In college, a group of friends and I took a road trip from Illinois to California with activities like surfing, hiking and bungee jumping in the agenda once we got there. Along the way we stopped in Salt Lake City to take obligatory pictures of standing on the salty lake. On the way back to the car, I sprained my ankle pretty badly by rolling it in the gravel parking lot. Lame, right? Out of all the things we did on the trip, that was how I injured myself? That embarrassing moment has plagued my sports career ever since and have had to keep up with ankle strengthening every time I think about playing. If I could sprain my ankle just WALKING, then I surely could sprain it again skating/running/playing dodgeball/WALKING.

With that being said, creating ankle strength and speed at the same time can be a daunting task. If 1-footed balance exercises are already in your weekly program, I am very proud of you. But if you are ready for the next level, try this 1-foot lateral zig zag hop drill to put that ankle strength in movement. This drill is advanced level, so if you know your ankles are still weak or recovering from injury, do not attempt this drill.

1-Foot Lateral Zig Zag Hop

Start on your left foot with your left leg slightly bent at the ankle and knee. You will want to perform this drill from a slightly athletic position rather than standing straight up. From the outside of the ladder closest to you, hop into the first rung then forward on the other side of the ladder farthest from you. You will then jump backwards into the 2nd rung and back on the outside. Repeat the movement all the way to the end on the same foot and then execute the drill on your right foot coming back to the start. This drill is killer so you will only want to do the drill once or twice on both legs until you have built up the strength to complete 3 to 5 times.

ADOTW Pro Tips

- Use your whole body to perform the drill: swing your arms and drive the actions with both your hips and legs.

- Look up! Train as if you were training for your sport, so don’t be caught looking at your feet when you could be focusing your eyes on what is happening around you.

- Form over speed: do a run through once or twice at a slower pace to get the rhythm and form right. Speed in these drills won’t benefit you if you are running through them like a wacky waving inflatable tube man. Once you’ve gotten a handle on technique, go for speed.

AuthorLizelle Din
photo by  Divine Harvester  via  photopin   cc

As an athlete, there are just as many setbacks as there are gains. Some we can control with proper training and over time, others we have no control over whatsoever and swear that Zeus himself cast a curse to forever roll rocks up hills. For me, I stumbled—rather, choked—upon one that I didn’t even know existed.

I didn’t grow up with asthma. It wasn’t until going into my second season of roller derby that I started to have real trouble breathing. At first, I didn’t know what was wrong. There were a few times during my first season where I thought I was either not warmed up enough or conditioned to jump in the game off the bench cold. The next year—during pre-season—while beginning to attend regular speed practices, I found myself constantly gasping for air, thinking that my conditioning was not up to par. When I found myself choking for air and coughing non-stop just to be able to swallow, my captain sat me down and asked if I had asthma. That is when I went to see my doctor and was diagnosed with Exercise Induced Asthma (EIC).

Exercise Induced Asthma is defined as the narrowing of airways causing difficulty moving air out the lungs during exercise. There are additional triggers that can set it off, which I pretty much was exposed to all the time. Allergies played a huge part, more than I knew, so in addition to seeing my regular physician, I saw an allergist. Dry air was also a contributor, as preseason started late fall and went through the dead of winter, I had every element against me.

How I Broke Through

I am not a health expert. I can neither diagnose nor prescribe what will work as every person is different and reacts differently to environmental and physical factors. But I can tell you how I managed to do it.

1. I listen to my doctor.

When I first starting having problems, it was my best and most accurate move to find the root of it all. Now that I listen to my regular physician, I also follow my allergist’s advice as well. My allergist brought to light that I am severely allergic to everything in the natural world—every seasonal allergy, dust mites, cats … you name it. (I literally could be the Grandmaster for the Allergy Pride Parade.) Since having found out which allergens affect me the most, a plan is in place for when I need to absolutely use certain medications and when I can ease off them depending on what season it was. I eventually cut down on multiple aides once I had control (I was on an albuterol inhaler, a nasal spray and an oral pill—in addition to a steroid-based inhaler) but I had no idea what worked and what didn’t until I was able to rule out major triggers.

