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foam rolling 

My shin splints returned. In a way this was a good thing because I've been working on my breathing so I can't run like I used to and it motivated me to get into the habit of foam rolling.

Here's a YouTube video tutorial (someone else's) on rolling out the shins. It's a really good technique for injury prevention, improving short-term range of motion and mobility.

Foam rolling effects deep myo-fascial release as seen in these before & after stills by Rock Tape:



What you're seeing in the second photo is space between layers of fascia where lymph is free to flow. Powerful therapy! Rock Tape performs a lot of research on best methods. They recommend longer time spent foam rolling post-workout, when your muscles are warmed and worked, than for pre-workout, when your muscles are relatively tight. It's akin to starting superficial and getting deeper as a massage progresses.



The foam rolling was great at managing my shin splints but I discovered that I was placing my right foot wrong. I remembered that, back in the day, my dance teacher would instruct me to evert while pointing my feet, to overcome a natural over-inversion. I tried doing this while running, paying particular attention to my right foot strike. I'm still having to pay attention as I haven't completely habituated to the new practice, but my shin splints are completely resolved rather than managed. Foot strike rules again!!!


who knew? home safety

I discovered an important home safety practice of which I think most people are misinformed; I know I was. I was arriving at a friend's apartment and the fire department was there responding to her 9.1.1 call. Her  carbon monoxide detector had started screaming. She didn't believe there was really a problem but she figured 'better safe than sorry'. It was a good thing she called--and informative too! Carbon monoxide had built up in her oven and started accumulating in her kitchen because she had lined the bottom of her oven with aluminum foil. Apparently this should never happen as it blocks the vents in the oven making it impossible to vent the gases. Who knew?

I also discovered recently that five beeps from your CO monitor is an end-of-life signal. If you hear the five beeps in a row, you don't need to change out batteries, you need a new unit.


foot to core sequencing

What do feet have to do with one's core?? Turns out, everything; it all starts at the feet. The most functional movement humans do is walk. If our parts are aligned and neuro-muscularly coordinated we walk and work with ease and without pain. There is a sequence to neuro-muscular firing that is essential to this coordination.  Think of a string of fire crackers each causing the next to ignite. That's efficient. If you had to keep lighting every couple fire crackers you'd get frustrated and you wouldn't get the same effects.

So here's how it works:

We must have enough inversion of the foot in order to effect external rotation of the tibia which, in turn, causes internal rotation of the femur, activates the glutes, then initiates firing of psoas, pelvic floor and respiratory diaphragm. It's a neuro-muscular firing cascade that happens from the ground to the core by virtue of our feet impacting the ground.

We also must have enough eversion of the foot, have enough ankle dorsiflexion and be able to get over our big toe in order to effect adequate propulsion. A number of compensations reveal any inadequacies--walking with feet pointed outward, rolling the feet, twisting the leg, throwing the leg to the side or picking up the foot early. Have bunions? or flat feet? They're the result of compensations.

Neuro-muscular firing initiates while we are anticipating where to place our foot, even before the step is taken. There's an unconcious planning that takes place in walking (and running), one that either serves us well or has become a pathological habit. People who have been raised shod have more foot, ankle and leg injuries than people raised barefoot because the sensory ability of the small, intrinsic nerves of the feet have been dampened. A shod foot trying to walk is like a ear trying to hear underwater--distorted and unsure.

Getting some barefoot time in each day can re-awaken those small, instrinsic nerves, improving balance and proprioception while protecting you from injury over the long term. Many runners who change from shod to barefoot, or minimalist, get injured because they try too much too soon. It takes some time for the nerves to waken and for your body to adjust to using your muscles in new ways. Take it very slow and gradually decrease your shoe's support over time.

Check out Harvard's website on "Biomechanical Differences Between Different Foot Strikes" for more, really cool information.


kinesiology taping

Since October I've been certified in kinesiology taping, also known as sports taping, by the only company teaching evidenced-based taping protocols for pain, edema, scar tissue, complaints during pregnancy and to improve functional movement. My patients call it "magic on tape".

How does it work? Two ways: It provides a microscopic lift to the skin which allows improved circulation of lymph and it's an irritant that demands the attention of the nervous system to that area. Some of the most powerful modalities are proving to be those that work with the skin--not only the largest organ but also the largest outcropping of the nervous system.

You may have seen this YouTube video of the cat who is taped and how it changes her movements (Yes, it went viral; it's a cat after all.):

Here's a video of Rupert the Papillon after being taped, proving that taping can't correct for aging (16.5 years) or  for viciousness.

**No animals were harmed in the making of these videos.**



pH & exercise

I found an article in the December 2013 issue of Velo, the high-performance bicycling magazine, that piqued my interest because it gets into biochemistry. The article "Understading the Burn, Lactic Acid Myths Debunked" by Trevor Connor points out that lactic acid exists as a buffer with its conjugate base lactate. Our blood's pH is carefully kept near a constant somewhere between 7.35 and 7.46. If we wander even a bit out of this range, we face imminent danger and death. We never get systemically acidic. What can build up locally in those muscles is hydrons (H+). These are quickly removed by the lactate (the base).

Professor Matthew Hickey, head of the Human Performance Research Lab at Colorado State University, has been studying the physiology of this buffer system.

In reality "lactate serves many important roles. For example, "it is the principle fuel for the heart during vigorous exercise," Hickey said. And the liver can recycle it, "releasing a brand new glucose molecule as if you'd been drinking a sports drink."

Remember this formula for repiration from biology or physiology class?

C6H12O6 (s) + 6 O2 (g) → 6 CO2 (g) + 6 H2O (l) + heat

Professor Hickey says that humans have no problem acquiring enough oxygen. Our lungs are overly large; we only need 2/3 capacity to achieve optimal oxygen levels. It's the exhaling of carbon dioxide that moves us to fatigue, sore muscles and out of breath.

Our best immediate buffer is a molecule called bicarbonate. Bicarbonate binds to acid to produce harmless water and CO2. However, "that process is only as good as the last step, which is breathing off the carbon dioxide." If we don't breath it off fast enough, the CO2 is converted back to acid, and we lose the race. The takeaway? Concentrate on exhaling.

How to get the best exhale for your efforts? Improve your circulation! That means slow but long training hours, keeping warm, breathe deeply and effect long, deliberate exhales. You can also eat fewer carbs in order to train "fat reliance". Utilizing fats for energy rather than carbs reduces the fluctuations in pH and the concomitant activity of the buffer system. It makes you more efficient. Lastly, exercise at threshold.

"There are ways to train your heart, your less frequently used muscles, and your liver to better clear hydrogen ions," Hickey said. "And, not surprisingly one of the ways to do that is to bathe those tissues regularly in lactate." Start with short five-minute threshold efforts. Then as your clearance systems improve, build to 20 and even 30-minute efforts.

So no need to worry about or spend money on products promising to clear your lactic acid or lactate. You need it. It's working for you. Focus instead on your breathing and on promoting your circulation.