Charlie Merrill: The Psycho-Social Considerations of Pain

Charlie Merrill, a physical therapist and Tabi shoe enthusiast, explores how injury and pain affect athletes both physically and emotionally.

Cycling in Alignment Colby Pearce Orthotics Charlie Merrill

Charlie Merrill, a physical therapist and Tabi shoe enthusiast, takes a deep dive on pain in this week’s episode of Cycling in Alignment.

Injury can have a devastating impact on many athletes. The conversation covers how and why so many individuals have dealt with some aspect of pain in their time of athletic pursuit. Colby and Charlie also cover the degree to which pain can set us back in terms of physical fitness and emotional well being.

All that and much more, this week on Cycling in Alignment.

  • Merrill Performance Web:
  • YouTube:
  • Instagram: @charliemerrill
  • Kit Laughlin:
  • Peter O’Sullivan:
  • Stu McGill:
  • Guy Winch Ted Talk:
  • Keith Bontrager and the Myth of KOPS [Knee Over Pedal Spindle]:
  • Steve Bauer “chopper” Paris-Roubaix bike circa 93:
  • Charlie’s video on Jika-Tabi Shoes:

Episode Transcript



Welcome to the cycling and alignment podcast, an examination of cycling as a practice and dialogue, about the integration of sport in right relationship to your life.


Charlie Merrill  00:24

But of course, we learned over time that all of our pain must be caused by tissue damage must be caused by a structural problem. That’s the old model. And when I when I was looking at things purely from a biomechanical perspective and problem solving, maybe like you, I collect a ton of data.


Charlie Merrill  00:40

And that made people feel safe that made people feel like I was, you know, doing a good thorough job for them


Colby Pearce  00:45

overturning all the stones for sure.


Charlie Merrill  00:47

Yeah, and I think there’s a lot of value in that to help people reduce fear and it really gives you and I as clinicians, a great starting point to be able to say, what do we really need to focus on? But as I moved away from that, I’m realizing that because the brain isn’t just relying on this by mechanical ideas wasn’t helping everybody.


Colby Pearce  01:06

Greetings and salutations podcast listeners. Thank you for joining me for another episode of cycling in alignment. today’s podcast guest is Charlie Merrill. Charlie’s a PT who owns a practice here in Boulder, Colorado. It’s called Merrill performance. He has a couple of decades of experience under his belt, and he shares some of his insight with us today. Our conversation gets deep into how athletes experience pain. And we touch on the bio psycho social pain model. I’m sure you’ll find it quite illuminating. Charlie’s a very open person who walks through the world with a perspective of gratitude. I appreciate this deeply. also refers to me as a clinician which is a generous descriptor. I think I’m more just like a guy who used to races bike, trying to figure things out, and you teach what you need to learn. So I’m still learning as we all are. If you have comments about today’s episode or any cycling in alignment episode, you can reach me via email all the required or the necessary keyboard mood rose in the To field to type in cycling in alignment at fast and magically your message will appear. The response time may vary, but I’ll do my best. In the meantime, please enjoy our episode. Thanks again for listening.


Colby Pearce  02:57

Charlie Merrill. Welcome to psych Going in alignment. Thanks so much for making time to come in today.


Charlie Merrill  03:02

Thank you Colby for having me. I’m very honored, grateful to be here.


Colby Pearce  03:05

Let’s begin by just having you talk a bit about yourself. Tell us who you are, where you came from, what your story is, how’d you get to where you want to


Charlie Merrill  03:13

start by talking about myself? Yeah, right. Just let’s just launch right into it. Let’s, jeez, well, I’ve been a I’ve been a physical therapist for 20 years. I guess I’ll start with that. I’ve been through a lot of different settings over the course of that time from workers comp to folder center for sports medicine to small private practice clinics. And so I’ve seen a lot of different versions of rehab, the good, the bad, and the ugly, I’d say. And at this point, I have my own practice, I decided I wanted to be a one man show and be Lean and Agile and have the ability to sort of go where I wanted to go, not be beholden to the insurance system and really just be able to create a new product to support people better with pain and injuries. So we can talk more about that. But I guess when I left clinical practice, I realized I can’t just do what everybody else is doing, you know, this has to be something different this, I almost can’t be a physical therapist anymore because in Boulder there, there are lots of good physical therapists, you know, doing great work. And so that’s been my sort of being a black sheep. That’s been my guiding light with my practices to say how can I create something different, that really helps people in a novel way with what they’re dealing with, and so as a result, it’s kind of a niche practice. I’ve been in Boulder for over 30 years. I moved from the Washington DC area where I grew up and came to college here. CU Boulder in 1992. Got on the cu cycling team. Right away. That was when Tyler Hamilton was like, like the big man on the team. It was kind of a really exciting time to be there, and then quickly realized that I wanted to be on the triathlon team instead. migrated did that for the rest of my time. It’s You okay, but I was so excited to be in Colorado and to be in Boulder that transition from the East Coast out here was just like a dream. And yeah, so I got into grad school here I got married, had kids just like never left, you know, nice. And I just, I just still love it here every day. Even just riding down here today. I just appreciate now, the people in the town and I don’t know. You go


Colby Pearce  05:23

you got sucked into the bubble. I guess we called the bubble here in Boulder case you don’t know that.


Charlie Merrill  05:27

Yeah, I love it. I think it’s really special, even though it’s gotten busy and crowded and changed and evolved. And you know, I still


Colby Pearce  05:34

think it’s pretty cool. Like so many other places.


Charlie Merrill  05:36

Yeah. Yeah. So I have I have three kids, you know, all like preteen teenage age. Okay, two of them going into high school and



I don’t know what else what else can I share?


Colby Pearce  05:49

So you have three kids and you run your own business. So you’re not really a busy guy at all? No, it’s


Charlie Merrill  05:53

Yeah, it’s wild. I mean, you know it is It’s wild. You just like have all these balls in the air all the time. I kind of like that. I kind of like be busy and I like novelty and change and, and so I’ve really enjoyed that I think as an athlete, or similarly, I really crave change and I crave novelty in my training. And that guy’s my clinical practice as well. And I think my it’s kind of reflected even in my kids about how they think about sport and how they think about movement that I really seek out. Like new challenges for myself all the time, even down to like riding when I go out for a ride. I almost can’t go do the same ride that I did the time before or even the time before that, yeah, I just I to get motivated, I need to go do something totally different, you know, different bike, different route, different scenery, and even putting the bike away for a little while, and then I’ll run and then I’ll get into tennis and I’ll start playing that a little bit. Okay, and so the variety for me, has become much more important as I’ve gotten older, too. Rather than less Being very focused, very specific to any one sport.


Colby Pearce  07:04

Yeah, yeah. So okay, on that theme, then you said clearly that you kind of left the traditional PT model. What was your What was your big drive there? What were you finding? Were the limitations of pT? Or was it simply your own? Your own dissatisfaction with doing the same thing you wanted something different? Or was there something in the inherent in the system that you felt like had to change you had to move on from?


Charlie Merrill  07:24

That’s a great question. I think it was kind of both, you know, there were some, some things that I wanted, that I was unsatisfied with that I wanted to change things about the system and like the day to day routine, and the inflexibility with how practice was was going, you know, walking out of one room and then immediately walking right into another room. There’s something in personal about that kind of quick patient turnover. Yeah, sort of. Yeah. And you’re seeing enough patients some of the time like so many people that your head spinning by the end of the day, you don’t even remember your name. And so you realize you really can’t do a great job for people sometimes. In that model, the volume was high. But then there’s also the insurance limitations of, of, you know how much clinic are being reimbursed. And that affects how much time you have with people how much time you have to get to know them to problem solve with them, even to follow up to really just do a good job for folks. And over time, you know, reimbursement in our field, I think in medicine, in general has just consistently come down and down and down, can cut cut. And so I was really frustrated by that. And decided that I didn’t, I didn’t feel like I could practice that way anymore. It almost became intolerable. It wasn’t even really a choice. Okay. It just like happened to me. Yeah.


Colby Pearce  08:41

I’m sure that change was quite scary when you decided to start your own business, right? I mean, you’re leaving effectively what is financially secure security in a job stability and you know, your spouse had to support you in that you got I don’t know if your kids at that point or Yeah, planning have kids already. Yeah. So


Charlie Merrill  08:58

it’s like that’s it. It’s dummy data. Yeah, so good for you the best decision ever.


Colby Pearce  09:02

Tell us a little more about the specifics of the modalities you work with your clients. With currently, you’ve got some of the things I saw on your site are joint manipulation, dry needling Mind Body therapy, you listed it as I’d love for you to unpack that because I’m sure some of our listeners won’t necessarily understand kind of what all these terms entail factual release. So starting with joint manipulation, is that the same as chiropractic?


Charlie Merrill  09:26

Um, yeah, you know, the chiropractic clinicians will call it an adjustment. Yeah, it’s basically a high velocity. We call it a grade four, grade five, like thrust manipulation, you’re thinking that very fast. Yeah. low amplitude or low amplitude thrust, where you get a click or a release of gas from the joint that results in a reflexive relaxation of, of muscle tension. And as people that have had adjustments or manipulation know works really well. We’re seeing in the research that the that the results of that are somewhat transient, which is why a lot of time People get into this pattern of needing to go and be adjusted a lot. Yeah. Partly because it feels really good. Yep. And partly because, yeah, any manual therapy. In fact, most manual therapies that we’re seeing now the results tend to be transient. And I think this is why, over time I have and a lot of clinicians are starting to move away from just looking at a strict body based model, where we’re looking at everything biomechanically, and we’re relying just on manual therapies or body based tools, you know, to help people to feel better. And it’s not to say those things don’t help or aren’t working. It’s just they can’t, they can’t be the only thing that we rely on anymore. This the sciences really continues to take us in that direction, which I think is is amazing opportunities, right. It’s hard to believe like after 20 years in practice, you could still be evolving, learning new things and completely excited about what you’re doing. Yeah. I love that.


Colby Pearce  10:58

I mean, For me, the human body is just endlessly fascinating. And and the more I learned, the more I realized, I don’t know. Absolutely, not only in the world of my own exploration of the human body and all the nuance, I mean, as one of my teachers said in one of my courses recently, like you’re solving a fractal. So the deeper you go, the more you’ll see the pattern in a fractal, right? It just it keeps emerging and keeps exploding, it keeps progressing, but there’s always more minutiae more detail. So, but also, I’m constantly humbled by the other people that I meet in, in the industry of human performance that know so much more than I do. And then I start to absorb some of what they’re teaching and then there’s always more layers so on both the my own learning of the human body and exploration the diving in, but then also the the amount of knowledge and understanding that the human race has already accumulated is just astounding, astounding. And then thank you internet, like you’re actually good for something it seems. We can access some of that when you sift through all the bullshit right which is not a trivial task.


Charlie Merrill  12:02

Yeah, I think like you to Colby. I love synthesizing things and taking knowledge from other areas and bringing it into my practice. That’s something that just brings me a lot of joy. It’s very exciting. I love paradigm shifts I love when things just complete your understanding of things completely changes and you’re forced to like let go of your old beliefs and start to learn about new beliefs. That stuff’s really exciting. To me every time I think the complexity, just to dive in here, the complexity comes from the fact that our brain is in charge. And so as you said, there’s no average person, no two people are the same. And we know that people’s experiences are subjective, and they’re created by their their genetics and also by their environments and all their life experiences up to that moment. So whether it’s how they relate to their fit on the bike, or how much pain they have, or why they think they’re in pain, you know, those things are different for every single person that walks in my door. I talk when I teach a lot about this idea of the process being emergent, or sort of developing over time. And if I walk into a session thinking that I know what’s going on thinking that I have the answer, because this person has, here’s another person with lateral knee pain, or with patellofemoral pain, I’m going to get it wrong most the time.


Colby Pearce  13:21

That’s a cognitive bias, cognitive bias, you’re, you’re looking for a certain answer, you’ve already you’ve resolved the equation, the endpoint, you’re just filling in the x’s and y’s and A’s to get the result that you perceive is there for fair, it always


Charlie Merrill  13:33

gets me into trouble. I’m sure you’ve had that experience, too. Yeah. But starting with beginner’s mind, I think is a really important part of any any problem solving practice. And so when we talk about pain when we talk about, I won’t even use the word injury, because we know from the science that pain and injury are not always the same, but you can have pain in fact, most people have pain without any injury at all. But of course, we learned Over time that all of our pain must be caused by tissue damage must be caused by a structural problem. That’s the old model. And when I when I was looking at things purely from a biomechanical perspective and problem solving, maybe like you, I collect a ton of data. And that made people feel safe that made people feel like I was, you know, doing a good thorough job for them overturning all the stones for sure. Yeah. And I think there’s a lot of value in that to help people reduce fear. And it really gives you and I as clinicians, a great starting point to be able to say, what do we really need to focus on. But as I moved away from that, I’m realizing that because the brain is in charge, just relying on this biomechanical ideas wasn’t helping everybody. So some people and it was helping other people maybe more temporarily. But I really wasn’t able to support people as well as I wanted. And so now, we have what in the science is called the bio psychosocial model of pain, which is we’re looking at the biology or the body, we’re looking at the psychology of that individual. And then we’re looking at There are social realities, which we can dig into a little bit. Some people even take it to spiritual, if that’s appropriate for some people, and, and so when we’re trying to problem solve, we have to really consider all those moving parts. And that means that sometimes when you see somebody with biomechanical faults, you right away jump to blaming that for why they’re in pain, you’re going to miss some things. And it’s not to say that you don’t treat those things, some of the time, but maybe a red herring, you know, maybe a false positive,


Colby Pearce  15:32

right? Or maybe the outer layer of the onion. Is that a way to possibly,


Charlie Merrill  15:37

yeah, well, I think I think about a lot of the physical changes I see in the body, honestly, more is the result of pain, and sometimes the result of psychology and the result of our belief systems. So we have the order backwards. I think we flip, flip the script sometimes Yeah. And so we can treat those things and we can consider those things as important. But they may not be the cause of what’s driving the symptoms.