2. I keep it consistent.

I couldn’t stop a routine just because I thought I was having a good day. I also hated the fact that I now had 4 different and particularly expensive medicines to control one problem. But It was the presence of persistence and discipline that gives me control. With medications keeping triggers at bay, endurance and stamina training was also built into my regular schedule. My biggest problems burst to the surface when I reach my highest intensity and heart rate, so when I train at that level in a controlled setting, I am able to scale back how much I have to reach for my inhaler during activity. This also came in handy when I had a regular rotation in the roster and needed to stay on the track.

3. I make others aware and don't feel ashamed when I need a break.

That first year of learning to control my asthma, my captain came up with a signal for me to use for when I had hit my limit and would sit me until I recovered. It kept me out of danger and kept my teammates aware as well. I knew I was in a safe place when everyone was aware. Even when I was ignoring my own signals and wanting to push harder, there was a level of accountability that kept me in check. I learned never keep it to myself, even when I thought I was being a wimp and I knew I wasn’t alone. (Almost half my team was asthmatic, Team Puff Puff). There is a distinct difference between excuse and reason and the inability to breathe is not an excuse by any means.

Knowing my limitations kept me from getting set back by taking the time to focus on how to work with them. It took some time and a lot of patience to figure it out but it was worth it. If only it were as easy as: inhale, exhale, repeat.


Read more about breathing, exercise and asthma:

The Art of Breathing | via Hockey Training Pro

Star Athletes with Asthma | via Health

Asthma and Exercise | via AAAAI

AuthorLizelle Din

I have been spending a lot of time lately trying to leave negativity out of my life. When I get caught up in negative thoughts, it often snowballs into guilt, self-deprecation and a large amount of stress. None of these things belong in my life. And it shouldn’t belong in yours either. I have noticed how hard we tend to be on ourselves when we miss a day at the gym. We overlook what we could have been doing with that time instead of turning to social media and publicly shaming ourselves. Instead of doing mental harm about missing the gym, make up for it with these more positive actions instead.

1.     Core Work

Core work is something that can do every day and not need the gym or equipment to do so. Catching up on plank variations and isometric holds is an easy way to cancel out the guilt of missing a full strength workout at the gym. When you can’t laugh at this the next day without being feeling sore, it’s a good thing.

2.     Recovery Work

An athletic trainer friend of mine always has to remind her clients that once an injury has occurred, it will always remain with you. The point she couldn’t stress enough is that physical therapy doesn’t end when sessions end. It is something that always must be done. So when the gym isn’t on the agenda for the day, remember there is always work to be done in the tiniest amount. So get back to those ankle alphabets and shoulder Ys and Ts if staying strong without setbacks is important (which it is!).

3.     Flexibility/Stretch/Massage Work

The great thing about flexibility and stretch work is that it is an integral part of being well-rounded athlete. (More importantly keep injury away.) Load up a yoga or stretching routine from a favorite workout app.  Grab that foam roller that is collecting dust in the corner and work out the kinks in those quads and calves. After all the wincing, yelping and swearing so loud that it scares the neighbors, the amount of relief and energy that will be felt after will make anyone forget a missed gym day.

4.     Quality Time

There are times when my clients ask me for advice on their training plans, and after they give me the rundown of their jam-pack training schedule I often have to tell them to cancel a gym or training day to make room for quality time. The running joke with athletes is that their significant other/kids/cats/guinea pigs never see them and that if cats could attend games that would be the most time spent together in one sitting. There is always room for mentally recovering and keeping your life in balance. Once, when I pulled a practice off of a client’s weekly schedule she immediately responded with, “Oh! Now I can have date night!” That guy is now marrying her. (Related? Shrug. But I’d like to take credit for that.)

5.     Treat Yo’Self (to sleep and a good meal)

Now it’s time to treat yo’self. None of that cheat meal nonsense. I am talking about that hour you missed at the gym that leaves you a wide-open opportunity to cook a real meal mid-week and sit down with actual utensils instead of standing over the sink eating out of Tupperware. And the time you cut out of traveling to the gym? Wind down early and hop in bed with a book or that significant other/cat/guinea pig and get some real lovin’ on. Everyone wins.

AuthorLizelle Din

“Everyone knows how to do push ups.” NOT. Every week I remind my boot campers how to perform a push up in good form. Sometimes it is because they want to push harder or not look like the only person who can’t do a proper one. But I can’t stress this enough, a push up in bad form isn’t doing anyone favors. It also isn’t shameful to not be able to do even one, because this sucker takes a lot of practice and build up.

