears to have been the victim of a vicious crime. The officer asks her “What’s wrong, what happened?!? It’s difficult for her to summon words and all she can stammer out is “injured…it was the shoes!!!” She then collapses to the ground in agony and the officer shakes his head in disbelief. It’s quite a stretch for him to imagine an inanimate object could do so much harm.

While the story above is a bit dramatic, it’s surprisingly not that far off from what one can see from a typical runner. They limp into a running store with their aches/pains with a shoe box and receipt in hand. They place the shoes down on the counter and say “I’d like to return these shoes please, they injured me.” When I witness this, I do an internal chuckle. While I do think some shoes are better than others (and some shoes can encourage injuries such as 12mm shoes;)), I find it hard to believe that a shoe, an inanimate object, is the sole cause of an injury. I find it far more likely that the person is injured because of their own shortcomings. With that being said, before you decide to blame an injury on your shoe, run through this checklist of other things that may have led to your injury.

run4

1. The Law of Toos

Did you break the Law of Too? Too much, too fast, too soon? If you do too much mileage, or go too fast, or do more than your body is capable of too soon, it will most likely lead to an injury. This can be semi-shoe related as there is an adaptation to all shoes, but it still is a user error.

2. Do You Have the Range of Motion?

Running requires a decent amount of range of motion to run efficiently and relatively injury free. The key areas to focus on are dorsiflexion and extension of the hip. Consult with a physical therapist to see how much range of motion you have and for ways to improve it.

3. What Is Your Injury History?

Most runners get injured several times of year for various reasons. However, when they switch shoes and encounter an injury, it all of a sudden becomes the fault of the new shoe. Seems a bit unfair, don’t you think?

4. Do You Strength Train?

Running isn’t just a sport where you lace up your shoes and go as many would like to think. It requires skill and drills to perfect the motion and decrease injury potential. Having a stronger kinetic chain will give you far more stability than any so-called “stability shoe”.

5. Do You Perform Your Running Drills?

Drills are an exaggerated motion to get to a desired motion. Practicing good running form can help to ensure you are running with a form that maximizes efficiency and decreases injury potential for your personal profile. Drills should be incorporated into workouts several times a week.

Drills-e1355724874560

6. Think Logically

What is it about the shoe that could have possibly “caused the injury”? It is a bit of a stretch to blame a piece of rubber, foam, and canvas for your injury. Think long and hard as to what exactly this shoe “did” to injure you. (I stay away from shoes above 8mm for heel-toe-offset.)

7. Look at Your Training Plan

If you don’t have a good sound training plan for your running, there is a good chance of getting injured. If your plan is to do a 25 miler everyday for the rest of your life, you’re most likely going to encounter an injury (unless you take many proper steps of build up). Make sure you allow to the body to recover and work in rest days.

8. The Big Picture 

Look at your life holistically and consider your sleep, nutrition, daily life, stress levels, medical conditions, genetics, and cross training. All of these play a part in your running and health whether you like it or not.

9. What Else is in the Shoe?

Some stores like to sell custom-made or over-the-counter insoles. With the exception of limited cases, I’m not a fan of these as long-term solutions. These devices could potentially alter your biomechanics and lead to injury.

10. Do You Have the Correct Size?

While the running population has gotten better at this, there are still a good many runners who refuse to change their shoe size, regardless of recommendations. A shoe that is too small can lead to injuries such as bunions, hammer toes, arthritis, and more. Make sure you have about a thumbs width in-between your longest toe and the end of the shoe.

FWRUNCOBLOG5

11. The Universe of Possibilities

This list could go on, but we’ll leave it at 11. The takeaway being that the running shoe is most likely not the cause for your injury. Be diligent about massage, strength training, range of motion, and drills and you will be able to eliminate a host of injuries.

Always in Stride,

Jack

P.S. Maybe it’s the shoe;)

10k-trail-fun-run-shoe-guide-300x192

 

javelina

Javelina Jundred, Don’t You Worry Mother

Don’t you worry mother, don’t you worry now (Yes, I’m a big Swedish House Mafia fan and like to change lyrics to make them fit my circumstances). On March 1st, 2014, the Javelina Jundred 100 Mile Ultramarathon in Fountain Hills, Arizona opened registration. Not long after the opening of registration, I received my email that said I am now registered for the 2014 Javelina Jundred, let the journey begin.

jjlogo250w

As many of you know, I have chased adrenaline rushes since graduating college. The 100 mile race is the next step in my adrenaline chasing. I had attempted to get into Western States 100 via the lottery, but was unsuccessful. So, my plan for 2014 turned to finding a qualifying race for Western States 100. The Javelina Jundred fit the bill perfectly.

Runners at Sunrise, Javelina Jundred

I’m sure that as my mother is reading this she is fidgeting and semi-annoyed. She and my family in general have a love-hate relationship with my adrenaline chasing. They love that it brings me happiness and they love sharing in my accomplishment. However, they hate the anxiety that it brings them, especially when they are 3000 miles away watching a computer screen, hoping the blip they are tracking doesn’t stop moving.

In these endurance races it is often memories of families and friends that gets me through as well as the thought of them fretting over my race. I’m positive they worry about it far more than I, as I typically see it as another fun adventure. Last year I had many of my close friends and family members send me songs with memories attached to them. I then uploaded these songs to my iPod Shuffle to listen to during my first 50 mile ultramarathon, Leona Divide. It was amazing. Every song that came on brought with it an emotional memory that helped pull me through.

