FOO Fights For Gilda’s Club

Sometimes just getting starting is the toughest thing to do. You want to take on the challenge of a 10K or a Half-Marathon…but you just don’t know how to go about training for it. Well, I’ve got the perfect solution for you | it’s FOO Fights For Gilda’s Club! Orange Shoe Gym and Fleet Feet Sports Madison are teaming up to help you get ready for a Half-Marathon or 10K race, and along the way giving you the opportunity to support Gilda’s Club!

Gilda’s Club Madison offers support for people with cancer, and support for their entire family, through the entire journey with cancer. It’s a welcoming environment away from the emotionally charged health care setting, where people can just be themselves with others. Gilda’s Club is open to anybody affected by Cancer. Patients and their family and friends can come to Gilda’s Club for whatever needs they may have | emotional or social support, a place to hang out, learn from others, speak with a professional, have a laugh, or just take a nap. 

You can learn more about Gilda’s Club and FOO Fights For Gilda’s Club at the monthly “Getting to Know Gilda’s Club” Breakfast on Friday, January 22 at 7:30am at Gilda’s Club, 7907 Health Court, Middleton, or head to the Gilda’s Club website.



Madison Is Platinum!

Earlier this week, the League of American Bicyclists announced the latest rankings of Bicycle Friendly Communities in the U.S., and Madison became the 5th community to earn the Platinum rating! Madison joins Boulder and Fort Collins, Colorado; Davis, California; and Portland, Oregon as Platinum rated cities for bicycling! Madison also became the first community since 2013 to receive that rating.  According to the League,the Bicycle Friendly designation shows a community’s dedication to creating safer and better places to ride your bike.

In addition to Madison’s honor, 7 other Wisconsin communities established or renewed their Bicycle Friendly Status, including Fitchburg, which moved from Bronze to Silver status, Middleton and Monona were also recognized at the Bronze level, Sun Prairie received an Honorable Mention, and UW Madison was ranked as a Bicycle Friendly University at the Gold level.

You can see the complete list of Bicycle Friendly Communities on the League of American Bicyclists website.

Sports Massage: Beyond Just Feeling Better (Although There’s That, Too)

Last week I posted an interview with Jenny Knight from Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spa, we were talking about how massage can help enhance your athletic performance. With Madison Marathon right around the corner, I thought this would be a good time to invite Jenny to be a guest blogger in the Active Zone. So, here’s Jenny…

“The will to win means nothing without the will to prepare.”
-Juma Ikangaa, 1989 NYC Marathon winner

When athletes and fitness enthusiasts think of sports massage, most are aware that pro sports teams and world-class competitors utilize it for training and recovery at elite levels of competition. What that means specifically to the serious recreational athlete, however, is sometimes just a vague acknowledgement of its existence (“it must be good for athletes because they all use it; I’d try it too if I could ever get around to it…”).

The benefits of sports massage are many and extend into other spheres of activity beyond athletics (we take the same bodies that we use for running or ultimate frisbee into our desk jobs or long commutes, after all). We’ll be covering some of the most essential benefits of sports massage across several discussions, but for the moment we’ll focus on a semi-neglected topic for many sports and fitness enthusiasts: the importance of balanced muscle development, and the role a sports massage therapist can play in transitioning your physique from a less-balanced to a more-balanced state.

For the moment we’re speaking less about the physical ability to balance (e.g. on one leg), and more about development on the muscular level. Athletes know the importance of developing strength in service to a specific series of movements, and that an increase in strength will produce a parallel increase in performance. While this is true to a certain extent, many athletes are unaware that the strengthening of muscles in an imbalanced manner can actually inhibit performance, whether by restricting range of motion, inadvertently weakening a reciprocal muscle which results in compensation by other tissues and structures (distorting the proper technique for a high speed softball pitch, for example), or creating stresses on tissues or joints that can lead to inflammation and injury.

There are different levels of imbalance or asymmetry of development; on the macro level, a right-handed tennis player has a different set of physical requirements than a swimmer, runner, or biker, in terms of balancing the development of muscle groups from one side of their body to the other. However, regardless of the specific sport or fitness focus, all physical movement comes down to sets of muscles that contract in opposite but complementary directions.

