Big Sky Multisport Coaching: The Official Launch!

As you have probably seen and I have mentioned a few times before, my blog/website has grown and changed over the past few months and I’m finally excited to say…

I am officially launching my personal training and endurance sport coaching business!


I’ve been working behind the scenes to dot my “I’s” and cross my “T’s” to get everything in order to make this little dream of mine into reality.

First, I would like to give a big shout-out to my very talented cousin, Chris, at Blue Planet Graphics for designing my awesome logo for me! If you’re in the market for a logo, graphic design, or car wrapping then check out his business at Blue Planet Graphics.

Currently I am offering the following services:

  • Triathlon Coaching
    • Monthly Coaching at two different levels to meet your athletic goals while being wallet friendly
    • Pre-built plans for various distance races
  • Single-Sport Coaching (monthly or pre-built)
    • Cycling
    • Running
  • Personal Training
    • At home, your gym, or anywhere you like
    • At Zone 3 Fitness
    • Online structured monthly programs
  • Fitness Class Instruction
    • I currently teach a Spin & Core class Tuesday nights at 5:45 at Zone 3 Fitness
    • Small group training and/or boot-camp classes
  • Writing
    • Freelance writing in fitness, health, and/or science

As always, I will continue to write weekly in my blog on topics ranging from my own personal training stories to exercise physiology and fitness to travel and everything in between. If you ever have any blog post suggestions please feel free to contact me using the “Contact Me” tab in the above Main Menu.

You can connect with me through the following social media platforms:





So please check out what I offer and share with your friends, families and co-workers! Fitness and endurance sports are my passion and I love helping others achieve their goals. So let me help you reach your goals in 2014! 🙂

Thank you all for the wonderful support!

~ Happy Training!

Muscle Imbalances – What You Need to Know!


In order to fully understand muscle imbalances, let’s first look at normal muscle function. There are three types of muscles in the body: smooth, cardiac, and skeletal. We, of course, are investigating skeletal muscles – or the muscles that move our bodies through the swim, bike, run movement patterns. Normal muscle activation is a combination of contraction and relaxation of muscle fibers. The technical terms are called facilitation (contraction) and inhibition (relaxation). When muscles contract, they get tighter and do more work. When muscles relax, they do less work and allow their opposite muscles to contract better. Muscles in the body generally work in pairs.

Let’s use the examples of your biceps and triceps. Let’s imagine that you are sitting on a bench with a dumbbell in your right hand about to do a set of biceps curls. What happens when you move your right hand towards your shoulder? Place your left hand over your right bicep. In the rest position your biceps is pretty relaxed. The same with your triceps. Neither should feel tight or loose. Just relaxed. Now move that dumbbell up towards your shoulder and do a biceps curl. Now feel that biceps in the top hand position. Feels pretty tight now doesn’t it? The biceps muscle is contracting to pull the dumbbell towards your shoulder. Now feel the triceps. The triceps muscle should feel loose because it must relax in order for the biceps to contract. Now lower the dumbbell to the start position. The biceps muscle should be relaxed (loose) and the triceps contracted (tight). The same thing happens as you are running. As you lift your leg to propel yourself forward, your quadriceps (front of tight muscles) must contract to lift your knee forward and the hamstrings (back of thigh muscles) must relax. When the muscles are balanced in the body, they have the right combination of inhibition and facilitation during movement.

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

If muscles lack the right combination of inhibition and facilitation during movement muscle imbalances can occur. Muscle imbalances may lead to injuries, biomechanical inefficiencies, and wasted efforts. Muscle imbalances can also occur due to poor static posture, joint dysfunction, and myofascial adhesions (think “knot” in muscle). These altered length-tension relationships between muscles may lead to altered muscle recruitment patterns (altered force-couple relationships). This is caused by altered reciprocal inhibition. Altered reciprocal inhibition, defined by NASM, is the process by which a tight muscle (short, overactive, myofascial adhesions) causes decreased neural drive, and therefore optimal recruitment of its functional antagonist.

