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Dr. Todd Arnold On the Road With USATF; Part 2

New Balance Indoor Grand Prix 2017

A world record in Boston. Emma Coburn, Sydney McLaughlin, Brenda Martinez and Jenny Simpson passed the baton for 20 laps of the 200-meter track in world record time. They posted a time of 10:40.31, just under the previous world record. With each pass of the baton the crowd cheered louder and greeted Jenny with loud roars as she raced for the line. It was a great atmosphere!

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The day before the race I had the chance to talk with Jenny Simpson while she was preparing for the event. Last year at this time she was just beginning to train after dealing with an injury. This year is different, and she was anticipating the chance to turn on the jets during the last leg of their race. She stated something that I found very interesting.

She said that she was recently discussing goals with her coaches, with a focus on her strengths and weaknesses. Weaknesses? She won an Olympic medal last year after injuring herself during training only months before. Now she is completely healthy and strong, and is looking for weaknesses? I was baffled. But clearly she feels that there are things to work on. The body needs to be challenged.

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The lesson here is: there is always something that can be improved, even if you just won a medal for being the greatest. Jenny also shed some light on why I do what I do. Improving athletes’ weaknesses is what my profession does. Finding something so tiny in movement or joint mobility and correcting it can make all the difference needed to succeed at the highest level. Looking for those weaknesses has become the focus of what I do.

This meet had a high volume of great athletes that we cared for. Please continue to seek them out on social media and show them your support. They are all great athletes, and their athletic accomplishments may not be the only activity that inspires you to discover and attack both your strengths and your weaknesses.

Emma CoburnSydney McLaughlinBrenda Martinez | Jenny SimpsonJeff Henderson

Shannon RowburyPaul ChelimoNoah LylesVernon NorwoodEnglish Gardner

Courtney OkoloJessica BeardAutumne FranklinStephanie GarciaLeah O’ConnorJenn Suhr

Mary Saxer

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Dr. Todd Arnold On the Road With USATF; Part 1

As the calendar turns to the new year, the 2016 Rio Olympics are behind us. The games brought USA Track and Field 32 medals, the highest since 1932 (excluding the boycotted games in Los Angeles) and St. Vincent Sports Performance had direct connection to 27 of them. 2017 looks to have that continued success.

One of the first trips of the year has us in Texas to work with Darrel Woodson (D2) and his group of sprinters. This week it’s in the high 30s, but the commitment is made and the athletes are out and working. We assess movement patterns, strength and symmetry and connect these to their events. The start of the season is a very valuable time for us. If dysfunction is ignored now and fitness is applied over that dysfunction, the risk of injury is higher and performance can be limited. No one wants to limit their potential!

Assessments are no fun in the cold. This is a picture of Sharika Nelvis beginning her Functional Movement Screen in her winter gear:

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Sharika competes in the 100m hurdles, arguably the most competitive event in American track and field. At last year’s Olympic trials, she finished fourth, just missing the team. But Sharika and D2 are focused on 2017, not the past. On this assessment she looks great, moves well and is ready to put in the work to compete. We often tell athletes that when they look good on the movement assessment that it’s the time to work. Be comfortable trying something new. Let the body that moves well adapt to something new and see how it impacts performance.

This trip was pretty unique as we took the roadshow to multiple cities and had the privilege of seeing athletes from multiple disciplines. We started in Texas and Los Angeles with sprinters and hurdlers, moved to Reno to see the pole vaulters, onto Chula Vista at the Olympic Training Center for throwers and jumpers, finally ending in Orlando with Lance Brauman and his group of sprinters.

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Please seek out the athletes we saw on this last trip via their social media and show them your support as they attack 2017 with their focus on competing in the many events leading up to the World Championships in London August 3-13.

Sharika NelvisMookie SalaamDiondre BatsonBryce RobinsonAshley Spencer

Morolake AkinosunCourtney Ovolo | Brianna RollinsDalilah MuhammadNia Ali

Dawn HarperCale SimmonsJacob BlankenshipKatie NageotteLogan Cunningham

Kylie HutsonSandi MorrisMary SaxerMike Arnold | Dani BunchJarvis Gotch

Amanda BingsonDeanna PriceMaggie Malone | Curtis Thompson | Felisha Johnson

Amber CampbellAndrea GuebelleMichelle CarterKelsey CardOctavious Freeman

Noah LylesJosephus Lyles

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The Thrill of the Victory and the Agony of Defeat

I’m sure that many of you can recall watching the introduction to ABC’s The Wild World of Sports and hearing Jim McKay say,” The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat”. This past week I had the privilege of working with a number of USA Track and Field athletes as they pursued their dream of making this year’s Olympic Team.

