Thursday, July 14, 2011

Anything is Possible To a Willing Mind

Anything is possible to a willing mind.   If you are up against the seemingly impossible; look a this for proof positive that you can find your way.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Surfer and a Phenom at Her Very Core

[Skybox]Noah Hamilton Photography
Bethany Hamilton surfing in Indonesia in fall 2009.
Since Bethany Hamilton lost her left arm in a shark attack in 2003, the surfing champion has changed her life and her training dramatically.
Prior to the attack, Ms. Hamilton had made a name for herself at local junior surf competitions and had hopes of becoming a professional surfer. Then barely a teenager, her workout largely revolved around surfing as much as possible and watching videos of her surfing so she could improve her technique.
Noah Hamilton
Ms. Hamilton uses nylon straps to help her with exercises designed to improve her body alignment.
Regaining strength and balance were key to Ms. Hamilton's return to the surfing circuit. The sport requires endurance, a strong core and tremendous upper-body strength for paddling. She increased her workouts on land, focusing on leg, core and upper body strength and working out nearly twice as hard as before. If she was in the water, she was surfing. "Extra swimming would just exhaust my arm," she says.
Ms. Hamilton's first few months back in the water required adjustments to compensate for having only one arm. She started riding a custom-made board that had a handle to help her duck under the waves. The board was also longer and thicker, which made it easier to paddle. She had to start using her legs more to make up for her slower paddling speed. "Kicking more efficiently with my legs became really important to help me get out past the waves and into the lineup with the other surfers," Ms. Hamilton says.
After the accident, she began working with a personal trainer, in addition to going to physical therapy. About two years ago, she started to focus on postural poses that helped to realign her spine, which X-rays showed had curved toward her now stronger right side.
The 21-year-old still surfs competitively, usually entering eight to 12 contests a year. In 2005, she took first place in the National Scholastic Surfing Association National Championships, and in 2008, she began competing full-time on the Association of Surfing Professionals World Qualifying Series. "Soul Surfer," a film about Ms. Hamilton's comeback starring Helen Hunt and Dennis Quaid hit theaters last week. Ms. Hamilton says the hoopla that came along with the movie has been a distraction to her surfing this year. "I still plan to compete in all of the events I normally do, but I don't have super high expectations," she says. "I have a lot on my plate."
The Workout
For the past 2½ years, Ms. Hamilton has been working with postural alignment specialist Dustin Dillberg. They train at least two days a week for an hour and use Skype to work out together when Ms. Hamilton is on the road.

