Two weeks ago I had the privilege of participating in Sapphire Physical Therapy’s new 2D Real Time Video Running Gait Analysis and I’m excited to share my experience.  Sapphire has been a major partner in the Montana running community for many years and they continue to show their commitment to keeping us healthy and running strong as the only PT clinic in the Northwest to have an on-site 2D Running Gait Analysis System.”
thumbnail_sapphire-p-t-running-analysis-32-Mike Foote, RE employee & The North Face ultra runner

What does a 2D Running Gait Analysis involve?
For all the amazing and detailed data you can collect from this analysis, the process is actually quite simple.  The Sapphire staff just asked that I wear running clothes for the appointment.  Upon arrival we discussed my running history and any current or chronic injuries I struggle with.  I then hopped on the treadmill and ran while the surface was flat for a couple of minutes and also on an incline for a couple more minutes.  Meanwhile they filmed me from two different angles with cameras which picked up on the LED lights they had taped to my body. These highlighted the actual angles of my joints as I ran in each phase of my running stride.   After finishing, we then watched the video together in slow motion. Frame by frame we were able to see objectively what occurs in my running form.

What I learned about my form:
I went into the analysis with no current injuries, though, I have struggled with tendonitis in my right achilles and left posterior tibialis tendons. Through this clear data we found that my hip drops slightly on my left side, which led to an asymmetry that stressed my lower leg.  We also found that my ankle dorsiflexes a little beyond the average angle. This too can cause unneeded stress on my lower legs and also cause me to be less efficient in my form. If this doesn’t lead directly to injury, it will indeed keep me from reaching the full potential of my competitive goals.  We then discussed certain exercises I can do to address these issues.

Take Aways:
Sapphire’s 2D Running Gait Analysis System is a fantastic tool in learning about what may be causing an injury or even exposing certain deficiencies which coulthumbnail_sapphire-p-t-running-analysis-16d lead to injury down the road. Though the amount of data produced in the analysis can feel overwhelming, the staff at Sapphire PT do a great job of breaking the information down into bite sized pieces for you to understand.  They also then highlight a few actionable things you can do to address deficiencies and strengthen certain areas.

Who can benefit from this running analysis?
This is for all runners who have either been injured, are struggling from an injury or would like to avoid injury.  Yep, that’s pretty much everyone!  So, if you would like to utilize this great tool to improve your running and ward off injury, I highly recommend you schedule an appointment with Sapphire PT today.  Check out their website explaining their Running Analysis and give them a call at 406-549-5283 to schedule an appointment.

My favorite piece of music is the one we hear all the time if we are quiet” said John Cage, American music composer. Have you tried meditation? Since I started meditating in 2014, my life and has transformed. I have become morecalm, happier, confident, focused and faster.

There are over 4,100 scientific studies on Pubmed indicating the efficacy of meditation. Meditation can help you become more focused, live longer, look 12 years younger, reduce inflammation, increase happiness, decrease stress, reduce pain and anxiety, improve sleep, increase optimism and so much more. Here is a link to 76 benefits of meditation.

According to neuroscientist Richard Tanzi and co-author of Super Brain, “When people frown and tell me that they don’t believe in meditation my response is they must not believe in the brain, because four decades of brain research have proven that the brain is transformed by meditation and now newer evidence suggests that genetic output also improves with meditation. That is the right genes get switched on and the wrong ones off.”

In my opinion, to become your fastest running self a daily practice of meditation is as important as choosing a healthy diet. A runner can run adequate on an unhealthy diet but to flourish a runner chooses to eat healthy. In the same way a runner can run adequate without meditating but to gain that extra edge and transform your running meditation is essential.

In a future Runners Edge article I will describe how to meditate and provide a few suggestions for guided meditations.

Nicole Hunt
Science Based Holistic Coaching

Coaching Gift Certificates Available

In the October RE article I revealed that maximum strength training for master’s runners can boost fitness by improving your running economy. I will now expand on this concept by presenting research on the benefits of circuit training to natu
rally increase hormone levels.