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I saw the thrill of victory when the world’s best times were posted by LaShawn Merritt and English Gardner. I witnessed the thrill of seeing Trayvon Bromell, Sandi Morris, Emily Infeld and Colleen Quigley overcome injury to make the Olympic Team.

I saw the agony of defeat when Molly Ludlow, Leah O’Connor and Georganne Moline had to deal with circumstances out of there control and were unable to make the team. Everyone felt an overwhelming sense of sadness and gratitude when track and field icons Sanya Richards Ross, Dee Dee Trotter and Adam Nelson failed to make the Olympic Team and announced their retirement. We will always remember their influences in the sport we love.

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Americans love watching and participating in sports for the thrill we get when we are victorious. We keep coming back when we experience the agony of defeat. I feel very honored and blessed to assist athletes as they strive to reach their goals and feel the thrill of their accomplishments.

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Extreme Sports

Track and field isn’t an extreme sport like base jumping, kite boarding or mountain climbing. This week, however, I was in a world of extremes.

In one week I went from Florida heat that reached 105 degrees, to Park City Utah, where we ran in long sleeves and 49 degree temperatures. From sea level to an altitude of 7000 feet. From sprinters to distance runners.

The common theme amongst these athletes is that they push their bodies to extremes. They all push themselves continuously in the pursuit of athletic performance. Sprinters are always on the verge of tearing their bodies up as they explode out of the blocks and go as hard as they can. All this physicality for an opportunity to compete again later in the day or a few days later in the finals. The distance runners log hours of running in a week. They vary the intensity of workouts, trying to maximize their strength with every repetitive step. These athletes ask their bodies to tolerate 60, 80 or even 100 miles per week in preparation for races measured in minutes.

Emily Infeld and Shelby Houlihan doing repeat 400s on the track at the University of Utah

Emily Infeld and Shelby Houlihan doing repeat 400s on the track at the University of Utah

This is the end of my season and the most important part of theirs. I am finished helping them get ready for the USA Olympic Trials in early July. They are about to embark on the most important races of the year. If they can make the USA Track and Field team in July, they have the opportunity to compete for an Olympic medal in early August. I do my job in relative anonymity, they do their job on a world stage for all to see.

When people ask what I do for a living it can be hard to describe. It’s easy to say that I’m a physician and leave it at that, but caring for athletes is what I do. It’s what I love to do. My job is not just seeing athletes when they are injured or ill but trying to help them maintain their health in the pursuit of performance.

Members of the Bowerman Track team do a work out on the track at the University of Utah Matt Hughes (Canada), Mo Ahmed (Canada), Chris Derrick, Ryan Hill, Evan Jager, Lopez Lomong, Andy Bayer, Dan Huling, German Fernandez

Members of the Bowerman Track team do a work out on the track at the University of Utah
Matt Hughes (Canada), Mo Ahmed (Canada), Chris Derrick, Ryan Hill, Evan Jager, Lopez Lomong, Andy Bayer, Dan Huling, German Fernandez

I am blessed to work with some of the greatest athletes in the world. When I see them and especially when I leave I always wish them the best and tell them that I will be watching. Please follow them, reach out to them and tell them you will be watching, too.

 

From Florida this past week

Candyce McGrone | Alexis Love | Isiah Young | Justin Walker | Jeff Demps |

Kaylin Whitney | Justin Gatlin

 

From Utah representing the Bowerman Track Club

Emily Infeld | Colleen Quigley | Shelby Houlihan | Chris Derrick | Andy Bayer

German Fernandez | Ryan Hill | Evan Jager | Dan Huling | Lopez Lomong

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Track and Field Travels

The diversity of track and field impresses me, and the last 10 days did nothing but confirm those feelings.  The Olympic Trials are about 6 weeks away and athletes from all over the country are finalizing their plans, from their workouts to competition schedules.  This week SVSP was dispersed across the globe, caring for athletes competing in Diamond League events from Doha to Shanghai to Rabat to Morocco. Domestically we traveled westward, hitting Portland, Tucson and Austin.  Our personal journey started with the Bowerman Track Club in Portland, where we checked the health and status of the distance runners.

