2 Tips to Instantly Run Faster

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2 Tips to Instantly Get Faster

Speed is a skill and it can be trained!

If you follow the NFL, you may have noticed the Kansas City Chiefs, and Showtime Mahomes has become one of the most dominant teams in the league this year. Along these same lines, it's no secret they are also seen to be one of the fastest teams. As the saying adage goes, “speed kills.” A couple of weeks ago ESPN produced an article with the headline “Bengals overwhelmed by Chief’s dominating speed.”

Every athlete I have ever met wants to be faster, regardless of their position. I cannot think of a single athlete who does not want to be faster in their sport. The beautiful truth is, speed is not entirely genetic. Sure, some individuals are gifted with a predisposition of better levers, longer tendons, or the likes. But when we get down to it, speed is a skill, and it can be trained. Further, there are aspects of speed I will lay out; which, when applied, even without coaching will make any athlete instantly faster.

The arms need to move faster than the legs!


Tip #1: Fast and Violent Arm Swing
This is something I think a lot of athletes get confused about. In our heads it is intuitive speed is all about the legs and the arms follow along for the ride. However, the opposite could not be more accurate. Our body works in coordination and naturally prefers our arms and legs to move together as much as possible. Great sprint coach Charlie Francis who coached countless numbers of Olympic Athletes points out and coaches the arms need to move faster than the legs. I will repeat this; THE ARMS NEED TO MOVE FASTER THAN THE LEGS. This is a subtle faster, but it holds none the less. If you want to be instantly faster, you have to move your arms.

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Speed is a skill which needs to be practiced and trained over and over again.

Tip #2: Stiffen the Core
I use the word stiffen instead of brace for several reasons. For one a braced core will cause the athlete to be too tense. Speed is all about contraction and relaxation. If the athlete braces, you will be all contraction with none of the relaxation. However, the core does need to be stiff especially if you are prescribing to the first cue I provided. The more violently the arms move, the more the torso will want to twist with the arms causing a whole slew of issues, and making it nigh impossible to run in a straight line. However, an appropriately stiff core will help you resist the twisting the arms are trying to create thereby helping you not run around like a chicken with its head cut off. How taut should the core be? Think like you are at the beach and someone attractive walks by, you will not brace, you obviously will not let your gut hang out, but you also do not want to make it seem like you are trying to keep your gut in; this is the way you should feel when you are sprinting.

Speed is a skill which needs to be practiced and trained over and over again. However, these two cues will go a long way in helping you perfect this coveted athletic ability. You will need to use both as they work in conjunction with each other, but when you do, you will find yourself already faster than you were before.

- Dave Howington, CSCS, Performance Trainer

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Move Weight to Lose Weight

"Strength is a glass." a common phrase I have adopted when I discuss the importance of strength training. What this phrase communicates is the stronger you are the bigger your proverbial glass. In other words, regardless of my goal, if I get stronger it will be much easier to achieve my goal. This being said, the means to get stronger can sometimes be intimidating.

For instance, I remember when I was in middle school, I wanted to get more fit, but I was actually scared of free weights. I would explain myself away thinking I do not need them, and in fact, they are just more dangerous than they are good for me.

Truth is free weights such as dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, and other implements are amazing tools truly helping individuals get strong. However, the fear of moving heavy weight has led to a trend of only using cardio and aerobic-esque type classes in order to improve body composition. 

 

I am hear to say, that if body composition improvement is desired, than you must be willing to push yourself. For some of us this takes courage and it forces us outside of our comfort zone. But when you do step out you will be awakened to a wonderful world you may not have ever known.

Without going too in depth with the science, lifting weights and getting stronger has some key roles as it pertains to changing your body composition. An older study performed by Campbell et al. (1994) found that resistance training and the increased muscle mass that comes from it increase the bodies energy requirements. In other words your body burns more calories when it has more muscle, even if you're not doing anything.

Stiegler and Cunlife (2012) looked at resistance training for individuals when they were following a weight loss nutrition plan and found that resistance training helped preserve their muscle mass. This is huge, because once the diet is over, the better preserved your muscle mass the easier it will be to maintain the changes you have made for yourself.

Suffice to say, the key ingredient for increasing lean mass, specifically muscle, is strength training. However, there are some caveats to remember. THESE ARE IMPORTANT.

