September 1, 2010
Introduction: Newton running shoes, quad cramping, running injuries, sleep quality, exercising on road trips, vitamin B12, caffeine’s effect on your adrenals, greens supplements, and sample aqua jogging workouts.
Ben: Hey folks, Ben Greenfield here with this week’s podcast episode number 110. If you did not get a chance to listen to the brand new Ben Greenfield Fitness Inner Circle podcast last week, go check that out. I’ll put a link to it in the Shownotes. In today’s podcast we’ve got an interview with Danny Abshire from Newton running shoes and he’ll be talking about how those running shoes were designed and also about some things I hadn’t heard before in terms of what happens when your foot strikes the ground and what some of the things that you need to think about actually are. We’re going to have a few special announcements. We have a Q and A and then we’re going to move on to that featured topic on Newton running shoes with Danny Abshire.
Alright folks, if you have a question, remember you can call toll free to 8772099439. Email [email protected] or Skype to pacificfit. And our first question this week is from Listener Cynthia.
Cynthia asks: After I finish a bike ride, when I sit to take off my shoes, the tops of my quads begin to cramp up. Even if I stretch my quads a little first, this still happens. What could be causing this, and what can I do to alleviate it?
Ben answers: Well, anytime that your muscles begin to cramp up, that’s basically… it’s a type of muscle spasm and it’s some involuntary contractions when your brain sends a signal to your muscle to contract and you’re not voluntarily contracting that muscle. It’s doing it all on its own. A lot of times if you put a muscle in a shortened condition for a long period of time, it ends up wanting to essentially stay in that position or involuntarily cramp in that position. Now granted, cramps could also be due to lack of hydration or not having enough electrolytes on board but in your case where it’s happening consistently, when you get done with a bike ride and you’re sitting down to take off your shoes, it’s likely that when you’re talking about the tops of your quads, you’re referring more to what are called your hip flexors which end up being in a shortened position when you ride a bike. Now when you are riding, say, a triathlon bike and you’re bent over in the arrow position and your hip flexors are in basically a scrunched up kind of low angle, this is something that could easily happen especially if you’re never standing and stretching during your actual ride. It doesn’t matter if you stretch before your ride. If you’re not stretching during your ride, throwing in a few stands up out of the saddle, it’s likely that this could be causing your cramps. In addition, if your seat is too low, it can put you into a position where your hip flexors are constantly cramped as you are bent over and it can actually also happen when your seat is too high as well. So a bike fit might be something to look into to make sure that your quads are not actually – or your hip flexors aren’t actually in a constantly shortened position. What I would do and this is something that I’ll do for example during a triathlon, is about 5 minutes before I’m getting to the point where I got to get off my bike, I’ll start standing frequently and holding a stand and trying to stretch my hip flexors specifically while I’m on the bike. So it’s likely that you are experiencing a cramp related to that muscle being in a chronically shortened position during your ride and that’s what I would go after addressing, although I would look into the hydration and the electrolyte intake but it’s more likely that shortened hip flexor condition.
Ashley asks: I’m 29 years old and have been running for 10 years. I have run one half marathon, and had hopes of running a full marathon, but this past spring I was diagnosed with IT band and runner’s knee. This derailed my running plan to say the least. I worked diligently with a PT and strengthened my quads, and glutes. I also started incorporating a lot of stretching and using the foam roller. My ITB and knee are great now, my latest issue is Plantar Fasciitis. I have never had foot pain before and I am frustrated that my body keeps putting up roadblocks preventing me from running. I am a vegetarian and eat very little dairy, I am diligent about taking my daily multi-vitamin, Flax Seed oil, vitamin C, vitamin D, Magnesium, Calcium and Zinc. Since the plantar fasciitis has come up I have been rolling my foot and icing it as well as stretching my foot. Can you suggest anything else I could do?
Ben answers: It’s always good when people include all of the elements that I probably would have suggested in the first place such as proper nutritional recovery and strengthening of the butt muscles, the glute muscles, the quad muscles with the PT and the actual treatment in terms of stretching and icing of that plantar fasciitis. Now, the fact that you have struggled with other injuries in the past related to that kinetic chain that’s involved when you’re running, Ashley, and the fact that you already have strengthened some of the muscles that would be responsible for stabilizing you suggest to me that this may be an issue that we’ve talked about before on the show. One of two issues. One possibly being a muscular imbalance. The other possibly being a hip that’s rotated essentially in one direction or the other. Basically a sacroiliac joint malrotation. So we had an interview – podcast number 97 – I interviewed a guy named Tom Vachet and he went into great detail about how your pelvis being out of alignment can affect your knees, your ankles and your hips and result in these chronic injuries that keep on creeping up. I know myself, I used to have a lot more of those injuries before I went through a series of chiropractic adjustments to get my sacroiliac joint back into place. And typically after a race or a hard training week, I’ll still see a chiropractic to make sure that my SI joint is staying in place. So that’s something I would look into. I would also look into muscle imbalances. Specifically whether or not you may have hamstring quad imbalances, whether or not you may have a lateral rotation imbalance type adductors, there’s an entire 40 page free report that I put out a couple of weeks ago at www.bengreenfieldfitness.com about muscle imbalances and that’s something that I’d recommend that you read. It’s called the Muscle Imbalances Revealed report. I’ll put a link to that in the Shownotes as well. But specifically when you’ve got an injury and it seems like you’re doing everything right and you keep getting injured, things keep creeping up – it’s like when you’re trying to squeeze Play-doh and it comes up between your knuckles and you close your knuckles and it comes up underneath your thumb… could be the issue with either muscle imbalances or the sacroiliac joint. So I’d look at both those factors.
Matt asks: Do you think longer consistent sleep is more important than the total hours slept?