A push up is one of the most basic exercises that builds upper body and core strength. No equipment is needed, not even this and there are no excuses that can justify leaving it out of your workout (unless you are injured/have joint restrictions, then you are absolutely excused).

Proper Form: 3 Things to Focus On

Spine. I am a big defender of spine health. So when doing any exercise I will always mention this first. When executing an exercise from a prone position, it is best to keep your spine in a neutral position. Note that I am not saying “straight” but “neutral.” The difference is that when the spine is in neutral, it is allowed to perform as it should with the natural curves in motion. Pushing the spine into a straight position is forcing it into an unnatural state. Neutral also means not letting the spine hyperextend. When in a prone position, don’t look like your cat, stretched out over couch and under the coffee table. Only a cat can be comfortable and look cool in that position.  

Elbows. What part of the arms are pushups actually working? Pushups utilize anterior and medial deltoids (shoulders) as well as the triceps and pectorals (chest). They are a ton of variations on pushups and there are a lot of arguments on which is actually the true one, but I’ll stick to the form that I feel works best for the major muscle groups used. When lowering to the ground, keep the elbows close to the side of the body, bending 90 degrees towards the feet.

Neck. Keep the neck neutral as well. A common compensation I see in pushups is when the neck drops down and forward. A little trick to know if the neck is in the right spot is to actually look a few inches in front of you rather than straight down.

How to Build Up

Start with planks. Having stability throughout the core and shoulders is a key component. Don’t worry about lowering just yet. A proper plank is all about keeping the neck and spine neutral and the shoulders directly over your elbows/wrists. Learning to engage the core, quads and glutes will keep pushups in proper alignment rather than looking like someone is about to break out the worm.

On your knees. Don’t knock anyone doing push ups on their knees. I would rather have a client do pushups on their knees in perfect form any day of the week until they build the strength to go to the next level. (See previous.)

Halfsies. I like having my clients learning how to hold a pushup halfway before even attempting to lower all the way. This still gives the core and shoulders more control without losing form.  

Now are we ready to tackle the pushup?

AuthorLizelle Din

We generally know how to build muscle, make them bigger, stronger and so indistinguishable from one hulky guy to another, but it is rare to think about exercises that build our bones. Remember when your mom used to force you to drink milk so that your bones would grow and be strong? Now that you are a grown ass person, you still need to listen to her, it will just take more than milk to keep them strong.

Muscle vs. Bone: The Difference

When we build muscle, we think of strength training—lifting weights or using equipment—to add resistance and increase the ability to resist force as weight increases and repetition decreases. But to build bone, exercise needs to fall into the weight-bearing category to increase bone density—specifically exercises that move you against gravity in an upright position.  Think barbell squats versus jump squats.

Building Bone Density with Both High and Low Impact Exercises

The go-to exercises for building bone density usually involve high-impact to successfully increase bone mass. Some athletes here the words “high impact” and have a flee or fight moment because 1) they have had broken bones in the past and fear the pain of high impact to an old injury or 2) eat things like pain for breakfast. High impact exercises are crucial, but not meant for everyone. Especially for those with bones on the mend or osteoporosis. Lucky for us who have bad knees and flat feet, there are low impact exercises options that aid in bone growth and maintenance.

According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, some high impact exercises include:


Jump Roping

Stair Climbing


and low impact can be done on/with:

Stair Climbing Machines

Elliptical Machines

Fast Walking

Low-Impact Aerobics

Cycling or Swimming do not fall into bone-density types of exercise because they provide resistance rather than impact. These type of exercise are excellent for cardiovascular and endurance building instead.

Why bother?

As we get older, we begin to lose bone mass whether we like it or not. The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases says that our bone mass peaks in the third decade of our lives and begins to decrease after, making bones susceptible to injury and breakage. Our joints also become less stable and lose the ability to help us maintain balance and prevent a fall. By adding weight-bearing exercises to our workout programs, we can keep our moving parts moving and won’t have to use creaky, achy joints to keep predicting the weather. So shake a bone and save them from getting in trouble.

AuthorLizelle Din
CategoriesPro Tips