This is Pascal Dobert (also a former Olympian and university of Wisconsin runner) taking part of the Bowerman Track club runners through a workout.

This is Pascal Dobert (also a former Olympian and university of Wisconsin runner) taking part of the Bowerman Track club runners through a workout.

Next up was the Elite Throws Event hosted by the University of Arizona.  This year we witnessed some great throws, including an American record when Gwen Berry threw the hammer 76.31 meters.  This was followed by an 18.99 meter shot put by Jill Williams, putting her at 5th in the world. All this after recently having a child! Georeanne Moline ran the worlds fasted time to date in the women’s 400-meter hurdles at 53.97 seconds, followed closely by Dilaliah Muhammad at 54.64 seconds.  Cyrus Hostetler shined by throwing the javelin over 83 meters.  Distance runner Bernard Lagat showed off his fitness during a workout on the track. He won the 10,000 meters at the Payton Jordan Classic just two weeks ago, and has a legitimate chance to make the USA team at that distance.

Georgeanne Moline races toward the finish line after the final hurdle in he 400 hurdles on the way to a current world best time.

Georgeanne Moline races toward the finish line after the final hurdle in he 400 hurdles on the way to a current world best time.

The trip ended in the heart of Texas with Daryl Woodson and his team of sprinters.  Some of these athletes were in Shanghai just a week before, so we picked up where they left off in treatment. We placed a focus on mechanics for starts and high speed in preparation for the Prefontaine Classic this weekend.

This is Jill Williams on her throw of 18.99 putting her 5th in the world currently. Husband Dustin immediately tweeted out this is her personal post baby best.

This is Jill Williams on her throw of 18.99 putting her 5th in the world currently. Husband Dustin immediately tweeted out this is her personal post baby best.

Days like these reminds us of the great athletes we care for and the great environment we are blessed to work in. When you have time please seek out these athletes on social media and show them your support and support for the USA Track and Field team as they prepare for the Trials and the Olympic games.

From Portland: Andy Bayer | Evan Jager | Chris Derrick | Emily Infeld | Shalane Flanagan | Amy Cragg | Lopez Lomong | Dan Huling | Shelby Houlihan | Andy Bumbalough | Elliot Heath | Ryan Hill | German Fernandez

From Arizona Elite Throws: Gwen Berry | Jill Camerena Williams | Cyrus Hostetler | Michael Lihrman | Darrell Hill | Reese Hoffa | Liz Podominick | Matthias Tayala | Riley Dolezal | Tavis Bailey

From Austin: Michael Rodgers | Michael Tinsley | Natasha Hastings | Mookie Salaam | Bianca Knight | Jasmine Hyder

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Payton Jordan Invitational

Darrell Barnes and I had the opportunity to travel again for USA Track and Field this weekend, attending the historic Payton Jordan Invitational hosted by Stanford University.Each year elite distance runners converge on Palo Alto to take advantage of near perfect running conditions.  Many come here chasing the standard, trying to get an entry into that years qualifying or championship meets.  This year’s event educated me in a unique way, and I continue to learn about the care elite athletes require in their pursuit of success.

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Runners race for a variety of reasons, and the 2016 Payton Jordan Invitational found many runners racing in events that are not their specialty.  Some were using it as a challenging workout while others were working on racing strategies.

 

Many athletes felt that they had not performed up to their expectations, however a common response was not that of disappointment or frustration, but of recognition that this is part of the process.  This is not the goal, but one step of many toward the end result.  Initially my response was one of disappointment for them.  I am used to seeing these athletes, some of them the best in the world, win every event I witness.  But talking to them after the event opened my eyes to the humility they possess, recognizing that this day is but one small part in the process.  In the grand scheme they might not win every race, but they experienced something this weekend that will help them win THE race.

 

For young and developing athletes I feel this is a lesson to heed.  There will be moments in training and competing that don’t feel like improvements.  These moments are important, however.  Each is part of the larger process, part of the completion of the larger goal.  These moments can come in the form of injuries that require large amounts of time off, workouts that inflict pain, or races that fall short of the desired result.

 

This weekend we heard several explanations as to why performances on didn’t look good on paper, but the common theme was a humble respect for the process.  Respect for the plan their coach has outlined.  Respect for the steps it takes to be truly great at something.  Respect for competitors; something we can all learn from.