  1. ONLY COMPARE YOURSELF TO YOURSELF - Are you doing something better today than you did yesterday? Are you stronger today than you were yesterday? Great that is all that matters. Even if strength for you is not the same as someone else. Even if you it seems like you are weaker than someone else, this is OKAY! They are not you, rather than look at them spend some time looking in the mirror. Focus on yourself, be better than yourself, and do not worry about what others are doing around. I promise they are not judging.
  2. NUTRITION IS KEY - To paraphrase a popular quote, "the road to a six pack is not filled with doughnuts and beer." This does not mean you have to forsake this stuff forever, but what this does mean is you need to be conscientious of what you are eating. A couple of keys are to make sure you eat lots of protein, lots of veggies, and drink lots of water.
  3. EMBRACE THE PROCESS - I cannot say this enough. The biggest mistake people make when trying to change their body is they get hung up on the outcome they desire. The goal of body composition is not a straight path, rather its like a walk through a meadow. If you are too focused on getting out of the forest you will miss the beauty and nature around you. 
  4. ROME WAS NOT BUILT IN A DAY - This old adage holds true for anything. Those super fit models on instagram? They did not get like that over night. A lot of major overnight success stories did not actually occur over night. Same with achieving a body that you are happy about. Back to my earlier point, it is a process.

If you want meaningful lasting change in both health and your body, you need to be willing to get stronger, but most importantly at your own pace. Take my words to heart, and take the above four points to heart, and you will find yourself not just achieving your goals, but maybe even having a little bit of fun in the process. 

- Dave

References

Campbell, W. W., Crim, M. C., Young, V. R., & Evans, W. J. (1994). Increased energy requirements and changes in body composition with resistance training in older adults. The American journal of clinical nutrition60(2), 167-175.

Stiegler, P., & Cunliffe, A. (2006). The role of diet and exercise for the maintenance of fat-free mass and resting metabolic rate during weight loss. Sports medicine36(3), 239-262.

Foam Rolling 101

A trend that has grown in the fitness industry of recent years is called foam rolling, or as some people might call it self-myofascial release (SMR). However, what it does is still a question we must explore. 

There are a couple of schools of thoughts regarding SMR. The first school of thought is the idea that SMR is a way to help break scar tissue. The other school of thought is that SMR stimulates proprioceptive organs within our soft tissue called Golgi tendon organs and muscle spindles to tell essentially tell our brain that a muscle is overactive, and, for lack of a better term, needs to be turned off. 

For myself, I used to think that the first school of thought was the correct one. However, I have come to learn that to break up scar tissue and fascia the amount of pressure and force needed to be applied is not something that can be achieved through foam rolling. However, the idea that foam rolling can help inhibit muscles that are chronically "turned on" is something that is truly valid. 

You see our daily living makes some muscle groups more active than others. For instance, sitting here writing this up, my hip flexors are turned on, my pec minor is pulling my shoulders forward, and my neck is craning forward. If I do not take care of these muscle groups, eventually I will find these muscles become very tight and affect my quality of movement.

This is where foam rolling, and SMR becomes the most valuable, inhibiting these muscles, so that I may activate the right muscles and thereby improve my movement.

The following are videos demonstrating areas I find are key to foam roll:

The Foot - You can use a tennis ball or lacrosse ball.

Calves - This is best when using a foam roller and one leg. 

Quads

Hips/Piriformis

Lats 

 

Finally, when you are done foam rolling the essential part is to get moving. If you foam roll an area and do not then seek to use your new found ranges of motion, then you may as well not even be foam rolling.

Suffice to say, foam rolling is helpful, especially as it pertains to helping us enjoy the subsequent workout and movement that follows.

Thanks,

Dave

What to do When Progress Stalls, the Dreaded Plateau

There is a theory we are taught where the quickest direction from point A to point B is a straight line. Such a theory is all well and good, but the issue I have with theories is that they rarely honestly apply to the real world. For instance, in theory, Superman would never lose to Batman. In theory, Peter Jackson's The Hobbit would be a great addition to the Lord of the Rings Saga. However, as we have learned, Batman is just too awesome, and the Hobbit was, to put it lightly, a disappointment. Ever go on google maps? Ever notice that google maps rarely takes you in a straight line? Yea that theory is busted too.

