There is hope for damaged knees!

When the cure for osteoarthritis is found, it will save society billions of dollars and bring the knee replacememt industry to a screeching halt. However, as the scientists and researchers look for this elusive cure what can we do to ameliorate or prevent this painful and debilitating condition?

A knee injury can happen to anyone. Whether by stepping in a hole during a brisk walk, twisting a knee in a friendly tennis match or preparing for high level competition, a torn meniscus is still a torn meniscus. The joint is no longer normal. A torn meniscus is essentially the start of knee degeneration. If surgery is required and a piece of the meniscus is removed, it is a virtual guarantee that the damaged knee will become arthritic. 

.....Yet, there is hope. As Dr. Stone suggests in his blog, there are options. First, do not ignore your injury. Next, find a doctor who is up to date with the latest techniques and options. Lastly, while some of the latest techniques are expensive and not yet covered by insurance they are still worth considering and discussing with your doctor.

The other bit of good news is that through exercise you can improve the prognosis for your damaged knee. Keeping the surrounding muscles strong will help to protect the joint. Also, by choosing activities that are less damaging to the knee and limiting activities to those that are really important in your life, you can slow the wear and the progression of knee osteoarthritis. 

As I have discovered and espoused over the years, a properly designed land exercise routine combined with a deep water exercise program is the best way to improve your overall fitness and is especially effective for strengthening a damaged knee joint.

Link to Dr. Stone's Blog

http://www.stoneclinic.com/blog/Arthritis-Preventable-Disease?mc_cid=70a97dcf69&mc_eid=1dcc5ccc1c

Are sports heroes necessary for young athletes to succeed?

In a 2017 Denver Post interview, Kirk Dwyer of Ski and Snowboard Club Vail, stated that “the key to any sport is having heroes…”. John Meyer. Denver Post, 3/16/17 http://www.denverpost.com/2017/03/12/ski-club-vail-kids-watch-mikaela-shiffrin-training/

If left alone, this quote from Kirk Dwyer has the potential for a debatable message.

In my research, I found it best to view a superstar as an inspiration instead of a hero. Making a great athlete into a hero immediately puts the young up and coming athlete a step behind. It allows for the mindset that there will always be someone better. Or worse, it creates a desire for the young athlete to copy or want to “be like” her hero.

The best way for a young ski racer to view a superstar like Mikaela Shiffrin is to think: “If she can do it, so can I”. Or “If she can do it, I can do it better”. Let the Shiffrins of the ski racing world show every young budding ski racer what is possible.

Next, while Mikaela has certainly many wonderful qualities to emulate, there is only one Mikaela. People who succeed in life and sport must have their own personality and approach to living and competing. There is that old saying: “A copy is never as good as the original”.

While Mikaela makes skiing look easy, she has put in many years of extraordinary effort to reach the very top. Perhaps the strongest message or messages, for an aspiring ski racer are those which are not so obvious? To start, the very best in sport are extremely dedicated and focused on their goals. Their entire life is organized around doing what it takes to win. They are supremely committed to becoming the very best and will let nothing get in their way.

Fitness for health and sport or training for competition

Steve Aspen BlogResize

"My general fitness is for me, because it's health and it makes me feel good." - "Then there's the elite-level fitness that I have to get to so I can compete well, I see that more as a job and it's not enjoyable." Bode Miller, Olympic Gold Medal skier. November 15, 2016. Max Berlinger.

Bode Miller, one of the greatest ski racers of all time understands the difference between fitness for health and training for elite sport. Do you understand the difference? Are you staying fit for basic health, to enjoy weekend sports and activities or to compete? Each of these 3 goals requires a different approach, level of risk and level of intensity. For most of us, training like a competitive athlete is not necessary and most importantly not worth the risk.

At the start of a recent 4 day ski trip out West, I was unsure of how my legs and body would respond to the long non-stop runs and altitude. I also did not ski for the entire 2015/2016 season due to a knee surgery and the lack of snow here in the Northeast. Thus, prior to my trip I put together a modest routine of leg exercises that included machines for strength, single leg, skier knee bends for quad endurance and bike intervals for cardiovascular fitness. I used the pool for core strength, balance and flexibility training.

This modest routine worked perfectly. I had no muscle soreness. A full day of skiing meant taking a mid-morning fluid break, a relaxing hour lunch and skiing until the lifts closed. It mean skiing very aggressively on some runs and crusising down other runs. A full day of skiing meant enjoying every aspect of skiing on a big mountain, from the varied terrain to the views.

