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How to Pick The Right Shoe for Working Out

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How to Pick The Right Shoe for Working Out

A question that I’ve gotten from athletes over the years is "What type of shoe should I purchase for running or for working out?" First off, I want to make it abundantly clear that I am by no means a podiatrist. However, I do have experience assessing people’s musculoskeletal imbalances, and I can prescribe corrective exercises to address these issues.

I’ll start with the most common dysfunctions that could improve by having the proper footwear. It's relatively common to have mobility limitations and insufficient movement patterns at the ankle joint. One of the more common issues I see is excessive foot pronation (feet collapsing inward) (as seen in the photo below) and lack of dorsiflexion (inability to flex the ankle).

People with flat feet or low arches will usually pronate their feet, causing them to put a majority of their weight into their arch. This can create a chain reaction of unwanted stresses up the body - up the “chain”. However, the reverse is also true, which means that if your hips are not stable and aligned, they’ll cause issues down the chain, and your knees and feet will begin to compensate as a result. Here’s a perfect example: as a result of the feet collapsing inwards, the knees will also collapse inwards. This can cause various knee issues, knee pain, and can make it more difficult to externally rotate the hips. The muscle that’s responsible for externally rotating our hips is our glutes/butt. If our butt isn’t in the game when we do lower body movements, then we’re in danger of not just having a flabby butt, but also potentially suffering from overuse injuries due to compensatory patterns.

Lack of dorsiflexion, or the lack of flexing at the ankles, is usually attributed to tight calf muscles - gastrocnemius and soleus being the biggest culprits. This issue is also usually coupled with the feet everting, or turning out, as a compensation for not being able to flex at the ankles.  Dorsiflexion allows for more freedom up the chain to flex the knee and hip during lower body movements such as squats and lunges. Besides exercises to help improve these two common mobility issues (I could write an entire blog post about these exercises), the right shoe can help solve this. That’s what we’re here for, right?! We went to our neighborhood shoe store, BAIT in the Mission to show you some examples of what to look for in a shoe.

FOR THE RUNNERS

First off, let’s start with those of you who run. I suggest getting a gait analysis at a local running shoe store like A Runner's Mind or Fleet Feet. You could also ask one of our P4L coaches to assess your overhead squat and single leg squat. From there, they’ll be able to give you feedback on the type of shoes that you may benefit from, depending on your musculoskeletal imbalances. One recommendation I could give without any assessment is this: if you’ve got flat feet, or if you put weight into your arches, get shoes that give you arch support. Make sure to do some research online beforehand to ensure that you’re getting the shoe that’s best for you.

 
This shoe is ideal for running, because it is a lightweight shoe. The difference between this and a cross-training shoe is that there's no lateral support, meaning there's minimal traction at the sole. I personally like a minimalist shoe, because it strengthens your feet while running and feels closest to a bare foot.

This shoe is ideal for running, because it is a lightweight shoe. The difference between this and a cross-training shoe is that there's no lateral support, meaning there's minimal traction at the sole. I personally like a minimalist shoe, because it strengthens your feet while running and feels closest to a bare foot.

 

FOR THE STRENGTH TRAINERS / CROSS-TRAINERS

For those of you do a variety of activities, and especially if you strength train, then please do yourself a favor and get cross-training shoes. I’ve seen countless people over the years strength train or do functional fitness classes in running shoes. Two reasons why this is not a good idea:

  1. Running shoes don’t have ankle support, so when performing lateral movements, you’re going to be more vulnerable to ankle sprains.
  2. Running shoes don’t provide as much heel elevation or do as good of a job at preventing pronation as much as cross trainers do. Cross trainers will lock your foot in place and assist in ankle flexion - however, that’s not the best reason to get cross trainers.
 
This shoe gives you more ankle support than a running shoe. The elevated heel makes it easier to flex in the ankle, thus helping you squat easier. You'll have increased stability. In addition, it has heel support and traction so that you can do lateral movements.

