Movement Monday: The Pistol Squat

If you're a runner you've heard it before in some capacity: Running is essentially jumping from one foot to another, you're never on both feet together, so your cross-training should reflect this.  

This statement, while probably overused, does hold a lot of truth.  There are plenty of great exercises for runners with both feet on the floor, but utilizing a unilateral stance will always emphasize stability, go along way to protecting your knees and be especially helpful for a trailrunner's preferred variable terrain. 

In my humble opinion, the Pistol Squat is the granddaddy of all unilateral leg exercises.  If you can do a full range of motion Pistol (as shown in the video), you're strong, stable and flexible. As a runner, you're going to be balanced and WAY less prone to injury. I think all runners should be doing Pistol Squats and that holds doubly true for the trailrunner.  

The problem with the Pistol is usually where to start.  If you can't do a full range of motion squat, sitting your butt all the way down on top of your heels, you need to start there.  Keep both feet on the floor and work on a full range of motion.  Just the act of improving your squat motion will have a ton of other beneficial side effects, like increased flexibility and joint elasticity, but it will also start to show you the benefit of this position (a position we evolved using and completely went away from as a species with the invention of the chair (total speculation but it can't be that far off)).  Dr. Steve Gangemi (the sock doc of Trailrunner Nation Podcast fame) even advocates spending as much as 15 minutes per day down in that position meditating.  Its good for you.  I promise.  

After you've mastered the full range of motion squat, it's time to move on to the Pistol.  There are a number of different ways to modify this exercise to make it easier.  In my experience, using a box/bench/chair to sit on is the easiest, most effective way to learn the Pistol and quickly progress.  Simply stand in front of a chair, pick up one foot and hold it in front of your body (just like in the video) and then, in as controlled a manner as possible, slowly lower your butt down to the chair, sitting down fully before returning to a standing position using only the single leg.  

Try to complete your entire set (6-12 reps) without putting your off foot on the floor.  Let your hip stabilize at the top and bottom of the motion.  As it gets easier, you can work toward not committing weight to the chair, just touching lightly before raising up.  Then, once you've developed the strength and stability for that, lower your surface.  Keep moving it down until you can remove it all together.  

This movement takes time to master.  It is difficult, engaging and will have you ecstatic over even the smallest of gains.  It will make you a much better, more balanced runner... and, if nothing else, you can use it as a party trick.  Give it a shot.  

As always, we'd love to hear your feedback!

Movement Monday: The HSPU

It might seem a little ridiculous but the handstand push-up is an effective movement for a trail runner for three reasons: 

A) It's an amazing core exercise.  People tend to place most of their focus on the push-up portion of this movement, but just the act of being in a handstand is a great core exercise. Your abdominal muscles are the muscles stabilizing you as you stand on your hands (not to mention the muscles that raise your legs into the handstand position).  This stability translates well to the trail, where the variable surfaces can put large amounts of stress on the lower back if the abdominals are unable to absorb the instability created by the trail/mountain/scree field/etc. 

The HSPU forces you to use your core muscles from an inverted position, stabilizing a heavier load than they normally do (your legs should weigh more than you torso), causing an over-recruitment of motor neurons, helping your core become better equipped to deal with the stress of the surfaces you're moving on when you're standing on you feet again. 

B) The HSPU is great for your shoulders, especially from a postural standpoint. Raising almost the entirety of your body weight up on down with your deltoids as the primary mover is always going to be great strength work for your shoulders but beyond that, it promotes a retracted shoulder blade position. It's almost impossible to do a HSPU with your shoulders rolled forward. This protracted position is one that life puts you in the majority of the time; were constantly sitting and driving or typing or staring at our phones in our hands in front of us. 

One of my general rules is that when you're cross training, you should be undoing the negative effects that life can have on our bodies. You'd be surprised how many people play into these imbalances when they work out. You don't want to be one of these people. You want to correct imbalances. Not exacerbate them. This movement goes a long way toward doing just that. 

C) You can do it anywhere. On a tree, on a wall, on the side of a big boulder... And if you get really good at it, you don't need anything at all. Give it a shot! You might be surprised how fun you think it is. And hard! 

Run Steep, Be Humble: Y Mountain Via Slate Canyon

View into Utah County from the summit of Y Mountain.

View into Utah County from the summit of Y Mountain.

Entry #2- Y Mountain Via Slate Canyon

I'm just going to be upfront about this- I did not find flow on this run. Not even close. I did find a bunch of hot snow, streams where trails are supposed to be, two lost hikers and the first sunburn of 2015! Overall, it was pretty rad.

The map view makes it look pretty sweet. Don't mind my horrendous splits.

