Category Archives: Mobility

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Move. Don’t Sit! Using my Workspace for Mobility Training

As I noted in this post on mobility, our body adapts to how it is used most frequently. For that reason, adding movement variety to our day is essential. I usually spend 30-40% of the 168 hours in a week at the office (and that doesn’t include commuting) so what I physiologically do at work has a pretty big influence on my body. Since I have a desk job and don’t want my body to adapt to a sitting position as its natural state (I would prefer to adapt to “endurance beast”), I’m always trying to incorporate different movements throughout the work day while still being uber productive.

Workspace 1

Yep….our dogs to come to work with us almost every day.

So…these are some of the tools and habits that I’ve adopted (…or still trying to adopt) when I’m at my desk to add movement variety to improve my mobility and overall health:

VariDesk Standing Desk – Our company generously offered standing desks when we moved to a new HQ building so I, of course, jumped at the opportunity to get one. This one is especially nice because it is easily adjustable to different heights.

Going Shoeless – Yep…you got it…when I’m using my standing desk I’m usually shoeless. Shoes, especially if they have raised heals, can interfere with proper foot biomechanics. For that reason, I go shoeless as much as possible. Besides, what’s the point of wearing fun socks if you never get to show them off!

Socks

Topo Anti-Fatigue Mat – Standing on hard flat ground for a majority of the day can start to get uncomfortable (especially if you aren’t wearing shoes).  Almost a year ago I supported a crowdfunding campaign for this anti-fatigue mat that helps promote dynamic standing. The reason I love this mat is it offers a variety of foot positions to foster healthier feet.massage_matrix1

Trigger Point Massage Ball – I’ll use this to roll/massage my feet when I’m on conference calls. There is a reason that I seem to be obsessed with my feet. The feet are the foundation of the body and are subject to more wear and tear than any other body part (walking a mile generates more than 60 tons of stress on each foot!!!). Numerous blog posts could be written about the importance of proper foot function for endurance athletes.

standing_desk_geek_no_chairStool (i.e., No Chair!) – When I do sit, I use a stool instead of an office chair. I swapped my chair for a stool for two main reasons 1) I think of chairs as movement junk food so I just keep it out of my space so I’m not tempted and 2) a stool promotes better sitting posture because I’m less likely to tuck my pelvis.

Using different standing positions – I’ll try and vary my standing positions during the day by resting one leg on my stool, balancing on one leg, standing in tree pose, etc. Stability (especially on my left leg) is something that I need to work on according to my FMS test results.150731163841-02-how-to-move-more-exlarge-169

Various Kneeling Positions Instead of Sitting – for even more movement variety when I do need to work on my desk….I’ll kneel in either a lunging position (making sure to switch legs every now and then) or on both knees. This also helps improve stability if I don’t lean on my desk for support.

Movement Break Reminders Every 30-60 Minutes – A couple of months ago I read the book “Don’t Just Sit There” by Katy Bowman, my favorite biomechanist. I highly recommend this book to anyone that has a desk job. It includes tips and videos on how to improve body alignment while sitting and standing, tools and products for your workspace, and key exercises to perform throughout the day. As a result, I set a reminder in Outlook to take a “Movement Break” every 30-60 minutes and I’ll do a variety of different movements and stretches. A few examples from my long list are:

  • Thoracic Stretch
  • Double Calf Stretch
  • Quad Stretch
  • Standing Pigeon Pose
  • Getting down into a deep squat
  • Bending down to touch my toes
  • Standing backbend with arms reaching behind me

Treadmill Desk

Treadmill Desk – the new work environment makes it harder to hit my 7+ hour low level activity target every week (not nearly as many walking statuses/meetings) so I’m trying to get into a better habit/routine of using the treadmill desk we have in our office. My goal is an hour a day but I’m still working on integrating this more.

All of this really has made a difference. My squat depth, mechanics, and stability have noticeably improved over the last few months. I’ve made most of this stuff a routine so I just do it without even thinking about it anymore. I’ve dramatically expanded my daily movement variety without adding ANY incremental time to my day. The power of habit/routines at its best!

So…yeah…my cube setup is unique and anyone watching me most likely thinks I’m a little odd. However…I just like to think I’m ahead of the curve. Laugh now…but I plan to be doing races into my 80s.

