Why I started doing triathlons and how this fuels my drive to help you…

This one’s a little embarrassing and personal, but if you bear with me you’ll see I have a point to make.

In late 2006 I started having anxiety attacks. Let’s just say burning the candle at both ends caught up with me (being a new parent, running a business, lifting very heavy weights way too often, and over-using stimulants to get it all done). I also – at the same time – managed to get acute gastritis, lose my appetite and drop 15 pounds in 3 weeks.

Since I had a cancer history, the rapid weight loss set off all sorts of medical fire alarms, and another round of MRI’s and CT scans started. After a brief bout of medical treatment, I started looking for natural ways to fix myself up.

My favorite little section of Outside Magazine has always been the book reviews. In the middle of all of this was a review of a book called Spark, by Jon Ratey, MD. In this book, Ratey (a psychiatrist) reviews all of the evidence that indicates endurance training is better for treating mild cases of anxiety and depression (and other related problems, including ADD and learning problems) than pills are.

That sounded like a good treatment program to me. As I mentioned before, I had long been a gym rat. Heavy weights were all I thought I needed, so this endurance thing was new to me. I decided to do the triathlon that I had sponsored for years, Xterra Buffalo Creek.

I still recall making this decision on my 39th birthday, after battling the anxiety for 3 or 4 months. I had no idea how to train for a tri. I had a 1994 Trek 930 P.O.S. mountain bike in my crawl space. It didn’t shift. I owned no running shoes. I had never swam 100 meters in my life.

I bought a training plan from triathlongeek.com ($17.95) and started.

Workout #1 called for swimming 250 meters, 10 lengths of the pool. My heart rate shot so high after about 75 meters, I thought I actually might have a heart explosion. This was not good for the anxiety.

My running wasn’t any better. I had to run-walk my way through a 2 mile run. I turned in a 15:00 pace (per mile, not good).  I was tooling around on the beat up mountain bike, not able to shit gears. I had no clue.

But a funny thing happened: I started feeling the anxiety going away. Training for a tri actually was curing my anxiety. Training for a race healed me. (Yes I finished, near last. But not dead last.)

And so now, 3 tri seasons later, this is what drives me to keep going. And this is what drives me to help you. Runners run for a reason. Cyclists ride for a reason. Triathletes train for a reason. Cross-Fitters do ball slams for a reason. And so on.

These things we do keep us sane. They are the things that make us happy. They define us. For some of us it’s just about training and finishing. For others, it’s about winning. But to all of us, these sports are sacred.

So when a triathlete who’s training for her first sprint distance race comes to see me because her knee hurts and she can’t train, I know there’s more than just a race at stake. When a marathoner comes to see me because his foot hurts, I understand why he’s going to keep training anyway. When a mom comes to see me because she hurt her shoulder in Pump class, I understand why it’s crucial that I fix her so she can get back to class.

I understand why you do these things that you do. And that’s why at my clinic we try so hard to fix you up when you’re hurt. We don’t want you to miss out on your training. We don’t want you to stop. When we’re treating you, we almost never tell you to stop. Maybe back off a little, but don’t stop.

And so this is why I do what I do, and this is why that I’m honored that you call me when you’re hurt. As I’ve done for the last 13 years, I will do my best to keep you in the game. I’m presently training for my 4th season of Xterra triathlons. I am not fast and I don’t care.

I’ve got my own reasons behind my tri habit, just like you have your reasons for doing what you do. Some people don’t’ get. They think we’re crazy for doing all this sports stuff. And as you know, we don’t care what they think. Don’t stop.

So here’s wishing all of you a great summer of training, racing & living. Enjoy!

Barefoot Running: The Dirty Secret

Last year, I treated a pro runner who would train barefoot in a park. She would come in with the most horrendously dirty feet you’ve ever seen. The dirt and grass stains were literally ground into her skin. She told me that no matter how much she scrubbed them she couldn’t get them clean. Awful. But that’s not the dirty little secret we’re here to discuss today (though it is true).

The dirty secret behind barefoot running is that a lot of people get hurt. The theory, made stylish by popular books like Born To Run, can be summarized like this: Our feet evolved to function without shoes. We have lots and lots of little muscles that should provide natural support for our feet. By wearing highly supportive and cushioned shoes, we are cheating our feet of the the work required to make them strong.

“Throw away your shoes and thrive!” seems to be the underlying message. It makes sense, and I’m a proponent. But must of us aren’t ready for it.

Running barefoot, or running in minimalist shoes as most of us prefer (Nike Free, Vibram 5-fingers, Terra Plano Evos, etc) requires a little remedial work. For some people, those small muscles in their feet aren’t ready for it. Ditto the calf muscles and Achilles Tendons. As a result, I’m seeing quite a bit of plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, and shin splints in barefoot runners.

If you’re thinking about taking the Barefoot plunge, or maybe have already been dipping your minimally clad toes into the proverbial pool, your best bet is to ease into it. If you’re used to putting in 10 miles or more on a Sunday, don’t put on your brand new Nike Frees and run 10. Walk for a mile and then run slow mile. Repeat that for a week or two before slowly upping the miles.

But before you even get that far, do a few barefoot drills in the safety and comfort of your house. Of course, if you have underlying conditions that would be aggravated by these, don’t do them (herniated discs, pre-existing foot or ankle problems, etc).

1. Hops. Simply stand with your feet together and do some 2-legged hops. Just jump a few inches off of the ground. Land on the balls of your feet, and as soon as your heels touch, hop back up. This will start to get your Achilles Tendons ready for the recoil required when running barefoot.

