#CoachJeff Kick Starts Summer #NaturalMethodTraining clinic:

I started doing Natural Method Training as a youngster MANY decades ago. Of course, I did not CALL it that nor did anyone else, for that matter. The Swedes called it ‘Vita Parcours’, the Scottish called it ‘Fell Training’, the Native Canadians called it ‘Trapping’. I called it ‘Free Lance Training’ – basically, I would  make up exercises and movements in different mediums as I ran or cycled or swam. If there was a natural object to go over (a tree stump or boulder or sand dune), I went over it. If there was a log floating in the lake, I swam under it. Well, you get the idea.

It was with this in mind that I set up my summer Natural Method Training clinic in Clarkson, Ontario, Canada. It is an 8 week, one class per week session that started on June 21/17 – the summer solstice! I begin by testing the balance and symmetry of my team members – no sense in doing significant training if you are unbalanced and asymmetrical. That’s a recipe for injury!In the top photo, you will notice that my gang had no trouble balancing on 1 leg WITH EYES OPEN. Once the eyes were closed (picture #2), it was a different story. The goal was to hold STEADY for 15 seconds on each leg. None of my team held for longer than 4 seconds. Running on the spot with eyes closed also proved difficult for most of the group. They traveled forward, sideways and in 1/2 circles during the 1 minute drill. Both of these indicate whether you have an imbalance or over-rotational activity on one side or the other. I then implement a series of exercises to correct the situation. Photo 3 above shows the team doing the SkiX exercise so important to activating the extensor chain of muscles in the body whilst Photo 4 shows the team lined up, symmetrical and ready to head outdoors.We started with forward and backward running over cedar mulch where balance and reactivity to uneven surfaces are key to survival.We then ran through a sand pit, over a bench and around a large tree – repeating the process backward and sideways to improve sensory awareness and reactivity to different mediums.By mixing in 2-legged and 1-legged hopping in the sand pit, my team were activating powerfully from the feet whilst learning how to fight through the resistance of the sand.

Next up was a series of exercises using the fence railing around a baseball diamond. The series included, forward powerful push-offs, backward powerful push-offs, side powerful push-offs and deep squat jumps. these were done consecutively for 30 seconds each – a tough sequence designed to build balance between the flexor and extensor muscles along with explosive power and fatigue tolerance. The gang battled hard BUT there is lots of work to do before we achieve perfection!

We finished with a series of running drills designed to lock in my Squat-Scoot style of safe, efficient, mid-foot running. These included the Paw-Back forward running drill – difficult to master BUT essential for safe running mechanics.The backward lunge drill was implemented to improve posture and activate the extensor chain for better running balance. It was followed by the forward lunge drill to better activate the flexor chain of running muscles in precise sequence.Further to this, the alternate forward-backward running drill forced the team out of their comfort zone and into a squared up, quick foot cadence that encourages more efficient running.I then had the team put all of the Natural Method Training drills into action with  forward running repeats to lock in perfect Squat-Scoot technique. The results were quite profound. Everyone ran tight, light, compact and forward – precisely as I wanted them to run!!As I explained to the team, this was only Session 1 of 8. Thus, the expectations and the challenges will increase with each passing week. This is a great way to mix up your training and give you a much better foundation for safe, efficient running!

Oh – throw in some water running as part of YOUR Natural Method Training session – assuming you can get close to a lake, river or stream. For THAT, you may want to be like the old coach…BAREFOOT!!

Coach Jeff

Another Client on the Way to #InjuryFreeRunning#Barefoot:

Paul Kilbank contacted me about 5 weeks ago after perusing my website. He was searching for a barefoot running coach who stressed “injury-free techniques for runners”. He was suffering through knee, hip and quadriceps pain brought on, he felt, by improper running technique. The injuries started to appear as Paul was ramping up his weekly kilometres, hoping to break 2:00 hours for the Ottawa 1/2 Marathon on May 28. Obviously, with his injuries, running in Ottawa did not transpire. His ultimate goal is the February, 2019 Tokyo marathon.