Ben answers: And Matt goes into great detail about his current sleep patterns. I’m not actually going to read that part of his question, but essentially his question is whether or not you just need to do all your sleep during the night or can you get away with sleeping less and taking basically just naps? Well first let’s look into sleep and kind of understand deeper rapid eye movement and less deeper rapid eye movement sleep. Basically when you’re looking at a sleep cycle, there are two different stages – REM sleep and non-REM sleep. The non-REM sleep is essentially four different stages where you transition to sleeping and then you go into light sleeping and then you go into deep sleeping and then you go into more intense deep sleeping and as you move through those stages, your brain waves begin to slow. You get more and more groggy. It becomes more difficult to wake you up. And usually you’re looking at a couple of hours to actually get through those stages. And then you’re going to get into your deep rapid eye movement sleep and that can occur as little as 70 minutes after you fall asleep. Usually it’s a couple of hours. But the deep rapid eye movement sleep is where you dream, your eyes begin to move rapidly, your breathing becomes shallow. A lot of times your heart rate and your blood pressure can increase, your arm and your leg muscles tend to not be able to move. And your body goes through these different stages of sleep through several patterns, and they’re actually predictable patterns that you go through as you’re asleep. So you move back and forth between this deep sleep which is where a lot of restoration and muscle recovery occurs and then these more alert type of sleeping stages. This deep rapid eye movement sleep. And so those form a complete sleep cycle and technically if you go through about five of those which is 8 hours of sleep, that’s considered an idea night of sleep. And of course a lot of people don’t get that much sleep. They’ll get 6 hours or 7 hours. I personally do very well on 7 and a half to 8. Some folks need 9. It really depends but the most damaging effects of sleep deprivation are when you don’t get enough of time in that deep sleep cycle because like I said, that’s when you get the repairing of the muscles and the tissues. That’s where you get stimulation of growth and development. That’s where your immune system becomes boosted, that’s where your health can be maintained and to really be energized and refreshed when you wake up, you have to get into that quality deep sleep and amass enough time of that at night. And then the idea behind the rapid eye movement sleep is that it’s not just so you can dream and have fun, but that’s actually where your brain processes a lot of the information that you assimilated during the day. It’s where a lot of your neural connections are formed. It strengthens your memory. That’s where a lot of your neurotransmitters are replenished. Your body produces a lot of serotonin and dopamine that are going to boost your mood when you wake up and so the deeper rapid eye movement sleep is just as important as those deep restorative sleep cycles. Now I know that some people – and this recently happened, there was a study done at the University of California in San Francisco that showed that some people are able to sleep on 6 hours of sleep at night or less because of a gene that they have. But understand that that gene is very rare. It only appears in about 3% of the population. So for 97% of us, we need more than 6 hours of sleep at night and for most adults, we’re going to need about 7 and a half to 9 hours of sleep a night. Now there is a field of study that looks into something called polyphasic sleeping with the idea being that maybe you don’t need to get all this sleep in a row during a 7 and a half to 9 hour sleep cycle in order to experience a lot of the beneficial restorative effects of sleep. And the idea behind polyphasic sleeping is that you set up sleep cycles and nap cycles to where you’re getting just enough sleep to enter into your deep sleep phases for enough time for your muscles to recover and then getting some rapid eye movement sleep at different stages throughout the day. There’s been some studies done that have suggested that this polyphasic sleep actually allows just as much enhancement of recovery and performance as getting the deep rapid eye movement and 8 hour phase or 7 and a half to 9 hour phase sleep cycles. There’s a few different phases that have been studied and a lot of these studies have been done of course in the armed forces, the US military, by NASA, a little bit in the Italian air force and by the Canadian marine pilots but essentially it’s scheduling your napping in a specific format to allow your body to get the optimum levels of sleep in both deep sleep and rapid eye movement sleep and there’s a few different types of polyphasic sleep cycles that you can go to. So here’s what they are. One would be to get right around 6 hours of sleep. So for example, sleep from midnight to 6 and then do one 20 minute nap. For example after lunch. Another sleep pattern that’s been experimented with is to get just 4 and a half hours of that core sleep… so for example sleeping midnight to 4:30 and then doing two 20 minute naps during the day. Another cycle would be three hours of sleep with three 20 minute naps and then one and a half hours of sleep with four or five 20 minute naps. Now obviously you’re getting in the realm there where you would have to be planning your naps very regularly to get by on that. And then there’s one final phase of polyphasic sleep cycling called the “Uberman” where you’re actually only sleeping a total of two hours during a 24 hour sleep cycle but you’re doing that via six 20 minute naps. And even with that, under extreme circumstances you can still maintain alertness and performance for several days. Now let’s just say you want to know if you’re getting enough sleep and you kind of want to see if you’re sleep deprived or not. There are definitely some things that you’re going to notice if you’re sleep deprived. So for example if you’re sleep deprived you’re going to need an alarm clock whenever you wake up in the morning. So you’re going to need t be pulled out of sleep rather than naturally waking up out of sleep. You’re usually going to get drowsy after you have a big meal, when you’re driving in your car, you’ll feel the need to nap throughout the day. You’ll fall asleep especially while you’re watching TV or relaxing after dinner in the evening. You might really feel like you have to sleep in on the weekends quite a bit. Sometimes you’ll fall asleep more quickly after you get into bed if you’re sleep deprived like you’re just out within 5 minutes. You’ll get sleepy in the afternoon or kind of sluggish. You’ll get sleepy when you’re in meetings or lectures or especially in rooms where the temperature is up a little bit and you have a hard time getting out of bed in the morning. All those things that you would expect to be intuitively signs that you may be sleep deprived. But it goes on, sleep deprivation research has shown it increases your risk of diabetes, heart disease, of other health problems. You have impaired motor skills. You get weight gain, concentration and memory problems, you get frequent colds and infections because your immune system becomes less strong. Fatigue, lethargy, lack of motivation, lack of self control, more of a propensity to overeat or eat substances that you normally wouldn’t. So there are a lot of signs. There’s actually a fun little test. I’ll put a link to this test in the Shownotes, but the BBC website in their Science and Nature section has a test and it’s called the Sleep Sheep test where you can test your reaction time to see if possibly you may be sleep deprived. It’s called the Sheep Dash. I’ll put a link to that in the Shownotes. You can play around with that and kind of test your own sleep deprivation. But in terms of the root of your question, what it comes down to is ideally you should be getting 7 and a half to 9 hours of sleep. If you can’t get that, there’s still research that shows that you can do ok with a shorter core sleep cycle as long as you’re doing some systematic napping throughout the rest of the day after that sleep cycle. So good question.
