Get Strong Without Weights

– The MOVEMENT Movement with Steven Sashen Episode 120 with Aaron Saft

The mission of MR RUNNINGPAINS (Aaron Saft) is to provide runners of all types with a friendly and knowledgeable source for individualized coaching, exciting and fun running events, and useful information through podcasts, newsletters, blogs, and videos. MR RUNNINGPAINS is truly your one-stop for everything running!

Listen to this episode of The MOVEMENT Movement with Aaron Saft about getting strong without using weights.

Here are some of the beneficial topics covered on this week’s show:

– How orthotics were originally built to be used for a short period after an injury.

– Why minimalist shoe companies must educate their customers about barefoot running.

– How plyometric exercises include the stretch shortening cycle of the muscles.

– How running is a plyometric exercise, and it can help build strength.

– Why you should be thinking about getting your foot down and back when you run.

 

Connect with Aaron:

Guest Contact Info
Twitter
@MRRunningpains

Instagram
@mrruningpains

Facebook
facebook.com/MRRunningpains

 

 

Links Mentioned:
mrrunningpains.com

 

Connect with Steven:

Website

Xeroshoes.com

Jointhemovementmovement.com

Twitter
@XeroShoes

Instagram
@xeroshoes

Facebook
facebook.com/xeroshoes

 

 

Steven Sashen:

Don’t have a whole bunch of weights in your basement, like I do, or access to a gym, very expensive. And besides who likes to drive to the gym, that just seems like a waste of time to me. Anyway more importantly, you want to get stronger, we are going to tell you how you can do that without having to lift a bunch of weights on today’s episode of The MOVEMENT Movement, the podcast for people who want to know the truth about what it takes to have a happy, healthy, strong body, starting feet first typically, because those things are your foundation, although the rest of this thing has to work too.

 

We break down the mythology and the propaganda and sometimes just the flat-out lies you’ve been told, about what it takes to have a will to walk, or run, or play, or to yoga, or CrossFitter. We actually just had someone scale a building in France, whatever it is you like to do. And to do that enjoyably, effectively, efficiently, did I mentioned enjoyably? Great question. I know I did because look, if you’re not having fun you’re not going to keep it up. So find a way to have some fun doing whatever it is you’re doing.

 

I am Steven Sashen, CEO of xeroshoes.com, there’re shoes behind me, your host of the podcast. And we call it The MOVEMENT Movement because we, and that’s all of us, are creating a movement, that’s all of us, more about that in a second, about natural movement. Basically helping people rediscover that natural movement is the obvious better, healthier choice, just the way we currently think of natural food. That’s the second movement part.

 

The first part is getting that message out there that involves you. You don’t have to do anything, it doesn’t cost anything, but well, you do have to do something, go to www.jointhemovementmovement.com, there’s no membership fee, there’s no secret handshake. Basically, it just means share. So like, and give us a thumbs-up and leave us a review. All those things, you know how to do, basically if you want to be part of the tribe, please subscribe. Yeah and by the way, when you go there you’ll find previous episodes too, and there’s a bunch of them apparently. So enjoy and have fun. Okay Aaron, welcome to the podcast, do me a favor, tell people who the hell you are and what in God’s name you do.

Aaron Saft:

My name is Aaron Saft, I am a jack-of-all-trades and a master of none. I formally owned a run shop, once COVID hit, I turned that over to my business partner. I’ve been a coach for a twenty-something years now, a running coach. I am a trail maintainer, a dad, a runner, a podcaster, a YouTuber. So like I said, a jack-of-all-trades and a master of none.

Steven Sashen:

And you’re living in perhaps the narrowest room I’ve ever seen.

Aaron Saft:

Yeah. This is a little nook that I have in my bedroom that I converted into a standup desk area to do all my work.

 

Steven Sashen:

Oh, I love it. And you got a topo map behind you and you got some entertaining things on your walls for people when they’re watching.

Aaron Saft:

Starting back here to my right, this is my ode to hard rock, this is my finisher poster here. These are the Smokies here and I have another topo to my left, that’s my area here in Western North Carolina. Above that is my UTMB poster. So, some of this stuff around me is all running memorabilia or things that I have an affinity for. This is my work space so I try to put it like my happy space too, so I don’t feel like it’s constantly work.

Steven Sashen:

No, I love it. Before we get into what it is, which is about stronger without weights. So you used to own a run shop, that’s a big interesting thing. Most people are used to being the customer side of that. Can you give us some inside scoop, things that people should know, things that people don’t know, like running store confidential kind of things.

Aaron Saft:

Sure. Well, it is a very tough industry to be in. So supporting mom-and-pop shops are great because margins are tough. There’s a lot of costs if you have employees and all of your utilities and stuff. The inventory costs a lot of money and having that overhead it’s difficult because you only have a certain amount of time to pay it. So you’re hoping that you can sell everything that you’ve ordered in that time period so that you can pay that bill. It’s a really tough industry to be into, especially since shoes are updated very frequently, kind of like you and I talked about on our podcast together.

 

Things, they go out of style and then people want the newest one, but you still have the old one. So you are losing even more margins, because you have to put it on sales, so you get rid of it, so you have the new stuff. It’s a really, really tough industry to be into and you don’t necessarily have the right color and then you’re competing with a lot of the online markets and such. I was relieved when I was able to turn the keys over to my business partner and he’s doing extremely well. Having two owners was just, it was difficult to really supply two salaries to the owners.

 

So having just one salary, I think has been the difference and the success of the store. Yeah, I wasn’t really built for retail. I love people and communicating with people, but I found myself more and more on the backside, just stuck on a computer, going through inventory, emails and such, where I wasn’t getting as much one-on-one experience. So being an employee would have been a totally different experience because I probably would’ve been doing more of what I wanted to do, but being an owner, not so much. So it’s enjoyable now.

Steven Sashen:

My joke is if you want to take a break from running, start a running shoe company.

Aaron Saft:

That’s right, yeah.

Steven Sashen:

I am intimately connected to my computer here. How did you get into the biz?

