Why I use minimalist footwear

personal trainer functional exercise
I wear minimalist shoes for running and everyday use.

As a personal trainer and functional exercise specialist I understand the importance of proper biomechanics. Your feet are your roots and foundations. Buildings and trees need good foundations and roots to be able to function properly. We are the same! We need good biomechanics to move freely and with proper form, and the starting point for good form comes from your connection to the ground.

Headaches, shoulder pain, back pain, and knee pain can all have the same source of the cause. The foot!

Raise your heel and squash your toes together as most regular shoes do to the feet and instantly your fighting to correct it and as a result you lean forward from the ankle, you have to correct that by leaning back knocking the hips out of the neutral position its supposed to be in and increasing the curve of your lumbar spine. Do this for long enough and you not only get compromised posture, but it also leads to lower back pain. Add to this sitting with poor posture in front of a computer for too long and you really start to add some stress to your body!

The foot is a really complex structure which acts as a stable base to support us, and also has the ability to bend and flex to grip the ground allowing us to dynamically move and transfer weight in all directions. When it’s functioning well we have really good balance. When its function is compromised our balance is also compromised, leading to increased risk of falling.

To put things into context, think about wearing a very stiff and inflexible glove for 12-15 hours every day. Do you think your fingers and hands would be as effective and even function properly? What would happen is the muscles that move the fingers would atrophy causing reduced function.
This is exactly what stiff narrow shoes with arch support do to the foot. Think about that for a bit!

There are many exercises to strengthen the foot, the first one is really simple and you can do it at home. Simply take your shoes off!

Many of the common foot problems are recurring issues, and can be prevented by allowing your foot to work as it’s intended. Orthotics and cushioned shoes might seem to make your problems go away but the underlying cause is still there! I don’t recommend a sudden change from using orthotics to going full time barefoot, but with gradual progressions its possible to prevent or fix a lot of issues and reverse a lifetime of pain. (consult with your physician if you have been prescribed orthotics!)

To get the foot ready for everyday load bearing tasks I have lots of suitable exercises.

If you are interested in learning more about good functional movement, posture, balance and foot strength let’s talk. Follow my page Active4Health and visit my website and blog. Contact me for more info on appointment availability.

The end of the personal trainer?

Could phone apps be the end of the personal trainer and a potential for injury to the users?

My blog entry this week covers what I perceive as a dangerous trend in the fitness industry.
One which has potential for accelerating the already declining health of the population, rather than its intent of improving health.

What am I seeing? Personal Trainer phone apps replacing personal trainers.
Why is this so bad? It’s like a really poor version of Dr. Google.
Really? How can it be like that? Well let me explain.

A good quality exercise plan is important because it has to be efficient and cover the individual’s needs. We are all short of time, and we all need effective exercise one way or another.
Just as importantly the exercise plan has to safely fit the individual since everyone is unique, has different goals, limitations, abilities and postural deviations.

Since a huge percentage of the population are seated at desks, or in front of the TV, or driving for long periods of time we have developed some postural issues and as a result 80% of US adults already have or will suffer from chronic back pain. (ninds.nih.gov paper on low back pain)

Personal Trainer phone apps
Poor mechanics in the body are like a poorly hung door, its eventually going to break!

Poor mechanics in everyday movement are just like a poorly hung door. If the hinges are not aligned then the door won’t operate properly. Over time as the door is opened and closed it breaks and stops working properly as a door. The human body needs to function the way it was designed to, but prolonged periods of sitting or working in a compromised position create imbalances in muscles, just like the poorly aligned hinges on the door. Add to this an exercise plan that doesn’t take into account any of this and you are heading for a mechanical breakdown in your body at some point in the future! All because you tried to do the right thing exercising following an app that told you it was what you needed.

Why are the workouts in phone apps so bad?
It’s not so much that they are “bad” workouts (well mostly anyway), they just don’t provide the feedback and analysis on an individual’s posture and form while performing each exercise. They also lack the ability to design an individualised exercise program to balance out the damage done by the prolonged periods spent in a compromised poor posture position.
They also can’t tell your progress and safely progress, or regress you when needed.

To give a basic example and put this into context, think of the desk worker with the typical forward head position and hunched shoulders. That person goes to the gym on the way home from work and does an even balance of push and pull exercises as directed by the phone app exercise program. There’s a good chance the “pull” exercises are making things worse for the hunched shoulders and forward head position. The push exercises “might” partially help address this, but since its a “balanced” exercise plan of push/pull it simply compounds the problem.
The result is an even more compromised posture which is corrected by putting the spine into a less than ideal position which in turn leads to headaches, lower back pain and shoulder discomfort.
Since everything is connected, everything is affected!

In Summary:
The current state of the population is not in good health overall.  Between the modern lifestyle diseases, poor nutrition choices, and everything being designed to make humans more sedentary it’s a very unhealthy world.  Exercise is one of the components of lifestyle medicine which can combat and prevent these diseases. It’s unfortunate that non-specific to the individual plans in phone apps are likely to add to issues rather than prevent them!

Working with a fitness professional who can perform posture assessments and build an individualised workout based on that assessment might cost you a bit more cash up front, but what are the long term costs of adding to your poor mechanics by using an out of the box exercise plan and having lasting joint damage or injury! You wouldn’t wear someone else’s glasses. Your exercise plan should be just as individual.

Click here for my other blog posts.


accountability personal trainer

Having some form of accountability when it comes to achieving your goals can be really useful. As a health coach and personal trainer I have worked with some clients that needed very little in the way of cues or advice, but they lacked the drive to get out the door to the gym or the park for a workout. Others I have met were really enthusiastic but lacked the knowledge or skills to structure their workout so needed advice in that form. We are all different and need our own form of accountability.

Having accountability whether its meeting someone for motivation, working with a personal trainer or coach, or simply telling your network on social media that your are committed to doing something can make a huge difference to your success with a goal.

I am intrinsically motivated, meaning I have the internal drive and will power as well as the desire to exercise. I still however post my intentions publically on social media and blog posts.

My latest running blog post is exactly that. I have a place in a 96 mile race in May, I have posted my blog saying I’m doing it. My personality type likes to succeed and achieve goals, and even though I have that internal drive I still like to make myself accountable to my words.

How do you get your drive and accountability?

See my blog post below for my plans for a big goal for the first half of 2020.

West Highland Way Challenge Race Blog Post