Matt asks: I spend at least 4.5hours everyday in the car. Is there anything I can do in that time that will help me achieve my fitness goals? I’ve heard you suggest jumping jacks every hour but that would just prolong my journey time. You did mention the ‘power breather’ recently, is there anything else of a similar nature that could be used while driving?
Ben answers: Well the power breather that I talked about I believe in podcast number 109 is a device that is a lung resistance device and you breathe in and out of it, and it resists your inspiration and expiration so it can strengthen your lungs when you’re stuck in a sedentary situation like sitting in your car or sitting in traffic and you still are kind of sort of exercising. Now if you’re on a road trip, I actually do really recommend that every hour or two you stop and stretch if you’re able to and a lot of times if you’re by yourself that works out better because if you’re traveling with a companion, sometimes it can annoy them if you’re always wanting to stop and do jumping jacks. But research has shown that doing bouts of physical activity throughout the day can keep your metabolism elevated and cause you to oxidize more fat. So if you’re able to, for every hour that you sit, stop and do 100 jumping jacks. That actually is a great way to kind of keep your fitness and your metabolism elevated as you’re traveling. Now if you’re not able to do that, there are the stereotypical type of exercises that you can do. Squeeze your butt, squeeze your chest muscles, do some isometric contractions of your bicep muscles or your calf muscles, meaning that you contract and you hold. That typically gets pretty old. I think what you need to realize is that all it takes is a brief burst of energy, a brief sprint or a brief series of jumping jacks for a minute to actually bump up your metabolism so you can get in and keep going. So a five hour road trip, that mean five total minutes of actually not moving to get your metabolism boosted every hour. That’s almost worth it. So I’d kind of realize that it doesn’t mean you have to stop and do a structured exercise session. Something very short and intense can still help to boost your metabolism. But there’s very few structured workouts you can do in your car without risking the lives of other people in your car, the people on the road. So I’m not going to suggest that you get a little bicycle exerciser and put that underneath your feet and put your car in cruise control or anything like that. The only thing I can think of is that if you really wanted to get funky, you could put an elastic band in your car and do some internal and external shoulder rotation type of work, but even that gets a little bit dangerous in my opinion. So you had a follow-up question. I’m sorry you didn’t have a follow up question. That was your follow up question to your sleep question.
Kim asks: My friend and I have been discussing the right time to take Vitamin B-12. We are both vegan and take a B-12 supplement as well as Chlorella, which has a high amount of Vitamin B-12. My first question is: Should we be taking this much Vitamin B-12?
Ben answers: Kim, the answer to that part of your question is that vitamin B-12 doesn’t even really have a toxicity limit that’s named because it’s a water soluble vitamin. It will pass through in your urine. There are some side effects that aren’t necessarily toxicity side effects, but just uncomfortable side effects in terms of how much you can actually tolerate and some of the things that you’ll get when you’re really overdosing on vitamin B-12 would be you can get diarrhea, you can swell up a little bit. You can get these allergic reactions like hives or a rash or itching. Especially your lips, or your mouth or your throat can swell a bit. And you can also get wheezing and almost like an anaphylactic reaction or difficulty breathing. You’d have to take a vitamin B-12 to get some of those effects, but it could theoretically happen. Now when you go on to the follow up part of your question, you say…
Kim asks: Recently, my friend underwent some blood work which showed her B-12 to be low. We have read that Vitamin C blocks Vitamin B-12 when taken at the same time, so we avoid taking both vitamins together. However, we were wondering that since most of the food we consume consists of Vitamin C, is it possible that that is blocking the Vitamin B-12 we supplement in our diet?
Ben answers: Well, first of all kudos that you are dieting or you are including vitamin B-12 supplementation because if you’re a vegetarian, you do have a risk of a vitamin B-12 deficiency since meat and dairy foods are two of the primary sources of vitamin B-12. Vitamin B-12 is necessary for a multitude of metabolic reactions. When you are taking that vitamin C supplement, it is true that 500 mgs of vitamin C can tend to decrease your vitamin B-12 absorption. Now, when you look at the vitamin C content of the food that you take in during the day though, you need to put that in context. So 500 mgs of vitamin C is going to block B-12 or limit B-12 absorption, an apple has about 8 mgs of vitamin C in it. An avocado has about 16 mgs of vitamin C. When you’re looking at some of the cherries or berries, those are usually less than 1 mg of vitamin C in the average sized serving of those. Even something that seems very citrusy like lemon juice – is only about 3 mgs of vitamin C in something like that. If you were to eat a watermelon, that tends to get a little bit higher. It’s got about 27 mgs of vitamin C. Strawberries, about 7 mgs. So, you’re still looking at having to eat a lot of fruit. Almost like an unhealthy amount of fruit in order to get 500 mgs of vitamin C, enough to actually block your vitamin B-12 absorption. If you’re taking a vitamin C supplement, that is something that I’d be careful with. You don’t necessarily need to take in 500 mgs of vitamin C on a daily basis. And you really only need about 200 to 300 mgs per day as kind of your average daily intake. Optimum intake, you’ll get some people to claim that it’s around 500 mgs. I’m not convinced that that’s true unless you’re doing a lot of muscle tissue damage and you’re a heavy exerciser. But as far as the vitamin C I wouldn’t worry too much about the vitamin C content of your food but I would make sure that you’re not taking your vitamin B-12 supplement and your vitamin C supplement simultaneously if you’re taking a vitamin C supplement.