Colby Pearce  16:00

I want to rewind just a bit if you don’t mind and just briefly unpack, when you’re using the term biomechanical, I watched one of your YouTube videos recently, Charlie’s got a whole truckload of great videos out there. So check them out. I think it’s Merrill performance on


Charlie Merrill  16:12

YouTube. Is that right? Like the mental performance boulder and performance and


Colby Pearce  16:15

performance? Yeah, to find it. It’s got really cool graphics at the beginning of the videos. So you, you talk about the biomechanical model, sort of the traditional PT model, right? And just to frame this so listeners understand what we’re talking about a sort of the conventional way of assessing an athlete’s, perhaps posture or function during exercise, we’ll look at the athlete and do an evaluation and we’ll kind of determine from a pts lens. Okay, these muscles are short and tight. These muscles are long and weak, right? So the most This is the most beautiful check ism ever. This analogy is like it’s just like throwing a wheel. So if you have a really out true we only take the mechanic right what an out of tree we’ll have some spokes that are overly tight and some spokes that are overloaded. That’s either because some of the books lost tension or because the rim got bent. And when the room gets bent to one side, it’s going to tighten some spokes and loose and others. So if you take your wheel to the mechanic and you say, I want you to fix this wheel, and he arbitrarily strengthens all the muscles meaning tightens every spoke digital, we’ll get more true. No, of course not. So this is the conventional PT model is you don’t go to the gym, and you and apply strength randomly or miscellaneous Li. First of all, most strength training methods wouldn’t train all muscles the same anyway. But for the sake of the analogy, understand what I’m getting at. Yeah, if we just went to the gym and strengthen all muscles, you know, every muscle we broke each one down individually into a single joint exercise, we strengthened it. Well, that would cause problems because no human walks in the door. perfectly true. We’ll we’re all a little bit crooked, right? A little bit. Some people more than others. Yeah. And likewise, the same could be said about flexibility. Flexibility be the equivalent of loosening all the spokes and expecting the wheel to become true. But if you already have muscles are long and weak, which is again a very soft morick fresh monic perspective on PT, right? But yes,


Charlie Merrill  18:08

no, it’s good, right? It’s accurate. I think it’s how a lot of pts Think about this.


Colby Pearce  18:13

I’m not bagging on this model at all, like, this is the first step. But it’s it’s one step of a million into the fractal. So you you have your layers of understanding. So yeah, is that fair to say? Like, that’s kind of what you mean when you say a biomechanical analysis. And


Charlie Merrill  18:24

I think it’s a great metaphor to the the idea of the wheel. And there are a lot of things in what you just said, that I could talk to. I think one of those is that, you know, we know that people are not perfectly symmetrical that we grow like trees that were organic. And we need to understand that some asymmetry some imbalance is normal. Yes. And it doesn’t in the science, or in real life correlate with pain that Well, I have people that are totally squarely otic that you look at them and you’re like, this person must be a mess. Yeah. And they have no pain at all people with massive Bunyan’s people with these like, deformed Structural deformities that that you think would be painful and they’re not people that are hyper flexible. You know, they’re they’re way too loose or people that are way too stiff


Colby Pearce  19:08

and they have no pain. So okay, man, yeah, you’re just you started kit Laughlin much, not much. I know the name. Okay, so he’s an Australian guy whose His focus is flexibility and stretching. He’s got a lot of great stretching videos like his philosophy as he doesn’t need to make a lot of money off this stuff. He just puts this amazing amount of content out there for free. So Kitt. Loughlin, that’s LA, you g h, i n, I believe. Cool. And I heard an interesting lecture from him recently, and I wanted to bring it up, because it touches on exactly what you were just saying. his point was, if you put a group of people in a room, 1000 people, whatever and you rate their flexibility. What most people tend to believe is that the people on the more flexible end of the spectrum, the Gumby end are going to be less prone to injury, and that people on the brick house brick end of the spectrum, as he puts it, are going to be more more more prone to injury and that that’s the conventional line of thought. Why do we Stretch to prevent yourself from getting hurt. But when you do that, that statistical analysis, you actually look at the data, there’s not a correlation there. The correlation is if people have significant asymmetries between left and right or anterior posterior flexibility measurements, so if your left hamstring is significantly less flexible than your right or if your right into your hip rotation is way worse than your left, the chances of you getting injured are much higher, but it has nothing to do with where you are on the helzberg Gumby spectrum. Someone can be super Gumby out, but it’s the delta between left and right that gets them


Charlie Merrill  20:35

for sure. It may actually affect which sports they’re drawn to right like someone that’s really Gumby might be more into rock climbing or yoga, or dance, and someone that’s way tighter may be more suited for running or weightlifting or football. Mm hmm. And so yeah, we don’t we don’t want to we don’t want to make these false correlations between the physical characteristics of people the biomechanics and pain because we always get into trouble, whether it’s like shoes, or kids wearing backpacks, or core strength, or I mean, the list of things that we used to think were significantly important for pain is starting to go away. Honestly, like a lot of those myths are starting to be debunked, which is wonderful. I mean, I can’t tell you how many people I practice in a CrossFit gym, and I’ve treated a lot of professional crossfitters. How many crossfitters that have the most ripped, strong hypertrophied ABS developed abs and still had that pain.


Colby Pearce  21:34

But are they developed in the right way? Or are they just a lot of them are death


Charlie Merrill  21:38

row a lot, a lot of them are developed in the right way. They’re strong, they move well, they’re mobile. Okay, um, especially the people at the professional level, but they still have back pain. Yeah. And so it’s not to say that abdominal strength isn’t important for performance. And it’s not to say that it’s not something we should be working on for aesthetics. And there’s not necessarily a direct, we can’t assume that there’s a correlation between how throwing your abs are and how you’re how resistant to back pain you’re going to be. So okay, that’s a great point right there. I think


Colby Pearce  22:09

we’re drowning in all this amazing information that we get from the internet and people like Stu McGill. Right. So Stuart McGill, in case people don’t know is a guy who specializes in this exact paradigm that Charlie was just talking about, which is back pain and the relationship between core strength and reduction of back pain. His whole thing is his whole shtick is about reduction of back pain through the proper use of the core. He’s got these exercises, I think he’s got the McGill Big Three, or maybe it got expanded to the big four and depending on which article you look at, so what what’s fundamentally happening here is we have people who, fundamentally I think these people are are committing a flaw of logic, I’ll say, which is a big statement, but they’re expanding it slightly, but they’re not seeing that it’s still doesn’t reach everyone, what am I talking about? So the logic flaw they’re using as an incidental generalization. So, Charlie, give us an example of something that you really like, whatever that is a food. Chocolate. Charlie loves chocolate. Okay? Charlie’s a male he lives in Boulder. Therefore all males in Boulder love chocolate. They have to because Charlie loves chocolate and Charlie’s a male who lives in Boulder, right? So you see where I’m going with this. And instinctual generalization means that, okay, let’s make it slightly more scientific. You get the idea. But Charlie performed an experiment on himself. And he found this amazing success with a certain supplement or a stretch that solved his own back pain. Or maybe you went skiing a bunch of times and you were really struggling on Super double black runs. Until you started doing squats and deadlifts and then Wham your strength increase so much, okay. Therefore, everyone who wants to improve their scheme performance needs to do squats and deadlifts. That’s an insubstantial generalization, meaning you took one instance of success and you generalize it to everyone. What McGill’s done and I’m really not bagging on McGill. This guy’s probably way smarter than I am and definitely more way educated. Well than I am, but I’m just using him as an example. what he’s done is he’s taken his own model of core strength. And he’s applied it he found some success with some people and said I fixed their back pain. And they wrote papers and he gave lectures and he now has a program where he recommends that if you want to fix your back pain This is what you do. Where this model gets defeated over and over again is the fractal it’s solving the fractal yeah for every 100,000 or 1 million people you can send me who’s Miguel model works for I will find another million whom for it does not Yes. So this is the one of the trappings of living in 2020 is we can Google like, how do I fix my back pain? And you find Miguel’s big three or should I like chocolate? Oh, Charlie Merrill likes chocolate. I should like chocolate, whatever you want to find. Yeah. And you’ll find someone who’s an expert who’s had great experience and great success, applying this model of their system and fixing all these people and that may or may not work for you.


Charlie Merrill  24:54

Yeah. And you can expand this to any modality of you can you can find fungal and parasite cleanse. Does that work for some people? Right on the list never ends. So these are confounding variables in our quest for knowledge for sure you have people like Peter O’Sullivan, who’s also out of Australia. He’s a physio and a researcher, also a really smart guy. And he’ll he has the opposite argument from Stu McGill. And he has some great YouTube videos online demystifying debunking some of these myths that we have around back pain around core stability being important around what’s driving it around the importance of Radiology. It sometimes it feels like the whole paradigm is the whole biomechanical paradigm is falling apart in such a good way. Because, I mean, the reality is, we’re we’re in the middle of a chronic pain epidemic. And not only that, but we have a lot of people that are also younger athletes that are that are having acute pain that will turn into chronic pain. So we have a situation where even though we have all this great knowledge and great science, when you really look at what’s happening, you know, we have more people in pain 100 For 25% in this country, that’s more than cancer, heart disease and diabetes combined. These are people that have had pain for more than six months, more than three to six months, depending on how you define it. And we have all this great information about core stability, and it’s not helping. It’s not it’s not working for people. So if you look at it from a meta, like a, like a big picture perspective, we’re like, what are we missing? And I think what you were just describing is really important because the reason we see this phenomenon really comes down to belief. And because we know the brain is in charge, if you believe that Stu McGill is gonna his exercises are going to fix your back pain or help reduce your back pain, it probably will, there’s good chance it will it’s a good chance it will. If you’ve tried that it didn’t work and you find something else that you think is going to help your back pain, it probably will. The challenges. It’ll only work for so long, typically, right until you get to really what is the root of the problem, which for a lot of people is just fear. And as long as there’s fear, you know, For instance, you say, Well, if I don’t do my core stability every day, you I don’t stay on top of that, and I fall off the wagon. I’m in trouble, right? That’s just a belief system. That may not be true at all. Mm hmm. You know. And so, that’s why these things I think are temporary is because they’re, they’re trends and they phase in and out. And, yeah, I mean, for some people, chocolate might help their back pain. Now we’re getting somewhere, we start talking about placebo and no CBOE. And it gets into this whole conversation about implicit bias. And it’s fascinating then to say, Well, you know, what do we need to do? Right? to help people? Right, right, right for people? Yep.


Colby Pearce  27:36

Okay. So,


Charlie Merrill  27:39

where do you want to go from there, man, so many directions to go


Colby Pearce  27:41

to and go to go from from this point, I mean, belief systems I, I love to unpack that a bit and talk about how you’ve experienced some athletes who have had belief systems that have come into your practice. We’re humans, we’ve all got them. Yeah, right. I’m not above them. I’m not talking as though I’m one of the people who doesn’t have them. I’m a human. Yeah. primes, I’ll do them. For me the, the method is to walk through the world consciously, being attentive in the present moment and recognizing when your own belief systems arise. And then critically examining them. Yeah. And maybe at times you decide like this belief systems, okay, I still like chocolate belief system, right? But recognizing that a belief system is a choice you are making, it’s not an adherence to some absolute truth. Truth must be singular, by definition. So if it’s really true, that means one person can’t believe it. Another cannot. I’m talking about in a mathematical sense. A one plus one is two type of sense, right? So



maybe you can


Colby Pearce  28:46

unpack a little bit more about belief systems and how they impact your practice because I’m sure it sounds like you’ve got lots of clients who come to you and have had chronic pain. Yeah, they’ve been to PT. They’ve been to chiropractic, right? They’ve seen their doctor. They’ve had MRIs. scans and they’re like, what’s Why can I figure this out? Like, why can I move past they’re having you get the, you get the pile of broken toys somewhat,


Charlie Merrill  29:06

although, you know, because I’m in Boulder. I do. I do have a lot of people that just got her yesterday. And this is why I’m so passionate about this work is because, you know, you look at like cleaning up the garbage patch in the ocean right now. That’s a big project that’s cleaning up something that already happened. And the chronic pain epidemic is sort of sort of that way where we need to be helping people in a different way. But then there’s the prevention like how are we going to keep the plaster from getting in the ocean in the first place. And this is the opportunity where we look we can look at acute pain, pain, it just started through the same lens with the same model, which honestly isn’t really being talked about in even even literature yet. But we’re missing an opportunity to shut this down before it becomes chronic most of our people because we know that you know a cyclist that just had knee pain that started yesterday because it’s the spring and people are getting you know what we offspring me. They’re attributing it always to something wrong with their body. Yep. And it may be something with their fit that they need to address. Yeah. But it could also be the fact that, you know, they have some anxiety going into the season, because all the races are canceled. It may be because they have some conflict with their spouse, it may be because, you know, they’re not as stoked to go in and beat up on themselves, like they were the year before. I mean, there are all these other variables that we need to be considering. Even when paint starts at first, to be able to understand what what what is it for this person, what’s the mix of variables that we really need to look at. And what I love about it is it’s, um, for some people, it’s intimidating to think that their psychology is involved. But um, when people are open to it, it’s such such a fast way to eliminate symptoms. And not only that, but to empower them in the future as athletes to be able to do it themselves. And to not be so scared of it. You Know to not be so scared when their knee pain crops back up, and you’re just helping people understand a new belief system, really?


Colby Pearce  31:06

So as someone who’s been a PT for 20 years, how are you helping a client unpack their emotional attachment or their emotional contribution to their injury? their fear? Are you using EFT tapping techniques are using meditation? Are you hypnotizing your clients or you’re just smacking them on side of heavy pan like what’s going on? depends on the person Okay, sometimes


Charlie Merrill  31:27

the iron pan works well right now. I mean, like you I think I sent this I like to synthesize a lot of different things and it really depends on the person that’s in front of me. What strategy I use. For some people it’s as simple as identifying thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. That cognitive behavioral therapy triangle that we see you know, your thoughts create your feelings affect your behaviors. For instance, someone has a belief system that their bike is not fitting them well. You know, that thought may not be true. But if you carry that thought forward, it starts to affect how you feel about riding starts to affect how you feel about the bike itself starts to affect your race performance, it starts to affect your wattage. Yeah. And then that leads to feelings. I would say


Colby Pearce  32:16

it could erode your erode your confidence during hard efforts. Yes, right. Sure.


