Unlocking #iM Competitor – Rick McElroy – the #InjuryFreeRunning #Barefoot Way:

Rick McElroy’s journey into the world of Swim, Bike, Run competitions did not fit the norm. Most who do these come from an aerobic-based fitness background – usually having competed as a swimmer, cyclist and/or runner growing up. Not so with Rick. He was an avid short burst, high intensity athlete – competing aggressively in squash, soccer and the like. Thus, when he started into the iM world 2 years ago, injuries to his calves, shins, hips and back started to crop up – especially when running.

Rick was referred into me via his triathlon coach (Richard Pady) and the CEO of Barefoot-Science (Lance Todd). We arranged a training session on Thursday, April 27 with the main goal to get Rick running pain-free. The following pictures will highlight his transition to my Squat-Scoot technique of tight, light, compact, forward running. The first order of business was to have Rick balance on 1 foot with his eyes closed. My rule of thumb for assessing perfect balance is a minimum of 60 seconds per leg. As you can  see, Rick immediately went off-balance  –  within a matter of 5 seconds. This shows a total lack of spatial awareness and ability to ‘square up ‘ the body for balanced running. I next had Rick simply run for me in his ‘coffins’ (Merrill 4.0 drop flex shoes) without the Barefoot-Science inserts (he has been wearing these for about 2 weeks but I wanted to assess him with NO assistance). You will notice his head falling forward, arms flailing out, shoulders rotating, hips dropping and feet landing flat and hard (believe me, he WAS hitting loud AND hard with knees locked on impact).  It’s no wonder he was experiencing all sorts of shin, calf, knee and hip pain whilst running.

I next assessed his body symmetry. As you can see, his left leg presented about a 1/2″ shorter than his right. This indicated  ‘locked up’ left pelvic, low back and hip musculature – this also being the side where Rick was experiencing the most pain. It was then time to unlock him via my series of drills that begin with the hip ‘can opener’, thenprogress to the alternate double bent knee rotation before doing the low single leg swing to eachside (keeping the head and shoulders on the floor and level). Rick had a major problem doing this – initially unable to get his left leg anywhere close to his right hand. After a few reps and aggressive support from me, he got much better range and felt the whole hip area release. Then came 2 minutes on the Functional Chain Trainer cords (SkiX) and  4 minutes on the Health Bridges (Level 1) to activate the Extensor Chain group of muscles, improve bodyalignment and create cross body symmetry for more balanced running. Note especially how Rick’s arms lie flat and extend out in the bottom photo on the Bridge. He told me about severe rotator cuff restriction and pain especially on the left side (see the middle photo above). After about 2 minutes, the range improved and the pain disappeared. This is part of the power of the releasing action stimulated by the Bridge.

We then checked his body symmetry again. LO and behold, his legs lined up even – he was now in perfect symmetry with NO pain.It was then time to lock in my tight, light, compact, forward Squat-Scoot technique of injury-free running. This involved an IT-Band strengthening drill (see photo below) turning both ways,1-legged balancing on the round and flat side of a Bosu Ball (to strengthen running synergistic muscles and improve balance over the mid-line), 2-legged and i-legged hamstring curls from a Bridge position on a stability ball (this fully isolates the hamstrings to help strengthen the weakest of the running muscles). It was then onto the 100 Minor and 100 Major running drills (barefoot, of course!). The goal with both is to land exactly where you take off on each foot for 100 repetitions. As you can see, Rick ‘traveled’ way off course (note his position relative to the pylons where he started the drills)With practice, he will perfect this which in turn will help keep him level, compact and squared up when running – in other worlds, in perfect alignment and injury-free. I then had Rick run barefoot using my Squat- Scoot technique. As you can see, he was now in perfect balance with NO running pain.After only 1 hour, we put all of the pieces together and Rick ran for me barefoot and shod (with the Barefoot-Science inserts in place). He was light, quiet and quick (with a high foot turnover) and, most importantly, PAIN FREE!  This was a major breakthrough for Rick – one that he will max out on as he practices PERFECTLY. Any of you who are struggling with avoidable pain from running would be well advised to follow Rick’s protocol highlighted in this blog. It’s not easy but it does work!

coach Jeff


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