My Fear of Movement

2016 was a world wind of a year for me, with lots of activity!

I started off by training for the Rottnest Channel Swim, the infamous 19.7km event from Cottesloe beach to Rottnest Island. As a Canadian living in Perth, Australia it was imperative for me to do such a quintessential Western Oz adventure. Besides, I only lived 2km from the ocean; and, 5k from Sorrento Surf Life Saving Club, where I’m a member. I was in the water LOTS!

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January 5km prep                                                February Rotto swim

After February 27th, the Swim (what ended up being a 23km+ swim because of current and bad sighting) I started to walk, walk a lot and hike. I walked the beaches, the footpaths, and the forests/parks within the area.

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Walking in Perth and the surrounding area

In August, I moved back to North America and proceeded to walk/hike as much as possible in local, provincial, state, national parks around. I walked/hiked in Oregon, Washington, Vermont, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec.

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        Top to bottom, left to right: Oregon, Washington, Rhode Island, British Columbia

 

Yet, no matter how much I walked… I was really walking away from my fear… my fear of movement in one part of my body that needed it the most: My right foot/toe.

toe                                                         My right toe minutes before surgery Dec 8, 2015

 

I know this sounds kind of funny… Of course you moved ALL year Kristin! How can you say: you fear movement?

I had surgery on my right foot December 2015. After years of excruciating pain I finally decided to go under the knife (well, it was actually power tools!). It was an extremely hard decision to make, that I did not take lightly. I just thought it was the best thing I could do because any foot movement I did was painful! I wanted to live with less pain, not feeling my bones hitting each other with every toe move (one bone spur from metatarsal to phalanx, and another bone spur from phalanx to metatarsal, both hitting each other daily). I knew there was a risk of me coming out worse off, or the same… I took the chance.

The surgery went well (I’ll post a blog on this specifically soon), and I was limited in foot movement for 2 weeks while I heeled (stitches and all). I was told that it would take a full year to slowly move my toe through its range of motion. “It won’t ever be 100%, but it will be pretty good”, I was told.

I’ve broken bones, been sown up with stitches in many places, had cysts removed, been hit head on by a car resulting in concussion, whiplash and short term memory loss for 8 months; still, this particular situation [toe surgery] was different. I was so scared and worried bone spurs would re-emerge again. Whenever my toe felt uncomfortable, I stopped doing my exercises. After less than a month of work, I let it be. I did exactly what I was NOT suppose to do. I swam and walked away from fear… yet, movement was the only thing that could and can fix my toe!

These are some photos I took in November 2016. My right toe extension is quite limited. I did not do the work necessary to get as much range of motion as possible for a better, healthier body.

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Every single part of my body is important, especially if I want my body to work as a whole unit. My lack of toe extension since summer 2001 has caused me many compensations over the years. From ankles to knees to hips, from joints to connective tissues to bone, my body has changed. In addition, pain set in early, increasing my nociception and decreasing my proprioception, highlighting my change in movement patterns unconsciously.

Small, microscopic changes over time can lead to significant alterations. My hip extension is different on both sides, my pelvis is slightly rotated, left femur overly internally rotated, muscles (like psoai, adductors and glutes) don’t have the same strengths, etc. I know we are all never perfectly symmetrical; but, I also know my toe has altered my body.

I am responsible for my movements and my overall wellbeing. Since I am doing my #cardioproject2017 this year, I have to be hyper vigilant about my toe. Running magnifies my compensations; therefore, I need to do my due diligence to ensure the health of my toe (hence, my body).

It is through movement that I will do this, not rest->Loading my joints<-. It’s never an easy task. Just because I had surgery on my toe doesn’t mean my “issue(s)” are magically gone, or will never return. A massive amount of work needs to be done.

Next post…. what am I doing for my toe!

Five Tips for X-Country Runners

TIP #1: Do some fancy footwork EVERYDAY

Having strong and healthy feet relate to your ENTIRE body health. I am sure you don’t want to get injured this year?! Get those shoes off and work your feet for 5 minutes a day, it’ll save you a lot of heart ache later on!

 

TIP #2: Do whole body mobility/movement

Running only requires ~20% of your musculature. What’s happening to the rest of your body? There’s some SERIOUS underuse.