Circuit training involves combining running specific exercises with short interval running. Shalane Flanagan who earned a bronze medal at the 2008 Olympic Games 10000m revealed one third on her training for that exceptional bronze medal performance was circuit training.

In 2003 Godfrey et al, demonstrated that high intensity short interval circuit training naturally increased human growth hormone (HGH) levels. Research has shown high intensity short interval training to increase HGH up to 530%. HGH maintains lean body mass, reduces recovery time between hard workouts, and increases muscle strength.

Kraemer and Ratamess report to maximize testosterone release a strength workout should include whole body exercises such as squat jumps and burpees.

And finally, a 1992 study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolismtested low-intensity and high-intensity exercise protocols, each lasting one, five, or ten minutes. Blood HGH levels were only elevated after the high-intensity ten minute bout of work.

In summary, to design a training plan to naturally increase your hormone levels and running economy for optimal performance the workout should include maximum strength running specific whole body exercises combined with high intensity intervals lasting 10 minutes and that ideal workout is circuit training.

Below is an example of a circuit training workout which if performed 2x week will increase your strength, coordination, efficiency and speed and subsequently overcome the effects and beliefs of aging. I suggest performing this circuit 6 to 8 weeks before your goal race and you might set a lifetime PB even as a master’s runner! Think Strong, Become Fast!

Example of of a hill circuit. After a thorough warm up begin “Strength Power Hill Circuit”.

  • Run 30 sec hill @ 3k effort
  • 4 to 8 reps each leg 1 legged squats then 40 sec’s each leg One-Leg Hoppers
  • Run 30 sec hill @ 3k effort
  • 4 to 8 reps each leg step ups then 10-20 Explosive Step Ups
  • Run 30 sec hill @ 3k effort
  • 30 to 60 sec squat thrusts
  • Run 30 sec hill @ 3k effort
  • 4 to 8 reps each leg walking lunges then 6 to 10 split scissor jumps
  • Run 30 sec hill @ 3k effort
  • 4 to 8 reps each leg calf raises then 5 one legged hops each leg up a hill
  • Repeat 1 more time

Nicole Hunt
Please contact me anytime with questions

Does turning 40 or 50 equate to slower times? The latest science explains how to effectively combat the effects and subsequently the beliefs of age-ing.

A review of the research reveals a well-designed training plan for masters runners can boost fitness by naturally elevating testosterone, human growth hormone levels and running economy.

Research in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning found that people over 50 who identify running as their main source of exercise can lose five percent of their leg strength per year. A decrease in leg strength is often correlated with increased injury rate. A loss in strength reduces a runner’s running economy (RE). Studies from Australia have shown that RE is the most important variable for long distance runners and sets elite athletes apart in terms of performance.

What is running economy? According to Strength and Conditioning Coach, Karl Gilligan, “running economy is the energy demand for the given speed of the runner. Runners who have good running economy use less energy and therefore less oxygen than runners with poor RE at the same speed. As such, there is a strong association between RE and distance performance, with RE being a better predictor of performance than VO2 max in elite runners”.

A 2013 study investigated the effects of two strength-training protocols on running economy. The 16 masters marathon runners were randomly assigned to a maximal strength-training program, a regimen of moderate resistance training or a control group. The runners continued to follow an endurance-running schedule consisting of four or five days of training per week.

After six weeks, the maximal strength-training group showed a 6 percent improvement in RE at marathon pace, translating into 6 percent less energy used while running the same pace. The moderate resistance group that used the same exercises but with lighter resistance showed no such gain. A 6 percent improvement in running economy equates to about 50 seconds faster for a 40 min 10k runner.

The stronger your legs are the less amount of muscle force is needed for each stride thus the runner runs faster at the same effort level.

