Functional Footwear for Fitness

Your feet are your movement foundation – literally. When you’re moving around, your feet are working to propel you forward, sideways, backwards – whichever direction you’re trying to move in. Your foot health drives how effectively you create and direct energy through the ground – which powers your overall movement.

All of this is fine and dandy, until we introduce shoes. The main purposes of shoes have included benefits such as heat retention in the feet, reduced wear and tear on feet when traveling long distances by foot, and warding off injury from objects on the ground when moving. Additional purposes of shoes range from foot alignment, gait improvement, posture modification and, historically, even to denote social status.

A few weeks ago someone asked me about what shoes I would recommend for kettlebell training and running, so I put together a chart on various shoe brands to give you a sense of autonomy to choose the best shoe for your needs. To be clear, I am not affiliated with any of these companies, I simply have done a lot of research on shoes given my flat feet. This list is not exhaustive, as there are many quality footwear companies out there. This list also excludes speciality shoes (i.e. running, powerlifting). A good shoe should allow your foot to do what it’s supposed to do when walking, which is (1) create an arch upon ground contact, (2) and flatten out, before (3) reengaging the arch as it pushes off of the big toe. In order to support the foot in it’s journey across the earth, here are a few shoe features to consider:

  • stable heel cup/counter at the back of the shoe
  • stable arch support if you have high or flat arches
  • flexible front/toebox of shoe

There are many types and styles of footwear determines the features you’ll notice. Zac Cupples does a fantastic video (linked here) explaining each of these shoe features in more detail. Taking the circumstances and environment into consideration helps determine exactly what type of shoe you should consider wearing.

When running on hard, man-made surfaces like concrete, opting for more cushion and support could be good for your feet and body in the long run. Minimalist shoes are useful when you’re exploring trails, sand, rocks and other unstable surfaces.

If you have no intention of performing foot-specific drills to increase your foot and ankle’s  movement variability (to either build an arch or improve the variability of your arch) then a more supportive shoe is recommended to “support” your movements and performance efforts in competition and life. This means if you have somewhat higher arches (and the ability to flatten them), then going barefoot or wearing minimalist footwear may promote the variability of your foot arch height. And if you already have low arches or flat feet, you should consider shoes that provide some arch support.

Now, the above suggestions hold true for most people. But, if you’re like me, you accept that it takes solid, consistent effort to make progress in anything meaningful in your life. Taking that into consideration, if you have flat feet, but are willing and able to choose activities that promote you creating an arch in your foot, then you could consider wearing a minimalist shoe. And if you have stiff, high arches, wearing a less supportive shoe should be okay, so long as you’re choosing activities that promote the flattening of your feet. Remember, it’s not just what you do, but also how you do it that determines the outcome.

Ok, on to the shoes! There’s function and there’s fashion, and then there’s some with a decent blend. Now, since they evolved for function, feet couldn’t care less about fashion. So, if you have a performance goal that has anything to do with you generating force through the ground, then you should consider a shoe that focuses on foot function over fashion.

Some foot functions supported by shoe features that consider long-term performance are:

  • toe splay (facilitated by a wide, asymmetrical toe box)
  • foot drive (facilitated by a flexible toe box)
  • foot inversion (facilitated by stable arch support)
  • calf loading (facilitated by angle from heel to toes [drop])
  • creating an arch upon ground contact (facilitated by heel cup support)

A final factor to consider when choosing your shoes is whether you have any previous injuries (i.e. ankle sprains, achilles tendon, calf, etc.), as those can influence your foot strength, mobility and coordination, leading to further issues.

In the accompanying infographic, I provide an (incomplete) list of some brands to consider, with specific shoe features to compare among them. I should mention

Guide to your Better Push-up: Part 1

The push-up. Everyone can conjure an idea of what it is, how it looks, and what it likely works in the body, but not everyone can do one that improves strength for push-ups or other pressing. This isn’t to say there’s only one way to do a push-up, just that there are cues to consider to realize their intended benefits.

