Monthly Archives: April 2012

Missing the Forest for the Tree’s

Bare feet running

Bare feet running (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Just this morning I had a revelation that was so logical and so obvious, that I am embarrassed that I had not given it more energy earlier. In my training program I speak of the importance of functional strength and the benefits associated with working synergistically and how important it is to avoid exercises that isolate muscles. And here all along, we’ve been training in shoes!

It occurred to me what a ridiculous proposition it was to offer so much gravity to integration and synergy for balance and stability, and not considering the importance of training in the purest of scenarios, in bare feet. For the rest of the day, I was bubbling with ideas and new found enthusiasm while training my clients; first command, take off your shoes and socks! Huh? Do what? Then I proceeded to bust out a whole bag of new and entertaining stimulation for those feet to deliver back to its message center the Central Nervous System or “CNS”.

Really, it was a startling bit of realization on my part. I am not afraid to admit; after having just finished writing an entire training manual on Natural Running, extolling the virtues and importance of the afferent feedback that the feet provide us in determining muscular recruitment patterns etc. All while wearing shoes! Now in my defense, I am not dead asleep; I have on many occasions had my running clients shed their running shoes to perform form drills on the infield of a track and I do wear zero drop, light weight shoes while strength training, but still, I don’t see it as being enough.

The bottom of our feet and especially the mid-to forefoot region are so sensitive to ground force that covering them while you are tuning (I said it right), tuning your body, any covering, no matter how light muddies the signals that our CNS depends on for movement reaction.

It became blaringly obvious to me as we performed some dynamic plyometric drills with and without shoes, how dramatically different the subjects responded to ground force.

I want to be clear; I do not advocate running barefoot on unnatural surfaces, certainly not without the proper development to the bone structures of the feet, which takes quite a while. But now, with the experimentation of today’s training sessions, I have come to realize the importance of training barefoot.

It is almost as if you were to try and use a computer that is asking for a password that you don’t have, you are not getting in! You can pound on the keyboard until you wake up the neighbors, but no information is coming back to you from that computer until you unlock the code.

I wish I could demonstrate the specifics of what I learned in this article but is really something that defies explanation without witnessing it yourself. What I observed was a client that tends to be very rigid by nature, when doing a simple depth jump, instead of absorbing the eccentric energy into the decelerating musculature, she tends to hang on to the impact of landing in a jarring fashion. It traditionally seemed that no amount of instruction, coaching or demonstration from me would cause her to be able to garner the benefits of the exercise and effectively.

Except for today, with this big “cat that ate the canary grin” on my face as I had her take off her shoes. Like magic it all happened, just as the body was designed to perform given the opportunity to read the appropriate signals. As a matter of fact, had I never said a word and placed her in the predicament of having to jump down to the ground in bare feet, her body would have known exactly what to do. Then I was so fired up, I started to produce a host of challenge’s just to see how far we can take this experiment, and it was something to behold.

Here I am just about to turn 60 years old and training athletes for the better part of my life and today, I was given what seemed like the gift of sight! I woke up and everything became very clear to me. The only downside that I see is that I have to go back to my training manual and re-write my chapter on functional strength for runners.  I’ll have to take a whole series of new pictures for demonstration purposes but you know what? I am good with it, because I just got smarter and I now can distinguish the Forest from the Trees!

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Why follow when you can lead? Become a great Coach!

For those of you who are not aware, I want to share some insights regarding our coaching certification program. To begin with the idea came to us more out of necessity than desire. There are only so many people we can reach from where we operate to provide a level of training and coaching that our consumers are so very hungry for.

Running popularity is on the rise. There are more people participating in events from the half to full marathon than ever in history. These events are no longer reserved for the fittest of the fit; a marathon is now something that many

Matt Fitzgerald speaking on hydration for runners

part of our lecture series at dhp

average folk have added to their bucket list. With this popularity stems a strong need for support and education. Even as popular as running has become it also holds the record for the most injuries in sport. Nearly 7 out of 10 runners are sidelined with nagging injuries, most of which could have been avoided had they been properly trained; this is where we come in.

Make no mistake about our intent; we can give a hoot less about what other certifying bodies’ think about our program or if what we are providing even is in keeping with the needs of elite athletes. The market for running is not made up of elites, it is made up of everyday people who are trying to get into shape, gain some confidence and meet some life challenges. Our program is for them, because we know that half of the battle is being able to get up each morning to train without getting injured. And, beyond what is typical, our program not only addresses the ability to survive the work, our program teaches people how to run well beyond expectation!

Our certification program is no simple walk in the park. To represent us as a Certified Natural Running Network Coach we have high expectations. We demand a level of understanding and knowledge that few other certification programs provide. Sure our program is set over three days but our curriculum and study materials will open Pandora’s Box. We teach proper running mechanics but that is only the beginning. We also teach the art of program design, how to implement heart rate training with our proprietary system. We teach running anatomy, functional strength training, hydration and nutrition strategies, and finally but not least of importance, how to identify and deal with injuries.

We have a strong relationship with the principals at Rock Tape and have adopted their taping strategies and are fortunate enough to have them provide this element of our education hands on. We also bring experts to our training, such as Matt Fitzgerald, author of numerous books relating to nutrition and endurance sports.

functional strength training at dhp

Learning to apply functional strength for runners during our certificationof numerous publications relating to sports nutrition and endurance training.

Part of our plan is to encourage our new coach candidates to join our network and take responsibility as a regional coach in their area. This way we can grow our membership, create events and develop a community of runners who will show the world what a bit of sound education can do! Our runners end up with better and progressively faster finishing times, are able to log more weekly mileage all while avoiding the pitfalls of injury that most other runners have to battle with.

What we set out to do is no small task but the result is that each and every person that certifies with us, wherever they end up will be far more capable leaders and superior running coaches. I stake my nearly 30 years in the business of coaching and working with athletes on it.

So, if this is something that has been lingering in the back of your mind, or you already stand as a group leader in preparation for an event such as a marathon, you should contact us right away or visit us online; www.naturalrunningcoach.net

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