Aaron Saft:

I’ll start way back, when I was in middle school and high school, I grew up in Middletown, New York, where Frank Shorter came from. And my local run shop was owned by Frank Giannino, who previously owned the Transcon record. And so I had these running role models left and right. And I saw what Frank had and what he did, and I was like, that’s really cool. I’d love to do that someday. And fast-forward through college, I didn’t do business school or anything like that, they didn’t think I’d go into running retail. But post-collegiately, my wife was in medical school and we were in Blacksburg, Virginia, where Virginia Tech is. And she was doing her thing so I had lots of time, because when your wife is in medical school you have nothing but time to yourself.

 

I was a teacher and a coach, I taught middle school and high school and coached high school. And there was a local run shop, a really good friend, James DeMarco, he owns Runabout Sports. And my best friend was the manager, Scott Socha. And I would go in and work part-time in my spare time and helped them out. And Scott and I, we became really good friends and he said, “What’s your dream?” And I said, “I would love to own a run shop on my own someday.” And then one day…

Steven Sashen:

Wait, hold on, pause there.

Aaron Saft:

Yeah.

Steven Sashen:

What was his response to that? And I’ll preface this by saying when Lena and I started Xero Shoes, seven months in, we had some guys who’d been in footwear three to five years who said, we believe in you and what you’re doing and we would start this business with you, but we’ve been in footwear so long that we’re not stupid enough to try and start a shoe company. So what was his response when you said I’d love to own a run store?

Aaron Saft:

Well, he had been the manager and seen a lot of that aspects of it. And he was like, I would love to do the same someday, and so we had the same aspirations. Fast-forward a few years, he became friends with Jamie Dick, who owned well, at the time Foot RX and that was in Abingdon, Virginia. And Jamie back in the day when Runner’s World used to have its forums and they had footwear forums, Jamie was the shoe guy. So you asked Jamie back then and he would tell you all about shoes. Scott became friends with him, Jamie is also a physical therapist and a pedorthist, and trained Scott to become a pedorthist.

 

Scott came up with a business model to have a pedorthic clinic and then a running footwear store and asked me if I would come in with him and take the run side of it. So that’s how we formed and we did a licensing agreement and formed Foot RX, Asheville. And so in 2007, we opened our doors right before this recession hit. So yeah, good times. Yeah, it was lean for a few years and then we slowly grew and I spent 13 years with Foot RX and like I said, just when the pandemic hit, it was the right time for me to step away because it was either sink or swim. And if the two of us stayed it would’ve sunk. Fortunately with him going forward, it’s swimming and it’s swimming exceedingly well.

Steven Sashen:

Well, that’s good for him.

Aaron Saft:

Yeah.

Steven Sashen:

This is an interesting thing, when you’re running a store and you have employees who are trying to sell shoes to human beings, how do they learn, this is an inside scoop kind of question. How do they learn what to say? How to sell? When someone comes in saying fill in the blank, and basically what’s the process for someone getting up to speed and whatever your answer is, I’m looking forward to poking holes and things.

Aaron Saft:

Absolutely. Scott…

Steven Sashen:

Well, actually let me say that differently. I’m really looking forward to hearing what you say, because I’ve never had a conversation like this with someone. There’s things that I’ve said about what I think happens because of conversations I’ve had with people who work in stores, and I even know what it’s like from the inside.

Aaron Saft:

Yeah. The thing I loved about Scott is his personality, and he could take the stick that was the furthest up somebody’s crack and really just wrench it out, and they would be smiling when they left. And I don’t know how he did it. He has this Jedi mind trick. He would wave his hand and say, you will not smoke and they would go home and never smoke again. Because he was just phenomenal. I loved Scott for that reason. And a lot of what I learned, and this is for me personally was by observing. I observed Scott, I observed his interaction and how he dealt with people. When I got into the industry, here’s Aaron post-college, I came out of college and I was this hotshot. We got third at NCAAs in cross country, and then won ACCS all of five years I was there.

 

So, I was this like hotshot runner, and people would come in and say, “Oh, I finished my first 5K.” And back then, Aaron, I’m like, whatever. And now fast-forward, observing Scott, I was like, oh, I have to be empathetic, I have to show compassion. And then I learned that’s awesome. It took me a while of observing and learning like, oh, people, their successes are awesome as well. I learned through observation. Now our employees, not only did they learn through observation because I was really starting to take on a persona of my own, but we would interact with them.

 

We would say, okay, I want you to fit me and I’m going to critique you on how you fit me, and the questions you ask and how you respond to them. And then with Scott’s understanding of the foot ankle and the mobility of it, he would give a lot of workshops. Here’s what this shoe is supposed to do. Here’s what we’re looking for it to do. Here’s what we want it to do. And this would be for who it’s for. He would try to fill in this gambit of what footwear was for and the store has evolved.

 

And I credit that to not only Scott, but one of the other gentlemen that worked there, they’ve become very, and you’ll be pleased to hear, very more into the naturalist movement and getting into more natural footwear, more minimal footwear so that the foot can function rather than be locked up by this more orthotic device, if you will. It totally has evolved, and that’s how the footwear industry has evolved as well, because when we started this… Yeah, go ahead.

Steven Sashen:

Well, I would argue the opposite in fact in a way. For those of us who are making footwear that’s all about natural movement, our businesses are growing, growing, growing. But I was just at the running event, which is for people who don’t know, which is pretty much everybody listening. It’s a trade show just for run specialty stores. So running shoe stores, some outdoor stores as well, more of them lately. But there was a thing that Footwear News published of the top shoes of the show, and happily we were one of those shoes. Every other one of those shoes looked identical. You could swap the logos, nobody would ever know. And they were all two and a half, three inches thick.

 

And one of the things that amazed me was one of the companies, I don’t remember even which one it was, their booth just said, more of what you’re asking for, in giant three-inch thing. It’s like no one was ever asking for that. Someone came up with the idea and told the story about how it’s good for you despite the fact that the evidence shows that it’s not. And then pushed it on people, and it became a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy in that the stores started carrying more of it, that’s all people were seeing. It’s an easy story. Don’t you want more cushioning, even though again, it doesn’t work.

