by Faye Rapoport
According to Christopher Drozd, “Fitness is life.” Drozd has built his own life around a career as a personal trainer in L.A., specializing in Iron-distance triathlon and marathon conditioning, ski and snowboard fitness, golf fitness and figure/physique sculpting. His credentials include being a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, Certified Triathlon Coach, Certified Spinning Instructor and Certified Personal Trainer.
Drozd has been lifting weights since 1973, and in 1986 decided fitness would make a worthy career. He notes that years of witnessing highly successful individuals pursuing their lost health, youthfulness, strength and physical ability have convinced him that he made the right choice in pursuing an active, fitness-based lifestyle and career.
Drozd’s clients include some familiar Hollywood names: Geena Davis, Merv Griffin, Barbara Hershey and Eric Roberts, to name a few. But the tips he shared with Foot.com on foot care and fitness are useful for anyone who trains or wants to stay in shape.
Foot.com: First, can you tell us how you chose a career as a personal trainer?
Drozd: It wasn’t a conscious career choice, actually. I was pursuing a career as a musician and since I’d already been lifting weights for about 10 years, worked in a gym as a day job. Incongruous, eh? Anyway, some members asked me to “train” them. This sounded strange: hadn’t everyone already learned how to exercise using weights and machines? Nonetheless, I taught what I knew. That was 1983.
Within a couple of years I’d moved to LA, had decided to work for myself, bought a studio directory (B2B guide for Hollywood), started making cold calls and, voila, my career began. Subsequent years of involvement with a predominantly wealthy set of individuals, killing themselves by consumption, reinforced my lifestyle choice and made occasional lean times, and dramatic contrasts in ‘where-with-all’ easier to parse. In all, fitness has been berry, berry good to me.
Foot.com: What kinds of athletes or fitness enthusiasts would need to pay special attention to their feet in the course of a workout?
Drozd: Everyone, really: runners, ball players, swimmers. Feet are our connections with the ground, the conduits that allow transfer of power and provide a solid base of support. And, if shoes fit improperly, orthotics are ill-fitted or lower leg muscles are neither strong nor flexible enough, performance and health problems often ensue.
Foot.com: Are there specific strengthening or flexibility exercises for the feet?
Drozd: Oh, yes. Balance and stability exercises, though not specifically for feet, ‘strengthen’ the ground/body link. Specific toe-curling movements that are used to activate small, often underconditoned lower leg muscles are a staple in rehabbing (and prehabbing) routines. Massage, say of the sole of the foot, provides for a flexibility and suppleness that ‘cures’ common maladies.
Foot.com: How often should foot-related exercises be done?
Drozd: It wouldn’t hurt to do some sort of conditioning daily. We tend to use our feet on a daily basis, right? But most don’t think they have time for such peripheral, superfluous exercise.
Foot.com: What kind of footwear do you recommend for different kinds of workouts?
Drozd: Overall, I advocate a shoe without any sort of heel elevation or motion control. No bells, no whistles. Converse All-Stars, unchanged since I’ve been wearing them (late 1960s), are a great choice if you have narrow feet. Otherwise, just a flat-soled shoe. Period.
Foot.com: Do you include all sports in that answer? Isn’t there any advantage to the heel lift and cushioning of some of the more expensive running and other athletic shoes?
Drozd: I include all sports with the possible exception of Olympic Style weight lifting with regard to heel lift.
Look at the bottom of your foot. Is there one area that looks any more or less suited to impact? Does the larger, softer, more flexible ball of the foot, or foot pad seem like it might accommodate something like running any better than the small, hard heel? Does the fact that someone decided to add an inch or more of cushioning to shoes seem to fly in the face of evolutionary logic? Also consider that to heelstrike, one has to extend their straightened leg well in front of their GCM (general center of mass) which actually applies the brakes when running as well as sends shock directly up the leg with each step. Conversely, landing on the ball of the foot places the impact point beneath the GCM, and necessitates a bend at the ankle, knee and hip which essentially makes the body act as a spring – as it was intended. In fact, there is something known as a stretch reflex which when activated via a quick running cadence exploits even greater spring inherent in the muscles. Finally, you as woman might have heard something about high heels being posturally detrimental. Calf muscles are adaptively shortened, and normal posture is undermined. The body is thrown forward and to maintain balance some compensation must occur farther up the chain – knees bend, shoulders hunch.
See my article on the Pose method of running at http://www.slowtwitch.com. Search under “drozd.”
Typically, the more expensive the shoe the worse it is for you. Fashion comes with a price.
Foot.com: What foot conditions or injuries have you come across as a personal trainer?
Drozd: Plantar fasciitis, broken toes, ingrown nails, heel spurs, avulsion fractures, crushed metatarsals, over pronation, inflexibility, plantar warts, bruised toes & nails and consequent loss of nails, numbness, hot spots (running/cycling) to name a few.
Foot.com: Do you have any specific training or footwear recommendations for athletes with: flat feet, metatarsal (ball-of-foot) pain, Achilles tendonitis or heel pain?
Drozd: Yes and no. Some is included within my programs as a matter of course. Some other training, recommendations are specific to a condition and may include a physical therapist and her prescription.
Foot.com: Do you create specific rehabilitation plans for different individuals who are coming back from foot or ankle injuries?
Drozd: Yes, but often that sort of training is part of a “prep” phase in a periodized program and can be used with all athletes. Pre-hab beats re-hab every time.
Foot.com: Can you offer any advice for people suffering from shin splints?
Drozd: Get flat shoes without motion control, adjust running style to avoid heel strike, strengthen anterior lower leg muscles and stretch posterior lower leg muscles, regularly massage all lower leg muscles, ice following each workout, avoid large increases in volume, intensity and frequency over too short a period, include balance and stability exercises in daily training, warm up and cool down before each workout, schedule specific recovery days in training week, do pool running, cross train, train the entire body with weights with an emphasis on postural alignment and throw salt over your left shoulder before each workout ;-).
Foot.com: Thank you for talking with us, Christopher!
Note: Training tips and product/footwear recommendations in Athlete Interviews represent the professional and personal opinions and experiences of our interview subjects, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Foot.com or the Foot.com Advisory Board.