 

The Olympic Games are less than 100 days away.  Please support these athletes as they pursue glory and gold in 2016.

Bowerman Track Club | Dan Huling | Chris Derrick | Evan Jager | Lopez Lomong |

Shelby Houlihan | Andy Bayer (Indiana native) | German Fernandez | Colleen Quigley |

Emily Infeld | Amy Cragg | Shalane Flanagan | Ryan Hill | Laura Roesler | Dana Mecke |

Kendra Chambers | Jesse Jorgensen

 

 

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Dr. Arnold from the West Coast

St. Vincent Sports Performance is partnered with several National Governing Bodies including USA Track and Field. Dr. Todd Arnold of SVSP is a performance scientist for USATF, helping its athletes prep for major national and international events. Here’s a dispatch from Dr. Arnold’s travels.

We had a few weeks at home, but the road to Rio calls again! This past week, the SVSP team traveled to California and Phoenix. Our athletes are really ramping up their training and are starting to get worn out.  Some competed for the USA Indoor Championships and those that advanced competed just one short week later.

It was such a pleasure to see and evaluate Brianna Rollins. At 24, her performance is already promising; Brianna is coming off a second place finish at the World Indoor Championships in the 60m hurdles. As of this year, she also holds the world’s best time for the 60m hurdles. She is a joy to work with and takes great care of her body. Out of curiosity, I asked her what advice she would give her younger self if she had the chance. Without hesitation, she said “to believe in yourself, always.” She was emphatic, but thoughtful as she spoke.  She exuded confidence in herself and what she had said; she had no doubts.

Brianna Rollins

Athletes to Watch:

400m runners, Kind Butler and Bryshon Nellum, are two athletes to look for in 2016.  Kind is from Indiana but now trains in LA. Cali native Bryshon, was horrifically shot early in his collegiate career. At the time, the doctors weren’t sure if he would ever be able to compete at a high level again. Fortunately, he made an amazing recovery and now participates at the highest level of competition. Please follow and support both these athletes as they make a run towards the USA Olympic Trials, in hopes of representing the US.

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Dr. Arnold Checks in from Boston

image1St. Vincent Sports Performance is partnered with several National Governing Bodies including USA Track and Field. Dr. Todd Arnold of SVSP is a performance scientist for USATF, helping its athletes prep for major national and international events. Here’s a dispatch from Dr. Arnold’s travels.

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Typically, we go to the track where these athletes train, assess movement patterns and try to make corrections toward the desired mechanics. But, this week, we took a different approach to working with USA Track and Field. Taking care of athletes where they compete is another key aspect to high performance training. That brings us to Boston for a couple of days, as the city hosts the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix. Several big names are in attendance including Jenn Suhr, who just recently broke her own indoor pole vault world record.

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Here, we are caring for the American athletes trying to keep them healthy so they can compete and win events. We arrived two days before the event to treat athletes with a wide range of injuries and issues, with a goal to identify the source of that persistent sore leg or limited thoracic spine.

 

This was an incredibly interesting event for me.  The first two days we were in the hotel conference room treating as the athletes got off planes from their home tracks with stiff backs and sore legs.  The day of the meet is spent helping them feel optimally stretched and activating their muscles for prime performance.  An interesting dynamic is that we represent all USA athletes and care for them all equally.  At the Olympics they will be teammates, but here they are competitors.  Literally we have athletes on the table at the same time as the racer on the next table is preparing to beat them this weekend.  That certainly brings an interesting dynamic, but fortunately if there is any drama they are professional enough to not let us see it.

 

Throughout the event, especially early in the day there are competitions for high school and middle school athletes. It gave these young hopefuls a chance to warm up on the same stretch of rubber with the world record holder warming up. The younger athletes likely recognize these elite athletes from competitions or commercials. Many likely follow them on social media, but today they use the same small space and are called to their event by the same staff. What an amazing day for those young athletes!

 

As Sam Kendricks was cooling down and stretching (and walking around on his hands!), some quite young athletes raced over for an autograph. Sam spoke to them for a bit and signed their items. He said they probably don’t actually know who he is, but it still is a thrill even for him. It was great to see the elite athletes also reveled in sharing the space with their younger counterparts.

A great meet overall, good results on lots of fronts.  Next up is the Millrose Games in New York next weekend. Give these athletes and SVSP a follow on Twitter for even more from the Road to Rio.