Let’s look at an example of this. A majority of people work 9-5 desk jobs in front of a computer. Thus they tend to have tight hip flexors, or iliopsoas muscles. Tight psoas muscles decrease the neural drive and therefore the optimal recruitment of gluteus maximus (your butt muscles). The gluteus maximus muscles are the prime movers for hip extension and an important muscle in running. According to a 2006 study in The Journal of Experimental Biology, the gluteus maximus works primarily to keep the torso upright during movement and it is involved in decelerating the swing leg as it hits the pavement. Since the glute is a hip extender muscle, it also functions to extend your hip-joint as your foot pushes off the ground to propel your body forward. Weaknesses in the gluteus maximus can lead to compensation and substitution by the synergists (hamstrings) and stabilizers (erector spinae). This can ultimately lead to potential hamstring strains and lower back pain.

According to one study, over the course of any given year approximately two-thirds of runners will have at least had one injury that has caused an interruption to their training. For those training for marathons, the rate as been recorded up to 90% of runners. The most common running injury involves the knee. The most common running related knee problems are patellofemoral pain syndrome, Iliotibial band (IT-Band) sydrome, tibal stress syndrome (spin splits), and plantar fasciitis. Guess what? These common running injuries are overuse injuries generally caused by muscle imbalances!

Some researchers and sports medicine professionals have argued that triathlon, as a multisport event, causes less overuse injuries than single sports, because of the more even distribution of loads over the body’s muscluar system. However, triathletes still suffer from a high degree of overuse injuries. One of the most common is actually lower back pain. Triathletes tend to be over-developed in larger muscle groups, such as the quadriceps, hamstrings, and shoulders. Triathletes tend to be weak in the smaller stability muscles, such as the lower back, core, adductors, and abductors. Again, these muscle imbalances are caused by movements that we do in each sport. For example, many triathletes, especially if they come from a cycling background, will be overdeveloped in the quadriceps region, but have these tiny, underactive hamstrings. This is a muscle imbalance caused by cycling. Runners are very weak in the hip stability muscles, such as the gluteus medius, tensor fascia latae (TFL), and adductor complex, which leads to weak lumbo-pelvic stability and the potential development of common running injuries. The sport of triathlon is conducted in one plane of motion – the sagittal plane. We rarely move in the frontal and transverse planes. Many of the hip stability muscles are targeted by movements conducted in the frontal and/or transverse planes.

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

Muscles can be divided into two types: postural and phasic. Postural muscles are used for standing and walking; whereas, phasic muscles are used for running. During the gait cycling of running, there is a double-float phase during which both legs are suspended in the air – one at the beginning and one at the end of the swing phase. Running biomechanics requires efficient firing patterns from the postural muscles while the phasic muscles do the actual work of propelling the body forward. Since the postural muscles are constantly be activated in the body to fight the forces of gravity, these muscles have a tendency to shorten and become tight. The postural muscles that tend to become chronically tight in runners are: gastroc-soleus, rectus femoris, ilipsoas, tensor fascia lata, hamstrings, adductors, quadratus lumborum, piriformis, and satorius. Phasic muscles typically may remain in an elongated or weak state. Common phasic muscle that have a tendency to be weak or become inhibited in runners are: the tibialis anterior, vastus medialis, long thigh adductors, and the gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus.

So, key points from this post:

  • Muscle imbalances are caused by the lack of the right combination of contraction and relaxation of paired muscles
  • Common triathlon and running injuries are generally caused by muscle imbalances, mainly in the lumbo-pelvic region
  • Postural muscles tend to become short and tight; whereas phasic muscles tend to become weak and inhibited
  • Stretch your psoas muscles! 🙂

Now, how do you identify muscle imbalances? Well, I did a post a while ago on why functional movement screens are important. Go read that! Or go see a sports medicine professional, such as a chiropractor or physical therapist. This is especially important if you are dealing with a common running-related injury. Then find yourself a good personal trainer to help set you up on a good strengthening routine to correct those imbalances. Remember, I am certified to help you correct muscle imbalances. Of course, you should always seek permission from your doctor before starting any new exercise routines. Stay tuned next week on some good hip stretching and strengthening exercises to help you prevent those pesky running injuries.

