Visit from Tim Morrill: strengths, weaknesses, athletes, and ice cream

I first emailed Tim in early December to ask about the performance testing he did at Nationals.  I knew we were going to be good friends when Tim said of ultimate players, “It’s just a matter of making the athletes realize that they are athletes and they must train like athletes.”

Until recently Tim Morrill has been getting a master degree in exercise science and being a strength coach at UNI.  Since then he’s been meandering around the East Coast doing various interesting things including visiting Mike Boyle’s training facility in Boston.  When I heard he was going to be in Philly, I insisted he make a detour to visit me in Lancaster.  After two months of exchanging a ton of emails, swapping book suggestions, chatting too long on g-chat, and working together on the “Building the Ultiamte Athlete: Expert Panel,” I was super psyched to meet Tim in person.

We did the obvious things you’d expect myself and a strength and conditioning coach to do.  We played indoor pickup (only after doing an extensive dymanic warmup of course), we discussed the biomechanics of throwing, Tim finagled his way into a winter league game, and we spent an evening cringing and foam rolling while watching podcasts.

Tim also made some non-obvious choices.  I think a part of me expected (and maybe hoped) Tim would whip out some kettle balls from his Jeep and put me through some crazy workout.  Instead, Tim absolutely insisted that we visit Bikram’s Yoga in Lancaster.  He had their schedule memorized!  We also read books, went hiking, and ate ice cream for dinner Saturday night (don’t tell anyone about that last one).

A theme emerged from our discussions:  strengths and weaknesses

Though Tim and I know a lot in the field of strength and conditioning, the ways of the body remain mysterious.  And though Tim and I know a lot about how to improve our own levels of athleticism, we are still very human.

I had another calf episode during Tim’s visit.  My calves were so sore the day after indoor pickup I could not walk normally the next day.  I was hoping Tim might have the answer for me.  We discussed some possibilities:  Lack of ankle mobility?  Tissue quality?  Just a fluke of dehydration?  No conclusive answer.

Tim talked a lot about his asymmetrical ankle dorsiflexion which has an effect on his squatting form.  He worries about adding strength to his asymmetrical movement patterns.  Ask Tim to show you his calves next time you see him.  It doesn’t take an expert in exercise science to notice his asymmetries there!

We both have issues we’re working with that have no easy, immediate solution.

Yet strengths and weaknesses are always intertwined.  Does Tim’s imperfect squatting form inhibit his abilities as a strength and conditioning coach?  Probably not.  In fact, he most likely has a better understanding of good squatting form because he’s had to think about it a lot.  Most likely his issues increase his empathy and understanding of other athletes with movement pattern problems resulting from injury.

We also theorized that the ease with which I performed the balance postures in Bikram Yoga may be in part due to ankle stability.  There is a trade-off between stability and mobility.  If my ankles are over-stable and under-mobile, how would this effect what’s happening with my calves?  Not sure, but it’s a good place to start looking.

I think it’s important for players to understand that even people who spend a lot of time devoted to increasing athletic performance still have very real and very human problems with their own bodies.

Too often I hear players place artificial limitations on themselves.  They think they are too old, too injured, too fat, or too whatever to take their game to the next level. Many players are under the impression that they have peaked in high school or college and it has to be all downhill from there.  This is all nonsense.  Unless you were doing serious athletic training as a high schooler (and I’m not talking about just being on the soccer team), chances are you have barely tapped into your full athletic potential.

Is anything holding you back?

What issues are you struggling with?  Post it in the comments below!

Regardless of what type of athlete you are today, you can become a better athlete tomorrow. Aim for progress, not perfection.  Best of luck in your training today!  Let us know what you did to make progress.

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3 comments to Visit from Tim Morrill: strengths, weaknesses, athletes, and ice cream

  • […] Two of Skyd’s training experts, Melissa Witmer and Tim Morrill, meet for the first time and discuss strengths and weaknesses. […]

  • annab

    The other thing you can look at as far as causes of calf injuries is actually looking further up the chain at hip mobility and strength. A lot of time I find that if athletes don’t have good hip mobility and then the ability to use that mobility (i.e. good single leg hip/knee dominate movements) that they overuse their calves for explosion. If you can’t access the hip than the only thing your body can use to explode is your calf, resulting in overuse, excessive soreness, and injury.
    I find that it isn’t typically a lack of ankle mobility/dorsiflexion (people can for the most part fairly easily obtain functional dorsiflexion measured by knee to wall from 3 inches away from wall) and if it is a lack of ankle mobility, it is can be cleared up fairly quickly. More often than not, it is once again either lack of hip mobility or lack of core/hip stability that then uses stiffness for stability resulting in the body trying to get more movement out of the ankles than what they are meant to move and finally resulting in a “can’t keep your heels on the ground” type of squat. I am a strong believer of what Boyle preaches anyway of not obsessing about the squat too much anyway, i.e. focus more on single limb training or Cook’s train everything else and the squat will improve naturally.
    So soft tissue is great for addressing the tissue quality issues that are currently going on with the angry calves, but it also comes back to working on unloading the tissue that is being overworked/doing more than what it is meant to do rather than the mentality that that tissue is weak and you need to strengthen it more (fyi, this is my philosophy for all tendonitis and to some extent muscle strains). Hope this was helpful and made sense.

    • Hey Anna,
      Great comment! thanks!
      I wrote this post about over a year ago so I can tell you that you’re definitely on to something. I have been having hip issues. I believe it’s a hip stability issue, not a problem with mobility. Still sorting it out.

      I’m also a huge believer in single leg work. And in the idea of looking beyond the site of pain to find the true source of the pain problem. Though the journey to finding the source often takes awhile. Thanks again for your insight! It re-enforces what I’ve been working on lately.

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