 

 

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On the Road with USA Track & Field, Part 5

St. Vincent Sports Performance is partnered with several National Governing Bodies including USA Track and Field. Dr. Todd Arnold of SVSP is a performance scientist for USATF, helping its athletes prep for major national and international events. Here’s a dispatch from Dr. Arnold’s travels.

Fun trip to LA…We had the opportunity to see one of our most established USATF athletes and an up-and-comer during our visit out west.

 

Working with Dawn Harper-Nelson is amazing.  She is a two-time Olympian with a gold and silver medal in the 100-meter hurdle.  At this stage in her career you would think she would be resting on her previous accomplishments, but not for her. She is all about hard work and getting better at every chance. On high speed hurdle analysis, Dr. Mann pointed out an issue as she went over the barrier. Subtle changes like this can add up after 10 hurdles and changing her makes her more competitive and much harder to beat.  As they were reviewing video, we noticed Dawn’s left hip did not move symmetrically with her right one as she sat down, crossing her legs. On more detailed exam it was clear that she was asymmetric and after discussion it was clear that she likely could not do the move she was being asked to accomplish over the barrier. After some brief hands-on work, mobility gained and Dawn could feel the difference instantly! With some work over the next few weeks focused on this range of motion and some additional drills from Coach Kersee and Dr. Mann, hopefully she will be able to make this change and return to the top of the podium in Rio.

 

Kori Carter appears to be a rising star in the 400-meter hurdles. She went pro in 2014 after studying at Stanford. Later that year, she won the USATF outdoors and followed that up with a third place finish last summer. We first meet her in December 2015 and spent time analyzing her movement patterns. A weakness we identified seemed related to some things she was being told to correct. This week, we were able to quickly re-evaluate her and and helped her make great strides. She was easily able to do the movement pattern before we left and attributes this to the exercises she has been working on and her program with her strength coach. Though she hasn’t competed yet in 2016, this change will hopefully lead her to the top of many podiums in 2016.

 

Please seek out and share your support for these great athletes as they sacrifice and train hard for the 2016 season with their eyes on the  Rio Games.

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On the Road with USA Track & Field, Part 4

Back on the road after a weekend at home.  At least we are leaving the cold to go somewhere warmer as it was 8 degrees with 25 mph winds when I left Indianapolis!

 

The first stop is Texas.  Austin offers outdoor training year round, although most days there is a strong wind.  Maybe running into the wind is an advantage, adding an additional layer of resistance.

Ryan Harber

Ryan Harber

Sprinters need to be able to rev their engine as high as it will go and hope body parts don’t come spinning off.  It’s all about applying as much force to the ground as possible, but doing it with rapid leg turn over.  These athletes work in the weight room to generate strength and push their muscles to do incredibly quick contractions; and then do it again and again until the race is over.

 

From my perspective, it always seems that they are right on the edge of injury.  They don’t just walk the fine line between injury and success, they dance on it.  They need to run regularly, but they also can’t afford to do full speed sprints and explosions out of the blocks every day.  Assessing their status early in the season is crucial and can help prevent injuries later in the year.  Many are coming from an “off-season” of weight lifting, which leaves them less flexible after trying to add muscle to create power.  Tightness is an interesting thing, though.  After caring for these sprinters for 6 years my philosophy has changed.  In the past I wanted flexibility from my sprinters, making their tissue pliable which reduces injuries.  But over time I have learned that the best of the best are not flexible.  Taught muscles store energy as they strike the ground and this energy is given back as they push off again.  This is true of all runners, and sprinters use maximum force to push off the ground.  I have accepted the tightness found in the gastroc soleus muscles, hamstrings and quadriceps.

 

As I explained earlier, we believe athletes should be able to move in certain ways.  Sports require flexion, extension, and rotation; there are just varying quantities depending on the sport, position, and goal.  But each athlete must have basic control over these movements.  Sprinters are often challenged in these tasks given the tightness their bodies possess.  Tightness limits flexion. Over the years, athletes have bought into our philosophy that better movement helps them perform at their best. They become thoughtful and proactive about working on movement patterns that lead to more success on the track.

 

This trip we are working with athletes that train with Coach Darryl Woodson (known as D2).  They include Michael Rodgers, Natasha Hastings, Michael Tinsley, Jasmine Hyder, Bianca Knight, and Mookie Salaam.  As always, I would encourage you to follow these athletes as they pursue faster speeds while preparing for the Olympics in Rio later this year.

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