#NCAA Running Star Looks to #InjuryFreeRunning #Barefoot

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Mackenzie Lemieux is a 19 year old resident of Toronto, Canada who attends Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, U.S.A. She is on the women’s Cross Country and track teams and is about to start her 2nd (sophomore) year majoring in Neurosciences. Why is the coach blogging about Mackenzie? Well, come with me on a journey as to how and why Mackenzie connected with me (pay attention as you read – this is one amazing journey!).

Let me start at the beginning of Mackenzie’s athletic and academic journey. Note the following athletic highlights:

Personal Bests:

  1. 5 kilometre running road race – the Acura 5 km in 17:37 (as a 14 year old)
  2. 3000 metre running track race – 9:55:65 (OFSAA 2011 as a 15 year old)
  3. 1500 metre running track race – 4:40:64 (OFSAA 2011)
  4. 800 metre running track race – 2:18:99 (Athletics Ontario Championships 2011)

Other Athletic Career Highlights:

  • Cross Country Ontario High School champion – 2011, 2012
  • 6th place at the Canadian Cross Country running championships (1st in her age group), thus qualifying for the NACAC championships
  • Ontario provincial champion in the 3000 metres (on the track – 2011)
  • Ontario provincial 1500 metre track silver medallist – 2011
  • Ontario provincial champion and record-holder in the 2000 metres indoors -2011
  • 1oth place finisher in the Canadian National Cross Country running champioship – 2013
  • the Athlete of the Year (2013 and 2013) plus Most Valuable Performer in cross country and track running (2011 through 2014)
  • 2nd place at the age group Ontario Cycling championships – 2013
  • 5th place at the Rimouski, Quebec, Canada Tour d’Internationale cycling race
  • King of the Mountain (Polka Dot jersey winner) at the Rimouski race

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2014-15 at Cornell University:

  • Cornell Freshman (female) of the Year
  • 61st at the NCAA regional cross country running championships, finishing the 6 kilometre race in 21:39 (3rd scorer on the Cornell team)
  • 53rd in the 6 kilometre HEPS Ivy League cross country running championships (22:00:o3 – the 1st freshman scorer)

Academic Highlights:

  • Ontario Scholar 2011 to 2014 inclusive at Humberside Collegiate Institute
  • 3.8 GPA 1st Semester at Cornell – 2014
  • 4.1 GPA 2nd Semester at Cornell – 2015 (I thought you couldn’t get a GPA in the U.S. above 4.0!! – she is over the top intelligent)
  • interned at the University of New Mexico in the Pain, Neurosciences and Psychiarty departments – June, 2015
  • hired as a chemistry tutor and biology study group leader for the fall Semester at Cornell – 2015

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I now move on to Mackenzie’s injury history (ouch!):

  1. 1st major injury – Grade 10 age 15 (winter 2012). Stress fractures in both metatarsals (the toe bones). 18 month healing time. Started cycling and, as noted above, become a top-level age group cyclist
  2. started running again in September, 2013 but sprained her back in November, 2013 – again, unable to run
  3. tore one of the quadriceps muscles whilst in a cycling race (February, 2014) and then sprained her back again in March, 2014
  4. this led to hip tendonitis in May, 2014
  5. tore one of her quadriceps muscles yet again in December, 2014
  6. most recently, a femoral (thigh bone) stress fracture in February, 2015 which is now healed

Getting to Cornell:

  • in Grade 10, Mackenzie decided that she wanted to compete in the NCAA on a running scholarship
  • it was recommended that she pursue acceptance at an Ivy League school where she would get the best of both worlds – academics and athletics
  • she contacted many coaches at different NCAA schools, including Arthur Smith at Cornell in December, 2013. He won her over
  • after acing the SATs (entrance examinations) with a score of 1920, she was accepted. Cornell won out over the University of Toronto. Mackenzie has not regretted her decision

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Connecting with Jillian and the Coach:

  1. Mackenzie was in the office of Dr. Tony Galea (in Toronto) when she noticed a book by Carole Staveley on overcoming injuries. Whilst flipping through it, she noticed the name of Jillian Halligan (a member of my Injury Prevention Academy and an Olympic weight-lifting trainer). As Mackenzie was battling a plethora of injuries that threatened her athletic career, she decided to contact Jillian. If she could help Carole overcome her challenges, maybe she could do the same for her. Before starting to train with Jillian in July of 2014, Mackenzie was barely able to sit – her back was so badly injured – , her quadriceps muscle was still sore from the tear and her hip tendonitis was severe
  2. within a few weeks of Olympic lifting 3 times per week (no cardio work nor other exercising) under Jillian’s tutelage, Macenzie was able to sit and walk pain-free for the 1st time in months
  3. she started running short and slow in early August, still weight lifting with Jillian 3 times per week and was back to a full running schedule by late September

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After rehabbing from the femoral stress fracture, Mackenzie was introduced to me by Jillian in May, 2015. Jillian felt that I could assist Mackenzie with her biomechanics of running via my focus on injury-free running. Jillian told me that Mackenzie is osteopoietic  and takes calcium among other vitamins to keep her bones strong. This highlighted to me the importance of getting Mackenzie to run tight, light, comapct and forward to protect her fragile bones. From there, Jillian explained:

  • the science behind barefoot running (as espoused by me)
  • the importance of proper biomechanics in any type of running
  • the importance of proprioceptive feedback from the feet through the whole body to ensure symmetry, proper sequential muscle firing and squaring up
  • the loss of said feedback with the feet in shoes (or, as I say, ‘coffins’!), thus preventing the muscles from firing properly to prevent injury

After only 2 training sessions with me over the past 2 weeks, Mackenzie noted:

  1. her back no longer hurts post-runs
  2. she feels less impact on her quadriceps muscles and femur bones (areas of previous major injuries)
  3. she learned the Stapleton method of cross country hill running and was so excited to learn the pawback technique  whilst using gravity to do the work on the downhill
  4. she uses my squat-scoot techniques and barefoot running drills daily. Since doing so, she has been running 2-3 times per week, weight lifting 2-3 times per week AND has remained injury-free

I find it difficult to believe that Mackenzie is only 19 years old. To me, she is an ‘old’ soul mature WAY beyond her years. In an upcoming blog, I will feature my training protocol to keep Mackenzie injury-free. The accompanying photos of her in action will highlight a fascinating journey – a journey to injury-free running!

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coach Jeff

Coach Jeff now on INSTAGRAM (NaturalRunningCanada)

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One thought on “#NCAA Running Star Looks to #InjuryFreeRunning #Barefoot

  1. Coach Jeff, I am so glad Mackenzie discovered you and Jillian! I can just imagine how far she can go now that she understands how to protect her body from injuries. I’m very happy she picked up my book in Dr. Galea’s waiting room!

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