When you do a number of push-ups, you probably expect that you should be getting stronger overall and better at doing push-ups themselves, right? Unfortunately for many, that’s not the case. Push-ups start off feeling challenging, and continue that way, for far too long. And often, soon after things start to feel easier/pretty good, an injury occurs. Not because push-ups cause injury, but rather because the pattern with which you do a push-up can contribute to injury. Of course, then you have to stop doing push-ups for awhile to recover from the injury, likely losing some of the strength you’ve gained.

One of the most obvious benefits of push-ups is pressing strength. It’s important in everyday life, from pressing yourself off the ground, to pushing a heavy cart around Costco. Another, less often realized benefit of developing your push-up technique is how it also improves the coordination of your total body strength.

In my article, “A push-up must be greater than the sum of it’s patterns,” I share how the intention you bring to your push-up influences the benefits of that push-up on how you move – and live. Here, we’re going a farther to provide guidance on how to progress towards a push-up technique that you can enjoy doing for a lifetime – that will help you build exactly what you’re looking for, whether it’s strength, endurance, or something else.

Push-up Progressions: If you’re no longer making progress towards a solid pushup, try any of the following progressions based on where you feel stuck.

  • Deadbug: Work on these if
    • your shoulders typically hurt from doing push-ups, or
    • you’re not sure how to stack your ribs and hips.
  • Hollow Body Hold: Work on these if
    • your shoulders typically hurt from doing push-ups, and
    • you need to develop more strength in your rib and hip stack when under strain.
  • Push-up, Kneeling: Work on these if
    • you’re having trouble doing a controlled negative full push-up.
  • Push-up, Negative: Work on these if
    • you can do a negative full push-up, but can’t yet push back up from the bottom.
  • Push-up, Negative to Push-up, Kneeling: Work on these if
    • you can push up from the bottom part of the way, but lose your form as you do so.
  • Push-up, Negative to Pause to 1/4 Push-up: Work on these if
    • you can keep your form when pushing back up, but can’t yet push up all the way.
  • Push-up, Half from the Top and Bottom positions: Work on these if
    • you can push back up most or all of the way, but lose your form at certain parts.
  • Push-up, Full: Huzzah! You’ve made it. Once you’re here for awhile and feel really solid with it, you can consider advanced pressing options.

At each stage of the progression, you’ll find different parts of your body that seem to need time to get stronger or develop more mobility. Some areas to consider are your core, wrists, shoulders, back, legs and chest. Most important of all is how all these different areas work together as a unit to help you accomplish the movement in the most efficient and sustainably repeatable pattern. Take your time with each rep, reflect often to facilitate adjustments and be patient with yourself as you progress.

And if you want to follow a program that will help you break free from your current push-up plateau, click here to get notified when the 10 Minutes to Better push-up program releases – coming soon.

You’ll get access to 10+ structured 10 minute routines, all created to guide you to your strongest push-up at your own pace. It doesn’t matter where you’re starting from, because you’l have access to every movement, as well as variations that you can grow with.

Fall down seven times, get up eight

When it comes to exercise, inertia is a major factor that either keeps you going or prevents you from even getting started.

Recently, I was chatting with a friend about “falling off the wagon” when it comes to getting in workouts. The interesting thing is that how long you’re “off the wagon” has a strong impact on how easy it is to get back on. When the time since your last workout to now stretches beyond days and weeks and into months and years, it can be a real challenge to get moving again.

A compounding issue is that “getting back on the wagon” typically results in at least a few falls because you inevitably try to get the wagon moving too fast at first. Another way to put it is – going from 0 to 100 miles per hour too quickly. This inevitably leads to something going awry. After falling off a few times, it’s easy to consider giving up. Going back to square one often feels demoralizing – mainly due to the unfair comparison of your current self with your past selves. As a result, you avoid starting something scary and challenging.

This is the main reason why I created 10 Minutes to Better (10M2B). To help people like you get back on the wagon progressively so you can build intensity and intention on your own time, and at your own pace.

To be clear, 10M2B isn’t the last program you’ll ever need for any goal you may ever have. It’s a program that leverages a proven approach to fitness (and goal setting in general). Throughout the program you’ll build confidence in your physical development, and pride in your accomplishments, all while improving your relationship with yourself and your body.