When we first met at Form & Function Training Centre in mid May, Paul presented with TERRIBLE running technique. He hit the ground hard with knees locked out and heels striking first on impact. To further complicate things, he was over-rotating from the shoulders, dropping his left hip and splaying his feet out duck-like pre-impact. In other words, he was a myriad of injuries waiting to happen.When I tested him running on the spot with eyes closed for 60 seconds, he started between the pylons and finished by going forward 6 metres AND veering strong left. This showed significant rotational activity on the left side which in turn indicated poor activation in the left gluteal and hip muscles.It also indicates major asymmetry which was confirmed when I tested Paul for leg length discrepancy. Sure enough, his left leg showed shorter than his right, thus explaining his right knee pain and left quadricep and hip pain. I worked diligently for about 10 minutes unlocking his left side from the lower back through the groin, hip and abductor muscles. I also took him through my staple (as in STAPLETON! :-)) ) of unlocking drills to ensure that Paul was aligned and ready to work on my Squat-Scoot technique of safe, barefoot running.The end result was perfect body symmetry that then allowed me to guide Paul through IT-Band tendon protection (with a tension band) and eyes open – eyes closed balancing drills on the Bosu Ball. These are designed to help Paul keep centered over the feet with each running stride.With the key components of my Safe, Efficient and Injury-free running technique now in place, it was time to have Paul run barefoot indoors and outdoors.  My goal was to have him running on different surfaces PAIN-FREE.You can see from the photos above, Paul was landing light, compact, forward on the mid-foot, flicking with his heels, driving forward from the knees and staying perfectly squared up and balanced from the head and neck to the shoulders, hips and knees.

Once in his ‘coffins’ (rather thick, stiff running shoes which he will be replacing with the Xero Prios sooner rather than later), even with the Barefoot-Science inserts in place, Paul had trouble holding the same locked in technique. He started off in perfect form (see the first photo below) but quickly lost his gluteal bracing ability and his feet started to flail outward (photo #2 below)

He will get better at the Squat-Scoot technique with perfect practice in his ‘coffins’. However, he is already up to 1.5 kilometres running barefoot along with 15 kilometres shod…PAIN-FREE!  This is a major break-through for Paul…and the reason he hired me in the first place. Who knows? He MAY get so good running barefoot that he won’t go back to ANY form of footwear!!

The old coach can only hope…!!

coach Jeff

#MADD #StridesForChangeEvent a Huge Success!

The 5th annual MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) SFC (Strides For Change) 5 kilometre Walk-Run event was held on Sunday, June 4 in J. C. Saddington Park, Port Credit, Ontario, Canada. There was another sell-out crowd on hand (550 participants and well over 100 volunteers!) in spite of the rain that fell for most of the morning. None of the participants seemed too concerned – it was a warm drizzle mainly with no wind and a beautiful, lakeside setting.The event itself is organized to the ‘T’ – the staff and volunteers associated with MADD do everything 1st rate. From the registration process to the awards presentation and live auction, everything is top drawer. As a result, the comments from participants are always positive.The other great thing about the event is distribution of funds raised during the event. They are targeted toward:

  • education programmes for school-aged youth
  • awareness and education materials
  • lobbying of government agencies for more stringent penalties for driving drunk
  • financial support for the victims of drunk drivers

As a result, positive changes are constantly being made at all levels of government. This can only result in fewer incidents of drunk driving.

For the first time in 5 years, the old coach was the only full-on barefooter (and I didn’t even run the course. I rode the route many times over barefoot on my mountain bike! I much prefer RUNNING barefoot!). Many of my running clients DID do the event and all of them were in minimalist footwear of some sort (Vibram FiveFingers, Sockwas, New Balance Minimus, Merrell Glove and so on. Not 1 set of ‘coffins’ in the group.