Charlie Merrill  32:21

Yeah. And then you’re like, Well, I’m not enough. My training isn’t working, you start to get down on yourself. And you start to see how this triangle becomes a vicious cycle. And so for some people, it’s identifying those thoughts, feelings and behaviors that they have that are holding them back and saying, Is this true? Is this really something? Is this thought true? Or not? We let go of it. Yeah.



Does that make sense? Yeah,


Colby Pearce  32:43

yeah, yeah. And so then, just to expand on that for a second, I’ll, I’ll follow that thought pattern if that’s okay. I don’t want to either shoot holes in it or develop it or I’m ready, whatever. So. All right, are you ready? So if an athlete has let’s take our hypothetical athlete you just described She’s feeling that her bike fit isn’t quite right. And so every time she gets on the bike and trains hard does these, you know rides? She’s having a little bit of self doubt during hard intervals, we’ll say, you know, and, and maybe it’s not necessarily a conscious thing when when the trouble starts, but 15 minutes into that 20 minute threshold when things get hard. This is what I love about the bike, your personality always comes out right it’s like the Tigers out of the cage or you always face the dragon when the efforts get hard enough so we’re talking three efforts in three by 20 and wide effort out of 52 Yeah, that’s a hard workout for anybody and and even someone who’s really fit well trained. And she’s then she’s gone. I don’t have I can’t finish this last five minutes. You know, my powers not as good as it should be, which is a should a lot about how I really don’t like that word. Yeah. And, and so then this cascade of biochemical reactions will be the result because when she walks through the door from that workout shiploads or file, maybe it’s just touch space with a coach and a coach but gets back to her says okay how to go and they’re going back and forth and she expresses disappointment. And that sadness or that fear or anger or anger, however she’s reacting will impact her recovery hormones her cortisol levels which have been cortisol rises and sets with the sun if things are in sync, but if she rode for four hours and cortisol levels are way up there when she walks in the door, and then she’s not relaxing, maybe she doesn’t eat quite as well, she should. She’s focused on the conversation with a client or coach, so she’s not hydrating as well as she should. And the cortisol levels stay inflated, then she goes to bed under normal time, but she can’t quite fall asleep or deep sleep is impacted rems impacted now her recovery hormones are impacted. So she wakes up the next day even though she was in bed for nine hours. Why is my recovery score for my whoop, only 18% you know, I mean yesterday was hard but it wasn’t that hard to work out. I’ve done several times. So that’s how the emotional paradigm of this this workout this self doubt can can grow seeds. that eventually manifest into actual physical symptoms, because when cortisol levels are risen, or have risen and do not set with the sun, and they impact recovery hormones, then your body can repair itself. Yeah. And maybe her position isn’t quite perfectly optimal. Or maybe it’s as simple as she’s got a little bit of a power discrepancy between right and left, or she’s got a little more medial rotation on the left knee. And so that lateral aspect of the left IT band gets a little inflamed, sometimes she gets a little patellar tracking problem. And sure enough, she didn’t recover well from that three by 20. And then she goes out the next day and well, I have to read six hours because I air quotes should and then walks in the door and ding men that left knee hurts a little bit. That’s


Charlie Merrill  35:46

right. I know it’s a great scenario. And and right away. any athlete would blame their training or would blame the interval session from the day before and of course, that that physical information from the body we call that we don’t call it pain. or symptoms at that point, it’s just it’s information going to the brain nociception or whatever you want to call it. The brain is weighing that, but it’s also weighing all these other psychological variables that you just described so well, and it tries to make a decision about what to do with that. And the brain can cause any symptom at once. It can cause swelling, it can cause redness, it can cause clicking, it can cause muscle tension, and it can cause absolutely cause numbness, tingling. When the brain wants to get your attention, it’s going to find a way to do it in with with athletes, especially the most effective way to get an athlete’s attention is through pain in the body. And it’s gonna go somewhere. If you’re a cyclist, that gets your attention the most which is probably gonna be your knees or your back your hips. Yeah, if you’re a runner might more likely go to your feet, feeder knees, play the violin, it might go to your hands, the brain is really sneaky. And if it wants to get your attention about something, it’s gonna it’s going to go there, but we’re so quick to blame our training or a bike or a body being broken or damaged? That is a it’s it’s the default knee jerk reaction. Right? And yeah, and yeah, and what you just described, you’re missing all these this other opportunity not only to shut it down quickly, yes, but to then actually become a better athlete. In the future. If you start looking at


Colby Pearce  37:17

the right lawyer to look at the variable, look inside and see what’s happening. Yeah, Paul’s got a beautiful expression for that. That phenomenon of those little things, the body’s telling you the cause of the pain teacher, paid teachers here, but the pain teacher is very persistent teacher, very persistent until you get the message until you get it until you pass the lesson. It will be repeated, you got it.


Charlie Merrill  37:37

That’s wonderful. You gotta You got it. You got you really have to look for the helpful message. And that’s what I do in my practice has really helped people try to understand and figure out what is the message? Yeah, and there are a lot of different tools we use to do that with athletes. It’s interesting because we look at symptom behavior. You know, I teach with Dr. Howard Shubin, er, who’s a physician in Michigan, and he’s the one that wrote the book on there and your pain. He’s one One of the original Mind Body clinicians that grew out of john Sarno. His work, yes, you probably read healing back pain into the books. So when Howard and I teach together, he he always shares a ton of emails that he gets from people because he has so many people reaching out to him for help. These are mostly chronic pain cases. Yeah. And just from their email, and the information they share about their symptom behavior, he can get a pretty good sense for whether this is a body problem or not. And that’s his whole goal is to say, Can we rule out the body rule, a structural problem rule out of body problem, and then can we move on and start talking about the things that are really going to get you feeling better? And I actually brought some of these things, but there’s a there’s a mnemonic, that we look at different pain behaviors that are functional, triggered, and inconsistent. And if we see even one of these symptom behaviors, it starts to give us a sense for the fact that the brain is messing with us. I can pass these over to you but with athletes, it’s things like I have no pain during my workout, but then I have pain later in the day or the next day. or three days later. And of course, we look back and say, oh, it must have been that interval session that I did. Or it must have been that bike fit that just doesn’t feel quite right.


Colby Pearce  39:09

And which type of hand would this be?


Charlie Merrill  39:10

What? It could be any pain? It could be any body right? Okay, so let’s say you’re you have low back issues, doesn’t hurt on the bike doesn’t hurt on the bike. You’re like, I feel great on the bike. But as soon as I get off the bike, I’m, you know, hurts. Another phenomenon where people wake up in the morning with symptoms, but then they get moving during the day and their workouts go away. Yeah, that’s one. You see people that sometimes go on vacation, or they’re doing something joyful, they’re distracted, they’re paying goes away, and they come back from vacation, right and the pain comes back, right? super common. You see a lot of athletes that get symptoms in the taper leading up to their event. And you can imagine all the psychological stresses that grow out of not only cutting back your training volume, which is hard for a lot of athletes. Anyway, everyone knows how terrible that tape phases


Colby Pearce  40:00

if the athlete is Yeah, well anyway to get into so yeah, politics, yes, but right,


Charlie Merrill  40:07

yeah. And then you also have all the pressure of the event coming up and the fear of what if I not enough, my whole seasons gone into


Colby Pearce  40:13

this now to bring sure


Charlie Merrill  40:15

a lot of money, my time and sacrifice, you feel like you don’t have a lot of control, right? Those things are so much more. Those reasons are so much more important reasons why people get symptoms leading up to their event than because their training volume was high. Right and helping an athlete understand that can really reduce fear. If you can get them to shift their belief system about that phenomenon. But you know, like, we can even ask people over the phone, do your symptoms increase when you’re thinking about them? Do they increase when you’re stressed? You have a hard conversation with your spouse? Do you find that your symptoms spike, those types of symptom behaviors point away from the body towards the brain is being in charge, and they’re subtle, and we have ways to explain them biomechanics I mean, I was really good at being able to explain everything biomechanically, but now I’m understanding, you know, in the last five or 10 years that it’s not always helpful because it’s not accurate.


Colby Pearce  41:09

So interesting. You’re, it sounds like your path is very parallel to Paul checks in many ways, because he went through, I guess what we were referring to as the standard PT model for years and fixed a lot of people and then it got to exactly where you’re at or where you’ve been for a while, which is the layer of this isn’t solving all the problems, it’s solving maybe 90% of my clients that I see but now I’m getting this 10% where we check all those boxes, we we shorten the, the we strengthen and shorten the long loose muscles, etc. And we go to that model, and they’re still have pain and we can’t explain it and then they have to look at the psycho emotional component. And yeah, I like to phrase that is this is something that it constantly surprises me a bit when I have to explain this to some of my clients because to me, it comes to self evident but we don’t, an athlete doesn’t just get on the bike and all their life. Stress doesn’t just evaporate. We are psycho emotional creatures. We are integrative, like all of our life experience, right? I mean, if you were riding here to this podcast, and you came within millimeters getting hit by a huge truck, that would obviously stress you out, right? It would impact you and you would carry the load of that stress. And probably when you got here, the first thing you’d say is, oh my god, you guys, this is what happened to me. I can’t believe it. You know. That’s the way humans work. It’s a normal thing. So we don’t just swing our legs over the top tube and drop everything. You don’t walk through the door of a gym and forget about the fight you had last night with your wife over a $20,000 credit card bill or, you know what, whether you can’t agree on what to feed your children for lunch, right? Yeah, or whatever it is that couples fight about or disagree about, or whatever the stress is, there’s normal life stressors, right stresses that we all have, we all have them. For decades you have in life, the more of those we kind of accumulate because we have more responsibility, more mortgages and car payments or lawn care or have kids and yeah, doctor’s appointments and soccer and everything else we’ve got to juggle or choose to juggle. Mm hmm. And I’m, I’m going to live in a cave next week, by the way, so my family’s coming with me, don’t worry. So, it all those things are our attitude. And we can’t we we all want to believe that we’re Superman and Superwoman, and that we just throw a leg over the top tube and can go right up super Flagstaff or whatever your local Strava climate is and smash people or go sign up for your criterium and forget about all that stress and yes, maybe a confounding variable in that equation as well. Sometimes when I’m really stressed out, I go smash myself for four hours and I feel great. Yeah, yes. That’s called escapism. Uh huh. That’s not true therapy. It’s not meditative. It’s not looking in. It’s not intentional. Maybe it is. Maybe it’s not usually not. I’ve known some athletes who intentionally are like, I can’t deal with this and I need to go burn off some anger or whatever they go, and then they’re so bludgeoned by the effort and so forth. With cortisol, the eyeballs are swimming in it, but they come home and then their wife is yelling at them. And they’re the kind of like, what it’s like Fight Club in the scene where, you know, they’re like, everybody’s voice, just the volume gets turned down by about half. You just don’t care, because you’re smashed. That’s really the best way to walk through life. I mean, you can also take quite loads and


Charlie Merrill  44:20

Bumble your way through life too, for sure. I mean, I personally used use sports and cycling and running and other sports as a way to as a way to numb out I mean, it’s a great, it’s a great strategy and you could argue it’s more healthy than drugs and alcohol. You could you could make an argument Yes, but but I know like when I was first getting an injured Yeah, for sure. Right. Yeah, he started in pain. Right. And, and I, you know, I, there was a time when I was using exercise as a way to distract me from the other things in my life. It was a coping mechanism for sure. And what I noticed is that over time, it started to take the joy out of that thing. I one thing I loved at one point started to become less fun. I just I just wasn’t thriving doing it. So I literally had to put it away for a little while. Yeah. And in being in Boulder, I see a lot of athletes in all different sports that are using it for that reason they’re not. They’re not using it intentionally, to identify their big feelings, their emotions, and then to use it to process those emotions. Like you said, some people do. And it’s a great way to do that. Yes, movement is. But if it’s your only strategy, which I also see in a lot of athletes, yeah. You’re going to really struggle to make it make it a healthy balance, right? And so things like meditation and you know, other out I think other outlets are important. like coming home and talking to your spouse about what’s going on your relationship is important. You just can’t go out and write it off all the time. Yep. But I think a lot of a lot of a lot of athletes do that. And we’re all athletes are driven people. They’re high achieving, they expect a lot of themselves. They’re driven usually in their career as well. Yeah, and there’s a personality type, especially that gets into racing, you know, gets into doing it at anything at a high level, you have a certain personality type. And there’s a whole list of personality types, by the way with pain that we look at to help us understand what behaviors and even thoughts and feelings people are going to have in their lives that may be set them up to have a more sensitive nervous system, a more sensitive brain that’s going to more habitually produce symptoms and a lot for a lot of people. It’ll even keep producing the same symptom. You see these patterns that develop of people say, Well, I had this knee injury three years ago, and now it comes back like every six months, that’s usually the brain doing that it’s become a conditioned response. And there’s usually a pattern in some psychological trigger that lights that neural pathway from the brain back up again. Yes, but the first thing it does is cause fear and my knees injured again or it’s wearing out or I’m getting older at all. The stories that we tell ourselves are that bike fit wasn’t good, you know, not the right bike and I have to go back and get another bike fit because my knees hurting again, when when you start to understand what’s going on, you know, it’s the Wizard of Oz behind the curtain, like pulling the levers. You you, as an athlete have a great tool to be able to do do things yourself and not get hung up by injury. Okay, so maybe we have some listeners now who are thinking, Ah,


Colby Pearce  47:26

crap, this is me. I’m that person who’s had that recurring knee injury.