Alignment Lessons

Here are two Egoscue exercises that Mr. Dillberg, practices with Ms. Hamilton to aid postural alignment. The Egoscue Method, developed by San Diego-based posture specialist Pete Egoscue, involves a series of stretches and gentle exercises that aim to restore muscular balance and skeletal alignment. Mr. Dillberg says these moves also are perfect for the cramped backs of desk dwellers: "Anyone hunched over their desk all day will benefit from these poses," he says.
1. Static Back Reverse Presses
Dillberg Integrative Healthcare
Dustin Dillberg demonstrates the Static Back Reverse Press.
Lie on your back with your legs resting on a chair or ottoman. With arms out to the side, bend your elbows so your fists are up toward the ceiling. Squeeze your shoulder blades down and together, hold the contraction for one second, and then release. Repeat three sets of 10 contractions.
2. Standing Windmill
Stand with your back flat against a wall, arms out to the side. Bend laterally at the waist, leaning to one side. Bend as far as possible without lifting up the heel or shifting the hips and pelvis. Start with your feet hip-width apart and complete five reps in each direction. Repeat with feet repositioned at three feet apart, five feet apart and then go back to hip-width apart. "You should feel more length in the spine when you get back to the starting position," says Mr. Dillberg.
He adds, "People working at a computer are usually rotating their body from the hip to shoulder, by resting one arm on their desk or using one hand for their mouse. This exercise helps re-adjust the muscles back into proper alignment."
Jen Murphy
Ms. Hamilton practices custom exercises to address the imbalance caused by her missing left arm. Mr. Dillberg analyzed Ms. Hamilton's posture and movement patterns to help design her workout. "Dealing with the loss of a limb, she's always going to be slightly off balance because she will have underuse on one side," he says. "This throws off her center of gravity."
Mr. Dillberg introduced her to the Egoscue Method, a therapy technique that strengthens specific muscles to help realign the body. Ms. Hamilton has a menu of postural therapy exercises that she does almost daily. One exercise is a "wall sit" where she puts her back flat against a wall, with knees bent at a 90-degree angle and weight aimed at the heels. The pose is held for two minutes.
The postural work is often followed by exercises using the TRX Suspension Trainer, a piece of equipment made up of nylon straps that pits body weight against gravity to work the body in different planes of resistance. Ms. Hamilton can loop the TRX cradle around the stump of her left arm to more easily perform movements like one-arm push ups.
In one pose, she puts her feet into the strap with one hand on the ground and her left shoulder balanced on a foam roller. "We use the foam roller almost like a prosthetic arm to perform exercises," Mr. Dillberg says.
Or she might do power pulls, where she grabs the handle and leans back at a 45-degree angle, rotating her entire body toward the ground. She then sits back up while reaching to the ceiling. The exercise is meant to work the obliques and improve hip stability.
"My TRX training has really improved my balance and has built up my confidence in the water," says Ms. Hamilton. "It's been exciting to be able to do so many new exercises with the help of the straps."
She gets in most of her swimming practice when she's surfing. "I mostly focus on kicking because I don't like to use my arm too much, and kicking is important for me in surfing to help catch waves," she says.
At least once a week she runs about two miles on the beach or will take her dog on a hike. When the waves are good, Ms. Hamilton skips her workout and spends two to eight hours surfing.
The Diet
When in her late teens, Ms. Hamilton started eating an almost all organic diet. She usually starts her mornings making a smoothie with açaí, a purple South American fruit loaded with antioxidants. While many athletes focus on protein, Ms. Hamilton is more concerned about eating her vegetables. "I think it's more important to eat the right amount of protein and not go overboard," she says.
She likes to cook what she calls a "reverse omelet" for breakfast, using one egg and adding extra onion, zucchini or asparagus to the pan. She tries to fuel herself with healthy food every three to four hours. One of her favorite snacks is homemade kale chips.


Movie Clip: 'Soul Surfer'

Watch a clip from "Soul Surfer" about a competitive surfer who finds the courage to go back into the water after losing an arm in a shark attack.
Ms. Hamilton gets most of her surfing gear courtesy of sponsors like Channel Islands and Epoxy surfboards, Rip Curl and Future Fins. She estimates she has around 20 surfboards and more bathing suits than she can count. A TRX Suspension Training kit costs about $190 and comes with an instructional DVD.
Fitness Tip
"It's important to have variety. Find other stuff you enjoy. I love working out and love surfing, but sometimes I need a change so I'll do something different, like play tennis."
Quick Fix
When short on time, Ms. Hamilton will do a postural exercise that takes 30 minutes to perform. She lays on her back with one leg extended straight up in the air and the other straight out flat on the floor, forming a 90-degree angle for 15 minutes, and then switches to the other side. The exercise helps release her lower back and hips. "My hips had been rebelling. They were so tight and it was preventing me from having proper positioning on my board," she says.
Ms. Hamilton's iPod is loaded with hip hop and techno, as well as some "calmer" music which she plays while stretching or performing her postural exercises.
—Write to Jen Murphy at 

Breaking 2 Hours In The Marathon

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Getting Back to Barefoot Basics

So you think you are interested in trying out barefoot running? How exciting! Barefoot running for me has evolved from a curiosity to a bit of an obsession but I don't place myself in the same camp as the die hards. I am still undecided as to whether barefoot running is going to be feasible in this town for marathon training because we have so many months of terribly cold weather. The conditions make it tough to maintain the foot conditioning required to go longer distances.