~ Happy Training!

PS – Feel free to contact me with any questions at


1. Maffetone P. The Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing. New York, NY: Skyhorse Publishing. 2010.

2. Clark MA, Lucett SC. NASM Essentials of Corrective Exercise Training. New York, NY: Wolters Kluwer Health. 2011.

3. Liebermna DE et al. The human gluteus maximus and its role in running. J Exp Biol. 2006; 209: 2143-55.

4. Manninen JSO, Kallinen M. Low back pain and other overuse injuries in a group of Japanese triathletes. BR J Sports Med. 1996;30: 134-139.

5. Fredericson M, Moore T. Muscular balance, core stability, and injury prevention for middle – and long-distance runners. Phys Med Rehabil Clin N Am. 2005;16: 669-689.

Part III: The Core – A Case for a Functional Movement Screen

This post is the third of a multipart series on the Core. If you missed Part one and Part two then make sure you check them out HERE and HERE.

Have you ever worked with a personal trainer before? How about being treated by a physical therapist or chiropractor for an injury? Chances are (if you worked with a good and credentialed professional) that you underwent a functional movement screening.

What is a functional movement screen? Why should you undergo a functional movement screen by a trained professional? Let’s take a look at all the reasons why.

As athletes and fitness-enthusiasts we are constantly working harder to become stronger and healthier in our respective sports and life. We often spend countless hours working to improve in our activities by increasing our flexibility, strength, endurance, and power. However, a majority of athletes and individuals are performing high-level activities with inefficiencies in their fundamental movement patterns without even knowing it. In today’s ever-evolving training and conditioning market, athletes and individuals begin to specialized in a particular sport and/or activity early in life, which as a result, often creates muscle imbalances and weaknesses in the kinetic chain. A majority of athletes and individuals, including myself, will continue to train through injuries, which again can lead to muscle imbalances and poor movement patterns. When an athlete or individual becomes fatigued during activity they tend to lose form and their body will default to what it knows as its “normal” movement pattern, which often has weaknesses and imbalances and can lead to potential injury. Have you ever seen a marathon runner at mile 22? Chances are his running form has greatly deteriorated over the course since mile 1.

So what is a functional movement screen? A functional movement screen is an assessment of movement patterns that attempt to pinpoint weak links in the kinetic chain. Through corrective exercises you can alleviate and “fix” bad movement patterns and muscle imbalances.

According to Gray Cook, founder of the Functional Movement Screen, the intended purpose of the movement screen is to:

  1. Identify individuals at risk, who are attempting to maintain or increase activity level
  2. Assist in program design by systematically using corrective exercise to normalize of improve fundamental movement patterns
  3. Provide a systematic tool to monitor progress and movement pattern development in the presence of changing fitness levels
  4. Create a functional movement baseline which will allow rating and ranking movement for statistical observation

There are multiple ways to conduct a functional movement screen. For athletes I prefer using Gray Cook’s Functional Movement Screen because it provides a system of ratings and rankings of specific functional movement patterns that can be tracked over a period of time. For my general population clients I use the functional movement screen developed by the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). When looking for someone to conduct a functional movement screen or if you are looking to hire a personal trainer then I highly suggest working with someone who is either certified through Gray Cook’s system (Functional Movement Systems) and/or NASM’s Corrective Exercise Specialist (NASM-CES).

I highly suggest working with a trained professional because they are trained to see muscle imbalances and deficiencies in movement patterns and can develop a corrective exercise plan to “fix” any problems to make you a stronger and healthier athlete. However, you can give yourself a quick and dirty functional movement screen. I suggest grabbing a friend and/or mirror to do this.