Robert asks: I have been told that caffeine has a huge impact on adrenal glands since those are provoked all the time and are no longer are able to fulfill their mission, and ongoing high adrenal level in the body, which has negative impacts on the body either way. What’s your take on that matter, and how far may I go in terms of milligrams of caffeine on daily basis?
Ben answers: When you drink caffeine, it is true that your adrenal glands which sit on top of your kidneys are basically going to be stimulated to produce epinephrine and norepinephrine. And those are stress hormones and they can cause you to tense up your muscles, they elevate the blood sugar a little bit, they increase your pulse, they increase your respiration. And those are a lot of the reasons that coffee and tea and caffeinated soda all actually work. They improve your muscle coordination, your mental clarity, your energy levels. They reduce drowsiness. They stimulate your central nervous system, but they do also result in the release of these adrenal based hormones. These adrenalines. This norepinephrine and epinephrine, and yes if you’re constantly stimulating your adrenal glands, you can get adrenal gland exhaustion which is basically when you begin to become chronically fatigued, your energy levels drop unless you are stimulating those adrenal glands. They require more and more stimulation in order for you to not feel sleepy and demotivated throughout the day and that’s a big issue. I think especially with kids nowadays and their consumption of energy drinks or foods or drinks that contain caffeine, is the fact that you eventually build up a tolerance to the caffeine and your adrenal glands become less and less able to actually produce the proper amounts of norepinephrine and epinephrine on their own. So as far as the actual amount of milligrams of caffeine in an average cup of coffee, you’re looking at about 100 mgs of caffeine or so. Now there’s no studies that have directly investigated adrenal fatigue or adrenal exhaustion from a chronic disease standpoint and the daily milligrams of caffeine that can be consumed. But in working with my clients, because I have many athletes especially that I coach who have to de-load from caffeine and then re-load on the caffeine in order to use caffeine for something like a race, like a marathon or a triathlon – we found that about a cup of coffee is doable to be able to quit cold turkey, not have a lot of the withdrawal effects and be able to come back to without experiencing a high amount of jitteriness or adrenal stimulation or stress. And so, that would mean that if you’re drinking one cup of coffee, one cup of caffeinated coffee a day like an 8 to 10 ounce cup of coffee, you probably don’t have much to worry about unless you’re somebody who has already exhausted their adrenals through a ton of coffee consumption and if you’re in that boat, you may need to quit for a while and allow your body to relax for a couple of months. Not get all that adrenal exhaustion going on and then come back and start back into the coffee once you’re able to kind of control your adrenals. So a cup of coffee a day, you’ll be fine. If you’re doing a lot more than 100 mgs of caffeine a day, you could be risking adrenal exhaustion, withdrawal symptoms and a lot of the negative stress producing effects that caffeine can give you.
Lee asks: If you get the chance, would you mind having a look at this supplement, Vital Greens? I am unable to get some of the supplements you mention here in Australia and wondered what you get from the ingredients list on the site.
Ben answers: So, I took a look at this Vital Greens that Lee is asking about and it’s basically like any greens supplement – a blend of a bunch of different super foods and they also include some Omega 3 and some Omega 6 fatty acids in there, some digestive enzymes and some probiotics. Because that supplement doesn’t really have any artificial sweeteners that I can see, artificial ingredients, artificial colors, it actually looks like a pretty solid choice. A bit on the spendy side. It looks like it’s about 90 bucks for a month’s supply. But if you can afford it then it’s something that would probably be ok to take. There’s no red flags in it. Now the stuff of course that I recommend typically is called EnerPrime and that can be shipped to Australia. But it’s the only one that I’ll actually vouch for in terms of me having tried multiple types of green supplements and the only one that I’ve never gotten sick while I’m taking in terms of – I’ve gone for two and three year stints on EnerPrime and never gotten a cold, flu. Nothing. That’s why I recommend that and that’s why I’ll vouch for it and the quality of the ingredients that they use in this EnerPrime. I’ll put a link to EnerPrime in the Shownotes, Lee, but this Vital Greens looks ok and again, when you’re inspecting it like a greens supplement just look for the presence of artificial sweeteners. Look for the presence of artificial colors and added preservatives and then if you’re able to try and find out if it’s a Certified Good Manufacturing Practices facility or if it’s WADA certified. I wasn’t able to ascertain that information for Vital Greens. I can tell you the ingredient list looks ok. It’s a bit spendy compared to the $40 a month for the EnerPrime but it definitely doesn’t raise any red flags for me. So the last thing I’d leave you with is if you’re taking any medications or prescriptions make sure that you’ve cleared the consumption of this with your doc.
Jeff asks: I’m taking up aqua jogging to overcome plantar fasciitis. I’m a runner and begin marathon training in late November. I want to knock out this demon for good and stay off the roads until I do. I’ll be in the pool with a free range of motion (that is, not touching the pool bottom). Can you recommend some aqua jogging workouts?