This shoe gives you more ankle support than a running shoe. The elevated heel makes it easier to flex in the ankle, thus helping you squat easier. You'll have increased stability. In addition, it has heel support and traction so that you can do lateral movements.

 

I will say that I do prefer a minimalist shoe, or even working out barefoot if you’re solely strength training; the reason being that you have more feedback and contact with the ground, thus giving you more natural ability to move your foot freely and to generate force into the ground with your entire foot.

Thanks for listening and I hope this helps!

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The Move More, Eat Less Challenge

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The Move More, Eat Less Challenge

A few weeks ago, something dawned on me while my girlfriend and I were strolling through our neighborhood in the Sunset. We passed by our favorite local ice cream joint (which is located directly across the street from our gym by some twist of cosmic irony) and were overcome by temptation for the second day in a row. Normally we exercise more restraint, but alas, the ice cream won that day. Jokingly I said, “Well, as long as we workout more times in a week than we eat ice cream, we'll be okay.” I then realized that for most folks, they eat out far more often than they exercise. From that, an idea was born.

Here in San Francisco - where we take our food very seriously - the old adage of ‘move more and eat less’ isn't shown enough love. A lot of people engage in some amount of regular exercise, but the amount of it relative to the volume of food consumed isn't in the best proportion. I realized that most clients I have worked with go out to eat quite a bit more than they engage in vigorous exercise. As such, this version of the ‘move more and eat less’ challenge was born: on a weekly basis, try to get in the gym and perform vigorous exercise more times than you go out to eat.

Every challenge needs some guidelines to be effective. Although I don't want to make a rule set that's overly-specific or restrictive, some structure is needed to adhere to the spirit of the challenge. I'll make some suggestions below to help guide this process.

  1. The exercise session needs to be a minimum of 45 minutes in length, and it needs to be hard. Something like walking through the city doesn't count. Honestly, many forms of yoga or pilates wouldn't really qualify either. I'm not saying they have no value, but the level of energy expenditure is simply not high enough for our purposes. The exercise should increase your heart rate significantly and make you sweat (and not just because it's outside in the heat or in a hot room). If you can't engage in vigorous exercise for some reason, exercising to the level of a brisk walk for 90 minutes would also suffice.
  2. As far as whether or not a meal is considered “eating out” is a bit more subjective. However, a good rule of thumb is if you're selecting your meal based purely on taste, then it should probably count as eating out. If the meal is selected in an attempt to make it balanced and nutritious (and reasonably portioned), then it doesn't add to that count. So, if you cook a giant bowl of fettuccine alfredo at home, that's still “eating out.” Conversely, if you get a grilled chicken breast salad at the lunch spot near work, that's not “eating out.” I think you get the idea; it's about the spirit of how the meal is composed, not the technicality of who prepared it or where it was consumed. Additionally, every 3 drinks (1 beer, 1 glass of wine, or one shot of liquor) you consume in a week is considered eating out. So, if you drink a beer or glass of wine every night with dinner, that's 7 drinks or 2 extra counts of eating out for the week. If you go out to eat and drink a few drinks, then you just ate out twice. I know this is a bit of a stretch, but I consider it so impactful that I felt it was worth using our imaginations a bit.
  3. Tally up both of these things, and try to make sure the number of exercise sessions is greater than the number of times you eat out in a week - it's really that simple. Start by trying to do this for a month, but you can aim to make it more of a long-term lifestyle choice as well.

The beauty of this challenge is that it helps you understand just how much exercise is required to counteract poor nutrition habits. For most people, the sensible choice is to change both habits a bit: exercise a few more times per week, and eat out a few less times per week. However, if eating with tons of freedom is important to you, then you do have the option of trying to balance that out with a massive volume of exercise. As well, if you really don't want to exercise much (I recommend against this option the most) or have health issues that prohibit this, then you can be very strict with your eating habits. Try it out and see how it goes!

Hopefully this arms everyone with yet another tool in the battle to enjoy the finer things in life while staying healthy. If nothing else, it will provide you some perspective on your lifestyle. That's all for today… Cheers!


