Guest Post: Running Without Your Shoes

If you ask most runners, they take a lot of pride in the different types of shoes that they sport.  Some runners spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars for the niftiest pair of shoes on the market, especially those who are concerned with really making an impression on the running scene.

With that in mind, it would almost seem ludicrous if not completely crazy to run a marathon with nothing but the soles of your feet.  It is hard to imagine running a marathon in the first place, let alone running with no protection for your feet, yet some people swear by it.

There have been a few studies on this particular matter, and for some people the findings may be pretty surprising.  As a preface for this whole discussion, for a long time now, people have preferred running barefooted for races for a variety of reasons.

In the 1960s Ethiopia’s Abebe Bikila, one of the greatest Olympic marathoners of all time won the first of his consecutive gold medals barefoot.  Bruce Tulloh, who has ran European record times from 1955 to 1967, was known as well for running barefoot.

While it may be hard to imagine running barefoot for miles and miles, many studies have shown that all the bells and whistles that new age running shoes boast are of little actual help.  So that means all the foam padding, posts, bridges, and dual-density midsoles are really not all they are cracked up to be.
Fortunately, this barefoot running craze has yet to catch on for a couple obvious reasons.  Perhaps first and foremost is the issue of safety.  Runners always run the risk of stepping on twigs, glass, or even sharp rocks in the process of their training.

That being said, there are some advantages to running barefoot.  The most important being the decreased weight of running shoes.  Although many running shoes are lightweight, it can make a world of difference removing that extra weight, especially in long distance runs.

However, although this definitely would help aspiring runners to get an advantage in a competition, most people are not going to be interested in stepping up their game to that extent and are perfectly content running around the block for some cardio.  At least the majority of runners would.

When it comes down to it, there are a lot of reasons people like to run barefoot, and there are a lot reasons people do not.  So the best way to test whether or not barefoot running is for you is to simply go out and try it on for size.  Who knows, you may end up liking it.

About the author: Jessica Staheli is a health and fitness nut. She loves to write about being healthy and getting in shape because she believes that taking care of your body is important. Having fitness equipment in your home is a great way to remind yourself to exercise, and she recommends for help with choosing a treadmill. Follow her on Google+.

Types of Muscle Contractions

Have you ever heard people talking about doing an exercise eccentrically? Do you know what they mean when they say it. Gym jargon can be confusing and when folks talk about contraction types it can be hard to figure out exactly what they mean. Here I will explain the different types of contractions as well as provide examples of their use.

Note: I don't like the term muscle contractions because "contraction" means to shorten. Only one type of contraction described below actually involves the muscle shortening. I prefer to say muscle activations, but that's me being a geek. For colloquialism's sake I'll use contractions for this post.

It may be helpful to understand Huxley's sliding filament theory before going on. I wrote a love story metaphor explaining it, but you might also like the good old fashion textbook explanation.

Types of Muscle Contractions

There are essentially three types of muscle contractions.
Bicep curl
source: sportsandsocial

Concentric: This, to me, is the purest form of muscle contraction because it's the only one in which the length of the muscles shortens as the muscle producing force. This is your basic contraction, such as when your trying to show off for the ladies so you start flexing your biceps. That's probably the best example of a concentric contraction that I can think of. As you flex your bicep, the muscle shortens while producing force.

Bench Press
source: A. Blight
Eccentric: An eccentric contraction is when force is produced while the muscle is lengthening. This is what happens when you do negatives on a flat bench. As you lower the bar to your chest your pecs (and triceps and anterior deltoid) lengthen, but they still have to produce force or else you'll be crushed by the bar. Another example is walking down hill or down a set of stairs. Your quadriceps work eccentrically to keep you from crumpling to the ground.

source: bgreenlee
Isometric: An isometric contraction is when force is produced, but there is no change in muscle length. Think trying to pull ouf the sword of excalibur. Too geeky? How about trying to deadlift with a weight that you can't lift. Try as you might, that weight isn't coming off the floor, yet you're producing a hell of a lot of force trying to do so.

So there you have it, the short and skinny of muscle contractions.

Health in the News: July 20, 2012 - First Lady Loves Exercise

Michelle Obama recently pumped out 25 push ups on Ellen as if she were a navy seal. Everyone admires the woman's arms, but there's another reason to admire the first lady. She's been pushing for communities to help her/the nation combat childhood obesity in her "Let's Move" initiative. Now she's trying to give the project a little bit of a reboot. Read the article in the link below and let me know your thoughts.

Michele Obama's Let's Move Initiative

The Sliding Filament Love Story

This is my terrible attempt to analogize Huxley's sliding filament theory. I used to think of the sliding filament theory story of love, betrayal, and violence. It makes it seem super interesting right? I thought I'd write a little narrative of how the story would play out. I promise to actually explain the theory soon. I hope in the meantime this entertains you. For those of you who already understand the sliding filament theory,  I really hope you enjoy this and can draw the parallels quite easily.