When one half of a muscle set is overdeveloped (via strengthening), it tends to be shorter and tighter, while the reciprocal muscle stays in an elongated, weaker state. This can occur when a relatively narrow range of repeated movements is required to perform a sport (such as running or biking, which require less varied or lateral movement than soccer or hockey). The body will compensate for weaker muscles by shifting the work to other areas, but over time the imbalances can lead to pain or injury as other soft tissue such as ligaments and fascia (the sheath around muscles) are strained by the compensations. In this way, it’s possible to run quite well for quite a while and still be straining the body toward acute or long-term injury to soft tissue and/or joints and their surrounding structures.

A good sports massage therapist can both guide you toward balanced muscular development and help you reverse existing damage due to scar tissue or adhesions. They can identify the muscular imbalances, if you are not yet aware of them, and they can also locate existing scar tissue and assist in breaking down the toughened fibers that restrict movement. Helping the overdeveloped, shortened muscle to relax into its natural length can be accomplished by myofascial release as well as passive stretches and other relaxation techniques. When the shortened muscle is relaxed, it relieves strain on surrounding connective tissue and also aids engagement and strengthening of the weaker reciprocal muscle.

Actual strengthening of the weaker muscle will require additional training outside of the massage sessions, but repeated sessions with a sports massage therapist can directly improve the functional movement and soft tissue conditioning necessary to build balanced muscle performance. The key: it is never too late for sports massage therapy to improve or correct your athletic conditioning, and if you are able to include it in an ongoing training regimen, it can also help optimize your ability to train at higher levels with fewer setbacks.

Jenny Knight is the owner of Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spa in Madison, WI.
Find Hand & Stone/Madison, WI on Facebook, or at

|Coming soon: Sports Massage and Optimizing Muscle Performance

Tour De France!

Last week on the radio, I talked about rumors and speculation, as to what the 2016 Tour de France race route might look like.  I mentioned that there are a few things that we know for sure at this point…

  1. As has been the case since 1975…the race will finish on the Champs-Elysees in Paris.
  2. The race will start on Saturday, July 2 at the foot of Mont Saint-Michel…
  3. The race will remain in that section of the country for 3 days.
  4. The race will run clockwise around France. It went counter-clockwise in 2015…and they change direction each year. So, 2016 should be in a clockwise direction.

Beyond that, I said that the race is all a big mystery…with a little speculation…and a few rumors.

Well, until yesterday!

Yesterday was the day that cycling fans around the world have been waiting patiently for, since the race ended in July of this year. Yesterday was the day that the 2016 route was announced…and I’m happy to say that I was at least partially correct in my predictions.

Yes – the race will finish on the Champs-Elysees in Paris on Sunday, July 24

Yes – the race will start at the foot of Mont Saint-Michel on Saturday, July 2

On the next point – I was mostly correct. The first two days of the tour will be in northwest portion of the country known as La Manche…and the third day starts there…but leaves that part of the country and finishes in Angers.

On my final point – I was completely WRONG! Not sure how I was wrong – it should have been pretty easy to look at the 2015 route and see that it went in a clockwise direction around the country, but I went from memory…and apparently I’m getting old and not remembering things properly. The 2015 race went clockwise…so in 2016 the race will go in a counter-clockwise direction.

After leaving La Manche…the race heads south for a couple days before hitting the Pyrenees Mountains on stage seven.  Next year’s trip through the Alps includes the famed Mont Ventoux climb. The 2016 edition of the Tour de France also includes visits to three neighboring countries…Spain…the Principality of Andorra…and Switzerland.

Overall, there are nine flat stages…one hilly stage…nine mountain stages, including four summit finishes…two individual time-trials…and two rest days…before finishing on the Champs-Elysees in Paris!

Learn more about the 2016 Tour de France on the official le Tour website.

Wisconsin Milkman Triathlon

Big news in the Madison triathlon community…

JUST ANNOUNCED: The Wisconsin Milkman Triathlon…Sunday, June 19, 2016…Olin Park in Madison.

