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Learn more about the science behind what we do, how to get started, stay motivated and stay healthy.

Why a Running Gait Analysis Can Fix Your Chronic Pain and Make You a Better Runner

February 16, 2017

Runners are tough athletes.

They run through snow and ice, rain, blazing heat and humidity. They set their alarms for ungodly hours, lace up their shoes in the dark and leave their sleeping families cozy in beds. Their Garmins are either on their wrists or charging up, they track every run, count their weekly mileage and think nothing of lost toenails, body glide between their thighs and generally being sweaty for hours a day.

Unfortunately, runners also think nothing of nagging injuries. Up to 80% of recreational athletes will report an injury every year, and up to 90% of those training for a marathon. Can you imagine if 90% of any other recreational sport participants got hurt every year? No one would play!

Runners get massages, do courses of physical therapy and try to get back on the road without truly addressing the injury-causing problem, which is very often faulty mechanics. Poor running technique can lead to extra joint stress, muscular imbalance and chronic conditions like tendinitis, plantar fasciitis, IT Band syndrome and piriformis syndrome just to name a few. Poor coordination and a weak core can also contribute to running stress.

The bottom line is that running shouldn’t hurt.

A running analysis can be essential both in injury rehabilitation and injury prevention. The naked eye is subjective and limited in the amount of information it can gather in real time running observation. High speed video and software analysis can pinpoint details of movement patterns and lead to well directed rehabilitation, training plans and choice of footwear. Simple exercises to specifically address any mechanical issues can focus on the underlying problem and begin to solve chronic issues for good.

Even if you’re fortunate enough to be injury-free, a running gait analysis can tweak your motion patterns to lock in perfect mechanics. When runners have great mechanics, they also have great efficiency, which means energy conserved through unwasted motion can be used to run faster or farther. The more a runner practices running fast or far, the more cardiovascular and muscular adaptations they will create, and the cycle continues. This leads to better training, better racing and better recovery.

It’s a beautiful thing to run efficiently and pain-free, and it makes those early mornings lacing up in the dark all the more enjoyable.

Want to know more about our high tech motion analysis system? Check it out here.

Training Based on your VO2max Will Take you to the Next Level

January 18, 2017

You may have heard about different exercise zones (“fat-burning”, “moderate cardio”, “anaerobic”) to train to certain heart-rate zones. Most gyms have a poster on the wall of target heart rate zones based on age. These guidelines are useful but generalized and your specific target heart rate zones might be different by up to 30 beats per minute.

Anaerobic Threshold – a powerful predictor of performance

Your anaerobic threshold is the level of exercise intensity at which your body can’t clear exercise by-products (lactate, calcium ions) as quickly as they are produced. Untrained individuals typically have a low AT, while trained athletes have a higher threshold. What does this mean for you? You can INCREASE your anaerobic threshold through training! When you train to specific heart rates (or paces) during workouts (distance, tempo, or speed intervals) you improve your body’s ability to clear those by-products that cause you to slow down, stop, hit the wall or cramp up. As you adapt, you can work at higher intensity levels for longer periods of time. This translates to increase in performance.

What is a VO2 test?

A VO2 test measures the amount of oxygen that your body uses at different exercise levels on a treadmill or exercise bike. Oxygen that you exhale is collected through a mask during a workout protocol that typically lasts 7-15 minutes. Your exhaled breath is analyzed to calculate your target intensity zones. Exercising at the right intensity zones will help you get the amazing results. You’ll train hard, but it won’t be more than your body is ready to do. As a bonus, you’ll get the exact number of calories you burn at different heart rates or exercise intensity. This is very helpful if you’re keeping track of you nutrition and energy needs.

Why train to heart rate?

Each person has individual optimum training zones. These are based on your heart rate at your anaerobic threshold which is determined during a VO2 test. When we know what your heart rate is at your anaerobic threshold, we can program training zones for different workouts depending on the purpose of the workout.

“Most of my training has been based on pace. And most of those runs have been based on other runner’s paces, not my own. Training with a heart rate monitor based on my VO2max, it was more personal and catered to what I can do. I noticed it especially on the speed runs. I actually pushed myself harder to try and reach a certain heart rate. And I surprised myself!”

-Alyssa, competitive endurance runner, Boston Marathon finisher

What if I don’t have a heart rate monitor for exercise?

If you do not have a heart rate monitor for training, we can use the VO2 test to determine the pace at which you were running or cycling when your anaerobic threshold and VO2max were reached. Programming can be based on pace instead of heart rate.