Ben answers: Yeah absolutely. A couple of my favorite aqua jogging workouts – one is you get in and you put on this aqua jogging belt and hopefully an underwater mp3 player so you don’t get too bored and you jog back and forth in the pool and once you’re warmed up for about 5 to 10 minutes, you do a series of sprints from one end of the pool to the next and these sprints only need to last about 15 to 20 seconds for you to reach complete exhaustion and then you do a full recovery between each sprint. In an aqua jogging session, I’ll usually shoot for anywhere from 10 to 20 of these sprints. Another of my favorite workouts that I’ll do for aqua jogging is I’ll do drills so I’ll run down with a normal high cadence jogging pattern and then I’ll go back doing heel to butt kicks and then I’ll run down again and I’ll come back doing high knees, and then I’ll run down again and come back doing a straight leg kind of Frankenstein walk. And then I’ll run down again and come back doing more of a bicycling full range of motion, kind of exaggerated motion cadence. So, you can do longer intervals… 5 to 10 minute tempo intervals at a 2:1 work to rest ratio. You can do shorter sprints like I mentioned earlier or you can do just one long aerobic aqua jogging session where you’re just jogging from anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes if you really need to replicate a long run. The other thing that I’ll do occasionally with aqua jogging is I’ll combine it with swimming so for example, I’ll swim 500 meters and then do five 25 meter aqua jog sprints and then go back to swimming. That’s actually great cross training for triathlon if you don’t want to get out of the pool and get on your bike and you just want to do your swim bike repeats right there in the pool, that actually works pretty well. I talk in detail about aqua jogging and how you can use it to reduce injury risk along with a ton of other cross training modes to help you train through a marathon and still not have to worry about not being able to train when you have injuries in the program at www.marathondominator.com. One of the long audio interviews included in there is reducing the risk of injuries and also training through injuries and maintaining fitness through injuries. So that’s at www.marathondominator.com.
Now, next we have an interview with Newton running shoes inventor Danny Abshire. So we’re going to have a message and then move on to that interview.
Folks, you may be familiar with the running shoe called the Newton running shoe and the Newton shoes were conceived and designed by a guy named Danny Abshire who is a runner and a designer of custom orthotics and Danny actually started working with elite athletes and wanted to create a shoe that would help runners of all levels get back to their natural running technique. He’s been a running coach and director of Biomechanics Injury Prevention for Multi-Sports since 1993 and he is a consultant in orthotics and something called pedorthic training. Danny is a runner himself and his wife manages the Newton running lab. And today we’re going to learn a little bit more about what goes into shoe design and where the idea for the Newtons actually began. So Danny, thanks for coming on the call.
Danny Abshire: Thank you Ben.
Ben: Where did the idea for Newtons actually start?
Danny Abshire: Well, kind of way back. It’s not been any kind of overnight sensation that’s for sure. We’ve been working on it for about 15 years. We filed for our first patent back in 1996. It was actually conceived by a fellow runner of mine and friend of mine who had an idea of being able to capture and store energy that’s normally lost in the shoe in a membrane that works like muscle and tendon. He had the idea and we worked on that and as time evolved, he kind of stepped out and did some other projects, I ended up having to try to see if we could manufacture the shoe because all of our hand built prototypes were working really great with a lot of great runners that were coming into our store here in Boulder, Colorado and everybody loved the way it felt and the response and being more neutral to the ground. But that process took quite a while. Evolution of testing over so many years and then finally once we decided to do it on our own, we tried to see if other major brands might like to license the technology because we didn’t really know how to build shoes. We had a concept that was working well and we had patents on it but the issue was trying to manufacture it so I spent about four years figuring out how we could manufacture the shoes.
Ben: Interesting. So in terms of the biomechanics of the Newtons, what was the general concept behind the design that you put into the shoe?
Danny Abshire: Well, first of all instead of studying animals or the way humans move with high heeled shoes on or current technology shoes on, we studied more how humans run without footwear and without the influence of footwear. Of course you know the Dr. Lieberman study out of Harvard and many studies since then have shown that we run quite differently if we have no influence on our feet. Because basically we have to deal with gravity and it’s all about standing – even the standing position being level with gravity and how our feet are level and how we can have high sensory input and it’s all about the balance. Being a two-legged human. And once we put something, let’s just say even if I put something under your forefoot, let’s say I put a ballet slipper on you, you’re going to walk around on your toes. So the influence underneath your foot, the body has to rebalance to anything underneath the foot. So one of the very first things is getting back to a level piece of footwear which is very healthy for the whole body. The ankle, knee, hips, spine. Even up to the neck. So that’s the way we were intended to move around. And so by understanding that first… and the secondary thing that really is super important is we have over 200,000 nerve endings in our feet. If we have a medium such as foam that really masks that down, it gives you good shock absorbency and it’s soft to run on concrete but what it does is it masks down all these senses in the feet that you’ll find a lot of people now hitting the ground very loudly and pushing off very hard after that initial impact. So if you can’t sense the ground then you’ll hit the ground harder trying to sense the ground. But if you can sense the ground you’ll touch the ground lighter and self-regulate your impact so those were the two biggest things that we were studying, is a more level piece of footwear and a technology that could allow you to run on concrete and asphalt but without the harsh impact that could also allow you to sense the ground and self-regulate your impact. So then the shoes also segmented into the sections of the feet and it flexes and leverages in the right places as your foot does. So those other concepts of simply even not restricting your natural foot movement, that was also a big part of it as well.
Ben: Interesting. Your response kind of brought up two questions for me. The first is you mentioned the phrase “the way we were designed to run or the way we were meant to run.” What kind of studies or research sort of clued you in to the fact that maybe a traditionally running shoe doesn’t allow someone to run the way that they human body is designed to run or how was the human body designed to run, that you noticed that something was holding it back?