How do you fit this research into your own training? I suggest to begin with running specific body weight or light weight exercises for 8 weeks. You then would transition into circuit training for another block of 8 weeks and lastly incorporate a blend of circuit training combined with plyotmetrics and maximal running specific training twice per week 8 weeks prior to competition. An example of maximal running specific weight training is three sets of three to four reps of walking lunges and 1 legged squats using a weight that is 85 to 90 percent of the max you can lift.

In November’s Runner’s Edge coaching tips, I will review the research on how to design a training plan to naturally increase your hormone levels for optimal performance.

Please contact me anytime with questions.

Nicole Hunt

*Image(s) from Google search images

During the Olympic broadcasts, Michael Phelps’ red circles caught my eye. I had an inkling what the circles were for but I wanted to investigate the evidence what motivated Michael Phelps to incorporate that into his Olympic Games preparation. After doing some research, I discovered the dark red circles were the result of a traditional Chinese medicine technique called Myofascial Decompression (MFD) also known as “cupping”.

The cup is usually made from bamboo, glass or plastic. Fire cupping is often used where one quickly heats the inside of the cup with fire. Suction is then created when placed on the skin. Typically, 4 to 6 cu
ps are used when adhering to the skin for about 15 to 20 minutes.

According to Acupuncture Today, “The negative pressure created by the suction stimulates the local acupuncture point, this increases the Qi (energy) and blood flow through the meridian to loosen up tight muscles, to relieve pain, and to detoxify and re-balance organ function.” The discoloration is made from the breaking of capillaries on the surface of the skin. The main benefits are encouraging the inflammatory response of the body and speeding up muscular and soft tissue recovery after injury and strain.

Brandi Ross, a certified athletic trainer from UC who also works with athletes at the Olympic training center says, “I’ve been using MFD in my practice for over a year now. I’ve used it therapeutically to treat almost any injury, from plantar fasciitis to hamstring strains to myofascial restrictions unrelated to injury. I’m surprisingly pleased with how many of the athletes are asking for repeat treatments. Although they all complain about how sore it makes them, they are pleased and excited with the outcomes: increased flexibility, fewer restrictions, and an overall feeling of being better”.

This therapy has spread to other elite sports such as boxing, gymnastics and tennis.

Whether it works or not is up to debate. More research is needed. For now, elite athletes are utilizing cupping therapy to help heal from injuries, speed recovery between workouts and boost their performance.

If you are interested in trying cupping, here is a link to find practitioners in the United States including Montana. For more info, I’ve included a link of a CBS video explaining the benefits of cupping including a demonstration of fire cupping.

Nicole Hunt

Please contact me anytime with questions

*Image(s) from Google search images




*This review was done by Vo Von Sehlen, a photographer for The Runner’s Edge and a local runner. Enjoy!

Over the past few years, I ran quite a few hundred miles in my Altra Olympus 1.0 shoes. However, for as long as I have been running in them – they were fine on not too technical terrain – I thought of potential design improvements for this particular model.

With great anticipation, I was waiting for an update. Then, a couple months ago, the Olympus 2.0 – the supposedly new-and-improved – was on the shelf. Let me tell you, the initial feel, and I mean the very first second my foot was in this shoe, was a feeling of AHHHHH! So comfortable! Such a great fit! After only a few steps of in-store jogging, I knew, without a doubt, that I WANTED THEM, right then and there!

The next day, I put them to work! Out of the box, 15 miles of all trail; a few thousand vertical feet up and down. Verdict after one run: I LOVE THEM!

For those not familiar with the Missoula terrain and awesome trail system, we can easily access trails right from downtown (or in my case, from my house), gaining 2,000 – 3,000 vertical feet within only a few miles. With that said, on my next trail run, I went up to the Beacon, on University Mountain, here in Missoula, Mont., for an even tougher test: 20-plus miles, a lot of vertical – some of which might be at a 40-percent incline / decline.

Especially during the very steep ups and downs, did I notice some of the much-needed improvements from the first version of the Olympus. In the past, I’ve taken my Olympus 1.0 up there plenty of times, thus had a very good understanding of the shortfalls. The Altra Olympus 2.0, however, performed fantastically, both going up as well as down, and were comfortable even after running for many hours.