5 Ways to Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions Going Strong All Year

December 28, 2016

It's my favorite time of year! Part reflection, part fresh start. Here's how to keep that momentum of new ideas and goals going strong all year long.

1. Set specific goals, write them down and create a support system.

This can be harder than you think! It’s easy to say that you want to start working out or lose some weight, but hard to implement. Writing down very specific goals like your calorie allowance for the day, your weekly meal plan with a shopping list, your daily workout plan for the month, a daily schedule to keep you from procrastinating or a sleep hygiene routine can keep you on track. Share your goals with friends, family or a fitness professional to stay accountable. Post them in a place where you’ll see them often, like your bathroom mirror, in your closet or on your bedside table.

2. Set goals that you can reach.

It’s important to know how much effort and time is needed to achieve your goals. Factors like your current fitness level and health status are important pieces to define, as well as how much time you can realistically devote to exercise, cooking, reading, etc. Ask us about how to start a running or lifting program, what it takes for you to lose 5 pounds, and what foods are actually healthy. It can be overwhelming and hard to plan your goals. The key is to start with things that you know you can do in a week, a month, 6 months. Break it down into small segments and check them off as you go.

3. Set goals that you can measure.

Keeping track of your progress is very motivating, can inform future changes, and can keep you from getting in a rut. Re-assess your goals every week to make sure you’re on track and that your goals are reasonable. Nutrition and exercise-tracking apps are very helpful in setting parameters, tracking your progress and offering reports that you can print and review.

4. Change one thing at a time.

By adding or changing one thing every week, you give yourself time to develop habits that you can sustain. Doing too much at once like eliminating multiple food items that you’re accustomed to having or over-doing it in the gym can set you up for frustration and feelings of failure. Habits take time to form, so go slowly and allow yourself time to adapt. Be ready for setbacks as well, and have a plan to deal with them. Don’t let one bad day turn into a bad week!

5. Adopt a mindset of life changes, not quick fixes.

One of the most important things you can do to be successful with your resolutions is to change the way you think about them. I discourage my clients from using words and phrases like “diet”, “cleanse”, “challenge”, “quick-fix”, or putting an end-date on their effort. While these can be temporarily motivating, they also can undermine a true life-changing effort because we see a finish line, not a progression. We end up yo-yo-ing on and off a nutrition or exercise plan, trying different trends and not really locking into a lifestyle that we can sustain. This can be confusing, frustrating and cause us to give up completely. There are many ways to be healthy, fit and strong. Let us give you some solid guidance to set the habits that are right for your life. 

"No Pain, No Gain" is No Way to Workout

December 28, 2016

While we all love Jane Fonda and her amazing exercise videos (and attire), the catch phase she introduced in 1982, “NO PAIN, NO GAIN” is a motto that most active people should avoid. There are countless ways to improve our physical health, which also improves our metal health but exercise to the point of true pain can be detrimental in a number of ways, both short and long term.

Pain versus Discomfort

Everyone has a different scale of discomfort and different ability to push themselves to the point of peak effort. Understanding the difference between pain and discomfort during exercise will help avoid injury while striving for great fitness.

Athletes often ignore their body’s cues to stop, slow down, modify an exercise or take a day off. We tend to push through the workout that we have for that day, or whatever our training partners have planned for the group. The cumulative effect of such training leads to common injuries like sprains and strains, tendinitis, knee pain, hip and IT Band pain, low back pain and general overall fatigue.

Pain is a warning signal that alerts us to an immediate problem. It can be sharp, pointed, localized, shooting, aching and feels deep within a bone or joint or at connective tissue near a joint. It tends to catch your attention and make you stop what you’re doing (Dr. Elizabeth Quinn, 2016). Pain can also come on slowly during a workout, especially for runners and cyclists. What doesn’t hurt at the beginning of your run can develop into knee pain, IT Band pain, plantar fascia pain, or Achilles tendon pain by the time you’re finished. A good indication that you should back off is if it changes your running gait or you dramatically reduce your pace or stop during your run. These conditions can develop into chronic problems, so cut that workout session short.

Discomfort, on the other hand, is part of exercise and indicates that your workouts are putting good stress on your muscles and cardiovascular systems to make physiological improvements.

There are three stages to general adaptation:

1. Initial Stress Phase

This phase can last for several days or weeks when you introduce a new exercise routine. You might experience soreness, fatigue and a temporary drop in performance while your body adapts to the new stresses. Hang in there through this phase! As long as you stay in the discomfort zone of sore muscles and NOT joints, your body is working hard to make physiological adaptations.