2. Side to side hops. Hop from your left foot to your right foot, moving side-to-side. Again, land on the ball of each foot, and as soon as your heel touches, hop onto the other foot. This will strengthen your calves and ankles.

3. Foot switchers. Stand with one foot in front of the other. Hop up and switch positions. This gets the smaller muscles of your feet ready to push off.

left foot forward

right foot forward

If you want, you can progress to barefoot indoor skipping. When doing these exercises, start with a set or two that lasts for 10 seconds. Slowly work up to a minute, but be mindful of any soreness. Give your feet, ankles and calves a chance to get stronger before heading out to get the dirt and grass stains embedded in your own feet.

By the way, we treat plantar fasciitis, ankle sprains, Achilles tendonitis, shin splints, and calf injuries at Denver Chiropractic Center. Our approach combines and Active Release Technique with rehabilitative exercises. We can help you get rid of the pain.

How we can help your hamstring pain at Denver Chiropractic Center

With summer sports season in full swing, the inevitable rash of hamstring injuries has begun. And while I believe that the Active Release Techniques (ART) work we do here at Denver Chiropractic Center is the best possible treatment for hamstring injuries, today I thought I’d show you a few things you can do at home.

The hamstrings are a group of three muscles that make up the mass at the back of the thigh. They function to two important ways: flexing the knee and extending the hip. They are very active in running, especially up hills (almost impossible to avoid here in Colorado.) And that’s exactly how I hurt mine this season.

So, you’ve hurt yourself…

The first thing you should do if you hurt yourself severely enough to be concerned is to reach for the ice (NOT heat). Ice will control excess inflammation and generally shorten the healing process. Heat has the opposite effect. So for the first 3 days, use ice – 20 minutes on, at least an hour off, then repeat as much as you can stand it.

Some research also indicates that an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen can also help reduce overall healing time. However, use these products only for a day or two as they will interfere with the repair process in the long run. (check with your medical doc first, please as over the counter drugs can interact with other drugs /supplements you may be taking.)

This is the last time I’ll say this, but the earlier you call us at 303.300.0424, the faster we can help you get fixed up. Janna and Keri are standing by to take your call. Did you know we have hours until 7PM on Tuesday and Thursday?

Assuming  a few days have gone by, you can start with some easy rehab.

Start with the Trigger Point Ball. Many of you have official Trigger Point Balls, which work great for what we’re about to cover. A humble, ordinary tennis ball will also serve fairly well.

Sit on a counter or high solid chair, and put the ball under your hamstring. You should feel the ball, and lean into it a bit. Then slowly start flexing and extending you knee. Do about 3 sets of 15 slow reps. The Trigger Point Ball (available in our clinic) helps complement the Active Release work by preventing adhesions from forming while your hammie is healing.

ball 1
Keri with the TP ball
ball 2
Keri with the TP ball under her hamstring
ball 3
Keri extending her knee, with the ball under the hammie

Another great option is the foam roller. The key to working up high with this is to bend the opposite leg (like the pic, if you can). Roll back and forth slowly for about a minute.

roll 1

After a week or two of Active Release and rehab using the Trigger Point Ball and the TP roller, it’s time to move on to some more integrative rehab work. We like the single leg deadlift. You can see a video of that here:

How to get stronger outside: The Swing Set Workout

Keeping an eye on 3 kids shouldn’t mean that Meredith and I need to skip workouts. Of course the kettlebells travel nicely from the basement to the backyard, but few of you actually have kettlebells. So here is a G-R-E-A-T bodyweight swingset workout that you can do anywhere.

Get out of the sweaty musty gym, head to the nearest park (or if you have a big ol’ swing set in your backyard, head there) and get ready to have some strength-building, muscle-working fun in the sun.

We’re going to cycle between 3-5 rounds of the following exercises:

·      Decline Pushups

·      Pull-ups / Australian Pull-ups

·      Hanging leg raises

Decline Pushups. Decline pushups are a little tougher than flat pushups, so if you have trouble with regular pushups, just stick with those. But the decline pushup is great for working the chest, shoulders and core.

Place your hands about shoulder width apart (who remembers the Zone of the Dog shoulder articles?) and your feet on a swing. Make sure you don’t let your body sag – use your core to keep it tight.

Decline pushup 1

Decline pushup 2

Anyway, strive for sets of 20 pushups, moving down slowly and back up a little bit faster. Once you get to 3 sets of 20, instead of adding more reps, try doing your reps at a slower and slower pace.


Next, we move on to pull-ups. We’re going to shoot for 10. If you can’t do sets of 10 pull-ups, do smaller sets to get to 10. For example, 5 sets of 2. Or 2 sets of 3 reps followed by a set of 2 reps and then 2 sets of 1 rep. As long as you get to 10. I prefer the monkey bars with my palms facing each other, but any hand position you prefer is fine.

pull-up small 1

pull-up pic 2

Pull-ups can be hard on the elbows, so generally, the wider you can position your hands, the less the elbow strain. If you can’t do pull-ups, bring a buddy who can help you!

Hanging leg raises

After the pull-ups, shake out your arms and get ready to hang. I still think that hanging leg raises are among the best ab exercises out there.

While hanging, brace your abdominals as of you’re about to take a punch. Then curl your knees up to waist level. Hold for a second or two, and SLOWLY lower back down. Shoot for 10 reps with good form. If you can do only 3 or 4, that’s ok. Don’t combine smaller sets to get to 10. Over time, you’ll get stronger and the rep count will get higher.


So there you have it. A great upper body / core workout with just 3 exercises and a swing set. If you want to up the ante and have a couple of kettlebells lying around, the kettlebell complexes that I show on the last post are great!