One of the excellent upgrades is a drastically-improved outsole, which now is more aggressive and much more gripping!

Another very important upgrade I noticed is the mid-foot wrap, which was pretty loose in the previous version, and now is holding my feet much better in position – without restricting them. This better wrap prevents my feet from sliding around inside the shoe, and especially sliding forward on long downhill sections. Let me tell you, not getting the toes jammed during longer downhill running is a nice feeling!

Speaking of nice feeling, not just the initial feel of the Olympus 2.0, but also during multi-hour, long runs, in my opinion, this shoe is one of the most comfortable I have ever felt in a trail running shoe! The bigger toe box – which is one of the most noticeable differences in all Altra shoes – also adds to the comfort. When toes can spread out, naturally, and are not bunched up and restricted, one will notice a big difference during activities.

If you like a wonderfully cushioned trail running shoe that is performing well on many different surfaces and terrains, seriously, put your feet in a pair of Altra

Olympus 2.0. Take it for a jog around the block (or better yet, up the mountains, where they belong), to see for yourself, why I give them such praise. If you live or find yourself in western Montana, it’s a no brainier where to go to shop for them; head to the The Runner’s Edge in downtown Missoula – it’s one of the best Running Specialty stores in the country – literally!

Granted, every person’s foot is shaped differently, but I would be very surprised if you didn’t like the feel of these shoes, the second you put them on. Also, whether you are familiar with Altra running shoes or not, yes, they are “zero drop”, meaning the heel is at the same level as your forefoot. Some people, who have been wearing more traditional running shoes all of their lives, with up to 12mm of heel-to-toe drop shy away from such a concept. However, running on trails, where the surface is naturally uneven to begin with, and where one frequently goes up, down, steps on rocks and roots, and jumps over obstacles, the zero drop is not as much of a factor to get used to (as opposed to running on mostly flat asphalt, when you might want to give yourself a 6-week transition period). And, as all of this is my opinion, having various shoes and using them in a rotation, is always a good idea, not only for the transition period, but always. Your feet will love you for this!

A little about me, when I don’t run, I am a professional photographer, taking photos at a great many trail races throughout the year, during which I need to cover many miles (not all on actual trails) with lots of vertical, all while carrying a lot of gear. Needless to say, I pay close attention to the shoes I’m wearing for those gigs, as my footing needs to be secure, and my feet need to be comfortable for very long periods of time. I’m oftentimes out there for much longer than most athletes themselves. With that said, not only do I now run most of my trail runs in the Altra Olympus 2.0, I also am wearing them while working (i.e., taking photos)! So, if you also like to hike or take your dog out for longer walks on some trails, this shoe might be a great option for you, even for those activities.

As a disclaimer, I am NOT sponsored by, nor have I received any compensation from Altra for writing this review! The only reason I am writing about the Altra Olympus 2.0, is that I absolutely LOVE RUNNING IN THEM, and enjoy wearing them! Plus, I thought you might like to give them a try, too.

BTW, I also like running in Altra street running shoes. Currently, in the Torin 2.0, and was comfortably pacing an official pace group at the Missoula Marathon in that model a few weeks ago.

Just the other day, I literally ran across the Bob Marshall / Scapegoat Wilderness with a group of local runners. It was not a race, only a “just-because-we-like-to-run” Ultra-Marathon distance, which took us through some of Montana’s most spectacular and wild country. Again, needless to say, footwear was important, as once we got started, we were committed to finish, without the help of aid stations or a possibility of jumping into a sag wagon. As we ran through probably a dozen or more creeks and rivers, my feet were wet for a solid 14 hours, or 40 miles of the run. However, my feet were happy and comfortable. My choice of shoe, the Altra, Olympus 2.0!

Having so many shoe options to choose from, perhaps this review helped you a little, or at least inspired you to give the Altra Olympus 2.0 a consideration.

However, no matter what you decide to run in, have fun out there!