Quick and Dirty Review of MobilityWod’s Supernova

When I first came across this beastly ball, called the Supernova on Rogue’s website, there were barely any reviews on the internet at the time. I think I only found one somewhat helpful YouTube video review back then. Now, if you google something along the lines of “MobilityWod Supernova review”, there are many that come up. Also, take note that since then, MobilityWod has come up with a 2nd version and an option for a smaller size. You can check out the details on Rogue’s website. Hopefully I can bring something different to the table, so here’s my experience with the first version of the Supernova.

When I first saw it, I was bewildered. I already owned a Pro Tec foam roller, Travel Roller’s kit that included their acupressure balls and other various balls from tennis, lacrosse, golf and softball. I found that the softball was the perfect size for working on my hamstrings. A lacrosse or tennis ball was always too small for rolling, but good for trigger point release. What got me the most curious about the Supernova was its edges, which was supposed to be able to really grab onto skin and help dig deeper into the underlying fascia, as explained by Dr. Kelly Starrett of MobilityWod. If I recall correctly, during its release, it was $40 or so, and with a slightly different design on the ball compared to the ones currently sold. At the time, I got very close to purchasing it, but decided not to due to the price.

Fast forward to a patient that came to see one of the chiropractors that I work with. He suffered from low back pain and I taught him foam rolling for hamstrings, glutes, etc., among other things. At some point, he came back and talked about how the pain in his back had disappeared thanks to- you guessed it, the Supernova. He said that he had gone to Fitness Depot and asked about foam rollers. The employee told him that of all SMR (self myofascial release) tools, he recommended the Supernova. (N.B. Only Rogue sells it, so he wasn’t trying to market on behalf of Fitness Depot.) When it finally got delivered to the patient’s house, he started rolling his hamstrings and his back pain disappeared. He was convinced that the Supernova was really efficient at releasing his muscles and he really encouraged me to buy it. Unfortunately, the price had risen since its release, but I was convinced. On a subsequent visit later, this patient also told me how he was trying to roll his upper back without a shirt on, and the edges actually broke his skin while he was rolling! That was surprising, but it proves how it’s no joke with the skin grabbing.

A physiotherapist that I work with, and one that I see myself, was also convinced about the Supernova after she tried rolling with it. She had been struggling with a hamstring strain for quite some time and I had lent her my Supernova to try. She was surprised about how well it dug into her hamstrings! She said that since her strain, it felt like the closest thing to having a practitioner really work into her hamstrings with their thumbs, finally getting into the spots that would have been central to her tear and subsequent scar tissue adhesions.

If those two stories haven’t convinced you, here are a couple of things that I like about the Supernova.

As you can see, the Supernova is actually a bit bigger than a softball. But it’s still the perfect size to use. I mostly use it for hamstrings, glutes, adductors and sometimes calves or QLs (quadratus lumborum). I’ve tried rolling my quads with it, but rolling them with a foam roller is already never fun, so let’s say, rolling with the Supernova on my quads is always short lived.

On my kitchen scale, I measured it to be just over 625 grams, which would be approximately equivalent to nearly 1.5 lbs. It does add weight to my gym bag, which can be a bit of an issue sometimes, coming from a commuting student that usually carries a heavy backpack. But the weight also helps prevent the ball from slipping on the floor and it feels solid when you really put pressure into it.

This is probably the greatest feature of the Supernova, akin to the Rumble Roller and its edges compared to conventional smooth foam rollers. This design really allows you to dig into underlying tissues and exert more pressure than other balls. I know it’s all still debatable how effective foam rolling truly is and if you’re actually doing much other than applying pressure and friction on tissue. Maybe I’m not being scientifically correct, but I’d like to believe that it does help with grabbing onto skin, shearing underlying tissues and ultimately getting things to glide better underneath as they should. Plus, it’s really nice to use for your feet as well while working at the desk.

There’s no question about the hefty price, especially once you include shipping and tax (depending on where you live). I’ve had my Supernova for almost a year now and I’ve used it at the gym, at home on wooden flooring and carpet. So far, it’s held up great and I can’t see it really deteriorating much over the next couple of years. I think you definitely get your money’s worth in quality, so durability should be no problem. Some reviews on Rogue’s website comment on some durability issues with the first version of the Supernova, but so far I haven’t had any issues. There may be some signs of wear on some of the edges on the ball, but it still grabs on well and I don’t have any concerns.