Here’s what you get in the 8 week squat and push-up program:

  • A weekly 10-minute follow-along skill-based routine (to do as many times as you can during the week)
  • Bi-weekly 10-minute follow-along mobility routines
  • Weekly tips on building your consistent training habit
  • Email access to me for any training-related questions

If you’re ready to begin moving again, and want to build the confidence you can lean on to help you restart whenever needed, click here to join the 10 Minutes to better program.

What to do when you’re feeling overwhelmed and don’t have time to workout

We’ve all been there. You’re running around, checking this and that off of your to do list for the day. By the time the day is done, you’re exhausted and don’t feel like you’ve done anything for yourself.

When you’re done feeling like you don’t have control over your day and life, take a moment and try this 5 minute exercise. Take a minute to think about what you’d really like to do. Then take 4 minutes to open your calendar, look at your schedule for tomorrow, and find time – any amount of time – to block out and commit to doing that one thing.

For example, let’s say you’ve really been wanting to get in a workout, but you have no time with work, home, and family responsibilities.

  • First, open your schedule to tomorrow and find anywhere from 10-30 minutes to do your workout.
  • Next, look at where you’ll be when this time arrives. What will you have access to? What do you want/need to bring with you? Assuming it’s portable, place it near your door, or with your clothes for the day.
  • And finally, when the time comes to do your workout, just do it. It doesn’t have to be the hardest workout or leave you exhausted. You simply need to get moving.

Try a follow-along routine (i.e. 10 Minutes to Better), that takes the extra thinking out of the process and let’s you get to it.

The takeaway: Schedule your training time for each day. Do it at the beginning of the week if you can. Don’t be discouraged if you have to move it around, or even shorten it. Commit to doing even as little as 5 or 10 minutes. Just build the habit.

How to choose fitness goals that last.

Why do you workout? Is it to get fit? To lose weight? Get stronger? Or to be healthier? 

What you think is your reason for working out isn’t the whole story. 

Up to now, whether you’re ready to make a change in how you look, feel, or move, the path you’ll take is similar. 

  • Choose a fitness goal.
  • Choose an intervention (or two) like workout style, equipment, nutrition. (Sleep and recovery are often neglected here.)
  • Scroll through the multitude of options and begin either next Monday or next month.

Here’s the thing: Fitness goals that exist outside of what you value in your life don’t last. The behaviors that would lead to you achieving your goals typically don’t last long enough for you to realize the fruits of your efforts. And when you do achieve those goals, maintaining those gains becomes its own challenge.

What’s become painfully clear over the last year is that traditional fitness goals often aren’t connected with anything people value in their everyday lives. Your active participation in the gym membership, the workout program, or the app you’re subscribed to doesn’t last unless there’s a continuous stream of new features to pique your interest. of their value in how you live.

For example, if you value having flexibility and autonomy in your life, then trying to schedule multiple, hour-long workouts in a given week will set you up for failure. Without seeing how the structure didn’t fit into your life, you might then decide to change the workout style, or equipment, without addressing the real issue.

If your goal is to move better so you can play with your kids, you probably don’t need to worry about how much weight you’re adding to your deadlift each week. The strength gains may make it more challenging for you to move freely.

If you enjoy sharing food with friends and family around the table, then focusing on losing two pounds a month with a restrictive diet probably isn’t going to work long-term.

So what’s another approach? How do you translate your values into your fitness goals? I’m glad you asked. Here are some suggestions.

  1. Choose something to begin training with. The modality doesn’t matter – whether you’re using bodyweight, kettlebells, or dumbbells, or are focusing on strength training, distance running or rock climbing, pick something you like or think you might like to try.
  2. Then ask yourself, “Does what I’m doing for my training align with what I value?” This can be hard because the fitness world tells us what we should want and value but that might not be what YOU really want and value when all the external voices are quiet.
  3. If so, keep on with it. If not, consider making a change. That might look like a change in duration, a shift in intensity, or a different focus altogether. If you realize that your lower body strength or mobility feels good to you, then shift to an upper body skill to improve upon.
  4. Make your decision based on what will meaningfully change something in how you live. This is one of the most challenging parts – reflecting on your past to inform the future you that you’re striving to create. It’s most challenging when you’re alone with your thoughts (and all the ones shared online). I’ve found it’s easier when you can bounce ideas off of another person, whether it’s a dedicated friend or a coach.