 

And so, it was totally foisted upon people at first and now literally every company, the exact same product. The fact that you guys had an evolutionary change is a testament too, I mean, I’ll ask you, I’m going to make an assumption that it’s your willingness to look at reality, data, research, et cetera, rather than just thinking, well, here’s the thing that’s going to sell, so that’s what we have to carry.

Aaron Saft:

Right, right. Well, part of what we believed and I believe is still the mission there, if we look at the mission statement, is that we wanted to educate people as to what would be best for them in the long run, literally in the long run. Our wall used to be just like you were saying, what we would’ve termed the everyday trainer. Your ASICS, your New Balance, all those shoes.

Steven Sashen:

Something that basically look like this kind of prototypical shoe.

Aaron Saft:

Right, right. Exactly. And so when I say evolved, now those pegs, we had a wall that had pegs for the shoes. You would see that it started to filter in. We started with Lems, Lems came in and then we had you guys came in on the sandals and then your run shoes made their way onto the wall. Vivobarefoot has made its way onto the wall. Like I said, where all of the pegs you used to be these just clunkier running shoes. Now it’s broken up by these models that have a more natural pattern. So that’s what I mean in the evolution of our shoe wall and the evolution of our education. Because Joe Quinland, he’s so a pedorthist, and to define pedorthist for those that don’t understand, because it gets mixed up sometimes.

 

A pedorthist is simply a lab rat. He creates devices for shoes, and that’s exactly how Scott would define, he’s the lab rat. He creates things for, if somebody comes in with a prescription from a doctor saying, I need you to relieve this symptom, they may say, well, we could create the vise, or we could use something like correct toes, or create more space in your toe box. Simple measures rather than fabricating something and maybe perhaps disabling the arch. And these guys they’re thinking outside the pedorthic box when we talk about pedorthics, because that’s not your typical pedorthist. I really admire what they’re trying to do within their own profession, if you will. Because they’ll go to their annual convention and folks are like, the hell are you doing? We’ve got this tradition, why are you bumping it?

 

But they’re getting better results and that’s the key, is finding these better results. And that’s what I mean by evolution is just, they have really come a long way and they’re doing what’s best for the person and the customer, not what’s going to go in. And it was never about what goes in our cash register. That wasn’t what we are after, we were there to serve the community and educate them. And I think they’ve continued that, and their footwear and their ancillary items like the correct toes and such, that’s what will make a difference in their business. Because people, once they feel a difference, they’re like, “Oh my gosh, I have a relief and it was this easy.” That’s your best advertisement. They’re going to tell everybody, well, you got to go to Foot RX. It’s been amazing.

Steven Sashen:

If somebody walked in with a prescription for an orthotic and you looked at them and could tell. I mean, the thing of course, that people don’t realize is that, well, there’s two things about orthotics. One is the original idea was, here’s a thing to use if you have some foot injury and it’s like putting a cast on your arm. You need to recover by letting things rest for a little while. But the idea was never that you’re supposed to wear these full-time for the rest of your life. Until some guy came up with this idea of posting the foot and putting it in some “proper alignment” and then everyone realized, oh, wow, we can sell a ton of these things and make a fortune.

 

I mean, people just don’t realize where that came from. If somebody came in with a prescription for an orthotic and you evaluated them, did you ever pushback to the referring physician and go, “Hey, FYI,” or after the person had a better experience in something that was allowing them to move naturally, did you ever report back and go, “Just so you know,” and if so, what was that like? What happened?

Aaron Saft:

Yeah. One of the cool things that I really, again, admire is that we do lunch and learns, or well, they still do. I’m removed, but they do lunch and learns with physicians. Because we have these people referring and they let them know here’s availability, here’s what can happen with using this. I mean, if you look at some of the brands, they have a medical branch. So New Balance has a medical division, even Hoka and the Ultra has these medical referrals.

 

And so, we introduce these things to the physicians saying these are tools that can be used for certain circumstances, so you understand. And if you want to discuss them, you write down on a script pad and say, this is what’s going on, and it became… This is what’s going on, you guys do what’s best. Because we were educating them, because what was it… Maybe let’s go even back 10 years, a person had a wider foot, what did you prescribe? A New Balance. Because that was the only one that really had a wide, right?

Steven Sashen:

Yeah. Well, and to be fair, it was wider at the ball of the foot, but then tapered. So it was still squeezing your toes together, but at least it started out from a wider place.

Aaron Saft:

Right, right, right. We’ve gone from where it was the doctor just saying, go get New Balance. Well, for Foot RX, it’s go to these guys, they’re going to take care of you. I’m going to tell them what’s wrong, they’re going to tell you what-

Steven Sashen:

What to do.

Aaron Saft:

… they can do. And if they have any concerns, it’s a two-way street. If they go back to the doctor and something is just not quite right, they may say, this was a great avenue to start with, but I think we need to X, Y, or Z. Right. It’s the medical working with the retail side of things, which is the way it should be.

Steven Sashen:

Well, yeah. But you also know that that is unbelievably rare.

Aaron Saft:

Yes. No, and that’s what makes Foot RX so distinct, and that was Scott’s vision. And I credit him for that because he had the foresight to say, if we meld these two, we will be onto something that nobody else will do or has done.

Steven Sashen:

What would happen if a rep from one of these footwear companies that makes a big, padded motion control elevated heel thing comes in and tells you how to sell the shoe, what would you guys do?

Aaron Saft:

We’ve had too many conversations.

Steven Sashen:

I’m sure.

Aaron Saft:

Yes. I won’t rag on any brands, but we had a rep come in and tell me, you guys are missing the boat, this is the shoe, you guys are going to make so much money off this. And I said, we’re not interested. And they said, what? I looked at the rep, I’m not even going to declare anything further than that and I said, it’s a piece of garbage. And for me to make that statement against the top shelling shoe, she thought twice about coming into my store and telling me what to sell in my shop. Because I said, listen, I’ve got an idea for what’s appropriate for running, that shoe that you’re trying to present to me, it’s not it, and I was honest.