Charlie Merrill  47:31

I like I like to normalize this for people, right? Like, we’re all that person. Of course, almost without exception, like, we all we all. All of our brains do this. And so I don’t like to make it certain people or people that are sensitive or people that have you know, it’s important for people to know that it’s not even that even though your brain is in charge of all of your pain 100% of the time we know this now from the science pain is not In your head, and anyone that tells you that is cruel, you’re not saying psychosomatic or you’re just inventing it, pain is real. It’s not made up. All pain is real. All pain plays out in the body, but all pain is driven by the brain. And once you understand that shift totally changes the way you relate to it. completely changes. Yes.


Colby Pearce  48:17

So okay, so let’s say you are that athlete who’s got this recurring pattern of pain and maybe the pain comes and goes, maybe it goes from different parts of your body, and you’re always looking under the stones trying to figure it out. Because if you’re active and you want to ride your bike, or you want to do whatever you want to play tennis or climb rocks or, or just be healthy, yeah. You want to find out what the root cause of this is not just treat it with band aids, right? So you’re, you’re you’ve been looking at your bike fit or you’ve been looking at your shoes, you’re choosing for your running or maybe you’re doing more stretching, or maybe you’ve seen pts, etc. They’ve gone down this road. Now you’re, you’re inspired to hear Charlie talk and say, Okay, what can I do? Let’s do you have some actionable advice. Like, what, what’s the big picture? How does an athlete who wants to take the next step start to dig into this? What are the life changes they can consider? What are the what are the strategies


Charlie Merrill  49:10

that they can consider? Yeah, I think that’s a that’s a big question. I could talk kind of at length about that. So maybe you have to reel me in a little bit. I think, just before I launch into that guy, winch, who’s a psychologist did a great TED talk about emotional first aid. And that the point he makes in there that I love is that we sustain more psychological injuries every day than we do physical injuries. They’re happening all the time, right? We’re feeling judged at work. We’re not performing well enough. Our boss is hard on us. We’re having conflict with our kids. I mean, these are just normal life stresses. And the the point he makes at the end is that unlike our bodies, where we have a lot of strategies to solve the problem, if we get a cut in our knee, we can put a bandaid on there, right? We know how to do that. We’ve been taught that since we were young. We really don’t have a lot of psychology. logical strategies to be able to support ourselves, help ourselves or even help others when we are going through stressful times in our lives. So, the psychoeducation, I think, is one of the most important pieces of the puzzle. I mean, most people read john Sarno, his first book healing back pain, and just because they understood what was going on their back pain got better, right? And so as clinicians, our job is to learn how to set as to help psycho educate people so they can understand what’s happening, and to help them reduce fear as much as we can. And that is an art as much as it is a science because again, everybody needs a different nugget of information to help them depending on what’s coming up. So a thorough exam is always important. You know, from the subject of history, you can get a really good idea about how people tell their story, what they think is going on in their body or with their bike or with their biomechanics. It gives you a good starting point, you can start to educate people. For a lot of people, that’s enough Just understanding what’s going on and then it’s not scary is enough. And they start to see Oh, wow, I feel better. For the first time in a long time shifting belief system, that belief system for others is harder. And sometimes happens over time you need to plant seeds and you need to sort of chip away at that belief system and help people collect evidence over time. So that so they can see for themselves that that that’s really what’s going on for them. There’s a lot of resistance in athletes that are even in myself. I mean, I had to unlearn a ton thousands of hours of continuing education training that I consumed that I had to start to unlearn. As I shifted my own belief system to deprogram who Yeah, right. It was a lot of that. And so I think that’s the first step. You know, D fearing movement, is the second step. You know, giving people permission, that they don’t have to shut down cycling. They don’t have to stop DJ. So you mean Just because they’re in pain, if someone’s in pain or has symptoms, you know, we tend to shut things down and pull the plug. And when people have done that for a while, they have deconditioning. And they have all of these physical changes that, you know, you and I can work on to help people get healthier and help to improve their performance and their overall fitness. Even if that stuff doesn’t correlate directly with pain. It’s important to address because we know that movement is almost always better than not moving. Right, right. Stopping cycling, so many of your listeners are gonna have had this experience. I stopped cycling for two months and the pain got worse. Right.


Colby Pearce  52:34

You know, I tried tested. I got back on the bike and


Charlie Merrill  52:37

yeah, so So through graded exposure, we have to get people back on the bike, we have to get people back running, we have to get them moving again and give them permission. And you can only do that by helping them understand psycho educating about the fact that they’re safe. Okay, right, that they’re not in danger that that MRI scan or what the doctor told them isn’t necessarily the whole story. You know, yeah, that’s step number two. Okay, if I’m trying to summarize here step by step number three


Charlie Merrill  53:10

would be called somatic tracking or


Charlie Merrill  53:14

sort of pain reprocessing therapy is another word that you see thrown around a lot. And this is helping people, when they have symptoms to relate to them in a new way. There’s sort of a guided meditation process of when symptoms Come on. You’re helping people watch the symptoms with curiosity, instead of letting it be in the background and drive fear and drive all these other negative behaviors. And you’re encouraging them to watch the symptoms with curiosity, and just notice what happens to them. They might get worse, they might get better. You’re not attached to any specific outcome. You’re trying to catch your brain in the act. Yes, collect data to prove that you’re safe. Again, this is all sort of fear reduction. Right? It sounds like just reducing fear. Yeah. And ultimately, for a lot of people, you want to get them to the point where they don’t give a shit that they have pain anymore. It doesn’t matter, because the symptoms are no longer dangerous. We know they’re being driven by the brain we know that the major trigger is something psychological or social tied to some belief system. And, and as a result, it doesn’t matter that you have pain because your body safe. And that process is really interesting. Because Yeah, we have a we carry a lot of fear, and we catastrophize and we have pain that are something’s wrong with us. We’re universal. It’s normal. I mean, athletes do it the most because they’re like, Oh, crap, like, I can’t ride now. What does this mean? Yes, done. I’m


Colby Pearce  54:42

done. I’m behind. Right? That constant athlete mindset of if my TSS drops or if I lose four watts on my threshold, for sure. How am I gonna gain 12? Yep.


Charlie Merrill  54:52

Yeah, yeah. So helping people to to work through their fear around their pain is important. And then the last step is more around emotions. processing and it’s starting to identify what are the psychological or social stressors that are really key for this for this person for this athlete. let’s identify those. Let’s explore where they come from, sort of investigate what’s going on. For a lot of people. It’s really easy because when they when their symptoms came on, and I would say, Colby like nine out of 10 athletes that walk in my door have no obvious reason that their pain started, there was no crash. There was no overtraining, there was no like, obvious trigger for their symptoms. It just started one day interesting. And they can usually sort of piece together maybe it was this maybe it was that I haven’t been stretching. Yeah, you know, I got a new saddle, got new pedals, whatever. They can maybe make up something. But um, if you start to ask questions, you’ll see that usually there’s some stressful life event going on. And so when you can identify that then you can explore it. And you can ask people what the emotions are This is where it’s so hard for people to open up and talk about, think about and process their emotions. It’s really difficult for all of us. It’s not a skill that we learned when we were young. And in fact, a lot of us were told that emotions aren’t safe and we shouldn’t express them. So we usually come to ourselves, especially


Colby Pearce  56:16

men in Western society. Absolutely. Feelings are meant to be felt not spoken. Absolutely. Yeah,


Charlie Merrill  56:22

yeah. And athletes are tough. You know, we’re like, I’m tough. I’m resilient. I can handle it. Right. I can handle anything. And man, when you start, like really looking at the emotions and starting to process anger, sadness, grief. There’s so much just amazing stuff that you learn about yourself. And you get back on your bike and you get to race again. And then you Yep. And you you’ve cut off this neural pathway, this pattern at the knees. It’s done. It’s gone. You’ve unlearned it.


Colby Pearce  56:53

So really, it sounds like you’re saying that what you’re teaching a lot of your athletes or your injured athletes who walk through your door is Is that they are injured, but the acute trauma wasn’t necessarily physical trauma could have been emotional trauma could have been. Otherwise impact in a way because we think of trauma as being physical. We think of hitting the ground when you crash in a crit or being in a car accident or bumping your knee in a coffee table or dropping a weight on your foot. But it’s not necessarily the way it works. You can have an emotional trauma as well. And you may not have registered it. What How did you get this pain? I have no idea. Yeah, what oh, well, what year ago I broke up my girlfriend and we’ve been dating for five years. And we’re on the verge of getting married and we couldn’t agree over whatever. Or you know,


Charlie Merrill  57:35

yeah. Yeah, I’m glad you brought this up this difference between injury and pain, because I see sort of a number of different categories. You have the athlete that got injured. They had a real injury. They had surgery, they broke something, they tore their ACL, right. And they went through the rehab and they healed but then three years later, they’re still in pain or five years later, the symptoms come back, right? And it’s it’s very unlikely that they’re injured at that point, right. But they have pain, right? You have other people that never had an injury at all, and they have pain. And there’s a psychological, you know, piece to that. Sometimes it’s fear of the pain itself. Sometimes it’s emotion or fear about other things in life, as you just mentioned, okay. But oftentimes, people have old injuries that crop back up, that they blame on their body. They’re no longer their body. And I think at the end of the day, one of the things I really help people understand athletes understand is that our bodies heal. It’s the one way they’re different from a wheel with different tension spokes, or from the like car, the machine metaphor that a lot of people use that, you know, we’re not like cars, we heal our bodies heal, amazingly well burn the body is the perfect healing. Unbelievable, right and heals in this really predictable way where depending on the tissue, you know, if it’s muscle, it’s gonna be a couple weeks. If it’s a tendon, it might be six to eight weeks. If it’s a ligament, it might be Be 10 to 12. If you got surgery, you know you’re looking at this this much time. Once that time has passed, your body’s done. It’s done an amazing job. And you can trust that. And so if pain comes back, you need to start looking at other things.


Colby Pearce  59:15

Interesting. Yeah. Yeah, that’s great. So to rewind for just a moment, you talked about your four different steps that you might administer to, to treat an athlete who walks the door with pain. Step three, remind me what how you’re taught that.


Charlie Merrill  59:29

Step three, will go in order. Step one would be like the psychoeducation. Yep, helping people understand pain. neuroscience education is how my PT colleagues talk about it. There’s a lot of great information out there about pain science. Step two would be graded exposure, helping people get active again, get moving, yes, using fear. It could be great exposure around movement and getting back on the bike. Or it could be great exposure about feeling emotions, or being exposed to new things like I haven’t been climbing I haven’t been up Flagstaff for two years. How am I going to, you know, deal with the emotions around that, but also, how am I going to deal with the physical stresses of the young man again? Yeah. Okay. So there’s created exposure to both emotional and physical. Step three would be genetic tracking, or pain reprocessing therapy, which is helping to people to relate to their symptoms in a new way, where they’re not scared of anymore. And that looks different for different people. Yes. Step Four would be emotional processing. So did you have a Yeah, a question about step three?


Colby Pearce  1:00:31

What kind of an observation which is that it just immediately reminded me of some of the meditation practices that I’ve played with and tried and and had some of my clients try as well. And I think meditation is something that for some people, it’s a bit of a nebulous concept. For some people. It’s a bit of a just a weird woowoo thing, you know, spiritual to spiritual, right? Yeah. And no word is off limits in this room, except the ones that shall not be spoken, but that means so But spiritual definitely not alone. It’s in my world. And meditation is definitely not off limits in my world. It’s something I do daily just came from a Thai teacher Tai Chi session on the way here. But one of the core principles of many meditation techniques, including those taught by Sam Harris, and a guy that I’ve studied a bit, Michael Holt. They talk about observing the emotion like just as you were saying, so observing your response to something and Michael in particular, he has taught under a meditation teacher whose name is shinzon young. And he teaches a technique that where the the observer, the meditator observes themselves, having thoughts and they label the thoughts, right, and this is what Paul would call, name it, tame it and blame it, love it, right. Love is so simple. So apologies really simple, actionable things that you can hopefully Remember, you know, frequently they have mnemonics to them, so they’re, you can remember them when you’re in the moment of stress or whatever and go on I’m going to do this. But Michaels technique or shins and Young’s technique is, you name your thoughts or really you name you, you classify them. So if you see something in your mind, whether your eyes are closed, or if you see something with your eyes, if your eyes are open, if you’re meditating with your eyes open, you see something, you just label it, see, if you feel something you feel, if you’re, if you have a thought in your head, and it plays out as language, verbal language you hear, and you just rotate through that Sam Harris would describe a similar concept in his meditation where he talks about this is a really weird one is seeing the back of your face. So you’re visualizing that your mind doesn’t actually occupy the space behind your eyeballs in your skull, your mind is wherever you decide it is. So when you place distance between the back of your face you realize that your mind can exist in some sense outside of that physical space that helps you observe Your own behaviors, your own patterns. So then when you observe your pain, then it becomes inherently an other and the other becomes neutral to some degree. And this is what I like to term or phrase shattering of the Disney paradigm. Right? So Disney paradigm is when your six year olds watching a movie, and a Disney movie and they don’t quite understand the plot is this and they asked if dad is this a good guy or a bad guy? Because in a six year old mind, everything is good or bad. It’s dualistic and black or white. Yeah, you enter Yang and and we carry a lot of those belief systems into our adult lives. And pain is bad. And there’s this sub story that someone told me recently, I’ve got to look this up and recite it at some point down the road, but something like the farmer has the farm and then one day the cow dies and the neighbor comes over and says, Oh, your cow died isn’t that bad? And then something good comes from that, you know, and then something bad happened? farmer says maybe? Yeah, exactly. Basically, that’s it. The basically the farmer says, Well, maybe maybe not see, and then the story goes, you know, good thing. You know, what we would assign is trivially good things and bad things happen over and over and over again and But each one of those turns the tide towards something that actually helps the farm succeed and prosper and then takes away from that prosperity and it sort of goes back and forth. And when you look at it through a big enough macro lens, you see that there really isn’t a good or bad per se. I mean, yeah, if you fall off your bike and break your femur, initially, that’s Oh, this sucks. This is a bad news. But what how do you grow out of that experience? Like, there’s that book, you know, broken open? I mean, this is these are the transformative events in our lives that make us better people, for sure. I’m