With a clear focus in mind (be patient, this can take weeks to years to determine), you can begin to refine your training goals to support the way you want to live your life. Do you want to exude strength, commitment, focus, power, or passion? Which of those qualities is going to help you open the doors of opportunity in work, play, and family? Close your mind to preconceived notions of what you should do for your fitness. Consider what you haven’t tried and what you have done and really enjoyed.

That’s going to help you pick a goal that you’ll want to work towards. This helps you maintain your motivation and consistency over time. And those are the keys to continual progress in most things.

Form follows function

Do you have a goal to look a certain way?

One of the best ways to reach your goal and maintain that look over the time is to focus on improving your skill, strength and overall movement in a specific exercise.

Beyond what you do, the quality of how you move over time largely impacts how you look, feel, and move.

So how can we put this to use? If you’re trying to reach a certain physical goal, first consider what you need to develop, and use that information to choose the exercises you add to your routine.

A Push-up Must Be Greater Than the Sum of its Patterns

There’s a difference between working out and training to improve a specific skill. It’s defined by the purpose of the movements performed. Even with something like the push-up, your focus, cues, and patterns matter.

There are three basic components to any movement:

  • your intention,
  • your patterns, and
  • your cues

There are three skills that, when focused on, transform a movement into more than something to make you sweat:

  • strength
  • mobility
  • control

Each of these skills contributes to a specific outcome you may be attempting to achieve. When combined in a synergistic way, these skills allow any movement – even the push-up – to impact how you move and live everyday.

Most people think a push-up is a push-up, but there are many different patterns involved.  Consider just a few: the hand plank, the hollow position, the elbow bend, hip extension, and the chest press. The full push-up, when done well, is a beautiful harmony of all these patterns.

Are you trying to do your first push-up, improve your push-up form, or do more push-ups in a row? After figuring out your intention, you’ve gotta figure out what your patterns are and which to improve. With that in mind, what skill do you need to work on first?

I believe the cues – along with the effort to resist your habitual patterns – elevates the push-up to do more than simply exhaust your muscles. The push-up now challenges you to consider how you move – and decide to move better.

If you have an urge to do a push-up and test my theory, try this experiment.

  1. Go ahead and do a push-up or two.
  2. Then watch this tutorial, and do a few more push-ups, following the cues.
  3. Then watch this one, and do a few more, following the cues

Question: Which one feels easier, engages more muscles, or feels more controlled to you?

Now, if that experiment didn’t convince you of the benefits of intentional movement (or intentional push-ups at least), you can continue to do push-ups the way you’ve always done them. You’ll enjoy them, and they may continue to feel fine. But if you want to build real strength, mobility or control with your push-up, you’ll need to change how you push-up. And the best way to do that is to figure out why you do them in the first place, see if what you’re doing is working, and then adjust your cues accordingly.

If you want to get a better sense of the different ways you can test out your push-up prowess, get access to a 10-minute push-up routine by subscribing in the sidebar menu or by clicking here.

The takeaway:

Adding focus elevates the push-up into something that builds strength, control, and mobility. You have the ability to do this with every single activity you choose to do – both inside (and outside) your training time.

The problem is the solution

Have you ever thought you’d tried everything to solve a problem, only to find out that there was one thing you hadn’t considered changing that was the linchpin to your success?

I have.

Over the years, I’ve worked with many different people, from many different backgrounds. One such person has been a hard worker, both in work and life, for as long as he can remember. For a couple of years prior to the lockdowns, we had experimented with his training program to help him be more consistent. We would change the movements in his routine, and even shorten his solo training days to only require 35 minutes for training (to give him enough time to commute to and from the gym and take a shower before heading to work). None of these changes resulted in developing a consistent habit that would lead to the objectives we were working on together.

It wasn’t until a few months into the lockdown, with both of us stuck at home and training together virtually, that we would stumble upon the answer. It’s easy to say that when something is important, you should make time for it. Sometimes though, life isn’t that simple. Instead of figuring out ways to carve more time out for training each day, we decided to look at how much time he already had available to him. We figured that 35 minutes was too much time. Heck, so was 30. And for consistency sake, 25 minutes was even pushing it. So, we came up with a routine that was less than 25 minutes long. It allowed him enough time to grab water or do a bio break between meetings AND still squeeze in his training. Now, nearly a year after we started this new routine, he’s been able to train consistently 3-4 times a week for the first time in over a decade.