 

And after that we had open honest conversations, she took into account what I was expecting and what I wanted on my wall. And that she understood I didn’t care about the dollar point. And that’s the way that it should be, is what’s better for the runner. Not what’s hot, what are they going to advertise. That shouldn’t be what’s… And I hate seeing that that’s what kids are after. Kids, especially at their age being so young, and so moldable, it’s like we just started locking them up so early. And when they come to me, they’re like, and I saw a young man earlier and I was working with him just briefly as a coach. And I listened to his foot strike, boom, boom, boom, boom. And I looked down at his shoes and he’s got real thick ones. Again, not mentioning brands, but I said, “You don’t need all that shoe.”

 

I said, “Your footfall is so heavy.” I said, “Let’s work on getting a lighter weight shoe and working on your form, your footfall. Let’s get you jump roping, so that you’re quicker on your feet and lighter.” I said, “Because listen, when you go running, I shouldn’t hear all that sound.” These kids get caught up in what they see, the social media, the advertising. I mean, I understand, that’s what they see. And they see all these professional athletes and stuff that are wearing it. But it’s going to take a lot more education.

Steven Sashen:

It’s an interesting thing. I don’t know what it’s going to ultimately take because it’s evolved so much since the ’70s, I mean, where now there are a number of brands that are so iconic. People have their identity tied in with that brand, and that’s a very challenging thing to unwind. And even if you show someone that they’re getting hurt from wearing that product and there’s better product that would get them out of that injury pattern, again, it’s wired to their identity. It’s a very, very tricky thing. Because it’s amazing, there are things that companies do other than just, hey, this is the best seller, people are going to come in and beg for it. The other thing is, hey, we’re going to do some gate analysis, we’re going to put you on a treadmill, and then magically determine which of these three different types of shoes is right for you.

 

Despite the fact that the people who develop that study or that methodology for testing and selling, know that it doesn’t produce positive results. Know that it doesn’t turn into something where the customer ends up in a shoe that reduces injury or improves performance. They know it and yet they still do it because in a similar vein, I guess you could say that the corporation has an identity that they’re tied in with that idea, and they can’t separate themselves from it despite the fact that they know it has no efficacy.

Aaron Saft:

Right. Well, and let me go full disclosure here, when Vibram hit the market with the five fingers, we did not bring it in. Because we saw that it was a… Everybody was jumping on, it was this huge moneymaker. We weren’t sure where it was going and we sure didn’t know how people were going to do with it. Because we kept seeing people just do too much too quickly and sometimes they just got hurt. We were cautious about the five fingers. We didn’t jump on that ship right away either. On that side of it, I have to be completely honest, we weren’t on that front side either. It took us a while to come to where the current store is now, in hindsight it could have been the beginning of that evolution if we would’ve started it then and understood a little bit more, but we didn’t. In full disclosure, it took us a little bit longer to get there.

Steven Sashen:

I don’t know that that’s necessarily problematic, because I would contend that. And I said this to Tony Post, who was the CEO of Vibram when that shoe came out. I mean, this is when I first met the guy, this is 11 years ago. And I think the first thing I said to him practically after he said something very kind to me, I said, “You guys are totally dropping the ball on education,” and he nodded his head just like you are. He goes, “Yeah, you’re right.” I mean, things were moving so fast and people had the idea that all you had to do was put on that shoe or any shoe and life would instantly be better. You never had to change anything, do anything different. And they couldn’t overcome that.

 

And aside from the fact that to your point, people were just putting on that shoe and just going for a run as if nothing had changed. And as we’ve alluded to in this conversation so far, it’s really about the form, not the footwear. It’s just that certain footwear engenders certain form and others prevent certain form. People didn’t have that in their head and they wouldn’t have liked it if they did anyway. And then it was a finicky shoe. I mean, if that thing had fit me, I would have never started Xero Shoes, but it never did.

 

And I kept trying it on every six months, sort of like when you go to the fridge late at night and you don’t find what you want and you close it, and then you look again five minutes later as if it’s a psychic replicator. I kept trying it on, never fit me, so then here we are. But yeah, and it was a tricky product to fit. It was a very expensive product to deal with. Not expensive to the consumer, expensive to the seller because of how much time you had to take with people, what the return and exchange rate was, what the failure rate was. I mean, on the one hand, it built the industry if you will, on the other hand, it crippled it at the same time.

Aaron Saft:

And I don’t know if you remember Tony’s first go at Topo, where you had the big toe was separate.

Steven Sashen:

Yeah. Separate toe, yeah.

Aaron Saft:

Yeah. Oh my gosh.

Steven Sashen:

Great idea. But no one was willing to sell it and no one was willing to buy new socks to have your big toes.

Aaron Saft:

I mean, and then to his credit, he closed it off and tried to go that way. But it’s been interesting just to watch what’s gone on in the industry, it really has.

Steven Sashen:

I’m putting interesting in air quotes, because I find it morally repugnant frankly, is a word that I would use instead of interesting. Because again, I’ve spoken to the CEOs of billion dollar companies and they know that what they’re doing has… I mean, the injury rates haven’t changed in 50 years. They know that despite all the, here I will use air quotes, advances that they have provided. I was on a panel discussion and the guy from Adidas says, “We’re trying to improve performance and reduce injury, but we don’t have proof that we can do that. Because designing that study would be very expensive, very time-consuming, have a lot of confounding factors.” And I’m thinking, dude, if you could make a shoe better than the guy sitting next to you, that’s worth billions of dollars a year. And you’re saying you haven’t done it because it’s difficult.

