Thursday, May 29, 2008

Like a Dog Chasing its Tail

Sometimes I feel like a dog chasing its tail. I keep going around in circles and never quite catching what I want. And who knows maybe I even look a little bit silly. I am trying everything possible to get my running form and training down. Some days I feel on the way to getting things right and then the next day it all falls apart again. What seems to work one day so I can get a good run in, doesn't work the next time I try it. I am trying to get a system of "best of" routines and am using a lot of variety, but the way my body works is getting so unpredictable. So I keep chasing my tail!

I got an 8 mile run in on each day Friday through Monday. Tuesday my hip was way off so I did not run. Wednesday was track. My hips felt in a pretty decent alignment and although somewhat tight I had my best feeling track workout this year. We did 3 sets of 4*400 with a 200 jog in between each 400 and a 400 jog between each set. My times were OK staying under 90 secs for each and getting faster on the last set (down to 86 secs each). Normally I would not be happy with the times, but I was going for keeping my hips in balance and they stayed about the same all of the workout.

Today I could barely jog when I went out for my run. It wasn't any stiffness from the track. I felt fine, but my hips felt rotated and one leg felt higher than the other and I could barely stride with the left leg. I went a mile, tried to stretch, then turned around and headed home. It feels like someone had twisted the tip of the femur into the hip joint and I get the feeling that the IT Band and the TFL was tight on that side as a result or as a cause. Anyhow I felt like a jogger who could not move his legs correctly. I decided to get the heart pumping so I went outside with the kettlebells and did a lengthy mix of swings, snatches, and cleans and presses.

I had been using my minimalistic Puma H Streets on my runs lately and the Saucony Kilkennys on the track. Today I tried running in the Vitruvians again. I think I will retire them. It was too much shoe, particularly with the Sof Sole orthotics in them. I think my feet were not planting on the ground naturally and it was setting off twists and rotations. I may also get rid of the orthotics soon as my right knee feels a bit tender. I rarely have knee problems and don't want to start one.

In my travels around the web, I found an interesting post by Brett Jones called "Movements not Muscles...". I am wondering if Brett's advice for doing the squat and correcting a "caved in knee" posture can help me as I seek to correct my knee rotating in. He suggests focusing in on the movement and not the muscle. That sounds about right. I just have to learn how to do that. I am hoping that my awkward stride is a result of a faulty movement pattern and not a condition I was born with or a problem due to a tight muscle. This is what the neural reprogramming of Z-Health is supposed to do. I realize I need the advice of a Z-Health practitioner and have been in contact with one for a few weeks now trying to get in for an appraisal. Hopefully that will happen soon.

I have been trying to figure out the difference and importance of mobility, stability, and flexibility. It seems most runners work on flexibility. I am trying to add mobility and learning how it fits with stability.

I saw another post on Brett Jones' blog and I remember seeing a breakdown like this somewhere else. I am working on my feet, ankle, hip, knee and back and trying to figure out how they all fit together as they certainly do not work in isolation from each other. Brett writes about how some joints need mobility and some need stability. When one doesn't work right it affects the joints around it. He writes:

"Follow the trail:
Foot = stability
Ankle = mobility
Knee = stability
Hip = mobility
Lumbar/Core = stability
T-spine = mobility
Scapulae = stability
Shoulder = mobility

Now what happens if the foot which is supposed to show stability becomes mobile? The ankle has to become a stability joint instead of being mobile and the knee has to then become mobile (not what it was designed for) and so on..........

This is why you must follow the chain above and below an "injury" and find out if the problem is a mobility or stability problem because the opposite is waiting for you above and below where you are having an "issue".

And now you can see why a restricted shoulder can actually be a stability problem at the feet - just follow the trail....

Does that describe what my legs do? I don't know for sure, but it is the avenue I am pursuing. What if one leg follows a different sequence of mobility and stability than the other. Would you get a person like me whose legs cannot work as partners?

Another thing I am trying as a strength and flexibility move is to do a pistol or one-legged squat. Here is a guy doing a pistol without weights.

It is not as easy as it looks. Here is a tutorial by Steve Cotter on how to do one. He says, "What if I told you that by adding just one exercise to your training repertoire, you would be stronger, more flexible and more coordinated and be able to run faster, jump higher and have overall better health? Would it be worth investing the time to learn and practice? If you answered "Yes", then I have just the exercise for you. The one-leg squat, or aptly named "pistol", is one of the most demanding and beneficial exercises in existence , and the only thing you need to get started is your body and the determination to succeed."