The cardiovascular system relies on ALL your muscles to pump the blood (nutrient rich => oxygen) to all the cells in your body. If you JUST run you’re in for a lot of hurt later on in life.

AND just because you’re an Olympic calibre runner does not prevent you from CVD. It’s all about making movement matter in your ENTIRE body not just the parts you need to run.

Ask yourself everyday: have I MOVED today? If you haven’t I would move first (yes, as a priority!) before you decide to run.

Move runner move!

 

TIP #3: Walk for recovery

With all new gadgets and experts talking about everything you can do… it really can be as simple as walking more for better recovery and better health. We were meant to move a LOT throughout the day. Not just once a day (aka during your workout). It’s all about making movement matter

 

 

TIP #4: Wear less

Our goose bump muscles (arrector pili) are just as important as any other muscle in the body. USE them!

Your body is set up for self thermoregulation. If you are constantly trying to be “comfortable” with your body temperature you are achieving the exact opposite with extra clothes and/or heat.

And that’s also why, especially during colder months, it’s important to constantly move throughout the day! We are suppose to anyway.

Whether you are training or not be a little bit uncomfortable to regain optimal health.

 

 

Tip #5: Plumb line your way up those hills while keeping your ribs down to engage your glutes and hamstrings instead of exasperating your hip flexor/ quad dominant lifestyle.

Achilles straight leg hops

When I was running seriously [circa early ’90s] we did this one exercise “Achilles Straight Leg Hops” throughout the indoor track season. I actually enjoyed doing it; but, I couldn’t have told you why at the time.

There has been a lot of research, especially from the Mechano-Therapy world on loading of tissues. How movement REPAIR tissues and how we can prevent injuries from occurring in the first place.

Eccentric and concentric loading at joints effects our tissues in a positive way. In runners, the feet, calves, and achilles are discussed in nausea; and, as we all know numerous injuries stem from them!

If we load the achilles tendon we are helping the areas below [feet and plantar fascia], direct [achilles tendon] and above [calves]. You can absolutely do calf raises and drops on two feet or on one foot, which I am sure most of you have done before. OR, you can try this activity below.

Now, please do not do this if you have an injury. I am assuming you are healthy!

A few pointers:

1. STRAIGHT legs for the entire exercise except to start (mine are not exactly straight)

2. SPRING with the achilles. You are just plantar flexing and dorsiflexing the foot (nothing else is moving)

3. ARM swing for momentum

4. COORDINATION is needed because you are suppose to land in same spot every time (I didn’t)

5. BALANCE helps too 😉

As a side note, they have found achilles tendon injuries are not inflammatory, they are degenerative in nature, meaning a huge loss in collagen fibres. One of my favourite quotes is “Turn movement into repair” ~ Dr. Khan

Orthotics or not=> Our limiting foot beliefs are hurting us

 “If we have been bamboozled long enough we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It is simply too painful to acknowledge- even to ourselves- that we’ve been so credulous. So the old bamboozles tend to persist as the new bamboozles arise.” ~ Carl Sagan (Astrophysicist)

Our highly specialized, homo sapiens, feet have been around for over 120 000 years, in addition to evolving hundreds of thousands of years before that! The many intricacies of the foot are still beyond the scope of science; yet, we are tricked into believing “one brand of shoe” or “a pair of orthotics” can fix our feet. Really?

ORTHOTICS

Orthotics= Artificial support

When you think of artificial what comes to mind? Artificial sweetener, artificial colour, artificial flavour, artificial intelligence, artificial personality. The likelihood of artificial having a positive connotation is doubtful.

I HAVE to wear orthotics because:

  • My feet are flat
  • I have high arches
  • I’m genetically flawed
  • I always get injured
  • Shin splints
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Fat pad syndrome
  • My parents, grandparents and great grandparents had them

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Taking my shoes for a walk

Unshod studies

Research on European, Indian and Asian adults who had never worn shoes in their lifetime all showed fan shaped feet with variations in arch height. Flat feet, middle arch or high arched unshod adults were all asymptomatic. That means no foot problems.

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Most people in their lifetime will never even come close to moving their feet in 860,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 different ways {Katy Bowman, Every Woman’s Guide to Foot Pain Relief}. Yes, that’s all possible foot ‘formations’.