Danny Abshire: Well, my wife and I… I’d been living up in Aspen as a ski instructor and as a professional boot fitter making ski boot inserts. What we found is ski boots are very level and firm, right? And you have to have your foot on a level plane inside those boots to have performance so it all started there with thinking about, okay when we’re skiing we need to be centered with gravity here because we’re on a slippery slope. So we started working with foot beds to level off people’s biomechanics because everybody has a different mechanic in their feet and sometimes one foot is way different than the other foot. So number one, starting to be balanced is super key and we stand on our feet so we have to have balance in our feet if there’s an imbalance. Then being in an athletic position, you look at every other type of sport – a lot of people saw the World Cup not too long ago and soccer cleats are not altered. They’re flat. They’re level and they have cleats for traction so you can run backwards, you can run sideways, you can turn on a dime, you can sprint, you can jog. When you’re centered with gravity you can do anything, but if your body is out of balance and it influences you to do something different, you’re going to do that and get actually pretty good at it. So one phrase that I’ve coined as well is people have become efficient at running inefficiently so it is all about being efficient. Now the early research was just coming off of basic common sense. Jennifer and I saw thousands of people, thousands of runners and triathletes and just everyday folks and it all came back to even if you’re just standing around all day in high heel shoes, your hips are tipped, you’re putting more – instead of a 50-50 split between the ball of the foot and the hell, you’re putting more, 80% or 70% of the weight on your heal then your hips have to tilt forward to accommodate that and then your upper body has to re-position over your highest point which is your heel. So the whole body gets contorted. We didn’t… there was no research back then about it except for what we were viewing as postural changes from an influence of a wedge underneath your heel. Now we’re not blaming the shoe companies for anything. My thought is they thought, wow those poor runners. They’re out there running on concrete and asphalt. We’d better try and figure a way to cushion them. So if we build up the heel more and put some technology in there then they could land on the heel and then roll through their step, but what they didn’t realize is the consequence of altering the body position and imposing a braking force when we’re trying to move in a forward direction. If I put my foot out in front of my body, I’m breaking my momentum. So then it comes back to physics and gravity again and then the ankles are a loose adaptor so if I put it in front of my body it’s going to pronate and supinate and I’m breaking as well, shocking my knee, hips and back. Now I waste time getting over my center of mass, thus when I’ve wasted time and I’m trying to move forward, I now have to push off with a great amount of power. So the injuries that we receive 20 something years ago were from that braking moment when the foot is a loose adaptor and it’s shocking the system because we’re trying to move forward and the other set of injuries were pushing off too hard. The hamstring, calf, Achilles and implanter fascia. So it’s a constant stop and start which you impose in a heel strike. Now even if you have a really, really trained runner and they’re trying to run parallel to the ground or underneath their body mass, because the heel protrudes from the shoe, even if my foot is parallel and the heel is protruding from the shoe it will double my impact, both on my heel and forefoot. So, I really studied… it just basically showed that there was some need to get the heel out of the way and that’s definitely not the only thing. There’s about seven or eight other things that the Newton does that works with the body. But number one is getting more on a level platform and I think a lot of other shoe companies are trying to rush to do that. But if you do that with just foam or just a harder medium, then again, we’re talking about concrete and asphalt – manmade surfaces that are very hard.
Ben: In your explanation of the shoe, you also mentioned the ability to sense the ground. Are you saying that we sense the ground a little bit better because the front of our foot is striking the ground earlier?
Danny Abshire: Yeah. You know, again when you have a walking gait – because I have an upcoming book in November. It’s called Natural Running, Unnatural World. When you walk… let me just quickly explain the walking gait. Walking gait is heel strike, mid-stance and toe off, and at that walking speed, it’s very, very safe. Because we’re levering from the hip. And then we’re rolling and centering the mass and we’re adapting to the surface. And that’s what we’re set up to do. Then if we go all the way on the far end, sprinting is way up on the forefoot and toes. Very forward. And we can only hold that position for 100 meters or so and then we’re completely exhausted. It’s a flight mechanism. Then people go, then Danny what’s long distance running? Well it’s sure not walking. And it’s not sprinting. It’s right in the middle. It’s mid-stance. So you’ve heard coaches like myself and Danny Dreyer and Evolution Running, Kim Merkel and Joe Frial and coaches all over the world, even Nicholas Romanoff and Malcolm Bok, Master the Art of Running Book – all coaches from around the world saw the same thing I was seeing many, many years ago. That people were running with a really abnormal gait. And the basic thing that we started to try to tell them is to shorten your stride and get under your landing mass. And stop the braking moment and stop pushing so much. So it was very much a thought of how we were seeing that shoes were causing people to alter the way they truly run. Now the cool thing is if you just take your shoes off and you run down the concrete barefoot you’re going to sense with your forefoot – you’re going to sense with your forefoot – again, the highest concentration of sensors are in your forefoot, not your heel. Think about when you walk up and down steps, you don’t put your heel down first. You put your forefoot down because that’s the balance of the body and that’s a high sensory input so you can tell if the step is made out of slippery concrete. Even through your shoes, you can feel that. So the high sensory input is in your forefoot. That was our biggest study. It’s called Afferent Feedback. Afferent feedback is the feedback that your sensors in your forefoot get from the ground that tells you (audio cut). Those sensors now, if they’re masked too much, then you don’t have any input. That’s why people hit the ground really hard now because they’re landing on the heel which is a low sensory area and it’s very cushioned with the shoes and then we roll through and push off. So we’re bypassing two things. Being neutral with gravity for starters and then this enormously high sensory input from the forefoot. You know, even at that if you’re standing barefoot and you lean backwards and try to run backwards, well you’ll run on your forefoot because that’s where you’re going to balance. And then if you lean forward, just sort of like you’re on a Segway without the Segway, if you lean back you’ll sense and balance with your forefoot. You don’t run on your heel and then as you lean forward, same thing. You get up on your forefoot very lightly and this is not on your toes. Your foot will come down parallel to the ground after you initially touch your forefoot. You lean forward, then you’re leaning forward and then you’ll be on your midfoot, forefoot and you’ll sense the ground and touch lightly again. So, our whole body is set up just to regulate and deal with gravity and this sensory input has to be there to then say, ok, what’s underneath me? Is it rough? Is it unstable, is it smooth? Is it wet? Dry? This is just part of the way the body works.