Many people ask about barefoot running when they really just want to go minimalist and that’s OK. By minimalist, I mean you prefer less shoe such as a flat or a rubber covering like the Vibram Five Finger. I also include the famous Huarache sandal in this camp. The Minimalist approach is a lot simpler to do. But be careful, though you CAN come up to speed in less time you need to be very careful because can easily over do your abilities. For you may get up to your shod speed and distances before your body has adapted to the bio-mechanics. Consider the impact all the years in shoes has had on the muscles in the foot bed. The shortened calf muscles and Achilles tendon. I know a few friends who have developed Achilles injury from over use of Vibrams. In minimal shoes the heal is gone and your Achilles tendon and muscles need a good amount of time lengthen and strengthen.

If you want to go totally barefoot, I recommend you go pretty much cold turkey. This will definitely make the transition go faster. Start by doing some walking on challenging surfaces to condition the soles. When you do start going a bit further, carry a pair of shoes (no socks are needed) with you. This is true especially for longer runs while you are just getting started. You will thank yourself if you get a ways out and have trouble.

I find the most difficult surfaces are the roads less traveled. The low traffic rural fractured rock composite that Peoria loves to put down in neighborhoods. These areas tend to have unswept or non-existent sidewalks. Be prepared to experience a few bad days. You will develop a few blisters, scrapes and cuts. I can remember when I was just starting looking at a few roads with disdain. Give yourself a break. You’ve been running a LONG time in shoes. Barefoot nirvana won’t happen nearly as fast as you envision it happening, but it will happen if you stick with it. Be stubborn!

I now have a bunch of barefoot 5k’s, 2 half marathons, and 2 marathons completely barefoot. I am 1 for 2 in the half marathon meaning I wasn’t quite ready for the road course for the Delevan, IL 1/2. For this one I had to put on shoes (but I finished). For the marathon, the first was in Baltimore and with no expectations I ran with shoes in hand just in case and put them on at mile 24. If I hadn't had them I problably didn’t need to do this but was afraid of damage. My feet looked no worse after it than after any other marathon with shoes. I ran a marathon in Huntsville 4 months later in 2009 and totally shredded my feet. The difference was in the road surfaces. In the future I feel Chicago would be a GREAT marathon course for barefoot running. Had I not gotten injured I was going to attempt a 3 hour pace last year there barefoot. All those cars make for a very smooth roads.

To build up your distance, try to run on sidewalks at first but only if they don’t have a bunch of cinders and gravel deposited from the snow plows. After that, pick some of the smoother roads that are composed of more asphalt than rock. By that I mean the darker black ribbon smooth roads you find around towns in Illinois like Morton and Chilli. In my opinion, Morton and Chillicothe have some of the greatest barefoot roads (as does Kona Hawaii ;-)). As far as trails, the EP trail is very good as are the paved parts of the Rock Island Trail. The gravel parts are a bit tougher to learn on because of the fractured gravel (it’s sharper than natural pebbles). When you do run in the street, if possible get more out in the road than on the shoulder. The cars wear a smooth track that really helps when you are learning. Finally, treadmills…. What can I say. I have one and run barefoot all the time on it in the winter but its not quite the same as a street. Your feet soles will not maintain the toughness but the feet will get stronger.

Finally, don’t think that you can’t get injured or that it will solve all your injury problems because it won’t. You will still have running injuries albeit hopefully less severe if you run far and fast. I’m coming off a heal injury that really bummed me out because I was starting to run about as fast without the shoes last summer as I could with shoes and that was getting exciting. Now I’m only running 1 or 2 days a week as I try to climb back on that horse. It’s taken me about 2 years to get to this point but I no doubt did a lot of stupid things causing me to progress slowly.

Regardless of whether you go completely barefoot or minimalist, your knees and hips will thank you but at times the skin on your soles will curse you . I figure a scrape or cut is far less serious than a hip or knee problem. Also be prepared for many folks (including your spouse) to just think you are nuts. For me that part is probably deserved for many reasons. Running barefoot is just one of them.

Here’s a great blog for you check out. Barefoot Angie Bee

Good luck and hope to see you out there this summer!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Kicked Out Of Disney

If you get kicked out of Disney for drinking, don't ask, “Then who’s gonna watch my kids?” Security takes that shit seriously.

Monday, October 11, 2010