Charlie Merrill  1:04:29

glad you I’m glad you said that. A couple of a couple points I want to make there. One is, when you were first talking about meditation, it’s this idea of not attaching to your pain. Your pain is not who you are. Right? And also realizing so by labeling it what you were saying you’re labeling it as something that’s neutral or something that’s just a normal process. It’s hearing it seeing it’s feeling Yeah. See, you’re you’re it’s a great strategy, but you’re also working with it to show your to prove to yourself But it’s transient, that it’s not permanent, that the brain is changing every second. And that because of that plasticity, we can trust and we can expect that that can change. We’re not talking about coping anymore. We’re not talking about coping with symptoms. We’re talking about curing symptoms. We’re not talking about living with it. We’re talking about curing it through this process of detaching from it. The other point you made that I love is that pain is all our symptoms are are always a gift. Even if they’ve been there for many years, they’ve been trying to tell us something we just haven’t been listening. We haven’t received the message yet. That made sense before. With athletes. I think it’s amazing because you’ve heard stories of athletes having an injury, and then taking a year off and then coming back and just crushing. They have fire. They’re excited to train. They may have been in a plateau and that injury was exactly what they needed to give them a break. Come back, you know, you’ve seen it with with Roger Federer and tennis, I mean, you can list the number of athletes probably that have had an injury that set them back that ended up being the best thing to happen to their career. And I love those stories. And what’s what’s interesting is we’re all in the middle of one right now, this pandemic has set us up so that, you know a lot of people can’t rock line. Right now we can ride right now in Boulder, but a lot of people aren’t doing those things. Yeah, missing them. So it’s almost like Mother Nature gave us an injury, to force us to reassess and to take a break, and to circle back and come back with some new fire motivation. So I think there gonna be some amazing performances, some amazing


Charlie Merrill  1:06:41

athletic performances that come out of this. I feel really strongly


Colby Pearce  1:06:44

Yeah. I was saying this on the podcast with Dr. Holman the other day that I think the fall for racing I don’t, I don’t actually watch a lot of professional cycling. I’ve been a pro too long to watch how much of it I do at times. And there are things I find interesting about it. And if one of my athletes is racing racing, I I watch it. But this fall is going to be quite interesting because we’ve had this massive disruption to the normal flow and rhythm of the season and teams are going to be quite challenged I think professional teams because they used to pick cherry pick their their best riders, for particular races, whether it was a grant or a particular classics, and they also would cherry pick their best staff. And with the exception of about three teams, that’s really going to stretch them thin because they’re gonna be running double and quadruple programs, double, triple, quadruple programs all fall to catch up. And that means the best staff are going to be dispersed directors mechanics, one years, everyone’s going to be stretched thin. So the riders are going to have to pick and choose it’s going to be actually some pretty interesting bike racing, but and I also agree with what you’re saying. There’s going to be a lot of athletes who are just rip and fast because they’re so fired up after being kind of feeling pent up and all spring. They’re probably other athletes are going to be smashed because they wrote several 12 hour rides on swift or whatever they did. I don’t know.


Charlie Merrill  1:07:58

Yeah, I’ve arrested nine times. They didn’t get give themselves permission to to slow down to slow down and regroup. Yeah,


Colby Pearce  1:08:04

yeah, maybe that was it or maybe, yeah, the rhythm, their rhythm will just simply be Miss timed compared to what a normal season would be. I mean, I think they’re athletes who historically tend to go well, in June. They’re athletes who historically go well in September. Well, if you’re a person who goes on April and May, this may not be your best season. Yeah,


Charlie Merrill  1:08:22

but who knows? We’ll see. Yeah, we’ll see. But, you know, if we have an injury, you know, I’ve had plenty of traumatic injuries, ankle sprains, fractures, you know, broken bones from crashing, racing. They often happen when I kind of needed a break, they often happen. I don’t want to say my brain threw me under the bus necessarily. Yep. But the timing is never a mystery. And usually I don’t realize that until later. And I look back and I say, Oh, yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Why? You know, I was overtrained. I was putting too much pressure on myself. I wasn’t having fun. Yep. And That injury happened at just the right time. And what


Colby Pearce  1:09:04

a gift. And this is such the athletes paradigm of confounding variables, right? Because while things have been refined over the years of training and sports training and sports science and conditioning, they’re still some archaic beliefs that hang up athletes. And what I’m getting at is that there’s the traditional, like, think about Trevor, for example, he’s so Canadian, and they’re all about being tough and going out right in the cold and having your hands freeze and, you know, having other body parts freeze and whatever. And that’s just part of the sport. And there used to be a very tough man attitude about cycling. In fact, this would be a great segue to the 94 pair rebel which I mentioned in an email and I went and had to go watch part of this morning to refresh my memory and it was such a vintage level era race. So good hair, nuts and no helmets and filling it in the whole bit. So okay, during that era, when people trained early season, they didn’t necessarily separate rate, different types of discomfort or pain, it was all just pain and it all made you tougher. Now whether that pain was your nuts fell asleep every ride you did, because your saddle was an absolute train wreck, or whether that was your feet hurt like hell, because you got new shoes every spring and you basically just you picked a shoe that was as small as possible so that it could be as efficient as possible, and you jam that foot in there. And then it was leather, so it kind of stretched. And then you have this battle between your foot and the shoe. And we don’t know who won. Actually, we do know who won. So and then all these types of pain versus the type of pain that is ostensibly constructive in exercise. Like you go ride your bike for five hours, your leg should hurt, right? That’s a lot of work on a bike, your lungs might be a bit your back might


Charlie Merrill  1:10:44

hurt your back might be hurt your brain, so that’s enough.


Colby Pearce  1:10:47

Yeah. Yeah, as you’re an athlete and you’re a in, in Chinese medicine, maybe a wood type, right, a very action oriented person who’s just gonna go and do things and be decisive and is always on the move right? You’re a type A personality, like we talked about that type of go get an athlete who wants to really achieve. And so you’re gonna, you’re gonna punch right through that pain. That’s what an athlete does. That’s their onus that’s our mission is to prove how tough they are, how tough this man or woman is. So we do that. But now we’re starting to figure out like, you know what, subtle technologies may take in huge leaps forward, massive leaps forward. You don’t have to have generals that fall asleep on every three hour bike ride. Now, you can do a three hour bike ride and just focus on the leg pain and the lung pain and maybe some lower back pain, but hopefully not depending, but even they’re there it gets really nuanced. Yeah. Is it just my back muscles catching up with the strength the demands that I’m giving them on the bike? Because I haven’t written much, or is it that my position is actually not quite right or my carrying cycle emotional pain


Charlie Merrill  1:11:48

has become a conditioned response where now my bike, my brain is correlated my bike with my back pain and you see this a lot where your brain just now has linked those two together until you decide that I understand how to unlink them. Yeah. Yeah, that cool. conditioned responses are really interesting. common one.


Colby Pearce  1:12:05



Charlie Merrill  1:12:06

But I think you were going I don’t mean to interrupt you, I think you were going to somewhere with that thought,


Colby Pearce  1:12:10

Well, at this point, I just want to know why you brought up the 94 pairs. I want to


Charlie Merrill  1:12:14

hear what you had to say about it. Let’s go back to that, because that’s super interesting. You know, it’s funny, like I had I had a rock shots poster when I was in college. And that was, I think, the first year that they were putting these rock shocks that were built for road bikes. I looked



at Oh, this is great. Yes,


Charlie Merrill  1:12:29

at the pretty obey. And I don’t think it lasted very long. Yeah, this is like early in the in the phase of the development of rockshox. Anyway, I had a poster on my wall and it was a picture a picture of Andre Ishmael, who event who won the race that year rode away with it. And it was one of the messiest like deepwater and the cobbles muddy. It just looked miserable and his face was covered in mud. Everything on his face just looked like the Russian guy, you’d expect a Russian guy’s face is so hard, and so much suffering. And on this poster, there was a dusty, dusty eskie quote that said, Man is extraordinarily, passionately in love with suffering. And it’s just like, it’s like burned in my brain. Now I just that image to me, speaks volumes about what drives athletes. And I think it really was something that I admired. And I was like, look at how tough this guy is, look at how these people are right that they can do this. And so as an athlete, I sought those things out, they gave me confidence, they improved my self esteem, you know, you could go into this long list of things that they did for me, you know, I mean, I think athletes have this competence about them, that helps them in business, it helps them in lots of areas of their lives. But that, you know, you realize those things are things that we choose, right, that type of pain, that type of suffering, that type of discomfort ultimately is something that we’re choosing to Do yes and as a result, we can tolerate it better and we it lives in a different part of our brain. Whereas when we have other symptoms, like back pain or neck pain or whatever, we’re not choosing that necessarily don’t know what’s going to end it doesn’t appear to be finite doesn’t appear to be fine. There’s not a there’s not the finish line on the velodrome right that’s that’s in the in the in the distance or the top of the mountain or whatever. So it’s way scarier. And we can be the toughest person on the bike and people get this mixed up sometimes. Well, I’m super tough and hard as nails. You know, this pain? Why do I have Why do I have so much pain? You know, why is this holding you back so


Colby Pearce  1:14:38

much? Yeah, it’s totally different. You’re not you’re not using it you don’t know what’s going to go away as you said and, and it’s scary. And just as a segue on that side note, correct me if I’m wrong here, Charlie, maybe read more on this than I have. But my understanding is that women the pain toss for women is way higher than it is for men guys, I’m going to clue you in here in case you don’t know this. But if A man’s nervous system was subject to the same amount of pain a woman goes through when she gives birth. The average man would die from the pain. Yes, actually, that’s true.


Charlie Merrill  1:15:08

Yeah. And of course, you know, she she’s also making a choice to go through that, which I think probably is helpful in some way. But


Colby Pearce  1:15:17

the ray and it does have an end. Well, definitely.


Charlie Merrill  1:15:20

But there’s also a lot of unknown in that process. And there’s a lot of fear in that process of I don’t know how long this is going to take. It’d be like going into pre Ruby and it could either last an hour or it could last three days. Yeah, exactly. No, like, how terrifying would that be? It’d be a boyfriend deal. That’s a good point. And so they’re dealing with a lot of unknowns and a lot of fear around, you know, the physical side effects. Yes, all that and, of course, all the emotions around having a kid you know, wrapped into that as well. You know, you look at the this from a bio psychosocial model, and suddenly you’re not just dealing with physical pain, right? You’re also dealing with lots of other, you know, self doubt and fear and will I be a good enough parent? I mean, men go through this as well. But yeah, I think men would always Die, we would all we would all die, we would all die. You guys are really tough, but you’re nowhere near as tough as they are nowhere near as tough.


Colby Pearce  1:16:07

So the next time your sister mom, wife, girlfriend complains about their shoulder hurting a little bit, pay attention, because that’s probably tenfold what you’d be dealing with. Yeah, for sure. But, okay, so I made I had to watch this pair of a video of Andre Shamil winning. He was solo from about 45 or 50. k out I think was a really long way and he just slowly rips me say off his wheel. He’s Jay. They’re like six seconds apart for all these K and then and you’re right, it’s just epic weather. There’s rain and mud and people are crashing all over the place and every flatting it’s just a perfect Perrier Bay, you know, just vintage stuff. And I watched Shamil, I love watching these old videos and comparing positional notes that I see and just observations I have in comparison to where modern bike fitting is enters because there are so many differences right so what I noticed about Jeff Mills position he’s his saddles really rearward, like from a cop’s perspective, right? That’s neova pedal spindle. And if you’re curious about that, go Google Keith Bontrager cops, k. o p. s. And you’ll find a fascinating dissection of that discussion what it is and what it isn’t. It shemale sounds really far back so saddle is really far back behind the bottom bracket. so far that is when the cranks at three o’clock or horizontal. His patellar tendon is probably as patella is probably a good bit behind the pedal x engine. Right. Yeah, yeah. And then that reminded me of the Steve Bauer bike. Right. Did you know about this? So the year before 93 Steve Bower so Okay, let me back up for one second. I think part of the logic behind this is that when the writer center gravity is further back, they maintain better momentum over the cobbles. If you think about it, this is the concept of modern cyclocross tires and why people you know, suddenly in the last eight years figured out the low pressure was better. Right and Thank you, Josh, partner and all the people who did work on that and figured it out. But Like the concept is really simple if you have like a rigid wooden wagon wheel and it goes over our cobblestone road, every time the diameter of that wheel hits a rock, because the forward momentum of the cart is going to be pushed back backwards, right or, or the momentum has to be so great that the wheel kind of hops over that little tiny mountain of that cobblestone. So a low pressure tire deflects the sidewall deflects and allows the forward momentum of the rider to be less inhibited by that forward rock and that’s why low pressures faster over cobblestones, the same concept kind of applies, the more reward you put your weight, the more that front wheel can act as a shock absorber. So I think that’s probably one of the reasons why some of the old school classics guys ended up with really rearward positions even at the expense of some of their biomechanical efficiency, biomechanical efficiency, because when you’re too far behind the bottom right, you start to pause the pedal a little bit, you can’t drive forward to 12 o’clock you start to actually almost dig your heels in and push Huh, but they probably took that as acceptable because they Felt intuitively This is what I love about elite athletes. And this is one of the things Siler figured out too, is that man elite athletes, like when you get to that level, they solve the equation on their own, they figure shit out. So that’s why it’s so useful to reverse engineer with wire athletes training this way. Why are saddles so far behind bottom brackets like at this level? What are these athletes know intuitively, they just figured it out Sunday, they just got on the bike, and we’re like, this needs to be different and they just made it that way. And then it worked. So Bauer made this bike with a 60 degree C to bangle it’s a mercs there photos of it. We’ll put a show note link in the in show notes. We’ll put a magic Winky poo. And you can click down the interwebs and make your keyboard mudras. So we this bike is crazy though it’s immersive. It’s got a 60 degree angle and these chainstays that are like four feet long. It’s this super chopper bike with this crazy raise stem and he used it the year before and he thought he was going to smash everybody. Because his theory was if you’re way far back that you just float over all the cobbles. And it was a really cool idea and he just got roasted for it because it didn’t do that. Well, he I think he was really good on the cobbles was the outcome. But on the page sections he was just it just didn’t off the back super awkward and couldn’t make it an hour. And the race is really amazingly fast on the page sections between the cobbles. But so I think he ended up 21st that year or something but so treadmills bike and probably a lot of the other Belgian pros have similar positions where they’re so far behind the BB For this reason, I think that’s my, that’s my understanding of it. That’s my theory. He also I noticed he had a very flat foot throughout the power phase of the stroke, which is not that common today. So he’s entering the power phase with the crank vertical at 12 o’clock with a nearly flat foot so he wasn’t toe down, he’s not falling into the stroke. And then at the bottom of the stroke, he’s also not barreling down or or toe pointing at the bottom of the stroke which tells me he’s driving through the bottom of the stroke with hamstring and gastroc.