Knowing your goals and what you want out of a health and fitness routine is very important to the success of the program. Further, if you are preparing for a week of free skiing or some other sport or competition, knowing your ability is critical to a successful preparation. As a long time skier, I enjoy long, fast and groomed runs, so I adjusted my preparation accordingly. My intervals and strength routines were timed and created to support this type of skiing.

In conclusion, never at any time while preparing for this trip did I do an exerise that had a high risk for injury. My goal was to prepare so that I could have fun and enjoy my time skiing.

 

Deep water running with Bill Rodgers at Swymfit®

Swymfit SteveBill 2017 10 1

I have known Bill Rodgers for the last 12 years. He is a member of my health club and a regular participant in the Swymfit® deep water, movement based exercise program as well as lap swimming. When Bill and I first met, he was recovering from a leg injury and was working to overcome a gait imbalance. The deep water program I developed helped him to recover from this injury, improve his gait and continue running.

Bill has always been a proponent of cross training and adjusting his fitness program as he ages. However, what is the definition of cross traning and how does water exercise help runners?

As I hear the phrase "cross training", it suggests an exercise program that is secondary or an adjunct to the required training program. For example, in Bill's case as with other runners that I have known and trained, swimming laps would be a "cross training" routine for aerobic fitness. Whereas, a properly designed deep water running routine is sport specific exercise for runners and should be built in to every runner's training program.

In the water, a runner is constantly working against resistance to improve total body strength, hip flexor strength, arm/shoulder and core strength. Better hip flexor strength increases thigh lifting capacity, stronger arms allow for a faster and more consistent arm swing which translate into better leg turnover, longer strides and ultimately improved running speed and performance. Core strength improves running effieicency, enabling the arms and legs to focus on propeling the body forward with speed and power.

A Swymfit® deep water exercie training program will put less stress on your joints, help you to recover faster while also improving your running fitness, range of motion and flexibility.

 

Champions are comfortable with themselves

Looking back on his career, Miller spoke to Hicks about how he wanted to be remembered. "I hope people see truth when I ski," said Miller. "I don't have an agenda when I'm out there. I don't try to cover things up or look cool. Skiing is such a raw sport and people pick out what they want to see.

"That's would be something I would hope would stand out - the honesty of my skiing."

These comments made during an interview with Universal Sport's Dan Hicks, give a window into the mind of a champion athlete.

Champions are not trying to look like or be like anything or anyone, but themselves.

This means, that every time Bodie steps into a starting gate he has the absolute freedom to ski exactly the way he wants and the way he feels is best. The ability to be yourself and to act without hesitation or question is very powerful.

The moment an athlete leaves this mindset and try's to create a persona the distractions begin and the winning stops.

Shiffrin on pressure

"I truly believe that pressure is what you make it," Shiffrin said after coming from behind to win the slalom. "And if you work hard enough and you prepare well enough, no matter how much pressure you feel, you can still perform."
Quote taken from ESPN W. Feb 21, 2015. Mikaela Shiffrin talking about her gold medal in the World Championships in Beaver Creek Colorado.

The simplest approach to high level performance and in this case winning is to prepare better than any of your competitors. Through my research of champion athletes, a differentiating factor between those who win regularly and those who win on occasion or not at all, was their level of preparation.

There is a nuance here because "sweating" and time on task is not enough to qualify as being prepared better than the competition. The champion finishes a training session as tired mentally as physically. The champion finishes every training session having learned and/or perfected a desired skill. Each practice session has a distinct purpose.

It is this daily attention to detail which gives a champion the ability to stand at the top of the race course and be in control. For the well prepared athlete, it is just another race.

For a champion, every race is the same

"I try to win as many races as I can. Every time I'm in the starting gate I'm trying to win, whether it's 60, 61, 62 or whatever it is, I just try to ski my best. So it was more frustrating just talking about this record in the media. But for me mentally it was the same as any other race. Now I'm happy we can stop talking about it."
Lindsey Vonn, as quoted on the FIS-Ski.com website, January 18th, 2015

As Lindsey Vonn talked about win number 62, what stood out in this quote was her line: "But for me mentally it was the same as any other race."

Champions do not differentiate between races. In every race, they are competing with the same purpose, which is to win. This consistency of approach is a critical component of their mental strength. It helps to reduce or eliminate pressure, as it makes every race the same.

Give the water a try!

Kobe Bryant, one of the NBA's all time greats is experiencing what most athletes go through at the twilight of their careers, injury and physical breakdown fighting against the desire and ability to still compete at the highest level.

