form | fôrm |
|the customary or correct method or procedure
|shape or develop by training or discipline.
I’m not a doctor. Though I reference some who are, I trust that you will remain responsible for your own actions, and that you will do your own research before diving into any of the practices shared. This is my story and these are the resources that work for me and my lifestyle. Please take everything with a grain of salt, but also don’t downplay the flavor one grain of salt can add to your life. Keep it simple - find health - remain satisfied.
It wasn’t until I was standing on a skateboard for the first time that the importance of form even occurred to me. Bad form on a skateboard meant I would tumble down onto the pavement. Good form rewarded me with the indescribable feeling of rolling weightlessly down the road - smile glued onto my face. Throughout the next eight years I developed a reward based relationship with Form through skateboarding. The equations was simple: good form = less falls = less pain = more happiness = more fun.
Thanks to skateboarding, I understood that form played an important role in the activities we do, but I didn’t conceptualize how much it truly mattered beyond the piece of wood with wheels I pushed around everyday. Then one day, in an attempt to be a runner, I found myself sitting on an exposed swath of Georgia clay. I ignored the smears of red dirt forming on my shorts and focused solely on my throbbing shin. Fire ants crawled up onto my new shoes and began chomping at my ankles. Hurt and confused, I picked myself up and stumbled home, defeated.
I scrounged the internet for answers. Why did I have shin splints? These $120 dollar stability shoes were supposed to be the answer; yet, I was broken. Surely the advertisements and overpriced price point had my best interest in mind. Years of skateboarding had taught me that my problem was likely rooted in my form, but this was the simple act of running, not throwing myself up and over trash cans and down steps. Skateboarding was complex. Running was simple. Yet, I couldn’t run two miles without halting pain. Stubborn - I didn’t even love running; yet, I was determined to find out why I couldn’t do something that was so seemingly simple when I was a kid. A question finally surfaced that put me on an incredible path, one that would change my body and my mind forever. Looking back, this was the question that laid the foundation for this first Pillar of Health. The question was simple:
How did people run before the invention of shoes?
The answer was even more simple than the question - they ran barefoot. Excerpts from “Born to Run” and research studies by Dr. Lieberman convinced me to leave my brand new road runners at home. The hope was that I might find pain-free running by stripping away superficial aid of running shoes. I would just take my feet back in time, back to the beginning.
The first week of running barefoot felt awkward and exposed, but it was relatively pain free. I stayed consistent with my runs, gradually increasing the distance as the skin under my feet become thicker yet more supple. Then one day, the moment came. I can still feel the elation - the ecstasy. I ran ten miles barefoot, with no pain - nothing but smiles. Going barefoot allowed my body to naturally correct my running form which led to proper structural development of the muscles and tendons in my legs - which meant no shin splints. It was in the moments after that first barefoot ten-miler that I manifested the true importance of form and established my life-long love for running. Ten miles barefoot with absolutely no pain - I was sold.
Now before you start thinking I’ve lost my mind, I’m not recommending you go running into the woods barefoot. Losing the shoes was what I needed at the time to better understand form as it relates to running and walking naturally. I rarely run barefoot anymore; often I’m moving along rugged mountainous trails at a fast pace or with a heavy pack. I prefer zero-drop footwear for my traveling and running needs now days. Some brands that offer quality minimalist shoes include: Altra, Astral, Lems, Vivobarefoot, Luna Sandals, Softstar.
I hiked the entire Appalachian Trail (2015) in a pair of Luna Sandals. The next year I hiked the Pacific Crest Trail in Altra footwear. Then I biked 5,000 across the country in a pair of thin Astral footwear. All to say - there is no right brand of shoe; though, I do believe that by taking time to place the feet back on, or close to, their natural platform (barefoot) we can establish better everyday walking/ running form while getting the benefits of better balance and stronger feet.
At this point you’ve probably concluded that good form starts in the feet, at the foundation. I won’t discuss it further. I’ve linked Dr. Joe Uhan below who wrote a great piece on measuring and developing elite feet. Once our foundation is solid, we can begin to build beautiful things. We can move into the practices that help maintain good Form throughout all other movements and practices. This is also where the subject becomes as vast as outer space. Fasten your seatbelts - I know a shortcut.
