Community in Training

The ceremony begins at around 2:45. I drink coffee while organizing my thoughts and the basement. I stroll around the yard and make ready.

Few of my friends near and far can pin down the Bonny Lane Club. It does not have a social media presence or tax ID. It is not advertised, nor is it a secret.

The Bonny Lane Club is a small community built upon a minimalist approach to physical training and athletic performance. It is a handful of like-minded friends and I lifting heavy things, jumping, running, and climbing. We maintain our health, improve our game, have fun, and push the envelop in some spectacular accomplishments in my basement and back yard. On Bonny Lane itself there are sprints and car pushes toward the cul-de-sac.

The Bonny Lane Club is not for everyone. The hours are quite limited, give or take two hours, three days per week. The training equipment is definitely not extravagant, but movement awareness and functional abilities are high. We take improvement seriously, and know the magic found in consistency. Members understand what it means to train with purpose beyond "getting in shape for swimsuit season." They don't mind moving aside a bike or fishing pole, and exercise patience with my children watching and sporadically joining in.

The Bonny Lane club has no contracts. This is not bartering, but I've found that the community clicks much better when everyone contributes something. Those who can pay a little do so. Once in a while I purchase new gear. Someday I may care to replace the warn-out carpeting and dented drywall. Others contribute as they can. Younger Bonny Lane Club members have contributed babysitting, drum lessons for my sons, chickens (not eggs, but living chickens with their gear), and deck staining.

After working as a physical therapist for over 15 years and training others and myself for much longer, I can confidently claim to know my way around fitness goals and trouble-shooting problem areas. My work informs this hobby and my hobby informs my work. This is simply what I do, and it brings me joy and energy. There's no doubt that this is my high calling.

Over the years I've witnessed how physical training in a secure community transforms more than the body. There is far more to this than strength and speed and coordination. We are all works in progress, physically, mentally, and spiritually. Focus and intensity have a way of breaking through any barriers.

While the Bonny Lane Club is not foremost an outreach tool, neither is it all about sets and reps. Through training we get to know ourselves and each other. At times we are too breathless to talk. Other times, we share the meaningful stuff of life. This is not a homogenous group, yet we genuinely care to support each other, to see each other succeed inside and outside of training.

I pray that what I do with my home, interests and abilities confirms what is literally written on the walls.

[This post and the Bonny Lane Club is inspired by the teaching and intentional community of Dan John. Read more about that here.]



I could watch Fail Army for hours. I love seeing the innocent everyday miscalculation, the outcome of plain foolish choices, and the awesome stunt gone wrong. Above all I love witnessing a show-boat eat it.

Fail Army is entertainment. It's a demonstration of practical Newtonian physics. It's a lesson in the antecedent - behavior - consequences of decision making. Plus, the kids love it. If you turn the volume down, Fail Army (but not the fail look-a-likes) is usually rated E for everyone.

I study Fail Army. Whatever that says about me is true. I don't exactly enjoy seeing people suffer pain or injury. So why do so many people find this fascinating?

Does everyone have such vivid recollection of the fails they personally witnessed? There may or may not have been a camera to document the event. But a good fail definitely sticks with you.

There was the time I raced my friend down the hill through my parents field. Jon ran full steam into an electric fence, folding his feet into his face, and I won the race. He called his mom to come pick him up.

My brother, barely a toddler, pulled my cousin in a small wagon. Ty began stumbling down hill, the wagon steamrolled him and progressed wildly until it crashed into an apple tree, ejecting Will into a back flip. There was the time Garrett missed a dunk and fell 10 feet with his body laid out horizontally, fracturing both of his wrists.

Of course I have PLENTY of my own in every fail category mentioned above. Just last year I lost a patch of hair to some tree bark while bashing my head in an attempted wall flip. More recently I slipped while shoveling dog poo, saving my cell phone from the wet grass but landing on my elbow, catapulting a half-dozen turds across my chest.

There was the time when I was hospitalized for three days after leaning over a firework that exploded millimeters above my left eye. There was my (pitching) loss to Jeannette (the worst team in the league), a broken toe on my first attempt at bench press, and passing out during my uncles wedding.

Fails are usually physically and emotionally painful. Where most of us don't learn the easy way, pain is the best teacher. There are no excuses, debate, or wondering. There's no room for textbook theorizing. You miscalculated or made a stupid decision. And it hurt. The next time you will make an adjustment.You will heed the council of others. You will reconsider the risk to benefit ratio of whatever it is that you're doing.

Fails can be horribly life altering, even fatal. But by Gods grace most people walk away from most fails. The only unpardonable fail is the one that we walk away from unchanged. I believe this is rare, and that most fails are redeemed in some way.