The best way to evaluate your movement pattern is through the overhand squat assessment. The squat movement pattern is part of many functional movements. The squat, especially an overhead squat, requires coordinated extremity mobility and core stability with both the hips and shoulders functioning in symmetrical positions. Through a squat, one can find any mobility and stability issues in the ankles, knees, hips, and shoulder regions.

How to Conduct Your Own Functional Movement Screen:

1. Stand in front of a large mirror, preferably with a friend and/or coach to view your movement patterns. Or have someone videotape or take pictures of your movement. It’s best if you do this barefoot too!

2. Place hands above your head in an overhead position. You can hold something such as a PVC pipe or broom. Nothing heavy.

3. Begin squat movement pattern. Do at least 10-12 reps. Continue to do more at different angles as needed (i.e. front, back, and side).

Overhead squat assessment front view.

Overhead squat assessment front view.

Side view - If you have a trained eye then you can see that I have an anterior pelvic tilt (more on that later)!

Side view – If you have a trained eye then you can see that I have an anterior pelvic tilt (more on that later)!

4. Look for abnormal movement patterns that indicate weakness and/or muscle imbalances. Below are some common dysfunctional or faulty movement patterns.

Excessive Forward Lean

Excessive Forward Lean

Excessive Forward Lean

From the lateral (side view) you can see many major issues in the hip, lower back, and shoulder/upper back region. One of the most common movement compensations is excessive foward lean. The above picture shows an example of an excessive forward lean and also arms falling forward. Most people who lean excessively forward in the overhead squat assessment have tight calf muscles (Soleus and Gastrocnemius), Hip flexor Complex (Psoas muscles), Piriformis, and Abdominal Complex muscles. Muscles that are very weak, and often inactive in a majority of the population, are the Gluteus Maximus and Hamstrings. Muscles that are commonly tight for people whose arms fall forward are the Latissimus Dorsi, the Pecs, and Teres Major. Underactive and weak muscles are generally the mid/lower Trapezius, Rotator Cuff muscles, the Rhomboids, and Posterior Deltoid.

Knees Move Outwards

Knees Outward

Knees Outward

One of the most common movement compensations that occur in the overhead squat assessment include compensations in the knees and feet. In the above picture two compensations are occurring: the knees are moving out and the feet are also turning out excessively. When the knees move outwards during the lower portion of the squat movement, the probable tight muscles are the Piriformis, Biceps Femoris (one of the Hamstring muscles), and the Tensor Fascia Latae/Gluteus Minimus. The probably weak and inactive muscles are the Adductors and Gluteus Maximus. A majority of people have a slight toed out position, but if the feet turn out too much then muscle imbalances most likely exist. The major contributor to the feet turned out position are the lateral (outer) calf muscles and the Biceps Femoris. Probable weak muscles are the medial (inner) calf muscles and hamstrings along with the Gluteus muscles.

Knees Move Inwards

Knees move inwards - (and yes I am sticking my tongue out to my friend taking the picture :-) )

Knees move inwards – (and yes I am sticking my tongue out to my friend taking the picture 🙂 )

Knees moving inwards is also known as knee valgus clinically. Knee valgus is fairly common, especially in young women in their growth and development stages. The reason for knee valgus is not fully understood. The most common theory is that weak gluteal activity allows for a greater degree of hip internal rotation and tibial rotation. One recent study has proposed that increased ankle stiffness leads to restricted dorsiflexion range of motion. They suggest that this leads to foot pronation and internal tibial rotation that ultimately leads to knee valgus. Either way, it’s not a good thing since knee valgus can increased chances of an ACL injury. Probable overactive muscles in someone displaying knee valgus are the adductor complex, Biceps Femoris, Tensor Fascia Latea (TFL) and lateral Gastrocnemius. Probable underactive muscles are the medial hamstrings and Gastrocnemius, the Gluteus Medius and Maximus, and the Anterior and Posterior Tibialis.