Charlie Merrill  1:20:51

Yeah, rigid level. He’s making that foot rigid lever exact power transfer.


Colby Pearce  1:20:56

My pedaling classic draw we’ll unpack in detail in another episode. So exactly that the more ankling we do, the worse off we are. That’s a general statement when we’re thinking very 50,000 foot view as the body on the bike as a system of pulleys and levers, which is far more than that. If you need reasons why just rewind this podcast, listen to the first hour, but simplistically speaking, we are making power on a mechanical device on a bike. And so there are ways you can set up the bike that will put you at a mechanical advantage for certain that power applications or vice versa at a disadvantage. not rocket science. The other one is because he had this old school salad you can actually see it in a couple shots where he stands up the nose angle, my thing is just like it’s got to be two or three degrees up so I was just getting kicked in the door all day, which means there’s only one way to sit on the bike especially when your saddles low and far back and that is to sit in a pretty solid amount of forward flexion and this is one area where we’ve made a lot of progress in saddles, thank you cutout saddle. My opinion when we took shifters off downtube and move them to our brake levers. That was a massive step forward in cycling technology. Right? It was, it was it made bike safer because you didn’t have to take your hands off the bars it made shifting far more efficient and effective. Right, even though it was heavier and the mechanism was a bit clunkier. It was by far it was a big advancement. Everyone agrees my opinion, we made at least that big of an advancement when we came out with a correctly designed cutout saddle, because it allows anterior rotation of the pelvis which improves breathing function to diaphragmatic breathing function because the diaphragm is not stacked on top of your pelvis when you’re in for flexion. It improves glute function makes you more Aero, right? When improves, improves glute function because if you go to do a squat in a gym and your pelvis is upright, it’s vertical. You shut off you’re gonna be all quiet now you’re gonna torture spine. Yeah, but hear me all quads, right? So I explained this to people all the time and it’s funny how much your clients experience impacts your fitting experience. Someone who comes in and they’ve got a powerlifting background, or a strength conditioning background, I can explain these concepts to them and immediately they see a connection like wow. And it’s incredible to me how far removed and dogmatic old school bike fitting is from this universe of glute function, glute activation via pelvic rotation, for example, yeah, or even knee tracking. There are actually fitters out there who used to hopefully you aren’t recommending this anymore world of bike fitters used to recommend that people intentionally track their knees as close to the top tube as possible. I mean, can you imagine someone doing a heavy deadlift or squat in the gym and then being told to put their knees narrow yeah like no faster way to disaster right yeah just about yeah so anyway, it all the stuff comes up when you see these Oh, yeah.


Charlie Merrill  1:23:48

Cool. It’s cool to hear you break that down. Because I remember when I when I was growing up in cycling the difference between you know how people sat in a bike then versus how they sit on a bike now you know, even Lance Armstrong’s position Yon already Rick got a very unusual bike fit.


Colby Pearce  1:24:02

Now we have front


Charlie Merrill  1:24:05

and you think of people like even Frank Schleck, who was one of those cyclists that appeared to ride better when his knees were caving into the top tube. And this gets back to like this question of would he have been stronger? If he has his knee track more like a piston over his foot? And biomechanically, you’d say probably, but we also know from sports that there’s a lot of variation among athletes and how they look on the bike. How they look on the playing field. I mean, I used to as a PT say, you know, you never want your knees to cave into valgus, right? Because that valgus stress is really dangerous. But if you look at any basketball player, soccer player skier, they do it in their sport, they’re constantly in a knee valgus dimension tolerating the valgus for your sport, right, making the system robust enough to handle that internal rotation. Right so Frank, Frank sled got really good or his knees were built or his hips were built in a way where valgus for him made sense, but we won’t know. We’ll never know if he would have been well, so here’s what do you think about that?


Colby Pearce  1:25:02

I? That’s a great point. I’m really glad you brought that up. Here’s a huge misconception that I deal with all the time when I’m fitting athletes and when I have these types of conversations, and it’s simply this well Frank slacks knees track next to the top two, therefore, everyone, first of all, they make an essential generalization. Therefore everyone’s Yeah, okay, we’ve already talked about an essential generalization. No, that’s honestly true. second chapter is our second layer is we don’t know what Frank slack was, was battling. I mean, when we maybe read about if you go look up all the news articles or whatever, maybe you’ll find out a lot about him. But for all we know, every single time Frank got on a massage table, the massage therapist only worked on is it banza tfls for four hours because he was so smoked, or at a constant lower back pain or constant, you name this symptom here, that probably could be traced to his poor knee tracking, right? Who knows what that was like? This is the thing about the fractal. I see common denominators of symptoms in my athletes all the time when they come in for a fit, but how those symptoms play out is radically different for athletes. So that’s point two. Is that just because Frank did it doesn’t make it right. Right. Is that point two? Yeah, so, but point three is, world class athletes already self selected to be on the start line of their event, because they’ve got exceptional abilities. That does not mean by definition, that they are optimized or they are functioning to the highest bill. They’re the best ability of their potential as a human, even if they win the Tour. That doesn’t mean they’re doing everything to the best of their ability. I’m going to say that again, because I don’t think people believe it. I think when they assume that when they see someone when the tour or when Perrier obey the natural assumption is that was the perfect expression of athletic ability, or the perfect expression of that athletes. maximal talent or maximal expression of their best ever performance. If we see Marianne Voss when a bike race we go wow She had to have a cleat in the perfect place. Her saddle height was perfect. She ate the perfect food. That’s not true, right? That’s almost never true right? athletes win races in spite of not because of. And yes there are examples in the pro peloton of athletes who are funked highly functional athletes who moved very, very well. Peter sockin being one of the most immediate examples you can see that guy’s glutes actually working when he pulls away for sure he’s in the minority. He’s also the example we want we want to strive for right on the other side we have Kate Courtney who’s an amazing example of a functional athlete I see her doing all kinds of crazy cool stuff. squats on one armed you know dumbbell presses. This is the type of athlete who is training in multimodal aspects. She’s challenging her stability, under load, she’s doing a successfully and she’s performing at the world level and you can see that she’s a functional athlete who’s got good balance, good stability, good flexibility, good strength and good power. So just because an athlete performs at the world level and wins a race doesn’t mean that they are some model of biomechanical perfection or emotional perfection. And it doesn’t mean they’re paying freely. It doesn’t mean they have the ideal diet. So that’s a huge misconception about elite sports. And when you start to look at people that critical eye, you can see these things pretty easily. Another example is a Christian belt. I mean, I can see his hip drop from a helicopter shot. And that was the year he got fourth and a Taurus.


Charlie Merrill  1:28:32

Where I remember


Colby Pearce  1:28:33

Yeah, so I mean, when you’re looking for these things, you can see him know he still had amazing success, but he was also hampered by years and years of severe lower back pain. Hmm, I don’t think he ever resolved his back pain, actually, to a really satisfactory level. What he did is eventually his lumbar musculature just got so freaking strong. From 10 years of battling it. He was able to survive one tour and perform at that level. Barely. Yeah, it goes on. Hopefully he doesn’t have back pain and daily life now. I don’t know, I haven’t seen for a couple years. So I’m not sure. But


Charlie Merrill  1:29:04

I think it’s the line that we walk as clinicians to say, does this biomechanical fault look significant enough? Is this something that really correlates well with this person’s symptom presentation? or more importantly, with their lack of power or their performance? If I clean this up, are they going to be a better athlete?


Colby Pearce  1:29:22

Oh, this is a great point of conversation like, okay, I’d like to ask you this, if I may parlay it into a question. So let’s say you have an athlete who walks through the door and they’ve got whatever x symptom and you start digging into their physical analysis and you, you figure out who they are, and you run through their athlete history and you start talking to them and then you figure out, hey, this person’s got a big leg length discrepancy, right? Yeah. And they’re having problems on the bike. Maybe this this has happened to me several times. But their leg length discrepancy is significant, or we’ll say non trivial. Okay, next question is, well, have you had back pain your whole life? No. Have you ever shipped put a ship In your walking shoes, no. Okay, this person is 31 years old. They’ve been walking for 31 years or 30 and a half, whatever. And they haven’t had back pain. And now they’ve just started riding in a year and they’re getting back pain on the bike. So the question is, do you start shaming them on the bike? And then do you open a can of worms because clearly got three decades of compensation in their body for walking around with a shorter femur on one side, they’ve already adapted to that pattern. Okay, so now we’re going to start shaming them on the bike and we’re going to open this can of worms, this this is where things get really complicated and you can see people who, likewise who you put them on the bike for a fit and you you’re thinking my head is exploding right now, how can this person even be riding without severe pain, they’ve got severe left right asymmetries in their pelvic motion. The ribcage is moving all over the shoulders bobbing up and down, their pelvis is moving back and forth on the saddle and all kinds of planes. And you ask them what’s going on. Like I just want to optimize my performance. That’s why I’m here today. On the flip side, you’ve got someone who looks actually extremely tidy. Maybe only the smallest amount of asymmetry or hip drop, saddle height looks tidy offset looks tidy, you go through all click all the boxes in there, maybe you make some minor adjustments, but they’re on the verge of quitting the sport they’ve been to see five fitters and this is getting right to where you’re at this is Yeah, the most likely explanation is we’ve got to go to another layer. Yeah, past biomechanical explanation of time pain, right?


Charlie Merrill  1:31:24

I think it’s really hard. I think when we’ve been trained biomechanically, it’s really hard to know. And if someone comes in with a big leg, leg leg discrepancy, you’re right. You ask yourself the question, why have you never had pain for the first 30 years of your life? Your legs have been the same, right? The whole time, right? And you’ve compensated and you’ve adapted around that really well. So is there something is there some psychosocial variable that explains the onset of their symptoms? If so, I think it doesn’t make sense to shim them. If they come in and they’ve been told by a million people that their leg length is a real problem over the course of time clinicians Doctors, they’ve had x rays and they’re freaking out about their leg length discrepancy. And they’re begging you to help them correct that. You still have to ask yourself the question, is this person’s leg length discrepancy? Really? What’s driving their symptoms? Right? Or is it just the fear of their body not being okay being told by all these people


Colby Pearce  1:32:17



Charlie Merrill  1:32:18

Yeah, and then so you really have to decide on this continuum of where’s this person some people come in? They’re like, I didn’t know I had a leg length discrepancy. I don’t have any fear around that, right. And then you have to decide, am I going to start causing fear right for them? Or do I just hold back and say, No, okay, this looks pretty good. I mean, I spent so much more time on in my clinic now, ruling things out, more than ruling things in and I spend so much more time normalizing things to reduce fear for people that I used to at least make a note of or something that I wanted to treat. Because I think, you know, by accident, I was creating fear sometimes for people even though in the short term, they said, Oh, Charlie knows what he’s doing. He figured this out. He has all these variables he wants to treat that makes me feel safe. What I was doing sometimes is planting all these new seeds of right you know, this is crooked. This is weak. This is tight This is. And so I still man, Kobe, I still wrestle in the clinic day to day with this idea of how much weight do I put on that thing? And if I’m not looking at those psychosocial variables, I think I think I’m going to miss I think I’m gonna miss things sometimes. Yeah. And so yeah, I mean, like I said, Every person is different. This person has a one centimeter leg length discrepancy that I can measure. And I can see they have an x rayed and I’m not going to do anything, and the next person has that. And I might put some shims in there and I might wait some things even just to try it. But in my clinic, I’m going to do it in a way that always reduces fear for that person, the way I psycho educate. The way I talk about it, the way I relate to it is going to be totally different from every other in your case bike fitter in the world. Right? And this is how you set yourself apart in your practice. is by not engaging in fear mongering, fear mongering, when you’re doing your fits, and you can get some intentional, right for sure, yeah, you can hold all that data in your head, and not necessarily share all of it with them. So that you can make the corrections you want to make, while also not making them freak out about it.


Colby Pearce  1:34:18

So maybe that’s something helpful for our listeners, if they’ve been to a PT. And, look, we’re not here, like variables work or by fitter. We’re not here to smash anybody else’s work or as as Todd Carver, Rita would say, you know, fixing other people’s fits, which is a great expression. It’s such a bummer in the bike industry that in the bike fit industry, particularly clients can go from one fit to another to another to another and not really have their problem resolved. I mean, if you took your Audi in to get the engine fixed, because it didn’t start, and the mechanics charged $1,000 and then you went to drive it the next morning and didn’t start you call them up immediately and be like, hey, tow my car and come fix this and they’re not charging me. That’s not the way bike fit works. So it’s now of course, it’s a different problem, but it’s still it shouldn’t be like that, but Maybe something actionable for our listeners is that if they have, I’ve had lots of clients come in and say, Oh, yeah, you know, my glutes don’t work. Or, you know, my hamstrings are weak. And it’s like, somehow that was the nugget they took away from their session with their PT or their shirt all the time. And so what I’m saying is, I’m not bagging on anyone who sent a client out the door and gave them that message. Accidentally, or maybe not intentionally, you were probably trying to educate your client about their body. But I think Charlie made a really good point, we need to be very cautious about how we interact with our athletes and the language we use to phrase our descriptions we use when we describe what we’re finding when we do these tests on them when we look at their posture or how they forward bend or how they sit on the bike or how they make power when they push on a pedal or make a squat or a


Charlie Merrill  1:35:50

lunge. Those are the social variables that that play in people’s pain experience and why it’s so subjective.