I’m in no way affiliated with Rogue or MobilityWod, but I am a big fan of Dr. Kelly Starrett. If you ask yourself whether you really need the Supernova, consider if you’re happy with the tools that you have access to now. If you are satisfied with what you have and with your current recovery after workouts, then no you don’t need to invest in this additional ball. As an athlete myself, it’s hard to turn down “the latest gadget” that will really help take my recovery and thus performance, to the next level. If you’ve had a history of hamstring strains like I have, it may be worth it to consider the Supernova. There’s nothing like it that can get up right near the hamstring origin. Ooooohh man, it’s a winner when it comes to that. I hope this was an insightful review about MobilityWod’s Supernova.

PS. If you’re wondering about what that “Alpha” ball is, in the picture under “SIZE”, it’s from Jill Miller‘s Yoga Tune Up. Her therapy balls have also been a game changer for me and have won the appreciation of some patients that I’ve worked with. I’ll probably include her balls in a future blog post when I comment on my “go-to’s” in my self care / recovery arsenal.


MTSS or Stress Fracture? Does it Really Matter?


Photo by Steel City Hobbies obtained from Wikimedia Commons

It feels so good to be able to progress from a red to green theraband and from couch surfing (+some suuuper easy stationary bike) to pool running last Monday. When I tried to actually swim a couple of strokes, my foot let me know that it wasn’t a good idea. But I was incredibly stoked about being able to pool run on Monday. I was also able to start walking barefoot with next to no pain (just going downstairs sparked some pain spontaneously) last weekend. Fast forward to this weekend, I am so thankful to have been able to attempt a 10x1min run/walk (with walking warm up). My left foot was a bit sore from riding to work with cycling shoes for the first time on Saturday in a couple of weeks. So after 8.5 minutes, I called it quits. BUT, I was able to get past the muscle guarding and fear, as I worked into my 5th rep and really felt like I was running smoothly again. I’m surely not out of the woods yet, but if it’s anything like my limited shuttle run workouts coming off my Lgr2+ hamstring strain, I think I’ll be back soon. (Fingers crossed.)

But while pool running for 30 minutes on Monday, I thought about what I learned at the running injuries course, as mentioned in my previous blog post. JF had talked about whether it was truly important to differentiate between MTSS (medial tibial stress syndrome) and a tibial stress fracture. If symptoms were the same, ie. same sort of stage in the injury, why would he need to send his patient for a bone scan, wasting money and increasing radiation sort of exposure, if his treatment would be identical regardless of the diagnosis? Most patients and competitive athletes might want to know anyway, just so they have something concrete that they can google and hopefully have a timeline for return to activity. However, I think JF has a point.

I for sure don’t have a stress fracture or MTSS. It’s likely just dysfunctional foot alignment and weakness in the structures. And my newest theory is that it’s glute amnesia, which was already sort of affecting my left glute in relation to my right shoulder dynamic instability near the end of my triathlon training last summer. The hours spent writing papers and then right into studying for finals might have just made it worse. And when I walked and ran especially, too much load and torque was put onto my left foot. But anyways, it kind of almost felt as if I had a stress fracture while I was pool running. It’s been about 4 weeks with this injury that came out of no where in the tail end of my finals before I even started to run, which obviously exacerbated it. Only last weekend was I been have to walk barefoot without much pain, after my fifth metatarsal was adjusted by the locum chiropractor I was working with. And my rehab has been kind of similar, as if I had a stress fracture, in trying to return to running.

I really wanted to try a walk run workout today to get my foot stimulated. This way, as JF really stressed, my foot can begin to adapt to the stress and the structures in my foot can receive stimulus to promote healing and strengthening. Similarly, as I mentioned, it’s probably why 2nd hamstring strain (also grade 2+ but opposite leg and ~6 months apart) recovered much faster than my 1st strain. I started a shuttle run protocol as soon as I could (as per the SFU varsity physiotherapist) and I recovered much, much faster even though when I initially started, I felt like I was running through maple syrup. My muscles weren’t firing as well as usual, so I felt like I was stuck in slow mo and my ROM (range of motion) was very limited. I felt insanely awkward like I wasn’t accomplishing much, but my body was very much fatigued after each workout. Thus the shuttle runs helped stimulate my hamstring to heal and got me back to running form quicker than when I didn’t do much of anything after my 1st strain.

