Insanity

You Want To Be Fast, Huh?

Intern Post By Goose & Josh:

                      Get infinity times faster by going beyond your understanding of speed.

Humans have an addiction to speed. No matter what we do we are never fast enough. Whether it is from running to jets flying over the open sky we build/engineer these bodies to go faster. The question is how do we engineer speed and how do we do it properly? We can break it down into 5 parts strength, cardiovascular endurance, muscular endurance, form, and genetics. Having a firm understanding of these 5 elements will allow you to harness a power that the human race strives to attain.

Strength

Being strong does not mean being able to lift heavy things and put things back down. It is the matter of building a foundation for speed. Without strength speed cannot be accomplished. Strength determines the rate of force development (RFD) meaning how fast your muscles contracts to produce a maximal amount of force. With minimal strength there is low RFD meaning that the muscles in your body will not be able to get you to the finish before the guy that can produce the same amount of force is a shorter period of time. Strength training, done correctly, can and will excel your RFD to the next level.

Strength training is also vital to injury prevention. It is much more beneficial and time efficient for the athlete to prevent and injury versus recovering from one. Resistance training strengthens one’s connective tissue and increases the size and strength of ligament. Strong ligaments especially in areas such as the Achilles are necessary for an athlete to keep running at top speed. The physical stress from resistance/strength also increases bone density, which will help prevent overuse injuries such as stress fractures.

                    Did you know that the Hulk can run at least 215 mph? That is pure strength.

Well some of you also may be thinking, “I lifted once and I got hurt…” Well yes improper lifting can hurt anyone just like improperly can cause stress fractures. Make sure you know exactly what you are doing and if you do not ask people who do. I’ll admit it is difficult to find people who know how to teach lifts properly and this requires research. Well you might be thinking this is a lot of work just to pick things up and put them back down. Let me tell you this, if you truly want to get faster then you will do whatever you can to get it done.

P.S. As strength coaches it is our responsibility to understand that we are responsible not just for making them lift more weights but for the athletes overall health and well being.

P.P.S. If you still are not convinced about building strength and its obvious benefits then check out this great article: http://saptstrength.com/2013/06/17/lifting-running-monster-benefits-an-intern-post/ It should help clear up some doubts.

Cardiovascular Endurance

What’s the point of running fast if your heart cannot keep up? Cardiovascular endurance determines how long your heart rate can pump at a high rate. The heart is the most important muscle in your body and without it there is no life, thus no speed. To have a healthy heart can mean to add more years to your life, which means more time to go fast!

Yes sure a healthy heart is great and goes without saying, but honestly how does this effect my force production to create more SPEED!? Well let’s put it this way, your heart pumps blood through out your body right? Well that includes your muscles too. What muscles need in order to function is oxygen. Well guess what is in the blood going to your muscles, OXYGEN!

So that being said if your heart poops out and pumps less blood after 10 seconds, your muscles start getting less and less oxygen. If your muscles are not getting enough of oxygen then the they will have a much harder time contracting thus = less force production. So the longer the heart can pump blood without straining the longer your body can propel itself at full speeds.

Having strong cardiovascular endurance is also vital for recovery between your bursts of intense speed. The aerobic energy system is responsible for full recovery between bouts of sprints, so that you can sprint fast on each successive sprint rather than seeing drops in performance. It clears out metabolic byproducts of anaerobic work such as CO2. Clearing out the waste allows for ATP to be produced and ATP is what we use for energy to create explosive speed.

             Long story short DON’T skip cardio day! Never know when a zombie will show up

Muscular Endurance

    The body derives its energy from three different energy systems, the Phosphagen, Anaerobic, and Aerobic Systems. Generally speaking the Phosphagen System provides energy for all out efforts lasting 6 to 15 seconds, depending on the nature of the activity. Meanwhile the Anaerobic System provides the energy for submaximal bursts of speed lasting 30 seconds to2 minutes. Finally the Aerobic System provide a low but constant flow of energy for long lasting activities such as distance running. Whenever you exercise all three of the energy systems are turned on however the amount of energy you get from each one varies depending on duration, intensity, and the nature of the activity.

When sprinting you primarily rely on the Phosphagen System and the Anaerobic System for energy. The Aerobic system is being utilized during the activity but its main role is providing energy for recovery. This is why it is important to have a strong cardiovascular system, it’ll help you recover faster so you can sprint for longer. Muscular endurance training teaches your body how to push the limits of these energy systems and how to recover faster. This can be done through interval workouts, fartleks, hills, and bleacher/stair workouts. By continuously putting a high energy demand on your body and teaching it to keep working under stressful conditions you are actually pushing your Lactate Threshold back further and further.

