Sunday, June 5, 2016

Minimalist Muscle Activation: Crush Structural Imbalances, Find Clarity in Your Movement, and Live Pain-Free and Strong Now and in the Future by Sean Schniederdjan

Minimalist Muscle Activation: Crush Structural Imbalances, Find Clarity in Your Movement, and Live Pain-Free and Strong Now and in the Future is a new ebook by Sean Schiederdjan. I just bought my copy last night and took a quick look through it. Sean usually promotes some interesting movements in each of his many books and this one includes some old and new material. What I like is that it is simple, but covers a lot of the body parts that might need work. I am always up for some new ideas, so I look forward to trying out some of Sean's moves.

As Sean says, you can find hundreds of books on stretching on Amazon, but only three books on muscle activation. I am not sure if I have any books primarily trying to teach muscle activation (I do have 2 cds), although looking at some of these moves, I think it just might be what you are calling what you do. Do not confuse these movements with Muscle Activation Technique. I did go through many sessions of MAT and it was costly and only benefited me in the short term. MAT involves testing, small movements, and retesting. The movements are done while lying down and you need a practitioner to help you. I think Sean's moves are more about loading and firing your muscles. You might find this an inexpensive way to think about your muscles in a new way, help out some weak muscles or movement problems, or deal with imbalances.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Two great stretches for the glutes and the piriformis

Here Matt Hsu of Upright Health demonstrates a glute stretch that hits the spot! Most stretches I do irritate my glutes. This one can hit where I feel real tight without the irritation the next day. The stretch starts a little after the 2:30 mark.

YogaJP starts with a similar glute stretch to the one Matt shows, but this more well-known version irritates my glutes. However, after the glute stretch she goes into a piriformis stretch (about 1:45)  that for some reason works for me. I don't know if it helps the hips or low back along with the piriformis, but this one feels good to me too!

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Gun Runners: A Story about Friends, Guns, and Running

This is an interesting new documentary that was played at a Canadian Film Festival over the weekend

When it comes to world-class marathon runners, Kenyans are considered the cream of the crop. Particularly those from Kenya’s Rift Valley. These athletes have won marathons in London, New York and Berlin, and have set countless world records. But some of Kenya’s top runners aren’t running for fame and fortune. Some are wanted warriors, running for their lives. For years, Julius Arile and Robert Matanda thrive among the roaming bands of warriors that terrorize the North Kenyan countryside. By the time they reach their mid-twenties, stealing cattle, raiding and running from the police is the only life they know. So when both warriors suddenly disappear from the bush, many of their peers assume they are dead or have been arrested. Instead, they trade in their rifles for sneakers—in the hopes of making it big as professional marathon runners. Years of fleeing from the police have prepared the men for running marathon distances, but do they have what it takes to overcome the corruption, mistrust and jealousy that threaten to derail their careers? Or will they give up on their dreams and return to a life of easy power and money? Told entirely by its central characters, Gun Runners is the American Dream, Kenyan-style.
From the Toronto Film Scene:
Gun Runners is an inspiring and incredible story which follows two notorious warriors and former cattle rustlers in Northern Kenya who give up their weapons to run in marathons. As part of a government sponsored program to disarm in conflict heavy regions, these once notorious warriors are given a chance to pursue their dreams of becoming professional marathon runners.
The film follows Matanda and Arile, who are looking to put their violent pasts behind them and pursue a positive path that will benefit the future of their family, livelihood and this conflict ridden region of Kenya. The audience is guided through a linear progression of events and sees Arile enter international marathons, while Matanda gets involved in the political sphere and dreams of working towards policy change.
Anjali Nayar directs a thoughtful and memorable story about leaving violent conflict behind to pursue personal passions. The documentary is set in Kenya’s picturesque Great Rift Valley which is a noted area for international arms trading and marathon running.
Gun Runners gives a face to the complexities and personal struggles in war and conflict, yet becomes an inspiring story of self perseverance in attaining a greater sense of self. 

From Hot Docs

This touching and poignant film follows two of the most notorious warriors and cattle rustlers in Northern Kenya who trade in their weapons for sneakers, as part of a government-sponsored program, to pursue their dream of becoming professional marathon runners. Filmed over eight years, Matanda and Arile face financial challenges, fierce competition and family pressure as they struggle to put their violent pasts behind them. A lot is at stake for both of them, and the whole world is watching. Set in Kenya's astoundingly beautiful Great Rift Valley, an area famous for both its international arms trade and its champion runners, and told entirely from Matanda's and Arile's points of view, Gun Runners puts a face on a nation's valiant attempts to embrace both tradition and modernity. Lynne Fernie

Here is an a longer favorable review.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Rollga: Is this the best foam roller ever made?

I have so many different kinds of foam rollers, massage sticks and balls for rolling that I could set up my own PT practice!They live all throughout my house in corners and closets and under beds, but I am always curious about new designs and whether there can ever be a better foam roller. A couple of weeks ago, I noticed an interesting and new version of a foam roller called the Rollga. I "had" to order one to give it a try and I do find it easier and more comfortable to use. It is like having massage balls mixed together with a roller. It does make it easier to target areas like a massage type ball does, without getting squirrely as it can be hard to maintain contact on the muscle you are trying to work on. I also notice that in the depressions of the roller, so much more muscle gets worked on. It feels really good on the quads and lower legs. I am not so sure on the back. I overdid it the first day using it, but that is probably more due to its effectiveness at hitting muscles and I loosened up some that were trying to hold my out-of -whack body together. There are three models: the silver Genesis which is a  lower priced softer roller, the blue ISO model, and the black Pro-series model which has a harder surface. I got the Pro model. There are good discounts currently on the Rollga website, but they are cheaper on Amazon (plus you get a carrying strap-which costs an extra $1.95 on the website).