Currently, even though my physiotherapist and I haven’t been able to pinpoint the exact “mechanism”  that led to this injury, what’s clear is that my left glute isn’t firing well in proportion to other muscles. And, the instability (and weakness) in my left foot is still present. So I’ve been patient and religiously working on my foot strength, proprioception and now glute strength. Nothing exciting, just trying to get my motor control and feet strength back.

It’s really all about getting back to the basics, especially after being affected by an injury for this long. I decided to test out my eccentric heel drops last week, and found that my left calf had ridiculously weak motor control that was nearly half of the control in my right calf. I’ve already been doing this for less than 7 days and today I could tell that the asymmetry has decreased. I’ve also been training a 2xMVA (motor vehicle accident) client at the gym for over 8 months now. Although her core and leg strength have gone up considerably, her neck and shoulder issues have been flaring up again the last while. As she is very aware of her own body, even she suggested to go back to basics. We’ve been working on a lot of scapular clocks lately for proprioception and motor control.

During the time that I was rehabbing my shoulder(s) (left was also a bit unstable), I was initially limited to glenohumeral centering and scapular control. I did this supine, then standing with therabands. -Next to people attempting to deadlift with good form, and with weight that was less than my warm up. I then came up with this phrase to help keep me patient and motivated: “Regress to Reinforce, Progress to Propel.” Following any injury, it’s wise to recheck your foundation. Is that transverse abdominis firing as it should? What about the big trouble maker, glutes? My good friend and former coworker, who is an RMT and fellow kinesiology student, came up with another good one in parallel: “Simple to Stabilize, Complex to Challenge. – Christin Sadler.

So I think no matter what injury you suffer from and no matter what the “true diagnosis” is, whether it’s MTSS vs. stress fracture, you have to start from the bottom and make sure that the foundation is there before you progress. This will lead to a more steady return to activity and less chance of re-injury. With that being said, no matter how long it takes, single leg box jumps, I’m comin’ for you!

How to Maximize Your Recovery Post-Treatment

“Sometimes serious injury is a great thing for an athlete. It provides the chance to rebuild everything they never had in the first place.” – Charlie Weingroff

I wish I could say that this was me right now 

but as it stands, or rather, as I sit, this is more like me. 

It’s not a serious injury, such as a stress fracture, but it’s a mysterious “chicken or the egg” injury. The only thing that’s clear is that I never rebuilt the foundation in my left foot that I’ve needed to, likely within the last 2 years. In January 2014, I had the most glorious, close to “runner’s high” 16K long run (on sidewalks). I felt good going out for 8K, then coming back I started to feel an ache in my left arch. No biggy, I kept running and I felt good despite that growing ache. I felt fantastic after I got home, all except for the fact that my foot was now swollen and I could barely bear weight on my foot. What happened? Well, I sprained structures within my medial longitudinal arch, without acute trauma, just from the magnitude of foot falls on pavement. Once my foot healed I didn’t end up running much in that spring semester due to other reasons. In the summer, I found myself riding and swimming more than running while training for my first triathlon. And here I am. I lacked stability then, and I lack it now. I’m unfortunately not hitting the roads or trails, training for Squamish 23K at the end of August. I’ve got a lax subtalar joint and lack of ligamentous strength that would reaaaallly be needed on the trails. So in one sense, I’m thankful that this is happening now, as opposed to a few weeks out from the race. In another sense, the bang to start my summer semester was to soak up the sun and train hard. Well, if you’re forced to couch surf like me, and desperate to get back to good health and action, here are some ways to maximize your recovery post-treatment.

If you want to get the most bang for your buck after seeing any therapist, be it an RMT (registered massage therapist), physiotherapist, etc., what you do immediately following your appointment matters. Think about this. If you’re seeking treatment due to chronic injury, you’ve most likely built muscular/fascial compensation patterns leading to your dysfunction. It takes adjustments, needles, massage, etc., to try to break that pattern and reset the nervous system so you can lay down new, better patterns to lead you to improved health. (Cue active rehabilitation exercises).

So how can you maximize your recovery post-treatment?

