We NEED. More. Yoga.

Yesterday I practiced yoga for the first time in months. It was a basic practice – relatively speaking. Very different from the forms of power yoga that I prefer. But this practice was a gentle reminder of what I have been missing in my training regimen. Yoga. Stretching. Lengthening.

What we often miss photo (33)

Stretching. Lengthening. Decompressing – both physiological and psychological.

I am guilty of not stretching as much as I should. I diligently stretch after running – other than that, rarely.

Our muscles need stretching – especially if we are putting in the work. Weight lifting involves continually contracting muscles. While proper form also includes lengthening, this is not always enough to allow the muscles to reach full length. I will not pretend to be a yogi – I am far from being a yoga expert. But I have done my research! (Don’t I always?)

Injury prevention – Research has shown that yoga has injury prevention properties. I would attribute this to the lengthening of muscles. The National Academy of Sports Medicine’s Corrective Exercise protocols incorporate lengthening into the four step program design. Unfortunately, corrective exercise is often only incorporated into training regimen after an injury has occurred. Why not use yoga as a tool for injury prevention?

Yoga & mental health – Yoga is known to be a ‘mind-body’ fitness practice. Some view this as getting in touch with your soft, gooey insides. I argue that ALL exercise requires mind-body awareness (Markula, 2004). Yoga has been shown to improve self efficacy and confidence and reduce depression and anxiety symptoms (Junkin, Kowalski, & Fleming, 2007; Markula, 2004; Rahimi & Bavaqar, 2010).

Relaxation – At the core of any yoga  practice is centered breathing. This necessitates focus on breathing. This allows our minds to relax and be free of the thoughts and worries that bog us down. Further, focusing on lengthening muscles allows those and other muscles to relax. Tension melts away.

Pain management – The benefits of pain management are well known and widely accepted. Time and time again, research has shown that yoga reduces back pain and other chronic aches and pains.

The bottomline

We could all use a little more stretching. I like the structure of incorporating a consistent yoga practice – and now realize I need to add that focus back into my program. As with all fitness professionals, not all yoga instructors are created equal. I would strongly urge you to read the American College of Sport Medicine’s resource on Selecting and Effectively Using a Yoga Program. Further, it is my personal opinion that instructors with 500+ hours of training are leaps and bounds ahead of their counterparts.

Looking for yoga that you can do at home? Debbie Williamson is your woman, with both DVDs (kids too!) and downloads. After traveling the country and experiencing many different styles of yoga and instruction – she is by far my favorite!


Junkin, S. E., Kowalski, K., & Fleming, T. (2007). Yoga and self-esteem: Exploring change in middle-aged women. Journal Of Sport & Exercise Psychology29S174-S175.

Markula, P. (2004). “Tuning into One’s Self:” Foucault’s Technologies of the Self and Mindful Fitness. Sociology Of Sport Journal21(3), 302-321.

O’Donovan, G., Blazevich, A. J., Boreham, C., Cooper, A. R., Crank, H., Ekelund, U., & … Stamatakis, E. (2010). The ABC of Physical Activity for Health: A consensus statement from the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences. Journal Of Sports Sciences28(6), 573-591.

Rahimi, E., & Bavaqar, S. (2010). Effects of yoga on anxiety and depression in women. British Journal Of Sports Medicine44i68-i69.

Finding the right athletic shoe

Shoes. Athletic shoes. In the East they call them sneakers. In the Midwest, we call them tennies or tennis shoes. I call them shoes.

My shoes often become the topic of conversation. From their bright colors to the fact that I have so many. I had a client recently note that he does not think he has seen me wear the same pair of shoes twice – while I believe this is an exaggeration.

When I am asked, “How many pairs of shoes do you have?”
I reply, “A lot.”

Shoes should NOT be undervalued. I have not counted my shoes, but I can tell you that I have different shoes for different moves. For example, I absolutely cannot lunge in my red Nikes, generally speaking, the following shoes are assigned to the following activities:

photo (28)Magenta Brooks – Outdoor running
Green Brooks – Outdoor/Trail running
Black Nikes – Weight lifting or Work (no running or plyos)
Nike Frees – lifting/teaching strength class
Asic Gel Noosas – Running
Vibrams – Kettlebell, Olympic lifting
Green New Balances – play

These are just some of my ATHLETIC shoes. I also have a thing for boots, sandals, and I LOVE my red shoes.

Choosing the right shoe

The feet endure a large amount of pressure in daily activities and this pressure increases if you are involved in athletics. Athletic shoes should be fitted in order to hold the foot in its most natural position, according to the California Podiatric Medical Association, and choosing the right shoes for your physical activity is important in maintaining back, leg, and foot health. The right shoes can make a difference in how your body feels at the end of the day. To find the right shoe, I highly encourage you to visit a running shoe store near you, such as Fleet Feet or RunAway Shoes.

Types of athletic shoes

Running shoes are designed to handle impact. A tennis shoe is made for support and is able to accommodate sudden turns and stops, according to New York Sports Podiatry, while for physical education and gym members, a cross-training shoe is recommended. Cross-trainers provide lateral support and are significantly less flexible than running shoes.

There are four things that you really need to know about your own foot. You need to understand:

  1. How your foot works and what end of the spectrum you are on. At one end is a very flexible foot, great for shock absorption, but not very stable. At the other end of the spectrum is a hyper-rigid foot, which is great for stability but not so good for shock absorption.
  2. How your feet are aligned. Do your feet turn out, point straight ahead or turn in?
  3. How are your knees aligned – do they bow out, stand neutral, or knock?
  4. If you have one shorter leg. A short leg is found in 80% of the population and may require you to wear a lift.

(Note: I have a lift in my right shoe because my right leg is shorter!) All of these factors affect comfort and fit which is why it is so difficult to get the correct pair of shoes. When you start walking or running on a regular basis, this is especially true. The more you move, the more important your needs are for properly fitted footwear.


Shoes are designed to hold your foot in a natural position while moving. Athletic shoes protect your feet from stress and provide for more traction. Running and walking shoe manufacturers have designed shoes to fit into three main categories: neutral cushioning, stability control, and motion control. If your foot needs more support, it is often necessary to add a custom orthodic to complete the support in the shoe.

All shoes should be properly fitted to the width of your foot. Soles should be flexible at the ball of your foot and provide cushioning and arch support. There should be enough room in your athletic shoes so that you can wiggle your toes.

Keep in mind that you should never have to “break-in” new athletic shoes. They should be comfortable from the second you buy them.

Injury prevention

Appropriate shoes are important for injury prevention. Ill-fitting shoes can lead to pain in the foot and ankle. Ill-fitting shoes can not only cause problems in the foot but also in the ankles, legs, hip and backs. The foot needs appropriate stability, shock absorption and flexibility to be effective and prevent injuries and pain.

I learned the hard way the importance of proper footwear. After years of back, hip, and knee pain and even surgeries, finding a good shoe with proper support reduced much of that pain. Do not get me wrong, I am not telling you that wearing the right shoe is a cure all, but it may make a difference. And it is one of many preventative measures you can take to avoid pain and injury.


Athletic shoes MUST be replaced after one year regardless of whether they are worn. The American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine recommends replacing shoes used for walking or running after 300 to 500 miles of use. Other athletic shoes should be replaced after 45 to 60 hours of wear (see now why I need so many pair????). You also should replace athletic shoes if they show signs of creasing, noticeable wear, unevenness or if the heel begins to break down.

The bottomline

Find the right shoe for you. Yes, I have a lot of shoes. But for good reason. And one of the best investments one can ever make!

Do you think you need a new pair of shoes?