Colby Pearce  1:35:56

Yeah. And if you’re an athlete and you have you recognize that this has happened to you Then that recognition is a good, probably insight for you. Because you may realize, Oh, this is this is contributed to me sort of not feeling okay about my glutes, that may just be a story that may not be true at all. I mean, if your glutes weren’t working, you’d fall over and half and you wouldn’t be able to stand up,


Charlie Merrill  1:36:15

right. But I have to say, like, I remember times when I was training a lot, there’ll be a point in the season where I’d be climbing. And suddenly, I had this sort of new appreciation, new power my legs, that I felt like my glutes just sort of came online, it was usually sometime mid spring. And up until that point, I’d been like, Oh, this is just so hard. And then one day, you’re like, Oh, my gosh, I feel it. I feel my glutes. So I don’t want to like minimize the importance of our glutes. This is a whole nother conversation about how much time you put into training in ways that are going to activate things that you know are important. Create balance, right in your pedal stroke. Right. And do you do that for pain? Or do you do that more for performance? Is it really valuable? Right, is it really just come down to belief system again, like you know, y’all do The old school model specificity like just ride more ride more ride more and that’s gonna make you the best cyclist but we now know maybe that’s not true for everybody.


Colby Pearce  1:37:07

Okay, can we unpack that statement? Yeah, right all right so this is one of the things I wanted to look at so I wrote Charlie a hypothetical and I don’t like the word should I don’t like the word average don’t shoot all over yourself


Colby Pearce  1:37:20

Don’t shoot all over yourself that’s a good one. So but what I wrote him was I don’t normally like the concept of averages as there really are no average people. Everyone is a unique as their fingerprint or my favorite check ism is God is a novelty generator.



So nice.


Colby Pearce  1:37:38

That said, there are common denominators for cyclists right. So let’s say Charlie that you have a somewhat typical cyclist walk through your door could be cat two, we’ll say training 12 to 15, maybe 18 hours a week, racing on the weekends or doing long rides a typical program of you know, training races, intervals climbing during the week. Little or no stretching, will say Strength training because stretching makes your sprint slow and strength training makes your arms too big and you won’t want fast, right? Yeah. What would you expect to see for this hypothetical man? and part two? What would you expect to see for a hypothetical woman at the same descriptors?


Charlie Merrill  1:38:16

Yeah, when I saw that question, I sort of wrestled with the idea, you know, is this is this a gender? Is there a gender piece? Or is it really just like a training stimulus piece? And of course, men and women are different and they’re built differently and they have different patterns, I think that show up, and of course, different emotions and different psychosocial factors that show up. But I think to answer the question, generally, you know, anytime you see someone doing a sport that’s mana structural, that’s just one repetitive movement all the time, you’re going to see all kinds of funny adaptations. Again, those don’t necessarily always correlate with pain. However, I think they’re they’re important to recognize there Important to address because as human beings ideally we’re we’re able to do lots of things in our lives, like if you’re just riding your bike, but then one day you have a house project that you want to be lifting bags of concrete, you know, you’d like to not have the stiff ankles and the short quads and the inability to fully open your hips and really engage your glutes in in a way that you need for that lift. So, yeah, I mean that those are those are the physical changes we see. We see, you know, imbalances in muscle tension from side to side, everyone has one leg that’s producing, you know, 1% more power than the other leg and after a million pedal strokes that starts to show up in our body, it just does. It’s just repetition. And again, you’re always deciding how much to weigh those variables. But if I have an athlete that that is monitor, structural driven, and they’re, they’re not, they’re not athletic people, they’re not moving like athletic people. I think That’s a problem. And I think that’s something that we want to address, especially for that cat to racer. Because there’s such a massive opportunity for them to improve their performance. If they can do those things that fear of, I just have to be doing specificity all the time, of course, can override a lot of that. But yeah, I mean, there are all types of different ways to do that of varying your training stimulus and the crossover that happens, the cross training that happens. I mean, I joke with my wife when I started rock climbing, I was like, honey, I think, I think rock climbing is actually helping my running. I think I actually feel better when I run because I’m rock climbing now and I kind of joked about it. But if you really broke it down, you can see that there’s this new appreciation for your court your your tension in your body, from fingers to toes, yes. And there’s this new, you know, connection that you have from from your upper body to your lower body. And that might potentially make you more efficient as a runner. I think I think older as I’ve gotten older and I feel like a lot of older athletes, we have this concept of training age. Yeah, which is when you’ve done it for so long and straight, you just don’t need the volume that you used to write. I think you need more variety. For many reasons. For me, I need more variety because it makes me happy. I mean, if climbing helped my running, for all I know, it’s partly because I was spending more time with my wife climbing. Yeah. And because I was doing something and I love novelty, something new. Yeah. And so running felt fresh to me in a way that it hadn’t in a while. So I don’t know if it was a training effect. It doesn’t really matter.


Colby Pearce  1:41:27

Yeah, it doesn’t matter, right. Yeah,


Charlie Merrill  1:41:29

but yeah, I mean, that athletes gonna have all kinds of, you know, probably aches and pains. Probably that are the result of the physical adaptive changes of them being in that position for so long. And we know like, the pot posture doesn’t predict pain either. But our brain still wants us to get up and move. So if we’re sitting at our desk for an hour in any posture, our brains going to say, dude, stand up. It’s going to give us back pain. It’s going to give us neck pain or hand pain to say time to move. Yes, this is just smart for your body, dude, you got to get up It doesn’t matter if you’re slouched or sitting like a like a robot, right? It’s gonna want you to change. And the same thing is true with the bike, your brain is gonna start to say, isn’t this enough cycling? Don’t you want to go do something else like maybe some yoga,



I’m a Type A athlete, I’m gonna ride


Charlie Merrill  1:42:15

because you want to spend time with your family. I don’t care if it’s.


Charlie Merrill  1:42:19

So, you know, I think that’s very similar to sitting in the same posture for long periods. It’s absolutely Cycling is just more sitting. It’s just more sitting. And it’s wonderful and it’s very healthy. But that cat two athletes gonna probably be a better athlete, if there’s some variety makes it interesting that it can be hard for people.


Colby Pearce  1:42:35

Yeah. So I recently learned a cool new word. When you’re sitting at your desk for a while nearby tells you to move and you get up and you do a big cat stretch. That’s called panic. ulation Oh, that’s a good


Charlie Merrill  1:42:48

one. That’s a good one. Yeah, what’s that? What’s the panda prefix? Is it a Is there a panda prefix the panda part a panda? Yeah,


Colby Pearce  1:42:54

I don’t I actually don’t know what the correlation on that exact prefix is but it’s not a cool one. articulation it’s when your cat gets up and stretches and does the spine thing or the dog. Same thing. We do it. It’s a Yana big yawn. It’s an incredible word.


Charlie Merrill  1:43:09

Is that is that is that called an autumn on a PA where it sounds like what it is? I believe so. Did I use that correctly? Yeah. Okay, good. We’ll check in with you for your vocab for vocabulary. Like it. Okay. Yeah, that sounds like what it is. I’m gonna pixelate right now.


Colby Pearce  1:43:22

Yes. And kind of imagine we’re about do, right.


Charlie Merrill  1:43:26

So is there is there more to talk about with regard to training? I think you would ask me some questions about squatting and, and some of these like archetypes that are more


Colby Pearce  1:43:35

straight plain like Cycling is dead lifting. You know, it is valuable. I mean, for me, Cycling is Cycling is the worst offender of all the endurance sports in my opinion. You look at all the repetitive endurance sports, okay, let’s say rowing, running, swimming, cross country skiing, you know, either classic or skate cycling. What else do we have? That’s, I mean, rock climbing isn’t really count. It’s too It’s too stochastic. Maybe what? type thing about repetitive endurance aerobic sports. Cycling is the worst offender of those in terms of, of doing to the athlete, what you’ve just described, which is promoting specific postural adaptations that are potentially have negative long term consequences on the athlete, because the athlete is most locked in the exact same motion in cycling. I mean, when you put on our little carbon fiber flippers and click into your clicky shoes, and then you do thousands of revolutions in a single ride thousands 10s of thousands, even in a in a couple hours. And you’re literally every single circle is exactly 172.5 millimeters or whatever it is in radius. And it’s 100% sagittal plane or 99. I mean, yeah, when you stand up and rock the bike, you get that little fraction of our side, the sagittal plane and there’s a little bit of balanced demand. So I mean, my checklist is like, Alright, what do we do? We put on these rigid shoes, so that destroys proprioception of the feet makes the feet weak flinty encourages arch pronation unless you’ve got proper arch support, destroys ankle stability, right overworks prime movers in the sagittal plane for the lower body. So we’ve got quads that are overworked calves that are overworked in an endurance sense. So they’re very fatigue resistant. They’re not necessarily strong. They’re not necessarily good at driving with a lot of without high rate of force production. But they’ve got good endurance, they under load low load for a very long time. And most of your riding is very low load, it’s very sure, yes, or low force. And then we have but then also the problem becomes because Cycling is always such a lunge oriented activity. And because the actual is near the ball, the foot, it inherently brings about any asymmetrical movement that we all have inherently as humans, becomes amplified over time, like compound interest, right, right, the tiniest fraction of difference between your function and your left quad or your right or maybe you’ve got first metatarsal bone that’s just one half of a millimeter longer than the other. That asymmetry is going to play out in your pedal stroke because you’re on carbon shoes with carbon cleats a carbon pedals and carbon crank arms, and nothing moves, the bike is symmetrical and you are not. And you’re trying to have this marriage of relationship and function of power with this symmetrical beast, this whip, and it’s just going to, you’re going to slowly revolve or twist around the axis of the seat tube. So we see really common what I see really commonly in in my footwork is pelvic shear or symptoms of hip drop, where one whatever you want to track as is or iliac crest or even SI joint is rotated forward of the other one forward in the plane up closer to the handlebars. And that can happen dynamically as the riders pedaling Yeah. And you see it it’s so common and riders are shocked when I tell them like yeah, welcome join the club pal. Yeah, your looks like you’re riding in a crosswind. Yes. Or a little bit windswept or can happen statically where one SS is just right kind of permanently fixed over the other and then they’re like, why am I burning a hole in the left side of my crotch? Well, here’s why I’m showing video, you’re hanging off the side of the saddle. And this is extremely common, even in people who have said mentally equal leg lengths. And that’s osseous length, not functional. Which gets down a whole rabbit hole. So without destroying bike fitting worlds, like I, the point I want to make, and I’m glad that you’re here to make it with me is that I think a lot of athletes are really ignorant to how screwed up cycling makes them. If we drew a Venn diagram and we put a giant bubble of your your athletic ability, Charlie’s ability to throw a football with his kids or lift a cooler in the back of his car to go to the ski area or hiking with the family or do that project where you want to build that fencing. You have to move some cement


Charlie Merrill  1:47:53

back or do something that involves eye hand coordination, right, like play tennis or


Colby Pearce  1:47:57

play tennis. Yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s evolved a bit Christy Howard. Yeah, or pivoting in different planes of movement, right? I mean, playing tennis, you got to lunge out to the side. We do not do that on a bike. So the more so we put all those activities in this bubble cycling, the athletic ability for cycling would be a subset of that it would be a smaller bubble. Yeah. And the problem is, the bigger your cycling sphere gets, the smaller your general athletic sphere gets absolutely right. And this is where you hear people say, Oh, I I took two weeks off the bike after my season and I went for a hike. And man, I can’t now I can’t walk for a week because my quads are crippled because I had all this eccentric load. Also, on bikes, we have zero eccentric load to the muscles. So that’s why you go in the gym and you can annihilate yourself. And that’s why you can injure yourself running in a matter of 30 minutes. Because you’ve got a big aerobics system that’s well trained, and the muscles are nowhere close to where they should have the chassis is not so durable. Exactly. Yeah, yeah. So these are things that I like to clue my athletes in on and coaches also. Cycling makes you a really great athlete over the long run. And that’s a bit counterintuitive for some people. Because, yes, when you’re talking about someone who is sedentary, when they’re laying on the couch, and they’re overweight, and they start riding a bike, they’re going to get fitter for the first six months, maybe a year, maybe two or three years. But then there’s a bell curve. And on the other side of that curve, your athletic ability, your general mobility drops, as you only ride a bike, you get worse at all other athletic disciplines. And here’s the problem. Not only will that impact, ultimately your cycling performance, because if I had to predict over a long enough timeline, I would say that if you just keep riding a bike, eventually most people will will end up injured in some form long enough timeline it’ll happen. Not everyone, but the majority. But also we’re talking about your overall life performance. And let me clue you in here. Even Peter soglin wants to be able to pick up his grandkids when he’s 64. Yes, he wants to be able to go run up the side of a mountain or do whatever he wants to do that’s active that requires physical activity besides ride a bike down the road. Even someone who’s being paid as much money as he is. Yeah. Right. So if you’re a category two racer, and you’re dreaming of making it to the pro tour, but you’re not quite there yet, let’s think a little bit long term about your function as an athlete, let’s think about your ability to lift those bags of ice and not have back pain in five or 10 years because you just wrote a bike for a decade, and did nothing else.


Charlie Merrill  1:50:22

Yeah, right. I agree. I would almost say that that’s that’s the case with any sport. If you only do one sport for too long, I think you’re robbing yourself of that. And all these asymmetries that you’re describing athletes just end up leaking power, right there all these power leaks that they have because they’re asymmetrical because they’re just riding and people don’t trust that if they can fill those holes and other ways that they’ll actually perform better on the bike and it’s hard to trust that.


Charlie Merrill  1:50:50

You know, the world of training right now or strength training or whatever.