One of my runners, Terry Rasmussen, was the 2nd place finisher overall. He ran fast and strong throughout. Another of my runners (Kimberly Rosehart, Terry’s wife) guided their son, Edison (a future TOTTer!) along the route. He is a robust 31/2 years young and actually RAN 2 kilometres of the route – and I DO mean RUN!Another of my clients (and longtime friend), Hatem McDadi brought his family to the event as per usual. Only this year, his daughter, India, (age 14) was the 2nd overall female finisher. She shows great promise as a middle distance runner. Her dad and younger brother ran exceedingly well also! They were one of many families who partook in the event.Yet another pair of my youth TOTT runners ran a strong race as well. Braden and Emma have trained with me many times over the past 5 years – they know each other and like to push each other. As you can see in the photo below, they were neck and neck as they approached the finish area.Beyond that, Emma had her sister, Megan (another one of my running clients!), dad Joe, mom Bridget and Megan’s boyfriend, Matt, along as part of clan Leon. It was great seeing all of them having such a wonderful family day.Speaking of family, my younger sister, Diana, and younger brother, Arn, (he hanging out post-run BAREFFOT to support me!) made the trip  to support the cause (and their MUCH older brother). My older sister, Joan, daughter Sarah and granddaughter, Esme (yes, THE 31/4 year old barefoot Esme featured in a few of my blogs!) could not make it out of downtown Toronto (road closures!). Otherwise, my whole family would have been in attendance. Maybe next year!!A special shout goes out to the clan Bertrand (all of whom trained with me over the years). They showed up en masse (Greg, Lynn, Nick, Alex & Addison) with only young Lauren MIA. They have been fantastic supporters of MADD SFC over the years. Kudos to all of you…

Finally, I observed the youngest full-on runner flying toward the finish line. He could not have been more than 7 years young but, my oh my, could he RUN! As you will notice in th ephoto below, he was basically a blur going by me. I never got his name nor exact age – hopefully, he keeps running – maybe even barefoot!Congratulations to my good friend, Andy Murie (the CEO of MADD), Dawn Regan, Cindy Hawryluk, Laura and rest of the MADD team for asnother event well done. They are dedicated to the cause, professional in their approach AND positive results- driven. Here’s to many more successful Strides For Change events as we STRIVE to eliminate drinking and driving

 

#CoachJeff Continues Work with Young #Tej – #InjuryFreeRunning #Barefoot:

If you recall from earlier blogs, I first starting working with young Tej (age 14) 9 months ago. Diagnosed with Autism at age 2, he has developed into an outstanding young man due to the undying love and support of his parents and 1000s of hours of treatment from a plethora of specialists, some of whom continue to work with him to this day.

You may also recall that his mother, Susan, hired me to teach Tej how to run safely and efficiently without pain. All Tej wanted was to play sports with his peers and feel like part of the ‘gang’.  From a young lad who had no control over his lower body and had trouble walking let alone running pain free, he is now doing full-on 50 metre SPRINT repeats on a field!!From the photos above, you can see that the form requires some work BUT the progress from 9 months ago is beyond fantastic. Tej requested that I help him learn to sprint after gaining confidence in the process of running pain-free.

In yesterday’s training session, I tested Tej’s ability to balance on 1 leg with his eyes closed and Barefoot-Science inserts (he is now at the highest level – #7) in his shoes. He easily went beyond my 1 minute time limit on each foot. This from not even being able to do so when we first started. I then did an advanced test where Tej had to run on the spot with his eyes closed for 1 minute, staying between the pylons. As you will see below, he held position for about 20 seconds and then wandered forward and slightly to his left (his weaker side). This indicates some weakness in his left gluteal muscles and hip adductor muscles. We will strengthen these.I then tested his body symmetry and, sure enough, his left leg presented a full inch shorter than his right (we had not worked together for 2 weeks and expected that he would be ‘locked up’ and out of alignment). See photo below.I took Tej through my series of unlocking drills (the 1 knee hip stretch, 1 leg swing, SkiEx (Functional Chain Trainer cords) and Health Bridges. After doing these, he was back in perfect symmetry (see photo above). My next component of the session involved balancing on the Bosu Ball with eyes closed and barefoot along with jumping on and off said Balls with and without a tension band around the ankles. These are all drills that Tej could not even attempt when we first started. Now, he does them with me nowhere in sight – quickly, powerfully and with no hesitation. Quite incredible, actually!

The running weave drills (especially when the bending hand touch was added) showed Tej’s progress in following complex directions and completing a multi-dimensional task quickly and with confidence. Nine months ago, he simply could NOT even attempt the drills shown below.This set him up to do a trial run indoors before we went outdoors to sprint. His running technique has improved to the point where he moves quietly with no pain AND can do so over much greater distances without fatigue. These are incredibly HUGE steps for Tej.Of course, now that Tej has hit puberty AND many of his colleagues are “hitting the weights”, he also wants to learn the ins and outs of strength training. With the support of his mother, the old coach has agreed to take young Tej into the world of strength training. I will do so with caution, focusing on PERFECT TECHNIQUE of each exercise with NO resistance in the form of Olympic bars and plates to start.  Look for an update on his progress later this summer!