 

It’s like, no, no, no, you haven’t done it because you can’t do it. The fundamental premise is wrong. And so when I watch people go down a path, basically I get strangely personally offended, and this was happening before I got into this business. Strangely personally offended by people who make money by lying to other people. I mean, that’s the bottom-line. I’ve been selling products most of my life, but I would only sell things that I completely believed in and whenever I would talk about them, I would be freakishly honest.

 

There’s a nutritional supplement I was helping sell, and I would say, “This might do nothing for you, and if it does anything for you, you won’t notice it.” Because it’s not the kind of thing that is going to be some life changing thing where you grow a new arm, or you get six inches taller, or your mortgage rate goes down. It’s basically a building block that will help you, if you believe in that idea, grab the product. And if anyone tells you it’s going to change your life, run the other way. And I sold a lot of it because it was just the truth. It’s like, if you believe in this conceptually, here you go. If you don’t, walk away. So anyway yeah, let’s just say it’s a fascinating industry.

Aaron Saft:

It is. Well, the insoles too. Yeah. I mean, you have these over-the-counter insole companies, that come in and they educate you, they educate your staff and well.

Steven Sashen:

Oh yeah, oh yes.

Aaron Saft:

So, in the education-

Steven Sashen:

They tell you things they want you to say.

Aaron Saft:

… I was going to say brainwashing. They brainwash you into believing that this is for every foot, every shoe.

Steven Sashen:

Yeah.

Aaron Saft:

Again, I don’t mean to slight any company, don’t want to say any names. But they tell you if you’re not selling a pair of these with each shoe, then you’re an idiot and you’re losing money. Again, credit to Scott and his education to the staff, that’s he’s like, that’s wrong, on multiple levels, we’re not just talking morally.

Steven Sashen:

Here’s the joke about that. If that were so unequivocally true, if it was so scientifically demonstrably provable, don’t you think the shoe companies would’ve already just put that in the shoe to begin with?

Aaron Saft:

Right.

Steven Sashen:

I mean, the logic behind it is crazy. I mean, because you know that half the stores in this town, if you walk in, people are just regurgitating what they heard from a salesperson. I mean, you can hear it in the tone of their voice. Ironically, some of it is a kind of overconfidence that just does not seem to be warranted by a 20 year old.

Aaron Saft:

Yeah, yeah. It’s the scanners too. Do you really need a scanner to tell you what your foot looks like? I mean, it’s smoke and mirrors. It’s like, if I could compare it to something, it’d be like, let’s see, I just had a thought about what it would be but lost the thought.

Steven Sashen:

Well, I’ll give you something about that. There’s a footwear, I don’t know what you call him, a guy named Simon Bartold. People refer to him as a footwear expert, I have some issues with that, just because of some things that he said. Actually I would say he may be a footwear expert, but he doesn’t understand physics as well as I think that he should. And the reason I say that, I don’t want to just throw out at him an attack. He’s commented on these big super thick shoes, especially the Nike one. It’s like, oh, the carbon fiber layer is a spring. It’s like, no, it’s actually not. Or he said, it’s a lever. No, it’s actually not. It can’t be either just based on the construction.

 

What it really is and what people don’t know is, it’s there to keep the foam from ripping apart the second you use it. But so it’s structural, it has nothing to do with function. But anyway, Simon is someone who for years was all anti-pronation, you got to do things to correct pronation. And now he’s not. Now he does not have a thing about pronation at all. And if you ask him why, he goes, the research. It became clear that I was mistaken. The research says pronation is actually not a problem but a natural function of the biomechanics of the lower extremities.

 

And that’s a big move for someone like him to make, and I applaud him for doing so. But despite the fact that mostly a smart guy made that giant shift, you go out into the rest of the world and you go into most running shoe stores and people will tell you, even if they don’t know what it means, that you pronate and therefore you need the following shoe. And people believe, I pronate and therefore I need a shoe. I have flat feet and therefore I need the following. I have a higher arch and therefore I need the following. There’s all these almost memes that just we can’t seem to get out of people’s minds despite the fact that everybody knows they’re not true. It’s crazy.

Aaron Saft:

Oh yeah. Yeah, no, when people come in and they show me the heel of their shoe and they’re worn on the outside of the heel of the shoe, and they tell me that they’re an under pronator. And I say, that’s just where you strike, you’re a heel striker and that’s where you’re striking. We can tell better by the forefoot what you’re really doing, but so anyhow. Yeah, there’s a lot of misconceptions and we saw it all. People would come in and their shoe is beat to hell. And they show me the bottom of the shoe again, and the carbon rubber and they’re like, “The bottom of the shoe is fine.” I’m like, “Yep, the bottom of the shoe is fine.”

Steven Sashen:

But everything above that…

Aaron Saft:

How is the rest of it? Yeah.

Steven Sashen:

Well, look, I said it as a joke at the beginning of this, when I said running store confidential or however I put it. But this is actually a book or a podcast that needs to happen, in the same way that Anthony Bourdain did Kitchen Confidential and revealed what really goes on behind the scenes at your favorite restaurants and five star restaurants, and it changed the world. I mean, it really did it. And no one’s done that in this industry, and boy that would be a super valuable thing.

 

I don’t know if there’s anyone who’s Anthony Bourdain like in both… I mean, God is just an amazing writer. If you knew nothing about the food industry or the restaurant industry, it was still one of the most fascinating books ever. And of course, nobody buys fish on whatever day that is. What’s the day you don’t buy fish? Is it whenever they’re at the end of their weekly fish cycle. I don’t remember anymore anyway. But I don’t know if it needs someone who’s been super popular, successful, who then had a change of heart, or if it just needs someone who can write well, who knows what’s going on. Because look, you and me are not the only people who know these stories.

Aaron Saft:

Right, right. No, well, it drives me crazy because you were just talking about the running show or running-

Steven Sashen:

Event.

Aaron Saft:

… event, yeah. And it drove us nuts because they’d have this best run shop of the year, and we would look at the criteria, and we’re like really? This is…

Steven Sashen:

What were they?