Woman broken heart 2
It's a normal day in Sarcomere, the core of Muscle city. A couple, myosin and tropinin - known affectionately as tropomyosin by their friends. are walking to neuromuscular junction, the train station because there's supposed to be some big event. They're joined by the brothers, adenosine-triphosphate and inorganic phosphate, who like to be called ADP and Pi. When they get to the junction they find out that the thugs, acetylcholine (ACh) is coming to town on the fastest train around, the nerve impulse. Everyone is pretty, ACh also cause trouble wherever they go. The train pulls into the station, ACh gets off and immediately wreck the joint, they smash a transformer and turn out all the lights.

Word reaches sarcoplasmic reticulum, the favourite hangout of the notorious calcium, who likes to be known as Ca+. Ca+ is a bigwig in sarcomere and he doesn't like it when a stranger comes and starts to cause trouble. Wasting no time, Ca+ rushing in sarcomere. This is where the story gets really heated.

You see, Troponin has always had huge crush on Ca+, like head-over-heels in love with him, so when troponin sees Ca+, with his pearly white smile, she ditches myosin on the spot. Myosin, although heartbroken, isn't long seeking out a new partner. He's had his eye on Actin, a beautiful girl who lives on the over side of the river. ADP and Pi come up with a cunning plan - they tell myosin he should build a bridge across the river, there's no way that actin could resist such a committed act. Myosin gets straight to work and builds a bridge. Actin, touched by the gesture mets Myosin and the bridge - it was love at first site. They name they bridge the actin-myosin cross bridge.  Myosin sweeps the lovely actin of her feet with one powerfullstroke. ADP and Pi, not wanting to be third wheels go on their merry way.

It seems that their love will never end, however, what myosin didn't tell actin is that the real reason troponin left him for calcium is because myosin is a two-timing bastard. It seems that he had himself a little piece on the side, her name is adenosine-triphosphate (ATP). When she finds out that myosin and troponin split up she rushes over to claim her man all for herself. Stumbling in on myosin and actin in the throws of passion she becomes furious. Fuelled with rage, she charges with malice in heart and socks actin square in her face. Myosin is powerless to stop ATP because he's so exhausted - what with hectic day he had losing one lover, building a bridge and getting busy with actin. In such a low-energy state myosin forgets all about losing troponin and realizes that actin was just a hook-up on the rebound. All he really wants to do now is go home with his one true love ATP.

ATP brings her man home as Actin is left wondering what the hell just happened. Unfortunately for ATP, Myosin never learns from his mistakes. He can't get Troponin off his mind so he decides to giver her a call. Apparently  Ca+ was actually a pretty big douche. Myosin figures it can hurt to invite Troponin over just to "chill" with him and his old pals ADP and Pi. When she comes over it's as if they had never been apart.

Health in the News: July 10, 2012 - Obamacare

There's no shortage of news about President Obama's healthcare reform in the last week or so since congress has passed the bill. Truthfully, I don't completely understand what it all means just yet because I've really not taken the time to sit down a figure out all the implications. I'm also much more familiar with the Canadian system for healthcare. In any case, I think that the following story shows how Obamacare may benefit the average person. It's about Stephanie Miller and her sister who died of colon cancer. Please click the link to watch an interview with the Reverend Al Sharpton and Stephanie as well as a video of here with President Obama.

What Obamacare could mean

The 1 Gram Protein Myth

How often have you heard that you need 1g of protein/lb of body weight? It sounds logical right, I mean when you're working out you need to increase your protein intake and a gram is a nice round number... What if I were to tell you that it's a bunch of hokum? What if I were to tell you that you can get the same benefits with much less protein intake? And, What if I were to tell you that you're wasting your money on protein supplements? I'm suspecting that some of you will not like me very much.

Here's the actual truth.

Firstly, protein is essential for hypertrophy (muscle growth). 

In order for muscles to grow protein synthesis has to be greater than protein breakdown

Resistance training stimulates breakdown of muscle protein and increase of muscle protein synthesis

Breakdown of muscle protein happens quicker than synthesis following resistance training and proteins will need to replaced through diet

Protein synthesis will plateau even with increased intake at a certain point. This means that no matter how much protein you take in, there will be a point where synthesis will no longer need the added protein and what's left over more-or-less becomes urea.

So yes, you will need more protein when you are exercising, but how much exactly? Here's what the literature says:

Well, first the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of protein is 0.8g/kg (0.36g/lb) for the general population. It has been suggested in laboratory studies that athletes required up to double the RDA, roughly 1.6g/kg-1.8g/kg (0.72g/lb - 0.81g/lb). This is still far less the the amount commonly recommended by fitness professionals of 1g/lb, so let's dig a little deeper.

Lemon (1991) suggests that endurance athletes require up to 1.4g/kg (0.63g/lb) and strength training athletes require up to 1.8g/kg (0.81g/lb); what about the bodybuilders or people who have been lifting for years, surely they require even higher protein intake than that. Not according to Phillips et al. (1999). They found that for trained lifters - those who had be lifting for at least 5 years with at least 3 sessions per week -  had a reduced rate of protein breakdown following exercise than untrained lifters, suggesting that they would require less protein than their novice counterparts. More to that point, Lemon et al. (1992) found that experienced lifters required only 1.04g/kg (0.47g/lb) compared to 1.5g/kg (0.67g/lb) for novice lifters.