Your body naturally produces lactate throughout the workout but when you do high intensity muscular endurance workouts you get to a point when the lactate overwhelms the system which gets rid of it. Once lactate production exceeds the removal capacity of the body it starts to accumulate in the blood stream. This is bad news because it interferes with the production of energy by the 3 systems I mentioned before. This begins the downward spiral to you ending up on the ground with vomit all over yourself. During workouts you push your body to its Lactate threshold but not passed it, this paired with your body’s awesome ability to adapt to new stresses over time will keep pushing the threshold further back. This is how people “get in shape”, they constantly put stress on the body which causes it to adapt until the previous level of stress is no longer as challenging.

Mental Toughness! My personal definition of mental toughness is being able to push yourself to do what you have to do even when it hurts. My favorite example of this is the 400m dash. The 400 meters is a great but terrible race for no matter who you are/how fast you are the last 100 meter are ALWAYS going to hurt. The high school scrub who runs 53 seconds and the all-star who runs 46 seconds are both hating life during that last straightaway. The difference being that the all-star has taught himself to ignore the pain and maintain form, meanwhile the scrub is thinking too much about the burning in his quads while his arms flail everywhere and everyone flies by. It’s the mental fortitude to ignore how tired you are and being able to remain focused on the task at hand that separates champions from benchwarmers. Only by constantly putting your body in this tired state, through running workouts, and testing your mental fortitude will you get tougher.

                                           Only the toughest person wins the race!

Form

    The reason why coaches are such sticklers about form is because bad form sacrifices efficiency. There’s a reason why all the fast people on TV look the same when they run! Good form allows you to use you’re body’s levers to your advantage and to properly direct the force you’re putting on the ground. In layman’s terms, it lets you do work while expending less energy. This makes the difference in the end of the race/game when everyone is tired. Whoever has the most energy left will win 9 times out of 10. The simplest running form drill that will work wonders when performed correctly are:

-A Skips

-B Skips

-High Knees

-Butt Kicks

-Straight Leg Bounds

-Alternating Quick Leg

-Falling Starts

These drills not only work on running form but also coordination. They can do wonders for kids and adults who lack the coordination to run properly.

 

**Front pack = world class times, stragglers = average times, form made the difference!**

Genetics

    As much as I would love to say we are all equal and have the exact same potential, that would be a lie. I’m a firm believer in genetic superiority. We all knew that guy in high school or college that had the drive to work hard but barely improved every season. On the flip side, we all had that friend who never tried hard at all and was still the best on the team. You can only fight your genetics so much! HOWEVER, that doesn’t mean you can’t achieve greatness! Sure you may not be a national champion but being All-State or Conference Champ is still pretty awesome. There is still plenty of glory to be had, you just have to go out there and get it! Even if you don’t win but set a personal best, that still means you are now better than you’ve ever been, there should be some small amount of satisfaction there! So what if you’re genes aren’t the best it doesn’t mean you can’t get faster! Odds are you’re not even close to hitting your genetic ceiling, aka you’re body’s full potential. Do work and worry about the factor you can control.

                        **We can’t all be the greatest athlete in the world, but we can try ;)**

My L5-S1 Disc Explosion Pt II

Continued from Part I So after bucket-loads of pills, rest, e-stim, physical therapy, decompression treatment, chiropractic adjustments, and acupuncture I was still a mess. My pain had only gotten worse over the course of 6-7 months. What was the next step?

Steroids

I was referred to another doctor, this time a pain management specialist. I gave him the story that I’ve been repeating over and over to the other health care professionals. He took notes, reviewed my MRI and my treatment history, and decided the next step was to try an oral steroid treatment. Before you shake your head in disappointment and disdain, understand that we aren’t talking about anabolic steroids (I doubt those would have helped me much). The treatment consisted of 10 days of a corticosteroid drug, specifically Prednisone, in a hardcore attempt to kill the inflammation in my spine. The doc was straight up with me and told me that there’s a chance it will help but it’s a far cry from a guarantee. He wrote me the prescription and warned me of the side effects:

-High blood glucose

-Fluid retention

-Insomnia

-Anxiety

-Weight gain

-Severe facial swelling

-Fatigue and weakness

-Mental confusion

-Steroid dementia syndrome

-Infection

-Joint pain

-Blurred vision

-Acne

-Depression, mania, or psychosis (wait… what?!?!)