Coach Tawnee

My First Coaching Consultation and Adding Training Volume

The 2016 race season is approaching so it is time to start focusing on increasing my fitness and training volume. In the past, I always got by with self-coaching and building my own training plan using the principles in Joe Friel’s book The Triathlete Training Bible. However, since my ultimate dream goal is a Kona Qualification, which will require significant performance improvement, it is time to admit that I need help from an expert. A good coach should provide an objective viewpoint that a self-coached athlete would never get and help across all aspects of racing (race planning, training, nutrition, technique, gear, etc.).

Additionally, I wanted to get a Functional Movement Screen (FMS). Having the ability to go through a full range of movement and the stability to control that movement is paramount to avoiding injury. A FMS is basically a series of seven movements to identify limitations and asymmetries in movement patterns. A score of zero to three is given for each movement. This score is then used to identify the best corrective exercises to restore optimal movement patterns. As I noted in a previous post, I don’t exactly have the best mobility (being tall and lanky isn’t so helpful in this area) so I wanted to make sure I didn’t have any major mobility issues before ramping up training volume. I’m in this for the long game and don’t want to be suffering overuse injuries in the future.

I knew straight away who I wanted as a coach, Tawnee Prazak, endurance coach extraordinaire and host of my favorite podcast, Endurance Planet. She also has a great blog at tritawn.com. I love her holistic approach and focus on overall health vs. just athletic performance. She is based in SoCal so when we moved to San Diego I had to see if she would be willing to meet with me. I couldn’t believe it when she responded to my email and agreed to a consult because she is essentially a celebrity trainer in the endurance world.

It was about an hour drive to the Laguna Beach area where her gym is located. I was actually pretty nervous to meet her, which didn’t turn out to be a problem because she was super welcoming and we got straight down to business. We discussed my goals, why I raced, my previous training history and results, why now was a good time to get back into racing, and lifestyle factors that went way beyond just training and racing (family, diet, stress, career, etc.). It was an amazing conversation that lasted nearly an hour but felt more like 5 minutes. After our conversation she took me through a FMS which taught me a lot about my body. For an added bonus, I got to meet her mom on the way out!

About a week later Tawnee sent me the result of my FMS. I scored a 12, not great but better than I expected. A “passing” score is 15 or greater with no scoring imbalances between the right and left side and no scores of 1 on a movement. I had imbalances in my shoulder mobility (lingering high school football injury) and got a 1 on the deep squat and inline lunge.

She also sent me a list of corrective exercises, where to focus my training, and a suggested weekly training schedule. One thing I like about Tawnee’s coaching philosophy is that she won’t just build someone a training plan for the season to blindly follow. She is either going to be your full-time coach or just help provide direction through a consult, which is what I did. I still like to think I know enough about training and nutrition that I don’t need a full-time coach (yet).

The following are some of the key takeaways and things she told me to work on:

  1. Relationships need to come first
  2. Training volume needs to be at least 10 hours per week (this can include walking).
  3. Increasing running volume is the primary objective (especially with my upcoming marathon) with a focus on aerobic training by keeping my heart rate below MAF (essentially 180 minus your age). No intensity until I feel stronger and fitter.
    • At least three run sessions per week with a key long run session that should progressively build to three hours (not including a walking warm-up and cool-down)
    • Some weeks should include Triple Runs (30-60 min morning run, 30-60 min evening run, and another 30-60 min morning run)
  4. Mobility work should be done everyday using a list of exercises she gave me based on my FMS results.
  5. Two days a week of cross training: strength training, swimming, biking, or weighted hiking. I’ve primarily been doing strength training with a focus on stability exercises using another list of exercises based on my FMS results.
  6. Two days a week are open and should focus on active recovery and fun: yoga, focused mobility, easy swimming/cycling, paddle boarding, etc.

I’ve been following this program for about two weeks now and I feel phenomenal! I haven’t been tracking my workout results because I’m just trying to focus on workout consistency to start but I can already feel improvement. I don’t have a heart rate monitor yet so I’ve been relying on perceived exertion on my runs vs. my actual heart rate. That is soon going to change because I just ordered a Timex heart rate monitor for less than $50. A heart rate monitor will also open the door to fitness testing to track training effectiveness and results.

i gotta say…this coaching consult was well worth the investment! I’ll definitely be scheduling another one soon.

Happy training!

Mobility…Another Core Foundational Principle

I realized this week that I need to add another Core Foundational Principle to what I came up with for myself back in January. This new foundational principle is Mobility.