Our feet have 100,000 to 200,000 receptors each that sense our environment as we stand, walk, run, skip and jump our way through the day. However, if we are shod our receptors (information coders) cannot transmit vital feedback to the brain in order for the brain to decide how to move our body, our feet, appropriately. For example, how often have you sprained your ankle? I bet it was in a shoe!

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Enough about the FEET!

Well, foot health is 100% indicative of whole body health. How are you knees, hips, pelvis, back, shoulders? How’s your cardiovascular health or your immune system functioning? How are you? Think about that for a bit.

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Do your jeans fit the environment? Or, does your environment fit the jeans? Does the environment matter? Do your jeans matter? Yes! Both matter AND the environment far outweighs your genes, unless they are skinny jeans then you win (or lose because you’re cutting off input to your feet instantly!). Yes, in the excellent picture I drew I wrote jeans for ‘genes’, just for fun.

Epigenetics, how the environment influences if, how and when your genes may be expressed, is a hot topic today. Sometimes certain genes will be turned off your entire life while others will be turned on, like when you wore those skinny jeans! If you didn’t get that, it’s okay. I am bad at jokes!

My dad, and all my dad’s family have osteoarthritis in the big toe (hallux). My brother has it and I have it too. Did I get it because of my dad? No! The environment-> cushy, heeled shoes with orthotics, tight calves, too much sitting, poor skeletal alignment, lack of proper movement. I absolutely believe if I knew then what I know now I would have never acquired osteoarthritis in the first place, 15 years ago. Sure, I might have a slightly higher tendency to acquire osteoarthritis than you… but, without those skinny jeans, I’d be fine! I’m done with the skinny jeans joking. 

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Are you asking me to stop wearing orthotics or go barefoot?! No, I’m asking you to do more work on your feet and think more of a whole body approach to your health. Top 10 things to do for better foot/overall body health.

1. The first thing you need to do is make sure ALL of your shoes (home, work, sport, dress) fit properly. Trace your feet and cut it out. See if that paper fits in ALL your shoes without coming up on the sides, the front or the back. If it does, give those shoes away. NO exceptions. Period.

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2. Your toes are often overlooked. If you can’t interlace your fingers inside your toes there’s dysfunction. Do as much as you can now with slow ankle rotations. It doesn’t matter if only a bit of your fingers are in between. Slowly increase movement over time. You can also buy correct toes or happy feet [I am not a distributor if you are wondering]. Note: Correct toes can be worn ALL day long and adjusted to your toes. Happy Feet are usually just worn at home for a little while.  

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3. Your calves have been adaptively shortened over time. It doesn’t matter if you wear orthotics or not, have shoes or not. I would 100% recommend you do calf stretches several times a day because your calves do not have their full natural functional capacity. AND calf tension plays an direct role in foot and toe tension. While standing, place the ball of your foot on a rolled up towel or a half dome (DON’T press your foot into the towel) to stretch your calf. Keep your ribs down, your hips in line, relax your shoulders and the front of your quads. [BUT my FEET hurt barefoot! No problem. Lie on your back on the ground, take a towel, wrap around the ball of your foot and slowly straighten your leg (or keep it bent) pulling towel (toes) towards your head. You ought to get that calf/back of knee/hamstring stretch]. The calf stretch is the #1 corrective exercise in Restorative Exercise, under the umbrella of Nutritious Movement. It can change your body!

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4. The top of your feet and your shins have been taking a beating… you have noooo idea. Now, if you are a dancer then forget this one, it’ll be too easy for you! But, everyone else do the top of the toe/foot stretch! Make sure you are plumb line (i.e. not leaning forward) and take a SMALL step back while placing the top of your foot on the ground… gently at first and then with 50% of your weight. Over time move your foot back a bit more. [But, I LOSE my balance! No problem. Sit down and point your toes with your hands (don’t point your toes with your toes!) It’s a passive exercise. OR sit on a chair with butt cheek slightly off so you can bring that one leg back and place the top of your foot on the ground. This is less pressure and you are not on your feet!].