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However, in the training world, it is easy to prescribe to straight line theory and assume that progress will be linear. What I mean by this, is that if you lost added 5 pounds to your deadlift last week, or lost a pound last week, then you should continue to lose a pound every week or add 5 pounds to your deadlift every week. If either were the case, we would have a lot of 1000 pound deadlifters. 

The issue is our bodies. Our bodies are designed in such a way that they adapt to a given stimulus. For my fellow nerds, this adaptation is called allostasis. The goal of the body is to be in the most balanced state possible. So eventually our body hits something dreaded by many gym goers, called the plateau. Essentially, our body stops making progress and stalls; sometimes it might go backward a little bit. It can be discouraging, it can be deflating, and it may even make you want to stop working out. 

The beautiful thing is, there are steps we can take to avoid plateaus. I want to lay out the most important things you can do. 

1.) Keep perspective - Think back to when your fitness journey began, where were you when you started. I guarantee you are far better now than you used to be. Yes, the plateau may have hit, you may have even gone backwards a little bit. This is natural, and it only means that your body has gotten fitter and stronger. Keeping the perspective that you are far ahead of where you started is crucial to keep you motivated. The worst thing you can do when you stall in progress is to stop. 

2.) Remain calm - One of the worst things you can do when a plateau hits is immediately start changing everything to find a solution. I've been there, and it only makes the plateau last longer. Ever notice that when you are stuck in traffic, no matter what lane you jump to you never seem to go faster? Instead go back to my first piece of advice, and remember that you are far better than where you once were at, and then move on to my next bit of advice.

3.) Remain consistent - For my NBA fans out there, I quote the 76ers, "trust the process." Many times the best thing you can do is keep doing what you were doing. This, of course, means that while you're training, you can still aim to do more reps than last time, in fact, I encourage it. Remember that while motivation may be waning, discipline is what will get you to where you want to be. You can have discipline without motivation, and in many times you will need this discipline. There will be days where you do not want to train or eat right, but stick with the process and continue to be consistent with what is laid out before you. 

Most importantly, whatever your goal may be, embrace the process. There is a quote I like that says "life before death." Mostly, what this quote is saying is that all of us have a point B of death; however, rather than focus or get hung up on that we must embrace and enjoy life. The same goes for training; when you embrace the process and enjoy the discipline of training, you will find yourself far more disciplined and far less discouraged when plateaus happen.

Progress stalls, and it sometimes goes backward, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it is true, and it is inevitable. However, if you follow my advice, you will find yourself coming out on the other side, and more importantly, your mind and character will be all the better for it.

Thanks,
Dave

Becoming More Dense...

In this series about homeostasis and disruption of homeostasis, we have talked a lot about the exercises themselves. From changing the amount of volume done in a workout to changing the exercises up. However, another way we can change things up in our workout is by manipulating time.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that we can change time itself, but we can change how we utilize the time we have available to us. For instance, what if you timed your workout? Measured how long it took you to complete from the end of the warm-up to the start of the cooldown. Then the next workout you don’t do anything different except try to do everything you just did in a shorter amount of time? Right there you have just manipulated training density.

Training density can be defined as what we do in a certain amount of time. To increase density, we either have to do more in that same amount of time or do the same in less time. Definitely a viable way to disrupt homeostasis and force our body to adapt. 

Some people will say density can especially be useful for those who want to lose body fat. I agree, to an extent. However, I would say that increasing density can be beneficial no matter your goal. By forcing yourself to do more work in less time you are tapping into energy systems, you may not have been previously using. More specifically you are building your general work capacity or General Physical Preparation or GPP as all the cool kids call it.

What this means is your building a base from which your body can physiologically grow and improve. The bigger the base, the more effective you will be at progressing. Improving density is one such way that we can build this base. 

One of the fundamental ways to improve density is to decrease your rest between sets. Another method is to lift weights faster during the set. Finally, if you’re nerdy like me, you can try to get the same amount of volume in less time. But that also requires a lot of math and calculations.

Just like any of the other variables we’ve discussed, there is a minimum effective dose to density, and we don’t want to do too much at the start. We also don’t want to rely on density solely, but it is simply another tool in the toolbox to disrupt the homeostatic balance. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, when this is all said and done I will provide a snapshot of what all of this might look like in one comprehensive program.