Charlie Merrill  1:50:55

Is is has gotten diverse around like do I do CrossFit? Do I do animal movements? Yes, I do yoga, right? Which one do I choose? And I think they’re all wonderful. And when people ask me that question, I usually ask them, which one would you like to do? Yeah, which one sounds fun to you? Yeah, I’ve stopped, like prescribing things that I think are the best thing to people because it you know, it doesn’t help them. If they’re not going to stick to it. It doesn’t help them if they’re not enjoying it. And if we get back to this psychosocial question of you know, what’s going to help people thrive as an athlete, it might be totally different for you than it is for me, you know, for one person is going to be plot ease and for the other person, it’s gonna


Colby Pearce  1:51:39

boss it. There’s a balance there, right? I think it has to be charitable. It has to be fun. The downside I see to that is that people tend to pick what they’re good at. And a lot of times they don’t need more of what they’re good at. That’s true talking about complimenting cycling, because cycling. It’s like, are you a climber then what you want to do is go climb up and down hills all day long, right? Well, we needed an occasional sprint workout and yeah If you ask them what they’re good at, if they don’t answer climbing on a bike, then they’re probably going to say something like, I don’t know trail running well, that is the same,


Charlie Merrill  1:52:08

or the same. You want to help people find novelty, but you want to help them to do it in a way that’s sort of suited to them to their


Colby Pearce  1:52:15

balances their quiver psychology, if


Charlie Merrill  1:52:16

I if someone comes in and I’m contriving all these weird corrective exercises for them, and they’re kind of glazing over saying, I’m never going to do any of this stuff, and wasting time agree, some people love that. And they’re like, yeah, like, break this down for me. I’m going to do, you know, 30 minutes of really sort of controlled corrective exercises each day.


Charlie Merrill  1:52:35

And they want it to be structured. Yep. And other people want to be loose.


Colby Pearce  1:52:39

So the cook versus the baker. Yeah, I think but we encouraging people to get out there and do other things, as you’re saying is really the important bit it’s important to take away and to tie back to what you were saying about educating a client about pain and having them look at their pain and understand it, that it is created by the brain to some degree, that education alone can help them. make the leap. And bounds in their own journey of negotiating or understanding and hopefully defeating or eliminating their pain in their in their athletic lives. Yeah, the same thing could perhaps be said about educating our client about that’s my aim is when I explain to someone how dysfunctional a bite can make you on its own. And then explaining there are all these other things you can do that will offset that and give you more longevity, greater health and even ultimately add to your success in the bike happening. So they understand that paradigm they’re in, they’re like, let’s do this sold, I’ll go I’m going to start doing more stretching or I’m going to do more cross country skiing or I’m going to go play more tennis or whatever to counterbalance my cycling, strength training cetera.


Charlie Merrill  1:53:38

Yeah, sure. Yeah. I think that it comes back to what we started talking about, which is this process is emergent. Yes, no two people are the same. So if you are I go into a session thinking, you know, here’s another cyclist as knee pain. They need yoga. Right? I just like totally botched it. Right, right. Right. Right now prescriptive, to prescriptive, prescriptive. Let’s stay open to what


Colby Pearce  1:54:00

Rapid Fire. What I want to know is Charlie’s take on shoes, because we I’ve watched your video about the Tabby shoes, and I wore my tabbies today.


Charlie Merrill  1:54:08

Yeah, they’re pretty rad. I love them from Japan. It’s pretty cool, right? I think, aesthetically and yeah, and always I got


Colby Pearce  1:54:16

to go visit my daughter there twice in the last year and I fell in love with that country. It’s an amazing, amazing place. I, if I wasn’t so white, I would live there.


Charlie Merrill  1:54:25

It’s just not happening. It’s an amazing place. I just have to


Colby Pearce  1:54:27

look at it. So in case people don’t know, a Tabby shoe has a split toe. So the first Ray or the great toes, it’s known your big toe can move independently of your other toes. It’s kinda like a Vibram. Except the ninja version.


Charlie Merrill  1:54:40

Yes, the ninja shoe is it will help people understand


Colby Pearce  1:54:43

definitely like, yeah, so Charlie had a video that I got to check out on YouTube recently, and he’s talking about the Tabby shoes and why he likes them for exercise. What’s the big deal about the first Ray, Charlie? Why do we care?


Charlie Merrill  1:54:54

Yeah, I mean, it’s, it’s the biggest toe for a reason, right? Like it’s made bigger than all the other toes. It’s kind of like that. The thumb of your hand, can you imagine like not having a thumb on your hand and having the dexterity or having it glued to your other finger? Exactly. Good. It’s not good. So, you know, the big toe takes most of the loading when we’re running and walking, and it’s hard like springboard platform to take off from and there’s a reason it’s built so big. It also has its own set of muscles that make it independent from the other four toes with its set of muscles. It’s the sort of medial column or the medial point of the triangle when we talk about balance. So it really is important from appropriate, perceptive standpoint to help us know where we are in space. And yeah, I mean, there there you can go on and on about the reasons why the big toe is so important. And having the ability to move it independently. dorsiflexion up and down, up dorsiflexion down plantar flexion. We’re starting to see that that’s really important and and it’s people having smart feet, as I like to say we’re realizing Just how important that is, you know? And that could even mean going without shoes. And just being in nature with your skin on dirt concrete. Wait, what? You could do that it’s amazing. I love it. I’m like addicted to being on different surfaces with my feet. I am too and this time of year it starts you know, yes. I can’t wait to get out. Yeah. But that you know, the tabi shoes, I like them not just because the toe is split. I like them because they tend to be lower to the ground. The way we’re the way we’re no drop


Colby Pearce  1:56:27

shoe, right? It’s


Charlie Merrill  1:56:28

sort of a no offset shoe or no so but it’s also sort of a low drop. Yeah, that means the drop means how thick the midsole is or how high off the ground you are. It’s the opposite of a hookah, right, you know, very high foamy, right? And then the offset is how much higher the heel is from the forefoot. Yeah, we’re seeing that. You know, when you’re barefoot, you’re healing your ball, your foot are the same height when you’re on flat ground at least. And there’s some value in that as well. But I like that they’re flexible. I like that they don’t get in the way of the foots natural, the ability to function is sort of Don’t create a rigid like a cycling shoe creates a rigid you know, you and I talked about that it’s like a box like a like a foot coffin it is and and that you know if you’re on the bike for six hours that’s gonna have an effect on your feet so you can offset that by not wearing stiff shoes or being barefoot when you’re off the bike. Of course,


Colby Pearce  1:57:19

you can do that I recommend all the time. Yeah, for sure.


Charlie Merrill  1:57:22

Yeah, but um, but having a shoe that’s flexible and really having a shoe that shaped like the bottom of your foot. If you have a shoe that’s squared off, it’s flat on the bottom. It’s not easy at the edges. It’s not rounded off in the heel. You know your heel is not flat on the bottom, it’s rounded for a reason. And we want the shoe to look and function as much like the foot as we can. And a lot of you know jika tabi tabi is essentially a sock. In Japan. It’s a split toe sock, okay, as you could tabi is the sock with the rubber on the bottom, which basically makes it into a shoe. Yep. And so we’ve taken a sock and sort of made it outdoor wearable, you know, or the Japanese You know, I’ve done that. And yeah, they’re just a really nice it’s like wearing a slipper around all the time. I think it’s a great day today where, you know, yeah, we connect on shoes for sure.


Colby Pearce  1:58:08

Yeah, I have, um, I have some of those Tommy shoes. And I’ve also got some vibrams the five fingers. Our wife hates them. She calls them frog shoes. My wife hates


Charlie Merrill  1:58:17

to Yeah, they’re not the best looking shoes. I I’m waiting for someone to come out. Like you could do a Veyron that didn’t look like a gym shoe. I’m, it’s never gonna look like a normal shoe. That’s fine. But I mean, yeah, we could at least make it look non obtrusive, I hope the tabi whatever. I hope the tabi is the hybrid. I’m working with Mike Freetown who designed shoes for Nike for years, he was part of the Nike Free project. And he has some really amazing ideas that the shoe industry never adopted because they’re so entrenched in the old ways, right? And he wants to sort of take some of these ideas and put it into this new version of tabi shoe, which I think is going to be really cool as well. Cool. It’s gonna be rad and so he’s in charge of us take my credit card, now prototyping it. So in of course, making it look cool is hard because people aren’t used to having that like split toe look, as you said, your wife and my wife both parents out there. She


Colby Pearce  1:59:09

likes she’s into the split toe just not the Vibram I mean, yeah, I see that. There’s a really famous shoe designer who’s taken this to the enth degree and made split toe fashion shoes.


Charlie Merrill  1:59:19

Oh, Mason, Margiela. Margiela. Yes, I could buy a pair of those boots I do. I don’t like a grant for sure. Yeah, they’re beautiful.


Colby Pearce  1:59:26

There’s they’re insanely beautiful. Yes. Yeah.


Charlie Merrill  1:59:28

Here we are talking about shoes. Really fun, right? All day long. Yeah, I have I have a pair of vivo barefoot Primus shoes on today, which has become my new sort of go to really thin, flexible. All these things that I described. I just think any shoe company that’s trying to do that. I love evos is really great.


Colby Pearce  1:59:45

I’ve got a closet full of those. Yeah, I’m a big fan. After


Charlie Merrill  1:59:47

going through many ankle sprains that were that were the result of being in a shoe that’s too stiff, too high off the ground. Not shaped like my foot to paddle too much motion control. Yep. To flat on the bottom. You know, just whack your ankle all the time. Yeah, you know changing shoes is pretty much solve that problem.


Colby Pearce  2:00:06

So if you’re a bike racer, and then you go to work and you earn traditional shoes that are stiff and clunky and have a lot of ankle support, you’re kind of doubling down on creating, I would argue too much of an artificial environment, your feet, your you want your feet to be strong and flexible. You want them to be nimble, and also align like Charlie spoke about that. That triangle, that’s the first metatarsal which is the joint of the big toe, the fifth metatarsal, which is the joint behind the pinky, and the center of the heel. That’s your tripod of stability. And when and most people who pronate put a little too much pressure on the first metatarsal, right? That’s when your arches collapsing, we want even pressure on those three points. So when you’re if you decide to walk barefoot or check out some of these goofy shoes that we’re talking about, that’s the way to consciously walk through the world is to think about for most people, that means putting more weight on the fifth metatarsal. unless you happen to be a supinator you’re in the minority and you’ve already got or you’re really bold like it. Yeah,


Charlie Merrill  2:00:59

you have too much weight to tarsal. Right? Yeah, I mean, really, we want smart feet, right? We want to be on the big toe. Sometimes we want to be on the little toe side, you know, your foot should be able to go in and out. It should tolerate more weight on the ball, the foot should tolerate more weight on the heel. We want to be adaptable. If you step on a rock with bare feet, you’re getting so much information from your feet. If you look at the homunculus in the brain, the sensory and the motor map of the brain. So another great word. Yes. I love the homunculus. If you’ve never seen pictures of the homunculus in the British Museum, I want to say it’s in one of the Museum in London. They have like a person that shaped like the homunculus would look. Yep, so the eyes are really big, really big anyway, yeah, we’re getting sidetracked but you get a lot of information from your feet that goes up to your brain and your brain makes decisions based on what your feet are feeling yes to do this or that. So if we have our postural decisions, postural decisions, you know, whether your glutes are performing well or you know, if you step on a rock and it hits the ball, your foot under your first toe you Your brain knows to keep weight off that toe. If you’re wearing shoes all the time your brain doesn’t know to do that, which is why it’s so uncomfortable to go barefoot when you first do it. Yes, because your brain is like I don’t know what to make of this


Colby Pearce  2:02:11

to come full circle. I love Boulder. I’ve lived here my whole life. But there’s one thing we’re missing is a beach. barefoot walking on the beach is one of the best activities to wake up your feet and strengthen those muscles and get those little all those toes you know kind of able to wade and move and and we have boulders here and I think they’re bad bacteria winds regularly that go on in that thing so I’m not touching it. But ecola Reservoir a cold reservoir even though I did raise my cross bike there several times many times


Charlie Merrill  2:02:41

yeah it’s such a fun venue yes yes


Colby Pearce  2:02:44

yes. So anyway, that’s we’re missing is a beach but we got lots of other beautiful things take advantage of here so


Charlie Merrill  2:02:50

yeah, the grass the concrete like yeah, just mix it up. But yeah, but go barefoot go where minimal shoe the earth, touch the earth. Nature’s nature’s amazing. I’ve seen people that have Pain, let’s say foot pain or ankle pain, and ask them to take their shoes off and we go walk outside or go in the grass. Yeah, we’re in the dirt and our pain goes away. There you go. It’s amazing. Just Was there any types of nature or they believe that it’s going to be safe for you know, whatever reason is, yeah, it’s pretty nature’s powerful. How do we wrap this up, man? How do you wrap up such a long conversation, we just say thank you so much for all your input Charlie and YouTube over amazing thoughts and making time to come here and share with with me in the audience. And the last thing I’d like you to do is just tell us where people can find out more about Charlie Merrill and performance calm is my website, letter M. Performance calm marrows, my last name. That’s my clinical practice website. I’m doing a lot more teaching and my clinical practice is, you know, starting to slowly get smaller as I’m trying to educate people and empower athletes and people like you all to do some of this stuff yourself. So you can find me on YouTube. There’s another male performance. It does. Car upgrades engine performance that is not me. Anyway, I had a lot of information on my YouTube channel. I’m on Instagram at Charlie Merrill. Those are probably the places that you’ll find me most. And in the future, I think, you know, look for more teaching more information, more education that you can consume, right to help be able to help yourself. That’s where I’m headed.


Colby Pearce  2:04:23

Thank you, Charlie. Thank you Koby.





Colby Pearce  2:04:31

Listen up monkeys. The ramblings on this podcast represent me and me alone. They’re not indicative of the thoughts or opinions of fast labs, or Chris case, or Trevor Connor, or anyone else. Also, none of this advice is intended to prescribe or diagnose anything. I’m not a doctor. Don’t play one on the internet. So just want to be clear on those points. Thanks for listening.