Drink Up
Most practitioners will advise you to drink plenty of water following a treatment and in the days after. Why? Well the body is made up mostly of water and it’s widely used as a transport mechanism to flush out the metabolites and toxins that hopefully got released when you were getting worked on. My wording may not be scientifically accurate, but essentially, we want to flush out the bad waste and replenish tissues with water and help bring in nutrients. It follows the same principles of why you would want to rehydrate following a workout. When you exercise you stress the body. When you are receiving thumbs, needles, metal Graston tools into sore tissues, that’s stress too. So in the same way, hydrating after treatments is just as important.

Get Sleep
This would make most sense but it’s also something we easily ignore. Sleep is when the body can optimally repair. I remember reading about this on the internet in highschool when I was desperate to get better from my injury. Some article stated the importance of sleep under “Treatment”, so I immediately told my friends that I couldn’t keep talking on MSN and I slept super early. When your body is weaker than usual, trying to heal tissues, your overall body could use some extra ZzZs. The body always has healing to do from every day stresses, but with an injury, there’s additional damage control that it must deal with. Thus if you want to get reap the most benefits and get better faster following a treatment, it would make sense to get a good night’s rest and in the following days.

Now you must think we’re talking about recovering from a workout, not a treatment where it should have made you already better in the first place. But if you’ve suffered a muscle strain or tear, would it not make sense to also have good nutrients to create new tissue? Even if you’ve sustained a stress fracture, the body needs the proper balance of minerals and vitamins to build new bone. Most, if not all, of the vital nutrients that we need come from our diet. My former teammate in first year told me how if he felt slight muscle twinges (preluding to a blown-out strain) during practice, he’d make sure to eat extra protein and carbohydrates. And somehow, it would seem to help and he’d be good as new. Obviously it doesn’t really work, but when I was super desperate to bounce back from my grade 2+ hamstring strain, I was willing to try anything. Nevertheless, the concept is still important; if you want your body to heal, you need to provide it with a steady amount of good nutrients.

Keep Your Cool
If you let your stress levels peak after a treatment, it won’t help the healing process. Obviously this is a difficult thing for people that need to return to work, to taking care of the family, etc. But ideally you would try to keep things on the down low so your nervous system can hone in on your physical ailments and let the healing take place. If your mental state affects your exertion levels in a workout, then it will also do the same for your recovery. I’ve experienced first hand how mental stress can really put a damper on physical recovery. In addition, I get many questions from people asking if they can crosstrain or do other strenuous activity so long as it doesn’t flare their injury up. It depends on what stage of their injury they are at. Generally if it’s acute or they just received a huge treatment, then my two cents is this: in the immediate days, relax and let your body absorb the good changes elicited from the treatment. I always thought if you worked your other body parts really hard, then you’d be taking your nervous system’s attention away from the injured location. It would panic and be confused about which body part to focus its recovery on. Steve Magness found that having his athletes relax in a social environment immediately after workouts improved their recovery.

All of this is just about optimizing your healing and recovery to get you back to feeling better sooner. These minute details aside from making an appointment, attending the appointment and working with your therapist to solve your issue(s), and following their directions eg. ice/heat, exercises, are just things you might want to think about when trying to reap the most benefit from your treatments. It might also help you feel active in your rehab when you’re supposed to just couch surf and be passive. Most of the time, you get sore the day(s) after a treatment, just as you would from a workout. So why not take care of yourself in the same way as you would after a hard workout?Currently, I’m making sure that all of those are on point, doing banded rearfoot eversions religiously among other things that I can do without pain, and looking to rebuild the foundation that’s been missing in my left foot.

If you’ve made it this far, thanks so much for stopping by and giving up your generous time to read. I’m influenced by great blogs by strength coaches, such as Tony Gentilcore, Eric Cressey, Jon Goodman and Dean Somerset, just to name a few. They are able to elegantly present evidence-based facts, while sharing their opinion and humor, which make it really enjoyable to read. I hope I can mimic that to some degree, where my blogs are insightful, helpful and enjoyable to read at the same time. The main content here will likely just be some reviews and my thoughts about things. Examples of what you can expect from me in the next while are: reviews and my 2 cents on my arsenal of recovery tools such as MobilityWod’s Supernova or the R8 Roller; Why I Came to Love CrossFit, But Will Likely Never Crossfit Myself and 6 Things that CrossFit Games Athletes Taught Me.