Ben: Now, is this type of shoe designed for any distance or for specific distances for runners?
Danny Abshire: Well, the way we launched the company, I had built custom orthotics for over 13 Ironman world champions dating back to 1988 with Scott Molina and then the current Ironman champion Craig Alexander. So they come to us. Active Imprints is our company name that Jennifer and I developed in 1988. They come to us for advice about micro balancing their feet, whether it’s in their cycling shoe and their running shoe because they put in so many miles and at the super elite level. Any kind of rotational force that is coming out of your forefoot, it’s lost energy on the bike and it could cause to send you into a little knee strain or IT band strain if you have a rotational force coming out of your forefoot repeatedly. And there are so many things that could be unstable in your forefoot. So, with all of these folks coming to us, we figured well as a company we did shop it around. We said to many major brands, do you want to look at this technology and they go well it’s based in the forefoot. The technology seems sound, it’s certainly a great absorber of impact and you do look like you can retrieve more or lose less energy or retrieve more energy from the initial impact, but they basically said to us, people don’t run on their forefoot. We were like, of course they do. You just had 30 to 40 years of people saying we’re going to build heel striking shoes and you get everybody believing that that’s the right thing to do. So, once we got shut down by several brands we said well I guess we’ll have to make the shoes and we have to have a target marking. So our first shoe that came out were what we call racing shoes which, we’ve had a US record set in 50 kms, that’s 31 miles. Josh Cox set that a year ago or so in our shoes and of course we had two time Ironman champion Craig Alexander running the full Ironman distance, the marathon after the swim and bike. So they are long distance shoes but we also have people that will run 800 meters in the shoes. And we do studies at MIT where athletes will just have a steady state heart rate. They’ll hold the same heart rate with their favorite shoes and the Newtons and they’ll run the same distance in a controlled atmosphere in the indoor track and they’ll run anywhere from a half mile to a mile repeats and this report will be coming out sometime this fall that everybody will run faster in our shoes, and the reason being… over most distances or any distance, because you’ll be more neutral or efficient. That’s the thing. There’s less breaking forces and our shoes less energy the way the technology is set up. So our shoes are for all distances. We don’t have a track shoe yet. Or a cross country shoe type, but yeah you could run anywhere from 800 meters to 100 miles in our shoes. We’ve had several people… Ian Adamson just finished the Badwater 135 mile race using our shoes. So yes, they are long distance shoes and I think being only three years in the market, there’s a lot of misconception about what the shoes are and are they durable and can you run far or can you run fast? Yes. To all of those questions. It’s a shoe that once you learn how to get centered and run more efficiently like you were set up to do, you can run any distance in them.
Ben: One of the most common questions and comments that I see about Newtons is that people are worried about injuring their foot because of a completely different shoe that they’ve run on for the past five years or 10 years or they think that the bones toward the front of the foot might be too weak for this type of shoe. Now is there an explanation of injury risk or precautions that people should take when it comes to using something like the Newtons?
Danny Abshire: Like everything, even if you wanted to go run in Vibram or if you wanted to start running barefoot on the concrete, you have the same risk. The problem is no other company has been bold enough to say this is actually how we do it. This is actually how the body is set up. We’re the first company to kind of teach you how to re-learn how to run. Now you can experience yourself, all you have to do is go to a track or a nice smooth running surface, a nice smooth grass surface and just go out. Take your shoes off and see that you sense every blade of grass underneath your foot. You will, if you close your eyes, you’ll sense every blade of grass under your foot. That’s the high sensory input. Number two, you’re standing neutral with gravity. Okay? The problem is most people, they’ve blocked all that out of their mind. The way they’re running right now, they’ve got efficient at running inefficiently. They got efficient at using the heel strike to hit the ground and using the sprinting gait to leave the ground so there’s immense impact and immense muscle power usage so what happens when they think they’re going to try something different, is they try to run with the same form. They try to run with the same form. And if not, they’ll go to the forefoot and land with a tremendous impact and push off as if they’re sprinting again. So there’s an adaptation period to anything you want to do. If you want to adapt to anything, it’s the same thing as going to the gym. If you want to go to the gym and say alright, today I haven’t lifted weights in a year and I’m going to start lifting weights today. Well you’re not adapted for that and you’re sore as soon as you get out. You could probably strain something really bad. Because you think in your mind, “Wow, way back in high school I could bench press 130 lbs.” Get 130 lbs on there and start bench pressing. “Yeah, I’m struggling, I’m struggling. But I’m doing it.” Yeah, the next day, next week you’re really hurting so the body has to adapt. It has to take time. And you have to relax and not use so much power. Right now, everybody’s using all this super power to run and they don’t even realize it. Their calf muscles are extremely overworked and tired. So is the hamstring and all of the propulsion muscles. They are overused. Overused. And they don’t even realize it. So what you have to do is you have to make sure that your musculature is loose enough that you can re-position your foot because if you always heel strike and you always push off then you don’t know where midfoot is. You don’t even know where midfoot is. You don’t know how to get there. So what we try to do is get people to feel like they’re jumping rope in place and landing very lightly because I do clinics almost every day somewhere in the country and we do a running clinic here in Boulder every Saturday morning and one of the biggest things is to get people to relax. Like running should be running all about relaxation and having your whole body. We’re using our whole body but almost everybody’s running with just using their leg muscles. So now if you stand in an athletic position where your ankles and knees are flexed, your spine is tall, now you’re centered with gravity – all you really have to do at that moment is lift your foot off the ground and drop it directly underneath you, you lean forward slightly with your upper body, now you’re moving