The most memorable moment was at mile 42 when I was completely spent. I rolled into one of the last aid stations where my sister’s in-laws were awaiting me, my loyal crew. They had huge smiles on their faces and it brought me back to life. What elevated me further was them telling me of well wishes from family far away. As I left the aid station, Be Still by The Killers came on my iPod. My mother immediately came to mind. At that same moment, 3000 miles away a Mumford and Sons song came on and she immediately thought of her baby boy traversing the Pacific Crest Trail. I went from walking/barely jogging to 8:00min/mile pace uphill. I put the song on repeat for the next hour and fifteen minutes and finished just under 10 hours. It was amazing.

I know that Javelina Jundred will hold similar experiences, trials, joys, and tribulations for me. I look forward to embracing the struggle and pain as that is what I cherish the most. It’s never about the finish or the time, it is what I learn about myself that matters most. Javelina Jundred will be another learning experience and way for me to express the joy I find in running. To all my friends, family, and readers, I’d love it if you could send me songs with memories attached to them to keep me going through the night in the Arizona Desert.

javelina

Always in Stride,

Jack

Stress Adaptations

7 Tips for Finding the Correct Training Stress

Runners toe a delicate line of training gains and injuries. Unfortunately there is not a machine that can take a drop of blood and tell us exactly what our body can handle and what it needs to improve. So we must resort to trial and error methods.

One of my favorite graphics for depicting the effects of training is shown below. It shows us the “sweet spot” of training that we should stay in. If we don’t stress the body enough we either die or experience muscle atrophy (deterioration). If we stress the body too much, this also can result in injury and/or death. The sweet spot is in the middle with increased tolerance (hypertrophy) and maintenance.

Stress Adaptations

So How To Find the Sweet Spot?

1. Identify what is causing your injuries.

The amount of stress you’re placing on your body may not be the issue causing your injury. It might be how you are using your body instead. Work with local physical therapists to figure out what is the source of your injury.

2. Follow the Law of Too’s

When running you always want to follow the Law of Too’s: Never too much, too fast, or too soon. Any of these or a combination of these can lead to injury.

3. Heart Rate Training

Heart rate training can be a good way of tracking your effort as well as your recovery. I’m a fan of using morning resting heart rate to see how my training is affecting me. If my heart rate is elevated above normal levels when I wake, I know my body has yet to fully recover. Phil Maffetone’s Book: The Big Book of Endurance Training Racing has some great chapters on heart rate training.

heart rate strap

4. Work in Recovery Days

It took hiring a coach for the first time for me to understand the value of recovery days. It is important to dip down into the maintenance area of the spectrum so as to allow the body to adapt to the stresses you have placed on it and build up muscle. Active recovery such as walking can also be a nice way to get recovered while still being somewhat active.

5. Have a Training Goal

It is impossible to have the goal of every athletic achievement in the world. You can’t be the world’s strongest human and be the world’s best endurance runner. The training goals aren’t aligned. Same goes for being a top 100 mile ultra runner and top 400m runner. There is some crossover but attempting both at the same time can cause issues.

6. Practice Makes Perfect

You are an experiment of 1, treat yourself as such. Diligently track your progress, heart rate, perceived effort, times, etc to find out the most information about yourself. Identify trends and techniques that make you feel the best and work for you.

7. Avoid Long Periods of Complete Rest

As said before, not stressing the body enough can lead to tissue atrophy. Jay Dicharry sums it up in his book well: “Wolf’s Law states that tissues in the body adapt to the loads placed upon them. Training breaks down the body. If the rate of recovery matches the rate of breakdown, the body will maintain its current state.” Long periods of bed rest and inactivity will most certainly lead to atrophy. Stressing the body is good in correct doses!

Anatomy for Runners

I hope this helps your understanding of how your body responds to training stresses. I know the first graphic was huge for me in understanding how to train my body for my specific goals. Leave comments with your questions!

Always in Stride,

Jack

_ Hypochondriac Convention

Runners: Kings of the Hypochondriacs

I work with runners every day of my life and I love it. Runners are amazing people with great stories, amazing drive, and lovely personalities. However, runners can also drive me up a wall.

_ Hypochondriac Convention

Runners are some of the biggest hypochondriacs I have met in my life. They are very quick to self-diagnose their running ailments and limitations. Hang out on the floor of a running shop for a day and you’ll be amazed at the number of runners who come in saying they have flat feet, fallen arches, broken feet, bad arches, and that they need every ounce of stability they can buy. The amusing thing is that very few of them know what they are saying or if these “conditions” are even issues.

flat_feet_toon

However, I can sympathize with them. The running shoe industry, running shops, and running magazines have done a lovely job at feeding the neurosis of the runner. In college, I suffered a few injuries and thought to myself maybe “motion control” would be the answer. It seemed logical enough at the time, stop the foot from moving, stop injuries. This couldn’t be further from the truth (and luckily I never picked up a pair). Motion control shoes have actually been shown to cause injuries as opposed to preventing them. However, this doesn’t stop people from buying them and running stores from recommending them.

brooks-beast-anthracite_black_white

The neurosis is easy to play on and runners are über susceptible to marketing and nonsense. It sounds lovely to have a shoe that provides you with “cushion and support”, yet a lot of shoes that meet that description can cause more harm than good. In addition to shoes, profit margins can further be increased with the sale of insoles and injury prevention devices.

It is tough for the neurotic runner and runners in general to get the truth. There are research studies supporting anything you want them to support, media outlets pulling your attention in every direction, and so-called experts seeking to get you in that “perfect shoe”. At the end of the day, you need to find what works best for you. For me, I go with the simple approach of what feels good and has the least amount of junk in it or attached to it.

My advice for the running hypochondriacs:

1. Stop using WebMD for every tweak.

2. Stop reading Runner’s World.

3. Avoid stores that think an insole is right for every customer.

4. Don’t take your best friend’s advice on shoes.

5. Keep it Simple.

 

Always in Stride,

Jack