Aaron Saft:

Well, take for instance your signage around the store. You had to have everything labeled around the store. And there was all this stuff that just made it just feel like a sterile environment, like a retail environment. When you walked into our shop, we wanted to blend into, this is Asheville, North Carolina. If people don’t know Asheville, North Carolina is in the mountains here in the Western part of the state. We have a ton of national forest here, we wanted to blend into that, not make it like this boom in your face type of thing.

 

We could never win run shop of the year no matter what, because we didn’t meet any of the criteria that they wanted as a run shop. When you see these things, it’s like they’re jumping through all of these hoops to make it this retail shop, rather than make it an actual, just a nice place to be, a run shop that people can go in. They say it’s for the ease of shopping and they wanted merchandising in certain way, and all of this branding and signage and stuff like that, we weren’t into all that. There’s a lot that I just had to step away from that running event because there was a lot about it that I was like, this is just too much. They have, oh God, the point of sale system and all your ROI and all this, I just was like, listen, I want to have a successful business but it takes all this, it’s just not me.

Steven Sashen:

Well, we tease this episode by talking about strengthening without weights and here we are 40 minutes in, and we haven’t talked about that at all. So what say we make that transition. People don’t know this, but what happens before I start one of these conversations is I say, so think of anything you want to say you might want to talk about and any entertaining, or fun, or controversial, or curiosity inducing way of saying, and we landed on strengthening without lifting weights. What made you think that we might talk about that and let’s jump into that, shall we?

Aaron Saft:

Sure, sure. Yeah. A lot of times, I had a conversation today with one of the runners I coach. I coach a lot of adults, and we were discussing ways of potentially building volume, and this runner is very concerned with injury. There’s a history with injury and we were trying to do things to eliminate that and then go over certain things. And we’ve discussed all sorts of things, and I brought up plyometrics. I said, what about incorporating plyometrics? Do you feel that would be something and automatically the response is, I get nervous jumping up on boxes.

Steven Sashen:

So, let’s pause and define plyometrics from your perspective, since there’re some people who have different definitions. But let’s talk about that and then I want to hear the rest of how that story played out.

Aaron Saft:

Sure. I would define plyometrics as an explosive, powerful exercise that can be repeated without any ancillary device, like a weight or weighted vest or anything to that effect.

Steven Sashen:

Can I be a dork?

Aaron Saft:

Sure.

Steven Sashen:

Okay. Technically, a true plyometric exercise is one that involves the stretch shortening cycle of the muscle. Basically it’s not just say jumping onto a box, but what would make that a truly plyometric exercise is if you step off of a small box and then land and then jump. So you’re getting that storage of energy on as you’re doing the eccentric loading, as you’re landing basically, and resisting the force of gravity doing that. And then you are recycling some of that energy and then applying more into the jumping phase, if you will. So a depth jump onto a box and it would be a true plyometric. Now there are other things, I mean, if you’re just jumping onto a box that can be useful, if you’re just doing a depth jump, stepping off of a box and landing softly, that’s useful as well. But those are preludes you a genuine plyometric exercise.

Aaron Saft:

Yeah. And I think, and I hadn’t even mentioned jumping onto a box in the conversation-

Steven Sashen:

You just said that.

Aaron Saft:

… Yeah. As soon as I talked about plyometrics, that’s where the brain went.

Steven Sashen:

Well, hold on, I got to interrupt with this. Of course, the biggest joke is one of the most in incredible plyometric exercise you can do is running.

Aaron Saft:

Right. Yep, and that’s exactly where I was going.

Steven Sashen:

Oh, sorry, I stole the question.

Aaron Saft:

That’s okay. Yeah, just running can increase your strength, but we-

Steven Sashen:

Back the box.

Aaron Saft:

… obviously, we were trying to increase the volume of running while maintaining strength and the ability to adapt to the workload, if you will. I said well, Lydiard, Arthur Lydiard, who’s coach of renowned from New Zealand.

Steven Sashen:

Yeah. More Olympic and world champions and medalist than any coach in history coming out of a tiny little country.

Aaron Saft:

I went through his, well, the foundation’s certification, and I’ve been working on level three. And they have a pyramid and you can look it up on, on Google, the Lydiard pyramid, you start at the base and the base is just that, your aerobic base. But the next level up is strength building, and Lydiard believed in plyometric exercise to build strength. He used three simple drills, one was the… And everything was on a steep hill and usually grass or dirt, but you can do it on the road. But…

Steven Sashen:

And usually either barefoot or in shoes that were just like ours. I’m good friends with a number of people from the Lydiard Foundation, and Arthur Lydiard in addition to being a great coach made shoes for a living, and his shoes looked just like ours.

Aaron Saft:

Yep. The first one was slow high knee jog. So you literally just jogging uphill, but accentuating the knee lifts so that you come down and you’re using that fascia to spring back up. The second one was high skips and it was defined as driving straight up, okay. And again, with the knee drive, they always showed a picture of Sebastian Coe, and for those that don’t know Sebastian Coe, he was amazing 800 meter and mile runner for Great Britain. And if you watch his form and see his drive, not only his knee drive but his propulsion from his back kick, the guy was amazing.

 

But second drill being high skips in which you drive the knee up and try to get higher, and then the third being bounding. Instead of going higher, now you’re driving force forward with a knee lift so that you can compensate for the fact that you’re trying to get more distance laterally rather than vertically. But those three simple drills are what Lydiard incorporated. And he believed that building off of that, you would increase the capacity of the musculoskeletal system because you’ve created this cardiac engine. By doing an aerobic base, you’ve now got this huge cardiac engine, because that builds faster than your musculoskeletal system.

 

So, the musculoskeletal system now has to catch up so that you can move on to the next level so that you don’t get injured. Now we’re building this musculoskeletal system by doing these plyometric exercises. I was complaining this to the runner and saying, we don’t necessarily have to do box jumps and we could just do skipping rope, it’s a simple exercise like that. That’s plyometric as well, you’re bounding off the fascia.