In the meantime, use Tej’s story and journey as incentive to get yourself and/or those you love more physically active – the barefoot way. At the end of the day, there is NO EXCUSE!!

coach Jeff

#SockwaX8 to the Rescue! #InjuryFreeRunning #Barefoot:

Five years ago, I received an email from a company called SOCKWA (it was actually addressed to me by the Founder and CEO, David Zasloff – P.Eng.) inquiring as to whether I would consider testing the X8 model of their “bare minimalist” footwear. Due to my reputation as one of the foremost barefoot runners and barefoot running coaches in North America, David felt I might be a good candidate to test his latest line of minimalist footwear.During a follow-up Skype meeting, I found out that David started Sockwa in April, 2008 at a Ventura County, southern California, U.S.A. plant. He set out to make footwear that was lighter than the Vibram Five Fingers (mission accomplished!), durable, soft and flexible (again, mission accomplished!) AND better for the environment than the standard rubber-soled ‘coffins’ that saturate the running world (best yet – mission accomplished by using plastic as the base ingredient. It uses less resources and is a cleaner production process). He then added a suctioned effect on the sole (see photo below) for better grip on slippery surfaces like algae-covered rocks.As all of you know, I am barefoot 90% of the time (running, walking, playing sports) for at least 10 months of the Canadian year. That left 10% of the harshest weather during which time I had to cover off with SOMETHING. After our Skype meeting, I agreed to ‘test drive’ the Sockwa X8 in the toughest Canadian winter conditions and on a variety of rough, tough terrain. The goal was to give David feedback as to the efficacy of the Sockwa X8 away from the always pleasant weather of ‘SoCal’ (southern California).

I started by bringing the X8s on a training run in the Rattray Marsh area close to my home that included chewed up asphalt,rough-hewn gravel,sharp stone pathways,unfinished, sliver-infested wooden bridges rounded, rough-edged logsand the concrete laden, slippery algae covered shores of Lake Ontario (water temperature of 38 degrees Fahrenheit) Finally, I tested them in nasty winter conditions with my Barefoot Science inserts to better simulate me running full-on barefoot.

 

I reported back to David that my Sockwa X8s passed the rigorous testing protocol with flying colours! I can wrap them up into a ball (meaning my feet can move freely inside and respond better to different surfaces without risk of avoidable injury), run in them safely over virtually any surface and pack them up easily when traveling anywhere in the world. David continues to improve the Sockwa line of minimal footwear in an effort to appeal to a wider market. I for one pray that he can do this – without sacrificing the absolute brilliance of the X8 model.

I even told David that our Lake Ontario sunrises may not QUITE match his Ventura County sunsets BUT I bet him that there were no great Canadian swans in the Pacific Ocean (see below)!!(The above photo is of my swan buddy on Lake Ontario whom I beckon with a specific whistle at 6:30 most mornings. Interestingly, he always swims close to me – until he realizes I have NO food! This is why neighbours call me the ‘Swan Whisperer’!!)

Good on you, David, my special California friend! I look forward to assessing future models of the Sockwa line and seeing them on ALL of your feet sooner rather than later. They’re the closest you will come to running safely, efficiently and powerfully – the barefoot way!!!

What are you waiting for??!!!

coach Jeff

#CanadianOlympicTeamMember #KatieTsuyuki in the #CoachJeff World:

2014 & 2018 (upcoming) Canadian Olympic 1/2 Pipe Snowboard team member, Katie Tsuyuki, was referred into me via one of her trainers. He knew of my affiliation with Barefoot Science inserts and felt she could benefit from using them in her training shoes and competition ski boots.Further, he felt she could also benefit from my barefoot training techniques and alignment assessment skill set. Thus, Katie and I met for a few 1 hour sessions during the past few weeks. My goals were to check her body symmetry and spatial balance then unlock her if necessary. As it turns out, Katie presented with the right leg about 1″ shorter than the left. This fit with the fact that she has weakness in her right gluteus medius specifically and resultant weakness in her left hip adductors and flexors.