Throughout the rest of this blog post, I’m not even going to attempt to try and explain all of the nuances of recovering, establishing, and maintaining good form in our everyday lives; but, I will do my best to share the professional resources that have served as my mentors along the way. As a mountain athlete I focus heavily on two subcategories of Form: Full body mobility which is non-specific and running form which is geared toward specificity.
Non-specific | Mobility
I believe full body mobility is one of the most overlooked yet critical ingredients in daily happiness and performance. For me, moving well in the mountains creates a feeling I’m rarely able to match; that’s why I gave up skateboarding. But where to start? I’ve provided a list of resources below that have and continue to educate and heal me on a day to day basis.
The first thing I would do when approaching this list is begin with some immediate pain relief with Paul Ingraham’s Perfect Spots. Discovering and addressing trigger points is not a panacea for pain, but it can go a long way in kickstarting relieve in specific problem areas. Consider putting one of the podcasts on while you address some problem areas.
Once you’ve released a couple of kinks and begin to get excited about the possibilities I’ve compiled in this list, I’d recommend watching the podcast with Kelly Starrett and Coach Sommers or their respective videos. They will shift your perspective on the importance of mobility for our daily living, performance, and longevity.
If you don’t have the time to watch the podcast or don’t want to sit still anymore, I recommend heading over to the video list under Dr. Kelly Starrett. These are short, to the point, mobility focused instructional videos. I recently found that someone had compiled the disorganized youtube videos into an easy to understand list by area of focus. If you really want to dive deeper into understanding mobility, I recommend Kelly’s book Becoming a Supple Leopard along with the host of links I’ve sourced below. These are my go-to resources.
Dr. Kelly Starrett
Book | Becoming a Supple Leopard
Podcast | 80/20 of Mobility and Performance
Videos | Mobility - Workout of the Day - List
Podcast | Secrets of gymnastic strength training
Perfect Spot No. 1 | Tension Headaches
Perfect Spot No. 2 | Low Back Pain
Perfect Spot No. 3 | Shin Splints
Perfect Spot No. 4 | Neck Pain, Chest Pain, Arm Pain, and Upper Back Pain
Perfect Spot No. 5 | Tennis Elbow and Wrist Pain
Perfect Spot No. 6 | Back Pain, Hip Pain, Sciatica
Perfect Spot No. 7 | Bruxism, Jaw Clenching, TMJ syndrome
Perfect Spot No. 8 | Quads
Perfect Spot No. 9 | Pectorals
Perfect Spot No. 10 | Tired Feet (Plantar Fasciitis)
Perfect Spot No. 11 | Upper Back
Perfect Spot No. 12 | Low Back Pain ( so low that it’s not in the back)
Perfect Spot No. 13 | Low Back Pain (again)
Perfect Spot No. 14 | Shoulder Pain
Specific | Running
My primary running goal for 2018 was to remain injury free. After thousands of miles on the trail, a win at the 100 kilometer distance, and a solid finish at the 100 mile distance - I came into 2019 injury free and feeling great. I attribute much of that success to the resources below.
In short, Chi Running helped overhaul my running form (again), Coach Jay’s routines occupy the beginning and end of almost every run I take, and Dr. Joe Uhan’s work addresses mobility as it relates to running specifically.
Coach Jay Johnson
Video | Lunge Matrix
Video | Strength & Mobility
Dr. Joe Uhan, DPT
Article | Elite Feet
Article | Foundation First Approach
Book | Chi Running
These are the tools I use on a daily basis to help improve mobility and break-up adhesions in the muscle tissues. Lately, the Grid Roller and Lacrosse Ball have been my everyday tools. I’ve linked each tool so you can learn more about them.
Grid roller - I recently got a copy of this roller and wish I’d have gotten it sooner. Great travel size. I use it every morning on Mount Le Conte.
The Stick - We carried this 10oz roller for over 1,000 miles during our thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. It saved our calves from the Pennsylvania rocks.
Back Knobber - I grew up using one of these and inherited my father’s. I use it often to massage the Perfect Spot’s
LaCrosse Ball - I work on trigger points just about everyday with this tool. If I could only have one tool, I’d pick this guy.
Golf Ball - Great article using a golfball and why.
I hope these resources help you as much as they have helped me along my journey. Until next week…