As things go, the aging body always wins this battle. Of the many questions one could ask, the questions - Could this have been delayed? If so, how? - seem appropriate.

Many years ago, I was giving a well known NBA player a series of pool workouts. The countless hours spent running and jumping had made his knees sore and like Bryant, he was doing everything possible to stay on the court. During one of our pool sessions, he exclaimed: "I wish that I had been doing these kinds of workouts earlier in my career. If I did, my knees would still be working."

While I have no idea what any professional basketball team is doing for their physical conditioning, I would bet that water training is not a regular part of their off season or in season program.

Whether you are a high school athlete, a professional athlete or a weekend warrior, the pool should play a major role in your conditioning and sports preparation routine. It will take a highly tuned body to the next level and it will reduce the inevitable wear and tear to your joints. It may even prolong your career.

I hope that Kobe Bryant has discovered the power of water. With a properly developed pool program, he will be able to stay in shape with the least amount of stress on his aging body and joints. Most importantly, he may just get another productive year or two added on to his already illustrious career.

Full steam or nothing

"If I don't have a sense everything is basically full steam, I'm not going to run,"
Bode Miller, US Ski Team January 2nd, 2015 AP article published on ESPN.

These are the words of a champion. Individuals who are the very best will not compete unless they believe they are capable of winning. "Full steam" for Bode means being able to compete at the level which makes winning possible.

This is a strong message for any junior skier or any other athlete who thinks that competing through injury is the way to winning gold medals. While champions may certainly compete with aches and pains, they will not enter the starting gate unless they know they can go 100%, which at Bode's level means competing to win.

The take home message for any injured junior skier or any other athlete, unless you can get into the starting gate knowing that you can give 100%, you are not yet ready for competition. You will not get your desired result and more importantly you run the added risk of further injury.

Senator Graham - Not the right approach

Senator Lindsey Graham's suggestion that we consider an Olympic boycott because of the Edward Snowden affair is wrong. Using athletes and sport to make a point on the stage of world politics is not the right approach.

Apparently, Graham is not a student of history or has forgotten that the 1980 Olympic boycott did not go so well. Going back a few more years, Senator Graham seems to have also forgotten that Republican President Richard Nixon used the sport of ping pong to thaw relations with China. Further, he even uses the 1936 Olympics as an example. Perhaps Lindsey Graham has never heard of Jesse Owens?

To educate Senator Lindsey Graham, Jesse Owen's was an American athlete who won 4 gold medals and was the most successful athlete at those 1936 games. Further, Jesse Owens was an African American athlete. Hitler's disgusting attempt at showcasing the strength of his aryan race was turned upside down at those games. In fact, one might argue that if the world had put Hitler in his place as did Jesse Owens during those Olympics perhaps the most horrific period in the 20th century history might never have occurred.

Using sport as a tool to separate and divide is antithetical to the entire concept of sport. Sport always has and always will be about bringing opponents together in a fair competition. It allows adversaries to meet on a level playing field and play a game. A game that in most instances builds friendships between the opponents off of the playing field. Friendships bring people together which is generally considered something positive.

Senator Graham should stick with politics and leave sport and Olympic competition to the athletes.

Sergio and Tiger

Sergio Garcia is an extremely talented golfer with a colorful personality, but perhaps he should stop talking.

While outspokenness may be part of his personality, it is distracting him from playing his best golf. This is not to say that he should stop being himself, but it is time to let his golf do the talking.

His back and forth with Tiger Woods has gone well past the limits of social decorum or acceptable behavior. The fact is that Garcia missed the shot on the par 5 second hole while playing with Tiger at the 2013 Players Championship. It was not Tiger who missed the shot and it certainly was not Tiger's fault. Garcia allowed himself to be distracted. I would suggest to Sergio that he go out and practice playing golf with a designated noise maker in the background.

Champions are in control of their actions and must be ready for any possible distraction that can occur within their sporting environment. A golfer hoping to win and especially wanting to become a champion (one who wins regularly in all events on the Tour) must be able to perform under less than ideal circumstances. In golf, noise during during the back swing is possibly the most challenging to overcome and most obvious to occur. Clearly Sergio needs more practice for this and other distractions. Not only does he need to learn how to perform under any condition, he needs to learn how to move on from mistakes.

It is time for Sergio to stop talking and start playing golf.