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5. Grab some balls! Yoga Tune Up Therapy balls to be exact!!! I used to have tennis balls lying around everywhere but now all I have is YTU balls. They are the only balls specifically designed for muscle and fascia. Honestly, they are brilliant! Roll on your feet, calves, shins, hamstrings, butt, back, shoulders, neck, everywhere!

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6. When you sit [hours on end] do you sit on your ischial tuberosities or on your tailbone? Sit on your “sit bones/ ischial tuberosity” not on your coccyx! Nerves run down your spine into your feet! Don’t CUT the flow off! And, think about sitting beside your furniture while at home. It’s healthier!

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7. Most people that have “bad” feet are not so great at squatting. Start by squatting everyday on the toilet! It’s a DAILY dose of I love you body! If you can’t do it… start with one book and slowly add more books to the mix. Ankle dorsiflexion, knee flexion and hip flexion are vital to your whole body and foot health!

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8. Be uncomfortable! If your feet are weak, so are many other parts of your body. You have got to go beyond comfort to get to health. YES, our “comfortable” lives are impairing our bodies. Go barefoot several times a day (even if it’s only for one minute at a time), go for walks on rocks (even if you can only stand there for 30 seconds), sit on the floor more often, lie down 15 minutes on the floor before going to bed to have a different kind of ‘loading’ on your body, get textured mats [floor mat, bath mat, tub mat, kitchen mat] at home to use on your feet, step on objects purposefully to gain more proprioception, crawl, move! Pick up marbles or objects with your feet! Do the alphabet with your feet as you walk around your house OR as you watch TV. Be uncomfortable! It’s the only way you know you are changing.

9. Find your foot playground! Yolande and I are taking in the beauty of this PARADISE before moving for two hours. Honestly, this was the BEST barefoot WHOLE body workout I have ever done. My feet, legs and all my body were shaking after moving around, crawling, jumping, playing.

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10. Are your feet MORE sore when you wake up in the morning? Your body position while sleeping is fundamental to your blood circulation and electrical flow. If you can, sleep on your back with a towel under your pelvis (at least for a bit). Place a towel just below your iliac crest (just below your low back. FEEL the bony pelvis and go below that). Now, touch your crotch and the front of your pelvis (either side). You can see I have a LEVEL. You don’t need one. BUT, I can almost guarantee anything you THINK is ‘straight’ is actually in posterior tilt, meaning your crotch is higher than your pelvis. Why does this matter? Innervation to your feet needs to happen 24/7! You will also find your calves and hamstrings aren’t so darn tight when you wake up :)

Bonus: Work on sitting down and standing up without using ANY body parts except your feet!

I just want people to understand if they take away their foot health, they are reducing their bodies function by 25%. Is working 75% of your body good enough for you?

 

As a side note: I had orthotics for 16 years. Over time I became FED up, I just quit! Quit believing that I HAD to wear them all the time, that I needed them for life and that I couldn’t do what I wanted without them. I was just too young (early 30’s) to rely on orthotics to “fix” me.

I s-l-o-w-l-y weened over the course of 2 years. I cried many many times because doing barefoot work was painful, tiring and taxing on my whole body. There was NOTHING easy about the process and it was 100% uncomfortable. AND, it was the best thing for me! 

To add, it took another 7 years to truly understand the implications of “comfort” shoes and heeled shoes (that includes ALL shoes~ running, dress, home, slippers, sandals, etc). 

All my shoes are now flat and I will never go back. 

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Kristin Marvin is a Performance Recovery Specialist, helping athletes achieve their best through proper recovery. As a former Canadian team runner she had her fair share of foot problems: plantar fasciitis, shin splints, achilles tendonitis, hip issues and massive back pain. Sharing her knowledge with athletes is her #1 objective, so others don’t have to suffer through pain, injury and setback.  

The Pulsing of my Foot

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Typically, we are taught to check our pulse or someone else’s at the wrist or neck, we never think about other areas of the body pulsing. I’m here to tell you our entire body pulsates!

Our beautifully complex circulatory system circumnavigates the body wholeheartedly, turning, bending, going up and down, side to side all along the way. Its 100,000km (62,000+miles) network must be able to reach every single one of our trillions of cells to provide the nutrients they need to live.

