Movement Monday: Chest-to-Bar Pullup

The pull-up is a simple enough movement.  All you need is a bar or a tree branch or a ledge. Just something to hang from.  Then, you pull yourself up.  As simple as it seems, anyone who has spent a decent amount of time doing pull-ups knows that there are countless nuances and variations (just like running) that make this movement much more complicated.  

The difference between a strict pull-up (no lower body movement at all) and a kipping pull-up (the crossfit version) is huge.  It's hard to call them both a pull-up.  But just like with running or climbing or anything else, the way you do something is always more important than the fact that you did it.  

If you've read one of these columns before, you know that I'm constantly talking about endurance athletes cross training in maximal zones.  You spend nearly all of your regular training at sub-maximal levels, so when you cross train, I think a good portion of it should be spent maximally exerting yourself.  The pull-up is no different.  Strict, full range of motion pull-ups are always a great exercise and a good way to activate your posterior chain, but adding a power component by attempting to explode your chest toward the bar makes this exercise more intense and more beneficial-- especially for a trail runner.  

The majority of our lives are spent (as you probably are right now) sitting with our shoulders rolled forward and our hands and arms in front of us, typing or holding a screen up to our faces, grabbing a steering wheel, shoveling food in our mouths, etc.  So, whenever you get the chance, it's beneficial to undo some of that crap life is doing to you and it will leave you with much better posture, more balanced joints and less susceptible to injury.  

Remember: as humans, we press and we pull.  We do them from different angles but as far a compound upper body movements, that's all we do.  Most people are in the anterior of their body all day, in the ways I just described (our lives are set-up for it) and then they get in the gym and spend the whole time pressing (an anterior movement) when they should be pulling and working the posterior muscles.

A couple of things to note in the video:  If I was strong/powerful enough to start at a dead hang (arms straight) and explode all the way to the bar with my chest, I would be doing that.  As it is, I need a little kip in there to help bring my elbows closer to 90 degrees before I can get my chest to the bar.  Despite having to kip (essentially bending my knees and providing a little bit of forward momentum) I still always return to the dead hang position and don't short the range of motion.  Full range always!! 

Adding a power aspect to your cross training will make it more fun, more engaging and give you something to work towards.  You could sit on a lat-pulldown machine or you could try to bang your chest against the bar and add explosive upper body strength while developing a skill and staying mentally engaged.  You'll notice how much of a core exercise this is as well as a good way to add some full-body coordination.  And, if you feel like it's getting too easy, then you move on to the muscle-up.  Always some place to go moving forward... 


Contemplating fear and other stuff...

Contemplating fear and other stuff...

I couldn’t sleep. My mind was racing, blood pumping and legs twitching. I was nervous… not just nervous, I felt scared. The only way to feel calm was to run, so that is exactly what I did. Busted out the headlamp and hit the trail while everyone else was sleeping. I slowly felt calmer as the miles ticked by and it became apparent to me in that moment that I wouldn’t feel these types of emotions if I didn’t love running in the mountains as much as I do.

I felt calm for a few hours but that feeling disappeared the next morning while driving to the lottery. I was teetering on the edge of excitement and dread. It is the same feeling as when you are perched atop a really, really gnarly ski line. A no fall zone line- a “don’t fall or you’ll probably die” type of line. You are stoked but you are also scared. I never get that feeling in my car, it is usually reserved for extreme situations.

When the RD pulled my name out of the lottery I stood up and screamed for joy. I was so happy to be in. I was so glad they obsessing over my name being called was over. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to do something so challenging and adventurous. As my ass found the seat again I felt the fear and I felt dread. I was teetering atop the mountain again and I think I have been teetering ever since. The only thing that seems to make the fear/anxiety stop is running. That feeling gets me out of bed in the morning, pushes me to continue even though I want to turn around. While I run I know that I am preparing myself for this task, something that I have never done before. The more I embrace my fear the more prepared I will be.

It is just like skiing that gnarly line, once you have dropped your fear is translated to focus. You rely on the fear to give you the edge that it takes to complete such a rowdy line. I am committed to the race now and am using my fear. Embrace the fear; use it to accomplish your mission.

 If I never felt fear I would probably be dead on some mountain and I sure as hell wouldn’t be ready for The Wasatch 100 come September.


Movement Monday: The Plyometric Single Leg Deadlift

I've been putting a lot of barbell movements on here so I thought it was about time to put a simple, you-can-do-it-anywhere-anytime type movement up on Movement Monday.  Pick up any running magazine or google "cross-training for runners" and you're bound to come across someone talking about how "running is just continuously jumping from one foot to another" soooo,  in order to be a better runner, you have to do exercises on one foot.  

And this is true.  It might be poorly worded*, but it's essential to to develop hip and ankle stability across all three planes of motion and the best way to do this is through exercises that force you to balance on one leg. If your hip and ankle (both mobile joints) can't stabilize, you're asking your knee (a hinge joint) to stabilize and your knee doesn't stabilize, it hinges. This is how the majority of knee injuries occur. 

But beyond just doing unilateral exercises, I'm a firm believer that, for endurance runners, the majority of your cross training should be at-- or close to-- maximum effort. Single leg deadlifts (SLDLs), are always great movements; they really work the spinal extensors (lower back muscles) and force you to stabilize through your entire leg as your torso flexes and extends from your hips, really forcing all the gluteal muscles to work.  But adding the plyometric aspect (i.e. the jump) you intensify the deceleration phase (the most important phase of almost any exercise) and make it to maximal effort movement, as long as you explode and jump as high as you can... hence "maximal".  

The key to this movement is the extension of your back leg.  Ideally, your back leg is perfectly parallel to the floor.  Don't worry about how far you extend your arms toward the ground, just try to concentrate on that back leg. Get it up.  As you bring your leg though to the front and jump, explode straight toward the sky and really focus on the landing. The landing is the crux.  Stick it soft on the ball of your foot with all three joints relaxed.  Keep the other foot up and go right into the next rep.  Focus on hitting 10-12 reps without putting the off foot down.  

The best part about this exercise is that you can do it anywhere... On the summit of a mountain, on the beach, at the bus stop, on a boat... the more uneven and unstable the terrain, the better. It'll save your knees and make you a stronger, more balanced trail runner.  


* I hate when people say that running is "jumping" from one foot to the other when, in actuality, you should be falling forward, simply putting your leg down and pulling it through to keep from crashing to the ground.  You're never "jumping" or pushing off,  just controlling your fall.  


Wasatch 100- Entrants Live Tweet

The Wasatch 100 Lottery is finally here! Over two months ago the registration process began and tomorrow we will find out whether or not you will be torturing yourself. We want to be the first to tell you if you will be saving $225 or spending it on GU, gummy bears, a T shirt and of course- a BUCKLE! Tomorrow morning, the 7th of February at 10 am MST, Willy will be in Midway at the 2015 Wasatch 100 lottery live tweeting the entrants as they are called. Follow @trail_flow to be informed of your status! 

Wishing you the best of luck, 

The TrailFlow Team