We started by I set about to assess Katie’s balance in her ski boots with eyes open (held for 28 seconds on each leg) and closed (held for 8 seconds on the left and 6 seconds on the left) after putting in the Barefoot Science inserts. You will notice that Katie could not square up her hips, indicating a weakness in her lower back & hip muscles. I also tested her ability to run on the spot for 6o seconds between 2 pylons. The goal was NOT to move off line. As you can see in the photo below, Katie not only ended up outside the pylons but she almost did a 360 degree turn – and had no ides she did so (last photo in this sequence below).Balancing in her boots on the Bosu Ball went better. With eyes open and shifting her weight to simulate being in the 1/2 pipe, Katie stayed centered and balanced.

I then led Katie through a series of unlocking drills to  put her body back in perfect alignment. By releasing the locked up areas of her right side, she immediately noticed a reduction in discomfort.She also was now perfectly symmetrical (see photo below showing right & left leg now same length).Strengthening Katie’s IT Bands was my next priority. Using the highest level of tension band around her knees, I had her point the toes inward, press out against the band and circle to her right and left, switching directions every 10 seconds for 60 seconds total. She noticed instant activation of her hip abductors and no IT Band pain.Then, it was on to the Stability Ball for hamstring strength and balance assessment. You will notice in the pictures below that Katie was fine in the bridge position WITH HER ELBOWS ON THE FLOOR. As soon as she lifted them, her balance was off and she slid off the ball.This indicates a weakness in her central core from the knees up to the shoulders. By strengthening both the extensor chain AND whole core symmetrically, Katie’s ability to hold herself square on her board whilst competing will improve dramatically.

No session with the ‘old coach’ would be complete without barefoot running in the Squat Scoot. Katie had difficulty with this initially especially the forward arm drive and paw back leg action. Being an Olympian, however, she picked up the technique quickly and started running light and quiet with no pain – a revelation to her!I then wanted to see how Katie balanced on her board. The best way for me to assess this on dry-land was having her jump onto a Bosu Ball (flat and round sides) from different angles. You will notice that initially, she fell onto her back or slid off the ball. With such a high degree of difficulty, she had to overcome FEAR (False Evidence Appearing Real) and visualize completing the jump with power AND balance. Once she did this, all of her jumps were ‘stuck’ perfectly. Again, being a high level elite athlete, she adapted quickly. Her comment to me was “I’ve NEVER done this before. I should have been doing this BUT I never have…”! I commented that that is what separates me out from ALL other trainers. I always go outside the box & sense what is needed to help people reach their maximum level of performance!!The following photos show Katie moving as if in the 1/2 pipe with the focus on activating her weaker right side more than normal. The goal is to get her closer to even strength and balance on both sides to help improve performance and decrease the risk of avoidable injury.By the end of the drills, Katie was locked in and landing each jump confidently with no ‘stumbling’ off the ball.  Practicing perfectly drills like this in her boots and on her board, she will improve the strength-balance ratio from right to left sides. This in turn will lead to better performances in upcoming competitions to solidify her spot on the 2018 Canadian Winter Olympic team. Here’s to you going ‘OVER THE TOP’, Katie!!

coach Jeff

#CoachJeff’s #TeamOverTheTop #Runners Rule Race Weekend:

 Mississauga and Toronto (both located in Ontario, Canada) held their annual road running races on the weekend of May 6 and 7. As they have done over the past 18 years, some of my Team Over The Top runners partook in distances from the 2 kilometre kids’ run to the full marathon – and the 10 kilometre and 1/2 marathon distances as well. One of my marathoners is also peaking for the Ottawa, Ontario, Canada marathon on Sunday, May 28 – more on her later.The 14 kilometre mark in the Mississauga races (photo above).

As per usual, my runners all worked diligently toward their respective races. They had put in the time on the hills, track and roads – along with doing some of my unlocking drill training in the Form & Function gym. Nobody accomplishes anything in life worthwhile without sacrifice AND hard work. This season was no different. One of my marathoners aggravated an old calf injury and had to bow out. Terry in the middle of the photo above the day after aggravating a calf injury!