I followed the directions closely and took the pills everyday for ten days. The dosage started high and tapered down throughout the duration. I can’t say I felt much of a difference throughout that time. The pills didn’t make me feel better at all, but I didn’t get any noticeable side effects either.

So soon after that I’m back in the doctor’s office to see what the next step is. We agree that something more invasive needs to be done, but not surgery… yet. He suggests an epidural steroid injection. An epidural injection does not “fix” the issue of the blown up intervertebral disc, but can provide lasting relief for anywhere from a few weeks to a year or more. In combination with a solid rehabilitation program, many patients have had great success with these injections.

A few weeks after the oral steroid treatment, I’m in the doctor’s office ready for my first injection. It was definitely a scary thought, the idea of an enormous needle driven right into your lower back, but I was a desperate man ready to take desperate measures.

They provided some local anesthetic to my lumbar region, and proceeded to stab me in the spine with a Super Soaker of a syringe. They warned me that it would hurt, and it did. I felt an extreme sense of pressure in my lower back, as if an elephant stepped on it, followed by intense pressure down my left leg. When I got off the table to stand up I almost collapsed, because my left leg was still numb. They told me this was normal and that I should regain the feeling in my leg in a couple hours.

The pain in my back and down the leg at this time wasn’t completely gone, but it was significantly dulled. I remember feeling a sense of hope, that I was FINALLY on the path to recovery. The dulled pain continued for a few days, but then slowly started creeping back. I called the doctor with concern, but he let me know that sometimes it actually takes a couple weeks for the drugs to kick in 100%, so I should give it time.

Over the next two weeks I remember trying to ignore the fact that the pain was coming back, but after a few days of waking up to the full blast pain that I felt before, I went back to the doctor. He recommended a second injection. The second injection was just as pleasant as the first one, and left me numb for a day. This time the doctor also wrote me a prescription for Cymbalta.

“An anti-depressant?!” I asked. I mean this injury is depressing for sure but c’mon doc.

He explained to me that the drug is a seratonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) and that yes, it is used to treat clinical depression but also to treat peripheral nerve pain. Reluctantly I took the prescription and took about a weeks worth. I quit after that first week because I felt like it wasn’t helping and I was becoming paranoid about the dictionary-sized list of associated mental side effects.

The dulled pain lasted about three days this time and immediately returned. After another couple weeks I came back for injection round three. The limit for these injections is three per year, and I reached this limit within a couple months. These injections definitely aren’t child’s play and you can’t haphazardly just shoot them up into your spine whenever you want to. With each injection you run the risk of infection, dural puncture, nerve damage, and even joint degeneration in the long run!

This time the doctor wrote me a prescription for Gabapentin as well. Gabapentin, also known as neurontin, is a drug used to treat epilepsy but has been successful in treating neuropathy as well. Apparently it’s also a popular recreational drug because of its potential psychoactive effects. What is this doctor feeding me?!

Anyways, after three injections and a bunch of sketchy drugs, I was back to square one. No relief. When I came back to the doctor I already knew what they were going to tell me: “We’ve exhausted all of our options and it may be time to consider surgery.”

The Surgeon

My girlfriend, who works at INOVA, did some digging on several reputable orthopaedic surgeons in the area. After consultations with three different surgeons, I decided to go with Dr. Thomas Schuler of Virginia Spine Institute.

As one of the top 100 spinal surgeons and specialists in the country, recognized among the top 1% of physicians in his specialty, and top 10 spinal surgeons for the NFL, his reputation preceded him. Being the spine specialists for the Washington Redskins had nothing to do with my decision… I think…

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During the consultation at his office, he and his assistants spent almost two hours of dedicated time with me, running me through a myriad of tests, looking through my records, performing another x-ray on my spine, and analyzing my MRIs.

When it was all said and done, he was confident that a microdiscectomy would be the way to go.

A micro-what now?

The plan was to perform a “micro-surgery” that was relatively minimally invasive: The doc would slice into my lower back, push the erectors out of the way, cut some bone away from the lamina of the vertebrae, find that insidious piece of disc that was pushing on my sciatic nerve and ruining my life, decapitate the herniation, and stitch me back together.

Terrifying… I thought. “Let’s do it,” I said. My consultation was on a Thursday, and the operation was scheduling for the following Monday.

The Surgery

Like almost everything in life, the operation came with a bunch of paperwork. I filled out all my papers, signed a will (yeah, really), and they sent me home with my pre-op packet filled with instructions.

There wasn’t much to do from my end pre-op. I couldn’t eat or drink anything the night before and had to shower with a special soap.