Tiger Woods - Uncomfortable for most

In a recent critique of Tiger Woods, Rick Reilly of ESPN takes aim at the Nike ad with the caption: "Winning Takes Care of Everything." For a champion like Tiger Woods, winning is the reason to compete.

It is what drives every aspect of his life. Great competition and beautiful surroundings add to the excitement and challenge of a match coming down to the final holes, but it is ultimately the battle within the body and mind of a champion which matters most.

For an athlete/competitor like Tiger Woods to regain control over his body and mind and thus his ability to win in any condition or environment is the ultimate state. However, reaching this level is extremely rare as the impediments are so great. From injury to distraction, physical to mental, there are countless ways to miss the final putt.

In his column, Rick Reilly criticizes Tiger from a perspective that has nothing to do with winning. He brings up Tiger's affairs and calls them the worst sex scandal in pro sports history. To begin, Reilly's critique could have said the "worst 'known' sex scandal....". Whatever the case this line of attack has nothing to do with golf and everything to do with Reilly's perception of how Tiger should live his life.

Next he talks about Wood's temper and apparently "filthy mouth". Again, these are all personal critiques and opinion. What comes out of Tiger Wood's mouth at any given moment during a competition, pleasant or unpleasant is part of the environment. If Rick Reilly does not like this aspect of Tiger Woods then he should wear ear plugs.

To become the very best and perhaps the best ever in a particular sport, requires an approach that may or may not be comfortable for most other people. The path to the very top is singular and one sided, yet while much support is required it is still a personal battle. Some people call this selfishness or narcissism. Others would call it an absolute focus on a specific goal and doing everything possible to reach the goal.

Anyone who is in this rare world is still human and capable of making mistakes. Unfortunately, for the person at the very top it also means that any personal error or transgression will become public. It means that every action will be judged and analyzed by the many fans and bloggers who have their opinions and own set of facts.

Tiger Woods had his past, but now this is the present. He is back at number 1 in the golfing world and hopefully will thrill us with more victories and great competitions. As for the negative commentary by Rick Reilley and others, I would argue that Tiger never asked to be worshiped. Tiger Woods did not ask everyone to assume he was a perfect human being. As champions and truly successful people believe, the past is past. Learn from your mistakes and move forward. Do not dwell on the past.

Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy walked off the course during the 2013 Honda classic. Apparently, he was frustrated and suffering from tooth pain. For an athlete of his caliber, the decision to stop for pain that, in most cases is a very uncomfortable irritant is questionable.

Performing consistently at the highest level of sport is extremely difficult and it often requires competing when not feeling 100%.

McIlroy is a very talented golfer who has 10 professional wins including 2 majors and a list of other achievements. He is currently ranked number 1 in the golfing world. A ranking that adds even more pressure to an already highly competitive environment. Rory McIlroy is now learning what it takes to be a champion. It is not easy to be number one.

If McIlroy is to reach the heights of a Tiger Woods he must quickly put this event in the past. It was clearly a poor decision with the real answer found in the opposite scenario. What if he were playing a round filled with birdies and an eagle or two? The answer is virtually certain that he would not have noticed any tooth pain. More to the point, playing through tooth pain does not significantly increase the risk of sustaining a serious muscular-skeletal injury.

Whatever the case, let's hope that McIlroy learned from this experience and that we will continue seeing him competing against Tiger Woods and others for the top spot in golf. Rory is a fun golfer to watch and he certainly should not be judged negatively or harshly for his decision to leave the tournament.

Armstrong admits guilt

Lance Armstrong, the winningest cyclist from the era of cycling where everyone involved in the sport seemed to be doping has admitted guilt. Now what?

I was one of those hopeful to the end holdouts that he was riding clean. Yet, his admission did not come as a surprise. There was simply too much evidence to suggest that he broke the rules along with the rest of the team and apparently most of the elite cycling world.

After listening to the Oprah interviews, I was struck, but not surprised by the depth of his competitive nature. Consider that he had the ability to hold an entire organization together. An organization that supported the purchase and distribution of illegal performance enhancing drugs and also aggressively kept the use of these substances essentially private - All of this and still doing the physical and technical preparation necessary to win the Tour de France.

It cannot be forgotten that performance enhancing drugs alone do not put an elite cyclist on top of the podium. Lance Armstrong knows how to win. He is clearly an individual who leaves nothing to chance. Everything that he does and says is tightly controlled. His answers to Oprah were precise. No words were wasted. This is how champions operate.