Three of my 1/2 marathoners got bogged down with work, travel and family commitments and had to bow out. You get the picture! Pushing through to the end of ANYTHING is never easy.

Also, as per usual, none of my runners suffered avoidable running ‘itis’ injuries. By following my Squat-Scoot style of safe, efficient, powerful running, doing the Extensor Chain Activation and hip unlocking drills, moving barefoot as often as possible and using the Barefoot-Science inserts, they all stayed strong, balanced and injury-free. Beautiful!!!

Race day broke cloudy, cool and rather windy in spots. Almost perfect running weather. I was on the Mississauga course – thus, the photos below are from various vantage points on that course.Above, you will see the 3rd place and 4th place men and 1st place woman in the Mississauga 1/2 running strong and efficient as they approach the 15 kilometre mark. The form is not perfect BUT it’s damn close. Further back, the pack of sub 2:00 1/2 and sub 3:30 full marathoners head toward the turn-off point (14.5 kilometres into the race). Note the range of running techniques – many of them ugly!I then ventured out to the 30 kilometre mark of the marathon – where it traditionally starts to get ugly and most runners go into dark areas. Finishing this thing called a marathon becomes more a case of survival than thriving!This is the 3rd place finisher grinding up yet another hill at 32 kilometres on Lakeshore Road before heading down to run along the shores of Lake Ontario – and into a nasty wind.

In the following photos, I am at the 30 kilometre mark. This is where the majority of the hills kick in and the race also truly begins! The 1st photo is of a runner on pace to go under 3:10. The 2nd photo is of the 3rd place woman who is on pace to finish sub 3:10 as well.The 3rd photo is off a woman who was on pace to finish sub 3:25 BUT, based on her apparel (winter jacket) and severe heal-striking along with a rather pained expression, my guess is she did not finish – or if she did, it was not pretty. You simply cannot hit the road that hard with locked out knees for a full marathon without paying a severe price!The next 2 pictures show a pack of runners with the 3:30 pace bunny and my Team Over The Top marathoner, David, who was on pace to qualify for Boston (under 3:40). He ran a gutsy race despite cramping at the 36 kilometre mark and still finished in a respectable 3:47:41. Good on you, my friend!Next, it was on to the finish area where euphoria always mixes with suffering – “please get  me to the finish line standing up, Lord”!! The marathon is quite simply bloody hard work!!Alicia made her comeback to road racing after bringing 2 children into the world with husband, Wes (who completed the 10 kilometre race on the Saturday evening of race weekend), over the course of the past 5 years. She had qualified for and run Boston under my guidance before ‘semi-retiring’. It was great to not only have her back with Team Over The Top but to have her finish the 1/2 marathon in 1:53:00 – not her best BUT most respectable.In what was a highlight of the weekend for me, Alicia’s 5 year old daughter, Rhea, ran the 2 kilometre kids’ race – without stopping. She shows natural running ability and has a perfect runners’ body. According to Alicia, she simply LOVES to run and compete – part of the next wave of Team over The Toppers.image2(1)Annette’s goal was to break 2:00 in the 1/2 marathon (excluding the time required for her traditional need to use the Port-A-Potties multiple times – in this case – 3!!!). She trained exceptionally hard and remained focused throughout the clinic. Well, after it was all said and done, she showed a clocking of 2:00. Hell, I’m giving her a 1:59:59 finishing time!!Finally, Kerry, who has run Boston a few times under my guidance and is now on track to qualify again in Ottawa on May 28, took on the Toronto downtown 10 kilometre race with a goal of breaking 45:00. I felt she would go faster and that she did – 43:39!Her training schedule called for a 30 kilometre run – we discussed this pre-race and felt she could add on 20 kilometres AFTER doing the 10 kilometre race – and average sub 5:30/kilometre. If Kerry didn’t do just that – averaging 5:26/km with at least 1/2 of it into a nasty wind. Boston? No problem!!

As you can gather, there is no room for mediocrity in the Team Over The Top world. I simply will NOT allow it. Perfect practice and preparing at an A level will always lead to fantastic results – in road racing and LIFE! Prepare well, my friends!!!

coach Jeff