A more recent study by Hoffman et al. in 2006 confirm the findings of earlier studies. They found that collegiate athletes did not benefit from higher protein intakes of >2.0g/kg (0.90g/lb) compared  to recommended levels fot athletes of 1.8g/kg (0.81g/lb).

Now, there are other issues that effect hypertrophy with relation to protein intake such as the timing of when protein is consumed, the quality of the protein, overall calorie intake and where these calories come from (fats or carbs), and the type of sport involvement. However, I've yet to read a study that supports a total protein intake greater than 1.8g/kg (0.81g/lb). I'd be happy to read any study that supports a greater intake if any someone can find me one.

Now, I'm not saying that protein supplements are an entirely bad thing. There are days when reaching the RDA may be difficult or certain groups of people (such as those with celiacs) may find it difficult to reach the amount through diet alone. In these cases I can support the use of protein supplements. I just want you guys to understand that protein requirements are much lower than the industry may have you believe, and the widely perpetrated myth that 1g/lb is needed has no scientific basis. I will concede that it is a nice round number, so it makes the math easy. It is, however, more than double what most people actually require.



Bohé, J. et al. (2003). Human muscle protein synthesis is modulated by extracellular, not intramuscular amino acid availability: a dose-response study, J Physiol, 552 (1), 315-324

Hoffman, J. et al. (2006). Effect of Protein Intake on Strength, Body Composition and Endocrine Changes in Strength/Power Athletes, Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 3 (2), 12-18

Lemon, P. (1991). Effect of exercise on protein requirements, Journal of Sports Sciences, 9, 53-70.

Lemon, P. et al. (1992). Protein requirements and muscle mass/strength changes during intensive training in novice bodybuilders. J Appl Physiol, 73, 767– 775.

Phillips, S. et al. (1999). Resistance training reduces the acute exercise-induced increase in muscle protein turnover, Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab, 276, E118-E124.

Tipton, K. and Wolfe, R. (2007). Protein and amino acids for athletes, Journal of Sports Sciences, 22 (1), 65-79.

ACL Injury Part 3: Treatment

Now that you know the mechanism of injury and function of the ACL and the risk factors along with ways to prevent and ACL injury, it's time to learn about how to treat an injury once sustained.

Treatment for an ACL injury will depend on the grade of the injury itself. Ligament injuries range from Grade 1-3.

Grade 1:minimal damage to ligament, no instability
Grade 2:partial tear, mild/moderate instability
Grade 3:complete rupture, very unstable

For a grade 1 sprain the mainstay of treatment will be to reduce inflammation and the PRICE method will be used along with the use of crutches in the acute/sub-acute face (3 days - 3 weeks) to reduce weight bearing through the knee. However, for more substantial injuries other options need to be explored.

Grade 2 and Grade 3 Injuries

Early Stages:

In the early stages of and ACL partial or complete tear the management is exactly the same as any ligament injury and focusing on getting the swelling down. Li At this point medical attention will be need and a discussion will be had about whether or not to have surgery.

Surgical Intervention:

More often than not - especially in athletes - ACL injuries will be surgical repaired. There are conflicting ideas of whether surgery is required. Studies have shown that there is no difference in the function of the knee 2-10 years after injury for those who had surgery vs those who had not. Other studies report that Early surgical intervention reduces the risk of meniscus damage.

If surgery is required then the ligament will either be repaired by stitching the ruptured ends together or completely reconstructed. Reconstructed ACLs can come from the individual (autograft) or a cadaver (allograft). Autograft reconstructions will typically use either the patellar tendon or hamstring tendon to make the ligament.

Pre-surgery Rehabilitation

If surgery is the treatment of choice the surgeon will likely give you a home exercise routine or refer you to physiotherapy to prepare for surgery. To prepare fo surgery strength and range of motion of the knee need to be maintained. A typical program will include something like: 

isometric quadriceps
heel slides
1/4 squats
stationary bike 
Straight Leg Raises

Post-surgery Rehabilitation

The best post-surgery rehabilitation can be debated. While certain things such as the use of ice, anti-inflammatories and pain killers are commonplace, the type of rehab is largely dependent on the surgeon's protocols. Some surgeons may only want you to do open chain exercises - such as sitting knee extension. Others may want just closed chain - such as 1/4 squats. I would imagine that most surgeons will use a mixture, or introduce open chain or closed chains at different times. Whatever their reasoning, it's important that the surgeons post-surgery protocol be followed by the injured person and the physical therapists. A typical post-surgical protocol may look similar to the one found here"

Non-Surgical Intervention

Not everyone will go down the surgical route for an ACL injury, and studies have shown that non-surgical intervention can be just as effective in the long-term as surgery, albeit there is controversy surrounding the matter. Indeed many people choose to forgo surgery and are living normal lives - such as my brother. Studies have shown that factors such as obesity, age, history of meniscal injury, and sex may play a part in the effectiveness of non-surgical intervention with regards to secondary osteoarthritis and knee instability.

Conservative management will be essential the same as a pre and post surgery protocol, but sans surgery. Again, hamstring strength will be a major focus because of it's function in preventing excess knee extension.