Just to put the km in perspective, that is like traveling around the world two and a half times, driving a car just over 280km every day for a year, or jumping up and down 50 million times. That’s wacky right?!

What’s crazier is the fact that we unintentionally cut off our blood circulation {our vital nutrition} to various parts of the body unbeknownst to us.

The feet just happen to be the worst place for lack of blood flow, especially in runners! So, let’s look at circulation in the feet.

There are several arteries in the feet. One artery in particular that gets cut off in a lot of runners is the medial plantar artery (MPA), which branches off from the posterior tibial artery (PTA).

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Extremely rudimentary image

Why would it get ‘cut’ off? The medial plantar artery travels in between two muscles: the abductor hallucis and the flexor digitorum brevis. If any tension is happening in these muscles then the artery will get squished!!! So???

Let’s go back to the circulatory system: Most people think that the heart and arteries make up the circulatory system, and maybe if you know a bit more you would add arterioles. Yes; and, believe it or not, you would still be missing 80% of the puzzle [well, it’s more complicated, but KISS it today baby!].

80% of your vascular system (80,000km) is made up of capillaries: the Queens B s!!!! Capillaries are single celled blood vessels that transport nutrients to all the tissues in the body and get rid of all their waste products. In essence, capillaries are like Moms: Loving and nurturing through always feeding you and cleaning up your crap. Without them, we wouldn’t survive. Period!

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The Aorta is THE artery leaving the heart carrying oxygenated blood to the body.

The Vena Cava is THE vein carrying deoxygenated blood from the body into the heart.

To get a better understanding of what the vascular system actually looks like in humans, here is an image of the torso.

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Pretty freakin’ awesome eh?! 

Back to your FEET! Let’s say you have 12,500km of vasculature in each foot. For sake of ease, we’ll divide it up evenly, 50% to the anterior tibial artery and 50% to the posterior tibial artery. The medial plantar artery is smaller than the lateral plantar artery (MPA), so let’s be super conservative and say 30%. And of that 30%, 80% is compromised of capillaries~ 1500km. Holy catfish Wonder woman! If I cut off circulation to the MPA, I could be messing up miles of circulation to hundreds of thousands of cells in my feet.

What does this moronic, inaccurate statistic mean?

Capillaries of the MPA feed the medial side of your foot including the abductor hallucis AH and flexor digitorum brevis FDB (irony much?), arterial supply to the hallux (big toe), and nourishes the plantar aponeurosis surrounding the AH and FDB.

This means……. for E X A M P L E ….. the PLANTAR FASCIITIS {or fasciosis} common in runners can come from the pressures placed on the MPA. Below I illustrate just a few things that can cause pressure on the MPA. [And, if you want more details, come see me :)]

Direct pressure: Your orthotics, your inserts or your shoes themselves pressing against the MPA.

Indirect pressure: Toe spring, heel lift, narrow toe box, tight calves & hamstrings causing AH and/or FDB tension= MPA squish

FullSizeRender (18)                       Toe Spring [Changes the tension in the medial longitudinal arch]

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Heel lift [leads to shorter and tighter calves]

FullSizeRender (22)Toe box [shifts bones and muscles]

Perhaps, as a runner, I won’t be able to convince you just yet of how most running shoes are messing up your feet*. However, I can give you this awesome roll out of the AH to help ease your aches/pains and increase circulation to your feet using the Roll Model® balls. Check out the video!

*It took me many years of convincing before I decided to change my footwear. In addition to 2 years of transitioning from cushy heeled running shoes to flat, wide toe box, flexible shoes that allow my feet to do all the work. I haven’t had plantar fasciitis in over 20 years.

Also to note: There are many runners and coaches who still believe in overtraining {or who are oblivious to overtraining}. Plantar fasciitis is a classic overuse inflammatory response to repetitive movements irritating the plantar fascia. No one is born with plantar fasciitis. Our feet are shaped by our every move. Our feet re-act to our own actions we place upon them. They do exactly what they are told through stresses, mechanical loading, etc. Please be mindful of what you are making them do, day in and day out.

In conclusion…. Are there any other places you are cutting off circulation? Necrosis {cell/tissue death} is not a cool thing in a living human. I mean, it happens to millions of cells a day… but we don’t have to speed up the process do we?