 

So, there’s all sorts of things that can be done to build the strength in that phase so that you stay healthy in the latter phases. Because Lydiard built into longer intervals than shorter intervals, and the shorter are more intense and those are where you have the most propensity for injury. Because of the turnover, usually if you have a inadequacy in form, it’s going to be magnified at a higher speed. So building all of this and getting that knee lift, and getting your neuromuscular response, and getting these patterns down has less likelihood of those patterns being incorrect further up the chain.

Steven Sashen:

Well, I’m just going to do the similar version in a way. Let’s bring it to weightlifting and then we’ll come back to not weightlifting. When I first got back into sprinting and I was getting injured a lot for a number of reasons, form issues being a big part, thinking I was still 20 being another big part and I was 45. But there was a coach that I contacted and he said, “How much can you deadlift?” I said, “I don’t know, I’ve never done a deadlift before.” And so I went and did like 250 pounds or something. He goes, “What do you weigh?” I said, “About 150.” He goes, “Call me when you’re over 300, in dead lifting not weight.” And I said, okay. He goes, “Because once you can deadlift more than twice your body weight, your injury rate is going to go way down.”

 

And once you can get to two and a half times, it’s going to go down again. And if you can get to three times, it’s going to go way down. Now that doesn’t mean you’re going to not get injured, because there’s neurological things. And for me, some of my injuries were I have a compromised spine, and so I could literally feel that the neural signals weren’t getting to the muscles at the right time and that was causing problems. But once I got over 300 pounds, a lot of my injuries went away. Once I got over 350, same thing. Once I got over 400, that was really problematic because then my brain went, ah, crap, now I got to get to 500. Which was a stupid, stupid thought. Luckily I was savvy enough to not try and do that but I think of hill drills in particular as poor man’s weightlifting.

 

And so, to your point, it’s strengthening without a weight room. But if we’re going to get people who want to try this, some suggestions on how to do this safely. Because talk about things that you can overdo, this is definitely one of them. What do you recommend for someone who wants to get started with again? And I actually want to make one more point before I let you answer that, the high knees thing again is part of a strengthening process not that, there’s this idea, like when you go to a high school track meet in particular, you hear the parents yelling to their sprinter kids, “Lift your knees, high knees.” Like no, no, no. It doesn’t work that way. This is a drill for building strength, not this idea that you’re supposed to actively lift your knees when you run. Anyway, with that as a prelude, somebody wants to jump into, pun intended, into plyos, how do you recommend they do that?

Aaron Saft:

If you’ve never done plyometrics before, I simply say, start with just the high knee jog and start with maybe two sets of three. And basically what you’re looking for is about, I would say, and it’s hard to judge the grade of a hill, but if you were on a treadmill, if you could put that at a 8% to 10% grade and understand what that would feel like outside, that’s what we’re really looking for. You could probably go steeper if you’ve had more experience, but for those folks that are just getting into it, start with a more gradual hill. And really…

Steven Sashen:

When you say two sets of three, can you be a little more specific? What’s the three part of that?

Aaron Saft:

Yeah. Yeah, of course. Yeah. What you’re going to do, and I’ll go through the whole workout here is you’re going to get a warm up in, whether that warm up be a simple walk for 10 to 15 minutes or a run, whatever it takes for your muscles to activate and warm up. And then I would suggest just doing a few striders, and that’s just gradually increasing the speed. You don’t necessarily have to get up to a sprint, but we want to increase speed and get your muscles prepared for doing this more involved movement, if you will. And by strides, four to six, again, we’re just trying to warm up here, don’t overdo it. You shouldn’t be out of breath or straining by any means. On your recovery…

Steven Sashen:

Yeah, and it’s not for distance. It’s like start slow, build up 30 meters, 40 meters, no big deal.

Aaron Saft:

And then full recovery. Whatever you need for full recovery, whatever that looks like. If you need to walk, stand still, whatever, just recover. Do four to six of those, and then you want to be at the base of your hill. And at the base of your hill, you’re going to do your… And for beginners, what I say is do your drill up 20 to 30 seconds depending on, and this again should not be over exerting yourself. You should not feel exhausted, tired. I mean, you’re going to feel a little bit by the time you get to the hill because you’re going uphill. But you should be going at a pace in the jog that you’re not breathing really hard, okay. It’s just again, a jog.

 

So, 20 to 30 seconds up the hill. And then for our beginners, just walk back down to the start of the hill, that’s your recovery, okay. For more advanced folks, if you’re more fit, if you have a lot more fitness, you can rest at the top for a moment, catch your breath and then stride down. You can do a downhill stride, okay, get a little negative speed, again, recover at the bottom. So you’ll repeat that three times, and then I would just take a walk or a jog again to shake out, maybe half a mile, whatever it be, just flush your muscles out on the flat, then come back to the hill and do another set of three. And that’s how I would do it for beginners. More people that may have had like they’ve done drills in high school, they can add in the high skips. The high skips tend to be something that folks can do and understand. I think it’s the bounding that’s the most…

Steven Sashen:

Let’s pause on the skips. So literally just think about skipping on a flat and you’re doing the same thing and you might want to try it on a flat first, exaggerate that lifting up of the knee, go for height when you’re skipping. So you’re exaggerating it and then do that up the hill. And you’ll feel that for both of these, that if you’re doing it right, you’re going to be feeling the hip extension basically, you’re going to feel it in your butt, if you do it right is the bottom-line. And you’ll feel at other places too, because it’s not only working the muscles it’s working the fascia, it’s working the ligaments and tendons. But the primary mover, the thing that’s moving you up the hill is that hip extension, which is your glutes and your hamstrings.

Aaron Saft:

Yep. And I do have a YouTube video. My son recorded it for me, and it was probably on a hill that was too steep, and I was way out of shape. So I probably need to do it again, but-

Steven Sashen:

Perfect.

Aaron Saft:

I do have a video of it. So what I suggest with, if you’re going to incorporate the high skips is you alternate. Your first set on the hill, you would do the slow high knee jog, come back down. Then the second time you do the hill, I would do the high skip, and then I would just alternate back and forth. And you could just do a set of six, just alternating that way. You could also just do a set of three, so three hills with the high knee jog and then recover, and then a set of three with the high skips.