Armstrong operates at a competitive level that is unfathomable to the average observer. Many of the critiques that I read from the Oprah Winfrey interviews attacked the competitor. If Armstrong had been anything other than what we saw on the Oprah Winfrey show, this would never have happened. Lance Armstrong, the 7 time Tour de France winner would not have existed - performance enhancing drugs or no performance enhancing drugs.

For his role, Armstrong deserves his fate as do his former teammates. They all broke the rules and should be penalized. Because Lance Armstrong held out to the very end, he is still no better and no worse than the guys who have been coming clean over the past decade. The cycling organizations should also do some soul searching along with some objective analysis as they somehow missed this enormous doping scandal. More to the point, it would seem that the cycling organizations did not have the trust of the riders who might have wanted to report the problem.

Sadly, if the entire top tier of the tour, including Armstrong had ridden clean I bet that Armstrong would still have been a great cycling champion.

Mikaela Schiffrin

"It's not going to change anything for me. There will be more interest from the sponsors maybe and media, but I'm still going to be doing the same thing."
US Ski Team member Mikaela Schiffrin talking about her record setting second World Cup slalom victory.

With her victory in Zagreb, Croatia, Schiffrin became the youngest US Ski Team athlete to win twice in a single season. She also became the youngest woman to win two slalom races on the World Cup circuit since 1977.

Champions maintain their focus, even with the excitement that surrounds their success. At the young age of 17, Schiffrin's comment on her victories suggests an understanding of this critical component to winning. If Mikaela Schiffrin can mange to hold off the increasing distractions that come with winning, especially record setting victories, the door will remain wide open for her future.

Ted Ligety: Equipment and Winning

Prior to the start of the 2012/13 World Cup, US skiing superstar Ted Ligety was not happy with the rule changes regarding GS skis.

In fact, he wrote a long opinion on this issue and other problems he had with FIS policy. (the FIS is the ruling organization for World Cup ski racing) Go here for a full read.

So far this season Ted has dominated the World Cup GS races. During the Summer months he obviously put his questions aside and did everything possible to prepare using the new ski design. This is a testament to his immense skill and ability to only focus on what he can control. He cannot control the FIS, but he can control his preparation.

While Ted may still have issues with the FIS and the new ski design, his performance this year tells a different story. His winning margins are some of the widest in 30 years. Should this continue he is on his way to another World Cup GS title and affirming his place amongst the greatest all-time giant slalom skiers.

The messages for all young ski racers are clear. Equipment is important, but what matters most is your preparation and your ability to adapt. Ted Ligety is proof that with proper training, winning is possible regardless of the ski shape.

Armstrong - Still in the news

Lance Armstrong is once again in the news. This time Tufts University, in Massachusetts, rescinded an honorary degree. At some point, I hope that this insanity comes to an end. The attacks on Lance Armstrong by sponsors, institutions, organizations and individuals have gone too far.

Maybe we should look a little deeper into the cycling world during the Armstrong years. Given that most podium finishers during the days of Armstrong were caught doping, why can't we accept that for better or worse that during those years doping was the norm? This means that Armstrong either doped or did not dope. If he did dope, there was an enormous conspiracy that went further and deeper than Armstrong or his team.

It is impossible to have so many accusers and participants for doping not to have been widespread and known to everyone. It must have been pervasive at every level and potentially even known to the organizers. As the accusations go, Armstrong and his teammates were the best.

Breaking the rules of a competition is wrong, but singling out the one at the very top and giving the rest a break because they came clean and apologized is also wrong. What if when Armstrong joined the tour, he saw the writing on the wall? What if he saw the doping and the success that came by combining doping, extreme effort and a burning desire to win? What if at that point he had two decisions - fight the ingrained culture and be ostracized and never have the chance to compete or make the decision to do everything better than anyone else?

Again, I am not condoning breaking the rules. I also feel let down by the apparent culture of doping that enabled those athletes to perform super human feats of strength. However, we must remember that champions do not compete for anyone else, but themselves and victory. Oddly, with Lance Armstrong he had something more than himself. He had a charity and a cause that made his victories and success even more important.

How many people reading this blog have ever in their lives felt so driven by a cause that they would do anything and everything to win?

Back to the sponsors, organizations, institutions and individuals who profited massively by their association with Lance Armstrong. If you believe so strongly in your decisions to let Armstrong go, then go all the way! Estimate how many millions your association with Armstrong brought in to your businesses or institutions and divest yourselves of those profits. Do the right thing! Do it 100% or not at all!

The Champion's Way

The Champion's Way is a must read for parents, coaches, young athletes and for anyone interested in how champion athletes win over and over again

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