As an office worker and an endurance athlete, I subject my body to a very limited range of movements in a typical day. I’m usually either standing at a desk, sitting in a chair, walking, swimming, biking, or running. Our bodies are capable of an infinite variety of movements but I routinely don’t need to use more than a few handful of different movements to complete any of my typical daily tasks.

In Katy Bowman’s book Move Your DNA, she introduced me to the concept of movement nutrition. Essentially, we should think of movement in a similar fashion to nutrition in that we need a wide variety daily movements just like we need a variety of fats, proteins, carbs, vitamins, and minerals. As a result of reading her book (see my book recap here), I’ve started to consciously integrate different movements into my day that may not otherwise be necessary. However, those extra movements are more important than I originally realized.

I don’t believe there are any definitive studies proving that stretching improves athletic performance, which makes sense in the short-term. However, over the long-term, that doesn’t logically make sense to me. Our bodies conform and adapt to how we use them and don’t use them. When we use limited ranges of movement, our bodies respond by making adaptations. Basically, whatever you don’t use…you lose. The body isn’t going to expend energy to maintain joints, muscles, tendons, etc. that aren’t being used. Instead, the body is going to adapt its optimal state to how it is most frequently used.  A perfect example of this is sitting and hunching over a keyboard. If this is the most frequent position the body is exposed to, our body is going to make adaptations such that this becomes the optimal position for our muscles and joints. These adaptations can get to a point where we start using non-optimal joints/muscles to compensate for movements we infrequently perform. Since we can still perform the movement, we may not even realize we have a mobility problem even though that movement should be optimally performed by our bodies differently.

If our body continues to use non-optimal mechanics to perform movements, over time, injuries could occur from overuse or from trying to complete movements the body is no longer capable of doing correctly. As an endurance athlete with a goal of qualifying for the Hawaii Ironman, I’m going to be subjecting my body to very repetitive movements of swimming, biking, and running. If my body has made adaptations such that I am not performing those activities with the correct mechanics, I’m likely going to suffer overuse injuries in the future. Therefore, I want to ensure my body can move as it was designed before I embark on a serious training plan.

There are a couple of tests that I did to assess my mobility. Someone with good all-around mobility should be able to do all of the following:

  1. Bend over and touch your toes with your knees locked
  2. Lie on your back and pull one leg up to your chest without the opposite leg lifting off the floor
  3. Get into a deep squat position with both heels flat on the floor and your calves and hamstrings in contact with one another
  4. Lie flat on your back with your legs straight and lower back in contact with the floor and reach your arms overhead and lay both wrists on the floor without bending your elbows
  5. From a standing position, pick up one leg and place the outside of your ankle on an object that is just below waist height. Now rotate your hip to touch your knee to the object so your shin is perpendicular to your body
  6. Stand and lift one arm so your elbow is at the same height as your shoulder and you are making a 90 degree angle with your elbow (like you are telling someone to stop). Rotate your shoulder 180 degrees so your palm is facing behind you.
  7. Reach both arms behind your back (one from above and one from below) and touch the tips of your middle fingers together
  8. Squat down so your hamstrings are parallel with the floor and maintain a flat back with your arms straight overhead and arms by your ears

I wasn’t able to perform any of the movements above and I don’t intend to start a rigorous training plan until my mobility improves.

As a result, I signed up for a two-week mobility program called “Get Stretchy” through the Vimify app. The program was designed by Jacquelyn Umof and you can find more details about the program and Jacquelyn at ActionJacquelyn.com. The program consists of daily 10-15 minute morning stretches, 10-15 minute evening stretches, and posts with tips and tricks. There is also a social networking element to the program and Jacquelyn personally responds to questions, provides coaching advice, and offers words of encouragement. Some of the stretches/movements are beyond my ability but Jacquelyn offers alternatives and reminds us that the goal of each move is progression vs. perfection. I’ve followed the program religiously for 6 days and I have already noticed the benefits. For example, during my last swim workout my stroke felt longer and more efficient and I didn’t experience any clicking in my shoulder. My 100yd swim time even improved as well.

After the two-week program is complete, I’m planning to maintain the 10-15 minute morning and evening mobility sessions. In addition to the mobility improvements, I’ve noticed that the morning stretch helps energize my body and the evening stretch helps me relax so I fall asleep faster. I’m also going to look into taking a weekly yoga session with my wife and getting some good yoga videos & books.

I have no illusions that I will ever become bendy but I at least want to be able to perform the eight movements above.