Tell me about your vivid memory of a fail.

Maybe knocked down but not out forever...
   -Toby Mac


Plantar Fasciitis Support Groups

There are many Facebook support groups, often more than one for a given problem or diagnosis. One of my clients being treated from Plantar Fasciitis recently encouraged me to join a group called Plantar Fasciitis Help and Support. It's based out of the UK but has members from all over the world.

Support groups are beneficial on the whole. It's always nice to know there are people with shared experience walking the path with you. It's good to hear stories of the people who struggled and overcame their problem. It's usually helpful to learn specifically what products and treatments did and did not work for others.

But from my little neck of the woods (orthopedic rehabilitation), support groups are not completely good. There is definitely confusion. There are over-confident laypeople who make sweeping conclusions from their own personal study of N=1. There is plain bad advice.

Just because Crocs are the only thing that give you relief does not mean that this is good advice for all. Just because foot exercises (likely done incorrectly) made your pain worse does not mean that exercise is always bad. Just because your specialist pointed out a heel spur does not mean you will or will not respond well to omega-3 supplements. Cortisone injections simply cannot be miraculous AND of the devil.

And on and on.

Here are a few key points that those dealing with Plantar Fascitis should consider:

1.  Plantar fasciitis is a common problem with a myriad of different causes.

There is no one cause of all cases. There is no one solution that will help all cases. No one exercise. No one medicine, shoe, or orthotic. Other foot problems are often misdiagnosed as plantar fascitis. Lastly, plantar fascitis often occurs in conjunction with other foot conditions like diabetic neuropathy, posterior tibialis tendinopathy, and entrapment of the medial plantar nerve.

So when the Youtube guy in a white lab coat with a $110 haircut says that you should never stretch because it irritates plantar fasciitis...well, actually, he's partially correct. What he is describing is nerve entrapment with plantar fasciitis, not merely plantar fasciitis. In that case, some stretches should be avoided and others encouraged.

What I take issue with is the NEVER/ALWAYS presentation. It is RARELY so simple.

2. Mechanical problems demand (at least some) mechanical intervention.

Sure, I would advise taking an omega three supplement because all inflammatory and healing processes in the body are indeed electrochemical in nature. Anti-inflammatory drugs and injections are often merited, though it's unwise to rely on these for the long-term. In the end, plantar fascitis is primarily a mechanical (movement related) issue.

No matter the drug, supplement, soak, or cream, if you return to the same mechanical forces on the foot, the issue is highly likely to reoccur. Icing, massaging, foam rolling, and ultrasound can also be helpful. But yet again, when the foot hits the ground is when the crap hits the fan. You can quote me on that. 

3. Simple rest.

I understand that this may demand some time away from your normal work duties and exercise habit. But you must lay off your feet for a while. Rest is often not given an honest try, and there is absolutely no better way to control the pain and inflammation in a highly irritated foot. Gentle stretches are often helpful and aggressive stretching is often painful. But if you rest and return to the same mechanical forces on the foot, well, you know what's going to happen.

4. "Okay, okay already - so what should I do to address foot mechanics?"

You may get away with "fixing" the root of the problem by changing to a high quality shoe that is appropriate for your foot type. Or maybe you truly do need an off-the-shelf or custom orthotic. Just don't expect much from the typical Dr. Schols gel/foam ones. They are made so that the tolerance level is great. But the treatment effect is usually minimal. The closest thing you will get to a "natural cure" to plantar fascitis includes taking time to identify movement issues from the great toe and up the kinetic chain, which comes in three steps:
  1. Address weakness, tightness, and faulty movement patterns at the pelvis, lower back, knee, and ankle.
  2. Translate this into a new pattern of walking, running, jumping, etc. You really should see yourself walk, run, etc under video. 
  3. If you are very active on your feet or if your foot is a "structural outlier" -very low, high, wide, etc, - you will likely need a custom orthotic device.
5. Conservative treatment has limits.

Be wary of individuals and products who speak always/never and promise you the world. Chronic plantar fascitis just may not respond to any intervention outside of surgery.  Though surgery should be saved as a last resort, it's sometimes necessary. The scar tissue, arthritic spurring, or thickening of the plantar fascia just may be too far along.

When this is the case, do not consider your more conservative efforts in vain. Go ahead and ask any surgeon about this. It's still wise to attend to appropriate footwear, foot exercises, general exercise habits, running/walking form, and possibly an orthotic. You want to get every mechanical factor in your favor to the greatest extent possible in order to experience a good surgical outcome.