The next day I showed up at the hospital, checked in, and waited in the waiting room with a number of other poor souls like myself that were about to get cut open. When I was called up they prepped me up in a gown and surgical socks and rolled me away on a bed to the anesthesiologists.

The anesthesiologist prepared the IV and stuck it into my arm. She explained that she would soon inject the drug and I would fall into a deep sleep. I remember her asking me where I went to school, to which I replied “George Masgfughabluhhhhhhh…” BAM! I was out like a light!

After what seemed like a minute or two, I slowly woke up, very hazy. One eye half-open, I looked up at a nurse and asked “when are they taking me to surgery?” She chuckled and replied “Oh honey, you’ve been out of surgery for hours.  It went perfectly!” I didn’t want to argue so I went back to sleep.

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The second time I woke up I was in the recovery room with my girlfriend and family. After the blur started to wear off I realized that the intense pain in my back and left leg were gone. I was so happy I could’ve cried. Pain had become such a huge part of my life that I forgot what it was like to not be in agony. I was definitely sore from the flesh wound I now had in my back but it was merely a slight discomfort compared to how I’d been living that past year.

I spent the night there, still in a daze from the morphine and eating French toast while watching The Simpsons. It was definitely one of the most joyous days of my life.

Stay tuned for Part III!

Colorado Dreamin’

Last week I had an awesome opportunity to spend a few days snowboarding, relaxing, and getting beat up by trees in Winter Park, Colorado.  Having spent most of my time here on the East Coast it was amazing to witness the breathtaking scenery and culture out in Winter Park.  If you like snow and want to get away, I definitely recommend visiting! The Mountains are Huge… Like Really Huge

Growing up I’ve frequently visited the local mountains within a few hours of Northern Virginia, and they now seem like mole hills in comparison to the mountains out west.  In the handful of days that I was there I did my best to explore as much of the mountain as I could, but despite my efforts the last day of my trip came and I realized I only hit a tiny fraction of the skiable terrain (which turned out to be over 3,000 acres).

Altitude is No Joke

I’m by no means an elite level athlete, but I feel like I’m in decent shape.  So when I began walking up a flight of stairs and started breathing heavy I couldn’t help but think… “HUH!?”

The base of Winter Park is about 9,000ft above sea level, with the highest peak being 12,060ft.  Compare this to Northern VA’s ~500ish ft above sea level.

I could almost FEEL the decreased oxygen levels in the air, which is a big reason for some endurance athletes using altitude training to improve performance when competing at lower elevations.  The idea is that the body will start to acclimatize to the thin air and adaptations will occur, such as naturally increased erythropoietin (leading to increased red blood cells), increased number of blood vessels, and increased buffering capacity.  In other words, improving the body’s oxygen delivery system.  It is still a controversial training method and I cannot say from dedicated experience that it “works” (I was there for five days and I doubt my mile time improved).

If you’re planning a trip to a location of high altitude I’ll pass along the advice that the locals told me: “Drink a ton of water and don’t overexert yourself.”

Elbow Dislocations are a Rare but Awful Injury

Like other sports and activities, injuries are just an unfortunate slice of the snowboarding pie.  A friend of mine took a hard fall while bombing down a hill at probably 45 mph, and didn’t get up as quickly as I’d hoped.  During the tumble his shoulder ended up locked into internal rotation with his forearm trapped between his back and the ground, all while skidding across the snow.

This resulted in the bones in his elbow (humerus, radius, and ulna) separating from eachother.  Despite the severe pain and gross looking elbow he handled it like a champ and we were able to get him to ski patrol.

According to a veteran in the ski patrol department, an elbow dislocation is one of the highest ranked injuries purely from a pain scale perspective.  Apparently it is a very rare injury as well, at least on the slopes.  With close to 40 years of ski patrolling under his belt, he has only seen two elbow dislocations during his career.

Pizza and Honey is a Match Made in Heaven

After a hard day of riding we went to get some food and ended up at the resort’s pizza parlor.  When I walked inside I noticed something strange: there was a bottle of honey at the tables.

Confused and afraid, I demanded answers.  The response was simply “Um… to put on your pizza? Duh.”  I drizzled some honey on my pizza and was very pleasantly surprised at how delicious it was.  It was even better with honey+sriracha.

My friend’s injury was a bummer, but otherwise I had a great time in Winter Park.  The community is extremely friendly (no one locks their doors!), the food is great, the mountain is amazing, and the scenery is really out of this world.  I definitely cannot wait to visit again!