I believe this is Madison’s first half-iron distance race. The folks at Race Day Events have been working for a couple years to make this happen and it’s sure to be a great addition to the Madison summer race schedule | whether it’s your 2016 “A” race…or a race to evaluate your training and work out a few kinks as you prepare for the 2016 Ironman Wisconsin.

In previous years, we have always had to travel to race a half-iron. A destination race is fun | but it adds some logistics that you don’t have to worry about when the race is right here in Madison, so now you can concentrate on the things that you need to in order to have a great race…or in order to evaluate your training plan as you prepare for Ironman. This is where you can see if your swim-stroke is still in need of improvement (mine always is)…if your bike fitness is where it needs to be…and what it feels like to RUN after a long bike ride. This is also where you can work on transitions | from swim to bike…and from bike to run, and where you can perfect your nutrition plan.

More information about the Wisconsin Milkman Triathlon is coming soon…including complete registration details. As soon as it’s all announced | we’ll have it here in the Active Zone!

26.2 (or So) Miles

Over the years, I have spent quite a few weekend mornings working as a race announcer at area runs, bike races and triathlons. And along the way, I have met a whole bunch of really fun people, but one post-race conversation really stands out to me. I was in the middle of announcing racers as they crossed the finish line, when a gentleman asked to talk to the Race Director…immediately! While I wanted to make sure everything was o.k. and deal with his complaint, if he had one – the timing was just plain bad. The Race Director was busy making sure the race went smoothly, and I was busy giving people the credit they deserve when they cross the finish line. So, I asked him if I could take a message for the Race Director? He told me that in all his years of racing, he has NEVER run a 10k race that was EXACTLY 10k (6.2 miles)…until today, and he just wanted to thank and congratulate the Race Director for a job well done. I assured him that I would pass his praise on to the appropriate person, which I did.

While it was really nice to hear a compliment about the race that I was working, I was also laughing to myself when I got that compliment. Laughing, because what I usually hear are complaints that the course was longer than 5k/10k/half-marathon/marathon/etc.  Over the years, I have learned that what you see on your Garmin watch probably will NOT match exactly with the distance of the race. The reasons that the distances usually don’t match are really quite simple if you think about it a bit. Think about the fact that a little tiny watch on your wrist is communicating with a satellite thousands of miles up in the sky to get you your information – you can pretty much be assured that your Garmin is not as accurate as the methods that are used by the race officials to measure the route.  Also think about the fact that the race officials are measuring the route with an empty course – they are not weaving in and out of other runners – causing the distance to inch up a little bit at a time, they take more of a straight line approach. And think about the fact that the race-course isn’t a straight line – and you probably take the corners just a little different than the race official who measured the course did – he/she might have cut the corner really tight, while you had to go wide because there was a crowd of people in tight. You also get off that line a little bit each time you head into an aid station (or take a wide arc around an aid station to avoid the crowd at the aid station) and every time you jump off the course to use a porta-pottie. No, these are not huge variations, but they add up over the course of a race – maybe only a 100th of a mile in a 5k, and maybe as much as a few 10ths over the course of a marathon. 

Of course that’s not to say that every race is measured out perfectly – I heard about a race a few years ago that was organized by non-runners who didn’t realize that “5k” is an actual DISTANCE – they thought it was just what we called a race, kinda like we call facial tissue “Kleenex.” So, they set up their 5k race with about a 4 mile course…and a LOT of really unhappy runners at the end of the day. I raced a half marathon a couple years ago and my Garmin read 11.5 miles when I got to the finish line – now I know I just explained how differences happen, but more than a 1.5 mile difference over the course of a 13.1 mile race, is more than me cutting a few corners. Add to that the fact that I passed a friend of mine TWICE during the race – because he missed an entire section of the course that wasn’t well marked, so he got back in front of me for a short time. His half-marathon was about 11 miles. So yes, it happens that the Race Directors mess up from time to time, but for the most part, you can count on the race-course being the correct distance, as advertised.