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#HowIPerformForLife : Gloria

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#HowIPerformForLife : Gloria

How do you exercise/socialize/revitalize?

I come to P4L probably 4 group classes a week. I run a couple days a week. I had an injury recently, and I realized how much I appreciated the social aspects of working out, too. We know each other on a first-name basis. We know each other, and we know when one is missing in class. We look out for each other, and the trainers know my injuries. It’s a very social, inclusive fun place to work out. It never feels like I’m just going to grind through a workout. Everyone says hello when you come in and goodbye when you leave.

When did health and wellness become an important part of your life?

When I turned 30, I realized that I could no longer run 6 days a week, I needed to add different things to my workout. I was running about 35 miles a week, and I did that for years. I started looking around for gyms that I wanted to go to. I tried a bunch of big box gyms, and I joined and I would go, but I just didn’t like it. I kept up with running, and I would hardly go to the gym. I found Perform for Life, and it’s the first time I’ve ever been to the gym consistently - numerous times a week. You know when I would take group classes at Crunch or Gold’s , there would be like 30 people, the guy was yelling at us, and there was no quality control. It was crazy. It felt like an injury waiting to happen.

What has kept you here for the past 4 years?

Honestly, I joined because it was nearby, but I have stayed because of the community and the quality of the trainers. I love Bryant and Justine, and everyone who works here is super great. It’s super great.

At your weakest point, what kept you going?

I’d say I’m a pretty stubborn, motivated kind of dedicated person just by personality. So even when you feel like you’re not going to get better or things aren’t going to get better, you just have to dedicate yourself to the next thing until it’s over. You can get overwhelmed if you try to take on the whole burden all at once.

Song that gets you excited about working out

They always tease me, because I love 90's rap. I love working out to 90's rap! What’s that one Mary J. Blige song “Family Affair”? I cannot stand working out to pop music, because it’s like a product that’s not real. People who are working out are doing something real, and most of the 90's hip hop and rap was real. Pop music is not art, and I just feel like people who are working hard should get something authentic.

When was the last time you were proud of yourself? 

I had a serious back injury. I had to go to the doctor 4 days a week for 4 months. I had to take a leave of absence from here. I was in traction. My back is a lot better. One of my goals was to come back here and get back to my old life. I finally did it! I’m back and running again. I’m back at P4L 3-4 classes a week. It was depressing, and I missed this place. I missed working out.

What's a misconception people have about you?

I think some of the newer trainers around here think that I’m not strong because I look older. After working out with them a while, I prove to them that older people can be strong and fit, too.

What are your next goals? Where do you want to go from here?

Before I had to have all this treatment on my back probably because I was pushing myself too hard. Now that this treatment worked, and I’m back at P4L. I realize how precious it is to be able to do this. I’m going to listen to my body and pace myself. I’m not going to overtrain or push too hard. When you’re a Type A person, it’s hard to not push as hard as you can. You have to listen to your body. You have to honor your limits. I want to be able to maintain and continue this way forever.

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"Can I Work Out if I'm Pregnant?"

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"Can I Work Out if I'm Pregnant?"

Our co-founder, Justine Sharifi is a newly expectant mother, and you may have seen her being a total badass handling business per usual at the gym, directing the build-out of our second location, and even boxing with one of our pro boxers, RJ! I've been training her for the past few months, and I wanted to answer a few questions about exercising while pregnant for other expectant mothers.

Is it safe to exercise while pregnant?

Yes, in most cases.

You should always check with your doctor, but if you were active before being pregnant, then you should be alright to carry on with physical activity. In fact, it’s usually recommended that pregnant women do at least some form of physical activity for at least 30 minutes per day. Of course, goals will change when you’re pregnant, so it’s important to keep in mind that the focus of your exercise will need to shift from aesthetic, fat loss, etc. to your individual needs while pregnant.

What types of exercise are best?