The map view makes it look pretty sweet. Don't mind my horrendous splits.

I live right at the mouth of Slate Canyon and I count the ability to tag a bunch of peaks from my doorstep as a reason for never wanting to move. It's pretty great. So I took off from the house and started up Slate Canyon. Slate is pretty undeveloped and doesn't see a lot of traffic, maybe because it is super steep and pretty technical. I fell into power hiking for the first little while to get out of the steeps. At mile 3.75 there is the turn off to Boardman Springs on your right, if you are headed to Y you gotta stay left and head up the backside of Maple Mountain (Anybody reading this from the Utah County area knows that there is also a Maple Mountain in Springville. There is some debate which is the "real" Maple but in my opinion, the Springville version  has a better claim and we should rename this one Cougar Mountain.) The trail here is faint and is rarely used as there is no trail to the top of Cougar Mountain, although there is some killer glade skiing on the southeastern face if the weather is right. As you reach the saddle of Cougar you get a pretty great view northwards towards Cascade and Timp. Provo Peak also looms directly east.  Reaching the trail signs, continue north and down into the grove of aspens. I ran into some hikers right after dropping into the aspens and asked where they we going. They were headed to the Y summit from the traditional route, I pointed out that they had missed the turn by about 3/4 of a mile. They were pretty bummed out but at least got a great view.

Just about to drop into the aspens on our way down to the Y trail

Just about to drop into the aspens on our way down to the Y trail

After coming out of the aspens the great butt crack that is Y mountain will appear. It literally is like a huge butt crack and to get to the top there is only one way to go, straight up! The trail to head up to the Y summit is to the right if you are headed west down the trail. Technically, BYU owns most of Y Mountain and they have not done trail maintenance yet this year. Lots of fallen trees all over the trail. This is where the snow almost became unbearable, it was like walking on a slushy that had been left in the car too long. Kiki wasn't very happy about it.

After tagging the summit, its a cruiser trail all the way down until you connect with the traditional Y Trail which is always packed on Saturdays. Kiki received some funny looks as she was covered in mud and snow, also some lab owners giggled at her because she was so small. Well, she might be small but she'll out run your fat lab any day! At this point she had done 4x the amount of vert it takes to hike the "Y" (to the big Y painted on the front of the mountain, about half way to the summit.). I am pretty protective of her.

Hop on the BST for a quick 2.62 miles and you are back to Slate. All said and done it totals up to 12.5 miles and 4,754 feet of vert. It was a fun day, next time I'll find Flow.  

Long Hair, Don't Care: The Case for Long Locks on the Trailrunner

I’ve never had long hair before.  It’s always been pretty damn short.  I used to throw the #3 on the clippers and let it go.  It was the low-maintenance approach.  When I started really getting into trail running and fell in love with the culture surrounding it, I’ll admit, I wanted long hair because that’s what the cool kids were wearing.  I’ve got a pretty weak beard and if you don’t have a beard or long hair, there’s really zero chance you’re a good trail runner. 

Then one of my friends was talking about the origins of short hair on males.  She mentioned the holocaust, where the Jews were forced to shave their heads and were stripped of all individuality.  She spoke about the Native Americans—all the males had long hair, the same as the women—and one of the first thing the European murderers that “conquered” the Americas did as part of the subjugation process was to shave the male’s heads.  

And then you can just look at corporate America today… not too many investment bankers are walking around with shoulder-length locks.  Have you ever met an accountant with a man-bun?  Or even look at the military.  The high and tight represents order and conformity.  To me, the long hair represents wildness and freedom.  A willingness to go against the grain. 

Then I realized that long hair is doesn’t just look cool and speak volumes about your non-conformist tendencies, it’s also functional on the trail.  The first time I soaked my hair at the beginning of a run on a hot day, I was amazed at how good it felt and how long it actually kept me from sweating.  The water was running down my hair, being deposited onto my shoulders and back ready for evaporation (and the intended cooling effect).  Not dripping into the dirt off of my forehead as a completely wasted bead of sweat. 

It feels so good on your shoulders...

It feels so good on your shoulders...

In warm weather your hair can keep you cool, and in cold weather it can help to keep you warm.  It can be tucked over your ears under a buff or as an extra layer, keep the back of your neck covered and generally help you retain heat escaping through your head. 

Your hair works both ways.  It’s alive!  It’s not your nano puff jacket.   Hair has evolved to protect against the season’s big temperature swings.  Just like a Siberian Husky that feels at home in sub-zero temps can also live in Southern California and endure 100 degree temperatures for months out of the year.  Hair adapts.  Use it to your advantage!