forward without using all this muscle power. But it’s very difficult to be a new player in the industry and to teach people how to run because they think they already know how to run but they’re running with a super altered gait. So by doing – a lot of people will look at our videos online, they’ll read the literature or they won’t and they’ll just go out and run. Almost everybody will call in, they’ll say, “Wow, my calves are really tight or my Achilles heel is strained or something like that.” We’ll go, “Did you read the info or did you take an easy 15 minute run or something like that?” They’ll go, “Now I did my regular 5 mile run” and we will say “Were you running fast?” “Oh yeah I was running like 30 seconds, 40 seconds faster per mile.” It’s like wow, that’s kind of race pace. So it’s just getting people to open their minds and really realize how you’re supposed to move and then gradually making changes to get yourself underneath your center of mass with your landing foot as opposed to this brake and push. So again, it is an adaptation period that we would do with any other sport. But runners and triathletes in general, people wanting to go from A to Z too quickly. We talked a lot about that in the book. First of all, get the information because you have to feel it because people come from all over the word, “Danny I want to be a better runner. Help me.” It’s like, well if you want to be a good runner, you want to be a good athlete, the first thing you have to do is listen to yourself and understand your body and understand the needs and understand how we move. But if you’re not there with that, then it’s a longer process. Because people have blocked out all this saying things like no pain, no gain and I’m going to do or die. I’m going to do this marathon if it kills me and all that stuff is crazy because as soon as you just say, alright relax. Look forward, lean forward. Touch my foot to the ground instead of pound it and lift my foot off the ground instead of pushing it off, once I’m doing these things that are very natural and very relaxed and I can relax mentally and physically then I can go farther and I can go faster. But if I tense up and grit my teeth and say I’m going to muscle through it, that’s where all the injury, pressure, pain, impact, rotation – it’s just magnified.
Ben: Gotcha. Now one final question for you Danny. In terms of barefoot running, I know that obviously if everybody were barefoot running all the shoe companies would be put out of business and there is a reason to wear shoes but do you see a place for barefoot running in a runner or endurance athlete’s training program?
Danny Abshire: Yeah, almost all elite people do that. I do it myself. I teach it at the training camps because that’s how you re-learn how to run. Now here’s a thought. Humans evolved to run barefoot on natural surfaces. So that’s where we should be practicing barefoot running. If you want to run in a Vibram or just total barefoot, that’s where you should do it. You should do it on a really awesome track surface or an infield that is perfectly groomed and you just start out doing… just stand there, feel the blades of grass under you and just notice how you move. I don’t even tell you how you’re going to move. Everybody’s going to do it perfectly whether you’re 14 years old or you’re 80 years old. If you’re 100 lbs or you’re 300 lbs, you’re going to run the same way. You’re going to take short steps, you’re going to land under your muscle mass, you’re going to lean slightly and your arms are going to swing freely. You’re going to run that way automatically because you don’t have the influence of something on your foot. The idea is that… when I talked to Dr. Lieberman from Harvard, the idea is that we want to re-learn how to run with the barefoot running style and that’s what Newton is then proposing. A lot of times we’re misunderstood because people will go, well I can’t run a marathon on my toes. No one from Newton ever said we wanted you to do that. We want you to find your midfoot, forefoot landing, whichever is more comfortable. Chi running is total midfoot where you just land level to the ground right under your body and your ankles and knees are flexed. Your lower body is like a spring. You absorb that shock. Forefoot, you actually tap into your own natural energy return. So if you do it again, that pretend jump rope, if you land lightly on your forefoot when your heel settles, you’ll get a burst of energy back from your own spring ligaments, your elastic recoil, either your calf, your plantar fascia and your Achilles tendon. So if you land in the right position like humans will barefoot then you’ll start to realize where you should run with footwear. So barefoot running now…even cavemen started making moccasins and coverings for the feet thousands and thousands of years ago. It is for a reason. Because we have a brain. Our brain says if I run out there – you think there would be a race like Badwater if we didn’t have some coverings for our feet? The road temperature is over 200 degrees. You think we would be out running the Antarctic marathon? Barefoot? No, it’s 70 below. So, right. We have a brain. We want to protect ourselves but we also want to be able to move as if we’re barefoot running so we have to understand what the body form is and barefoot running is one of the best ways to do it. We need to do it – same thing – adapt very slowly. Maybe you just run two or three strides of 20 yards just feeling like what it feels like because people’s feet – like you said earlier, it’s like… do the bones in my foot… can the bones accept that kind of impact? Well it depends on what you’re talking about. If you’re talking about concrete and asphalt, you have to regulate… this is a manmade surface. It’s hard. So by understanding how you move when you’re barefoot and heightening that sensory input and practicing the way you lift instead of push, yeah that’s a very great thing to do. But I don’t – unlike Chris from McDougal and some of the other people, Michael Samer and some other people around the country. They want to run on every surface barefoot. Now you can toughen up but you’re also going to be set up for a different set of injuries than the injuries that are occurring from heel strike and push off. So we’re trying to get people to be sort of not way out there in running with the heel strike and not way over here running barefoot on concrete and asphalt but learn how to run underneath yourself, right? Learn how to run naturally and run that way and mimic that barefoot running style. So that’s the basic on barefoot.
Ben: Gotcha. Well folks, if you were interested in new running shoes, if you are interested in the Newtons, if you’re interested in barefoot running or just the biomechanics of running now hopefully you have a little bit more knowledge to make your decision about how you run and what you run in. So Danny, thanks for coming on the call today.
Danny Abshire: No problem Ben. Thanks for having me.
Ben: Alright, this is Ben Greenfield and Danny Abshire signing out from www.bengreenfieldfitness.com.
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