Rollga has a Youtube channel with videos on how to use the roller on different muscle groups including a video showing a large truck rolling over one and then popping back into shape. Here is their user guide and how-to use-guide.

What is the best foam roller you have used?


Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Resistance Band Work for Flexibility and Mobility

Despite not looking like a skinny runner, this guy gives some great tips and pointers-along with excellent reasoning.

This one is suburb for me. I put the band around a bedpost and wrap it around the top of my legs. It really get you working on the glutes and a proper hip hinge.

This one is great for my foot. It helps keep my foot for rotating out further than it already does.

I am working on this and still evaluating it for use on my hip joint (due to arthroscopic surgery), but it is a better explanation than other videos I have followed for opening up my tight hip joint.

This one is a killer for me. I did it one night and felt good, but the next morning my lower back and hip was so tight I could barely put my shoes on. It did seem to target some weak lower back muscles, so I will keep working on this to see how I progress.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Is this your running personality?

The results of this study  on runners sounds about right!
"The Cattell 16 Personality Factor Questionnaire showed that the subjects were significantly more intelligent, imaginative, reserved, self-sufficient, sober, shy, and forthright than the general population."
The study did come out in 1977. That was the year I ran my first marathon and the results seem somewhat similar to my personality. I wonder if the results would be the same today if they studied today's type of runner? Here is another quote:
"Middle-aged runners and joggers either possess or develop high levels of self-sufficiency and imagination and tend toward introversion in their personality makeup. It is not known for sure if these factors are a result of or a casual factor in their habitual exercise pattern."

Does this study ring true for anyone else?

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Going to be heading up Mt. Washington on my ElliptiGO!

First off, I was a bit disappointed that there would be no east coast ElliptiGO race this year to get me hyped up and training harder. The previous three New England races were a blast and got me in a competitive mode that I so enjoy and miss! I do understand that it takes a lot of work to put on a quality race and that things did not work out this year, so I had to find a new challenge.

2013 ElliptiGO End of Summer Classic
2014 ElliptiGO End of Summer Classic
2015 ElliptiGO Spring Classic

Sure, I will be doing more centuries and trying to break the 6 hour barrier, but that is a different kind of intensity. I could go out to the Mt. Palomar ElliptiGO World Championships  in the fall, but that is way out of my price range (although some year I hope to make it to the race). I started thinking it would be cheaper to do a race in my own back yard of New Hampshire and that would be to ride my ElliptiGO in one of the two bike races up Mt. Washington. Then I saw how incredibly expensive the race entry fees were. Further research showed that one of the two races, Newton's Revenge, would not be held this year, so that left the Mt. Washington Hill Climb  held on August 20. Two ElliptiGO riders rode in the Newton's Revenge event in 2010 so if I wanted to bite the bullet and try out this race, I thought it best to ask first if I could ride my ElliptiGO before committing to the race and paying for the entry. I was told I would be OK for riding since it had been done before and that they would keep no official records- they also allow tandems and  unicycles- with no records, but even better, they added an ElliptiGO category to the race- you can even see it on the entry form. With thanks, I sent in my entry fee and at least one other rider is joining me. I hope to see more this year as I am sure this will be a one-time deal for me and the more the merrier.

2010 Newton's Revenge results (unofficial ElliptiGO record held by Bryce Whiting):
Newton’s Revenge, Mt. Washington, NH7.6 miles, 4727 ft of gainMale7/11/2010Bryce Whiting1:54:22
ElliptiGO inventor Bryan Pate finished 7 minutes later.

I have two goals for the race:
1) finish within 20 minutes of my fastest run up the hill (who even knows if this is possible)
2) ride all the way up without stepping down off of my ElliptiGO.

I have ridden up Pack Monadnock twice now and it has a steeper section than Mt. Washington.
The first time up, I had to put my foot down as I was tired from trying to blast up it as a 10 mile "race"effort on the old Pack Monadnock Road Race course.The next year I made it to the top without putting my foot down, but it was terribly hard to keep moving and balanced on the steeper sections!

2013 first ride up Pack Monadnock

1996 Mt. Washington Road Race 76th place 1:22:23 nearing the summit.
I have been up the mountain many times before, mostly in the Mt. Washington Road Race. When I was about 10 years old, my family drove to the top and down in our 1962 Chevy 2 wagon that was falling apart. It was quite an achievement for that car.

Me Planning further adventures up the mountain 47 years ago!
Family trip to the summit in 1969.
People were astounded that our old 1962 Chevy 2 Wagon made it to the top.

But it did!
With my mom and siblings.
Cog Railway at the summit.
Summit view.

I am sure I will have to add some hills to my training and change my gears so I have a lower range for the steep climbing. Who know what it will bring, but it should be fun in its own crazy way!

My running times at the Mt. Washington Road Race:

1992 1:32:19
1996 1:22:05
1996 1:22:23
1997 1:33:08
2000 1:33:21
Then I got smart and stopped racing.

So now I have something to look forward to (or regret).

Photos from 2014 trip up Pack Monadnock: From FB post:
Made it to the top of Pack Monadnock on the auto road without dismounting my ElliptiGO (last fall I had to stop and walk a few seconds as I was riding as hard as I could to race 10 miles to the top and was puking up air before the real climb even started). The auto road is 1.3 miles long and gains 788 feet with an average grade of 11.9% and a max grade of 20+% (steeper than Mt. Washington, I have heard which is at 22% max and 12% average). It is a beast, but first I had to ride 30 miles to get there and then 30 back home.