Experiences like this have led me to conclude that traditional ideas around how long a workout should be isn’t set in stone at the arbitrary time frames of 30, 45 or even 60 minutes. And it was due to this shift in my thinking that 10 Minutes to Better was created. When you feel overwhelmed by all the responsibilities weighing on you each day, knowing that your physical wellness can be addressed in digestible 10-minute increments helps reduce the stress around “getting your workout in.”

Just a little progress each day builds upon itself. When you think you don’t have enough time, consider whether that’s really the case or if your expectations of how much time you should commit is a bit unrealistic at the moment. After that, figure out what will work for you, and start experimenting today.

The takeaway here is:

  • To progress, focusing on less leads to more (of what you want).

Concentrate your energy on building the habits that will allow you to train consistently, so you can live life without restrictions.

How long should your training session be?: Part 1

I used to think that the only way to train was “by the book.” Follow the research, and do what’s suggested as being the best or most effective strategy for you to reach a specific goal every time. I’ve learned a lot over the years – and one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is the more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know about what I’m trying to solve for. The human body is nothing new to me – as a kid I would pick my parent’s reference books off the bookshelf and browse the pages when bored. As a medical transcriptionist and surgical technician, my mom and dad had plenty of thick medical books filled with hundreds of pages for me to explore.

As I grew older, I got hooked by the allure of football and strength training from watching my favorite team playing on Sundays, to watching the older students at school go to the weight room to workout and then play on Fridays. When I finally got my chance to lift weights, I initially thought there were only 3-5 exercises: bench press, back squat, power clean, and bicep curls. After high school, I began playing rugby and was exposed to so many other movements, including pull-ups, and dumbbell snatches, among others. 

As my competitive sporting career drew to a close, I began leaning towards the world of bodybuilding, and discovered a multitude of variations to movements that I originally thought were carved in stone. As a new trainer, I began to look towards other certifications and methods of training that would help me navigate the multitude of accumulated more aches and pains in my body. Some less conventional training methods, like kettlebells and gymnastics, became my new focus. 

The one thing that was pretty consistent through all of these exercise and modality shifts was this: training should last 60-90 minutes. When I was younger, had fewer responsibilities, more time, and no children, this was fine. Nowadays, committing to that time block on a weekly basis is unrealistic. It’s often led me to avoid training for days and weeks at a time. Mainly because I could tell myself “You don’t have the time.” While the intention behind this statement was to make sure I did everything in a workout from the warm-up, through the cool down, the result was that I lacked the consistency in my training.

Where do you come into this picture? Well, we’re a year into the lockdowns and at this point, you’ve either found a new routine that works with your schedule or not. Or you’re waiting for gyms to open back up and cases to go down before you feel comfortable stepping back into one. Of all the training lessons I’ve learned during the lockdown, the most important one of them has been: you don’t need an hour to workout. Not even 45 minutes. If you don’t have the time for a traditional session, how about we shorten the amount of time needed? How about 10 minutes? 

Oh, is that not enough time? But it is enough! It’s enough to get your momentum moving in the right direction. You see, whether it’s 60, 90, 45, 30, 15, or even 10, the amount of time itself is less important than your intention and consistency. Progress is made from repeated actions, intentionally practiced. So if you don’t have time for 60 minutes, then book yourself for 30. If 30 minutes is too much, then book yourself for 10.

It’s likely that when you learned about training, or fitness, or exercise, or working out, you were taught to warm-up, prepare your body for the training session, and subconsciously that your workout should take somewhere around an hour. 45 minutes if we’re gonna do a quick one. Keep this in mind – the number is arbitrary. Once you understand the performance goal of your training regimen, it no longer needs to be tied to a time frame other than what’s required for your body’s physiology to react to the workout.

Later, I’ll share more about how I’ve missed the ball when it comes to training times and what to do to fit training into your current lifestyle that’s somehow become busier over the past year.