As far as exercise selection goes, choose exercises that are:

  • Low impact (to minimize joint stress)
  • Low to moderate intensity (due to the fact that your heart rate and body temperature are already elevated from pregnancy)
  • Resistance-based, aerobic, or a mix of both.
    • A couple of notes:
      • Resistance training should focus on spine support and addressing low back pain by strengthening the hips.
      • Avoid exercises that keep you in a supine position (on your back) for long periods of time.
      •  Limit static stretching (i.e. yoga - instead, look for prenatal yoga).

Due to the changes your body’s going through, you have to take into consideration the extra stress to your body added by exercise and hormonal changes. For example, an increase in the hormone relaxin is to be expected, which is secreted to relax the ligaments down below, the uterus, and the cervix to prepare your body for child development and labor. However, the increased relaxin levels will also affect other parts of your body, such as the muscles preventing stomach acid from coming back up, which can lead to heartburn. Further, you’ll have to keep physical activity at a low to moderate intensity because your body is already stressed and working hard to create another human.  

What are the benefits of exercising as an expectant mother?

  • Stress control/relief
  • Maternal muscle strength (pelvic floor strengthening)
  • Helps with urinary inconsistency
  • Weight control (pre- to post- pregnancy)

Don’t be afraid to exercise, but don’t over-do it! Always be sure to get your doctor’s approval before starting an exercise routine. Do things that will complement this significant change to your body and to your life, and do things that will make this experience the best that it can be.


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Screw the Scale

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Screw the Scale

I get this question a lot: “I just started exercising, so why am I gaining weight?” I’m pretty sure many of us have experienced this. We start a new training program and the number on the scale stays the same, or even worse, it goes up. Truth is, this is completely normal - and temporary. When we start a new exercise program and our bodies aren’t adjusted to that type of stress, our muscles may become inflamed. Most of the weight you see on the scale is probably not fat, but temporary water weight due to inflammation. However, it could also be an increase in muscle mass. Yay!

Again, one reason you may have gained weight in your first month of training is due to inflammation. When you work out a given muscle, you’re basically causing tears in your muscle fibers. This is usually referred as "microtrauma" and is why you feel sore the next day. But on the bright side, your body heals these little tears and makes your muscles stronger as you continue to lift heavy weights - essentially, your body adapts to the stress. That’s how you can get stronger and more fit: you create adaptation to whatever you’re doing, whether its cardiovascular training or strength training. During the first month of a new training program - especially if you’re new to fitness - there’s definitely going to be a lot of adaptation going on and these fluid build-ups caused by inflammation might show up on the scale. But don’t worry, once your body is adapted to this stress, the scale should go back down. Just keep working hard and trust the process.

Another reason why you might see weight gain within the first few weeks of training is that you’re building muscle faster than you’re losing fat. Muscle is more dense than fat, thus taking up less space. Next time, rather than stepping on a scale, measure your circumference instead. It’s often the case that, if you do gain muscle mass, the scale might go up, but you’ll probably fit better in your jeans.

Often times, we define fitness by body weight. I’ve seen so many people throughout their fitness journeys lose motivation because the scale wasn’t budging. But what does that number really mean? Does that mean they’re not progressing? Not getting stronger? Not becoming healthier? Chances are, the answer is no. Place the scale aside and focus on what really matters. Do your clothes fit better? Do you feel better? Are you happier? If the answer is yes, disregard the scale.

People may not consider the early changes to their bodies as a good thing. The key is to not let that number define your hard work and discourage you from working out or eating healthy. So, instead of weighing yourself, pay attention to what really matters: strength, endurance, health, how you feel, and most importantly, happiness. You’re so much more than just a number! Again, once you’ve been working out consistently, your muscle gains and water weight should stabilize. So keep doing what you’re doing and don’t lose faith. Be patient. Stick with your program. Don’t let any arbitrary number tell you how well or not you’re doing if you’re seeing positive physical changes. Like what successful people say, “Age is just a number.” Well..your weight is just a number, too.


 

 

 

 

 

 

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