So now that you know what key dysfunctional movement patterns to look for (of course there are way more that are possible), you need to know how to “fix” them! We’ll discuss that in future blog posts so stay tuned!

~ Happy Training!

Weekend Wrap-Up and Good News!

I know… super annoying ad… WEEE!

Weee! This weekend was a productive weekend! I worked a half day on Friday because I had to meet with my internship advisor, which was cool. My internship is done remotely (aka my house) so I’ve only talked to my advisor via phone and email so it was nice to actually put a face with a name/voice. In order to receive my MPH I must complete a 120-hour internship experience in public health. Myself and two other students are working on creating an epidemiological profile of HIV/AIDS in Haiti for the National Alliance of State & Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD). It’s a pretty cool project in that the Ministry of Health in Haiti is going to use our findings to implement prevention and treatment programs in the country. I’m currently working on the “meat and potatoes” of the project now, which requires me to use SPSS, a statistical analysis program, to calculate prevalence and incidence rates of HIV from over 160,000 cases that NASTAD has collected through surveillance and electronic medical records (EMRs) over the past 10 years. It’s certainly tedious and not so fun at times, especially since I have no experience with SPSS. However, I really like the fact that our project has real world implications.

I spent most of the day Saturday running errands and hanging out at the gym organizing my mess myself and working out. Previously, I have always done my cross-training strength work in running shoes, but that is actually not good for you because a) with a thicker heel you have a higher chance of twisting an ankle and injury (plus running shoes are built for forward motion and cross-training generally and should occur in all planes of motion), and b) they ruin your shoes faster and running shoes are expensive! So I decided to pick up a pair of cross-training sneakers. I haven’t worn Nike for years, but so far I really like these shoes. I might go back and get the blue and gray pair.

On Sunday I finished up my literature review for my thesis paper (that was due a couple of weeks ago. Oopps!)! Over the holiday weekend I plan to bang out my rough draft of the paper so I can begin the process of editing. Anyone want to edit my paper for me? 🙂 Then I did some studying for my test….

Speaking on test… I PASSED! I am now a certified personal trainer through the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)! Yay! I took my test yesterday morning at the testing site at H&R Block. I know, weird huh? I was super nervous I was going to fail. I don’t standardize test well. I much prefer essay-based tests. This test was pretty hard too. I studied for it, but I definitely could have spent more time studying for it. I’ve been told by a few people that about half of the people who take the test the first time fail it. I can see why. If you don’t know anatomy then you are screwed. Plus they asked some super random questions. Nordic walking? Orthostatic hypotension? What the heck?! After looking those up I’m pretty sure I got them right, but I don’t remember those terms in the book at all. Anyway, I didn’t get a super high score, but I passed and I’m glad that I don’t have to take it again!

I’ve been hinting at for a while that I have already been moonlighting as a personal trainer. I got a job at Family 24 Fitness in Scarborough, Maine and it’s a pretty cool little gym run by some super awesome and experienced people! I love it already! The gym will be expanding after January and will include fitness class space and also an athletic conditioning area, which will be my area! I’m super excited and I can honestly see a future career at this place so I’m pumped! If you live in the area and looking for a personal trainer… come see me! 🙂 I promise you a good time… just not in that Maine Zumba way!

I also completed my take home class of the Functional Movement Screening. I am now a certified Functional Movement Expert! FMS is a ranking and grading system that documents movement patterns that are key to normal everyday function. By screening for movement patterns, the FMS can identify limitations and asymmetries within the body. After determining limitations and asymmetries the trainer can provide the client appropriate corrective exercises to “fix” the problems. The FMS system is great for athletes and I plan on implementing its use in the athletic conditioning program I’ll be developing at the gym. However, I still need to practice with the system so if anyone living in the Greater Portland area would like a FMS let me know! 🙂

Big things coming in 2013! So excited! 🙂

~ Happy Training!