2. Supercompensation Phase

This is a happy phase. Your body adapts to that initial stimulus and returns to more normal function. It can withstand the initial stress you introduced and is making neurological adaptations as well as muscular adaptations so you can continue training and increase performance.

3. Exhaustion (Overtraining) Phase

a. This phase tends to happen when we train year-round at the same or increasing intensities. When we fail to give ourselves and off-season or recovery period, we can push beyond the Supercompensation Phase. Symptoms to watch for are a decrease in performance, fatigue, boredom, chronic aches and pains, increased stress and sleeplessness.

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness

I love January because so many of us reflect on the year we just completed and look forward with eagerness and excitement to the next year. We set new goals for ourselves, most often around nutrition and exercise. There is a reason that on January 2nd, the YMCA in Savannah, Ga had a line out the door. You go, you lift weights, you run or bike or row, you do 100 crunches! And…you can’t move the next day. Day 3 is even worse.

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) is a common physiological reaction to new exercise routines (Initial Stress Phase). It is different than acute or sudden pain, pain in the joints or soft tissue sprains. It is thought to be caused by microscopic tearing of muscle fibers and can vary in degrees of severity depending on the type of exercise. Eccentric contractions (muscles contracting as they lengthen) can cause the most damage. These types of exercises include going down stairs, running downhill, lowering weights and the downward motion of squats and push-ups (Dr. Elizabeth Quinn, 2016). While uncomfortable, it will resolve itself in a few days.

7 Tips for Progression so you don’t lose Motivation

1. Start slowly, progress slowly. The best prevention to over-doing it and ending up sore and discouraged is to very gradually increase your time and intensity in the gym.

2. Include a dynamic warm-up in your routine. This can be walking and doing some drills before you run, doing a light set of weights or body weight movements before lifting. Static stretching before your workout isn’t recommended but can feel good afterward.

3. Build up your time and intensity by no more and 10% per week. Avoid sudden changes.

4. Vary your workouts with cross training.

5. Try a class to learn new exercises and increase motivation.

6. Hire a personal trainer or sports medicine professional to evaluate your current abilities, teach you proper form, write an exercise progression that is safe and effective.

7. Take a day (or two) off per week! Walk the dog, weed the garden, play with the kids, go for a leisurely bike ride. Adaptations happen when you’re recovering, not when you’re working out.

Resting Metabolic Rate versus Standard Calorie Calculators

October 1, 2016

Losing weight and performance nutrition are numbers games. There are many healthy nutrition plans, but choosing the right AMOUNT of food can be elusive. In its most basic form, how much we weigh is determined by our caloric balance. If we burn the calories we consume in an equal amount through our activities of daily living and exercise, we will maintain our weight. If we eat less than we use, we will lose weight and vice versa. The complexity lies in finding our caloric needs, and choosing the best foods to meet those needs.

If you do an internet search of “how many calories do I need per day?” you will pull up hundreds of websites with calculators where you input factors like age, gender, weight, height and activity levels. Most are based on one of three scientific equations, the Harris-Benedict equation, the Mifflin-St. Jeor equation and the Schofield Equation. All equations have margins of error, particularly if your body type or exercise habits are outside of average. Metabolic rates determined by these calculators can be off for up to 40% of the population.

The best way to determine your specific calorie needs is with a Resting Metabolic Rate breath test. This is a painless 15 minute test that will determine your precise calorie expenditure per day so you can devise an optimum nutrition plan. Check out this video for a demonstration. Visit our website for more information.

Why Exercise is Good for you Brain

September 6, 2016

There are lots of good reasons and ways to be physically active. Of course, the major benefits include reducing the risks of major health problems like heart and cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and obesity. Staying active gives us more energy and confidence in the way we look.

Two additional, often over-looked benefits of exercise are the chemical changes in our bodies and brain that can positively affect our mood as well as our brain acuity, memory and learning.

Research reviewed by the Harvard Medical School notes that regular aerobic exercise appears to boost the size of the hippocampus, the brain area involved in verbal memory and learning. Exercise reduces insulin resistance, reduces systemic inflammation and stimulates growth factors, all which promote brain health including the growth of new blood vessels in the brain and survival of brain cells.

Exercise also releases endorphins, those feel-good chemicals that interact with receptors in your brain to reduce your perception of pain and trigger a more positive and energetic outlook on life. Endorphins act similarly to morphine but without the addictive properties—bonus!

So go ahead, hit the gym! You’ll look great, but more importantly feel great, reduce stress, reduce feelings of depression, sleep better and have more energy.