 

And then you can build into it and do two sets of each. And then again the bounding, that’s the third set. That’s the most advanced, that’s the hardest one, that’s the one I suggest that you have somebody that understands bounding and can give you a little bit more. I work with my high school kids for a lot of the season trying to get them to understand bounding and what I’m looking for. Because I can show it, but for them to physically do it and to build the strength to be able to do it, it’s quite a difficult drill. It is the most advanced and it requires most of the body.

Steven Sashen:

It seems simple, but the thing that people tend to do is they just reach their foot out too far in front of them, right, getting their foot down underneath them. Again, they’re thinking about, because we have eyes in front of our head, we’re thinking about getting our foot out instead of getting our foot down and pushing back, yeah.

Aaron Saft:

Back, yeah. So it really is that backwards push and extending, you’ll feel it in your hip the most because you are really driving and opening up that front, that hip, that if you’re sitting all day, you’re really going to feel it because you are really opening up those hips. But again that’s the most advanced and the way I typically recommend doing those, is you do your high knee jog, three hills of those, rest, and then three hills of high skips and rest, and then three bounding and then rest.

 

And you can alternate them if you want, again, you can mix it up. It’s however you want to get it done, whatever your body. Sometimes my body is just a little bit more tired, so I’ll do high knee jog, high skip bounding, that’ll be one set, rest. And then I’ll do three sets like that, just depending on how I feel. Again, if it’s too hard, try to find a more gradual hill. Again, you don’t want it to be too hard. The focus is on form, as soon as that starts to break down, stop. Yeah. So if you’re in second set, your bounding is trying to break down, stop with the bounding. You can probably still do the high need jog and maybe even the high skips, but again, as soon as it starts to break down, you need to stop.

Steven Sashen:

Yeah. And similarly, get a bunch of resting. You’re not going to do this every day, you’re not even going to do it three days a week.

Aaron Saft:

Right. I mean, the true Lydiards they did it like five days a week, but here we’re-

 

Steven Sashen:

Well, that’s a…

Aaron Saft:

… Yeah, yeah, yeah. And that’s his elites, again, he was saying he trained some of the best Olympians that the world has seen. So keep in mind this is something that you can do once or maybe twice a week. My athletes, the most I have them do is twice a week.

Steven Sashen:

You just made think of something. So there’s an exercise, it’s called the Nordic hamstring curl and I’ll let people look it up. Basically, you’re kneeling, something is holding your feet down and then you try to lower yourself to the ground as slowly as you can. And I was working on this three days a week, and not making a lot of progress. And then I went down to once a week and I just did a little more volume that week. I did five sets of five, now let’s be clear, on the first set, I could get down, I mean, I can actually go pretty far. But the first set was really good, the second set, the first three were okay, and then the last two were not so good.

 

The third and fourth set and the fifth set, there was nothing there. But suffice to say, doing it once a week within three or four weeks, now I can just touch my nose to the ground in total control. And if I have a little flex in my hip, I can pull myself back up too. But really, again, I’m almost 60. So the point of that is not to show-off, the point of that is to say I needed the recovery. I wasn’t really giving it to myself, and once I gave myself the stimulus and then enough recovery time, that’s what built the strength faster than trying to do more volume over the course of the week.

Aaron Saft:

Yeah. I have a youngin who is lifting, and I was going to try to incorporate some plyometrics just to work on technique, but the combination was too much. And so he wanted to continue to lift, so I’m not going to deter him, so I pulled off the drills. And then we were working out and doing our thing, and I told him, I said, it’s going to take you a while because he’s lifting with a coach, which is great, but it’s going to take you a while to get used to lifting and running. I can’t program too much because he’s like, I noticed you gave me another rest day, why is that? Because we’re just adding too much fatigue as we need recovery, that’s a huge part of this. We only make adaptations if we can recover, that’s when we make our adaptations.

Steven Sashen:

Yeah, highly underrated. You reminded me when I was in college, there were some gymnasts that I knew who trained with their parents through junior high and high school, and only trained three days a week. And then they came to college and trained everyday. Up until their college career, never had an injury. As soon as they got to college and started training five days a week, couldn’t get rid of injuries. So people just really underestimate the stimulus rest phenomenon. I hate to do this because I know we could keep doing this all day every day.

Aaron Saft:

Absolutely.

Steven Sashen:

Unlike plyos, we could keep doing this forever. But if people want to find out more about what you’ve been up to, or if they want to contact you for any reason, how might they do that?

Aaron Saft:

My website is mrrunningpains.com. And I am on Instagram, Aaron Saft, mrrunningpains, Facebook I’m there, YouTube channel, Aaron Saft. And I’ve got the MR Runningpains Podcast as well.

Steven Sashen:

Beautiful.

Aaron Saft:

Yep. You look up MR Runningpains, you’ll find me.

Steven Sashen:

Love it. Aaron, again, it’s been a total treat and I really appreciate. Like I said, when I was on your podcast, you’re one of the handful of people and more and more everyday happily, who are really willing to dive in and think about this stuff, not only deeply but logically and critically. And that’s what’s so important because we’ve been so inundated with propaganda for so long that when a fish don’t know they’re in the water is sort of the idea, and we don’t know that we’ve been swimming in some shark infested waters for quite a while.

 

Dude, first of all, once again, thank you, thank you, thank you. And for everyone else, thanks for joining us. And a reminder to go back over to www.jointhemovementmovement.com. You’ll find previous episodes, how to engage with us, you can subscribe to hear about new episodes. And if you want to drop me an email with any recommendations or suggestions, people who you think should be on the podcast, people who like Aaron and I couldn’t stop agreeing with each other or people who think I have my head firmly up my butt, either one of those, that’s okay with me. Drop me a note for any reason really, I’m @move, M-O-V-E, @jointhemovementmovement.com. And until next time as always go out, have fun, and live life feet first.

 

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