You can find Steve's tutorial here.


Anonymous said...

Hey Jim,

Great blog. You are the ultimate explorer for new stuff for old runners. Thanks to you, I have a kickbike, a Z-Health CD and use the Dorn method regularly. I keep returning here for new ideas.

I first read your stuff over on Lets Run. I also have been running for 4 decades, am a couple of years older than you and always on the lookout for new stuff.

I'd like to offer some feedback and ideas that might help you. You might, in fact, be chasing your tail a little. Even though it's leading you to loads of interesting stuff, you might consider that it's OK for your legs and feet to head in slightly strange directions.

The hips are another story. If they feel all out of whack, then that it something worth fixing. Here are some things that I have found very helpful.

- The Dorn method hip adjustment - I have you to thank for this one. It only takes a few seconds. Do it regularly throughout the day. It doesn't feel like you are doing a lot but I am absolutely sold on its effectiveness.

- Z-Health 4-position hip circles with foot in "rehab position" - also have you to thank....very effective. Function is immediately improved.


- Careful with the Kickbike. As much as I love it, it's quite demanding and I'm finding I can only use it in small, very gentle doses if I want to run well. I ran a track workout the day after a moderately challenging kickbike ride and my lower back and hips tightened up terribly. I noticed the same thing happened to you when you had kickbiked over to the track. Coincidently, it was the exact same day.

- Do this for the hips and lower back: Get a chair with no back. Lie on the ground. Put your legs up on the chair....or other flat surface of similar that your calves are resting comfortably on the chair. Bring your butt up to the chair so that there is almost a 90 degree angle between your waist and your thighs and another 90 degree angle between your thighs and your calves/lower legs. Your back is flat on the ground, your things are almost going straight up and down and your calves on lying flat on the chair. Lie there for 10-15mins....or more or less. My hips settle a little doing this .... almost like gentle traction. Hopefully I'm explaining it correctly. This is my ace in the hole.

- Lunges, one leg-squats, step-ups, leg swings, balance exercises can all help too....done with impeccable form and not to excess. But I find they can do more harm than good if you are little tweaked. Once everything is working OK, this stuff helps you prevent problems and progress with enhanced mobility and power.

So there's some food for thought.

All the best from Hyannis, Cape Cod...
Paul Fendler

Jim Hansen said...

Hi Paul,
Thanks for you great comments. I do remember you from the Letsrun "Aging Runners" thread. You ran Falmouth quite quickly a few years back, correct? Did you eventually sign up for the race this year? Hopefully I am in, and if I am ever rejected in the lottery they have let me in when I request it, so I should be running this summer.

I am glad you are finding useful ideas from my blog. What Kickbike did you get? the Millenium Racer? I really enjoy the kickbike but haven't used it as much as I did a few years ago. You are correct it tightens you up at first, but your body will adjust. I rode heavily a few years ago while running and after awhile I could kick an hour or two and run an hour in the same day pretty consistantly. The few days after I rode it from Nashua, NH to Falmouth things were quite sore, however!

I have got to get back to trying the Dorn Method again That is super that you find it helpful. I hopefully can meet with the Z-Health expert soon to make sure I am doing the correct exercises and in the correct form. Are you doing the exercises slowly? I think I do them too quickly and am not getting the complete benefit I should.

You are right about stretching! I try to do less and less of it. Sometimes I get frustrated (like last night) and spend an hour or so (in the middle of the night)and stretch and foam roll way too hard to try to get things right so I can get to sleep. Then I wake up (like today) a bit bruised and with new tightnesses for being so dumb.
I guess I am just in a bad streak! So today I didn't run and decided to ride my road bike. Two miles from home the air leaked out of the rear tire and that was all the exercise I got for the day.

Hopefully things will calm down soon. I will try that pose. I remember it from Egoscue last summer to see if it will work.

I will also take into consideration your comment about letting the feet do as they want. I think they do have to find there own way. Whenever I try to control them (orthotics) things spin further out of control. I do think it is the hips that I have to fix now as they really feel out of whack.

Anyhow thanks for the comments and advice. Let me know if you find anything else that is helpful that I should try. It really shouldn't take so much effort to run like we did when we were younger!


Anonymous said...


Haven't signed up for Falmouth but I have a little "pull" with the Falmouth folks....being a local and I may end up running. We'll see.

Haven't been racing much these past few years although did run a pretty good Hyannis half in 1:20:03in Feb on a slightly long course.

I bought the Millenium Racer as you suggested. The first week I rode it I was so sore I could barely walk. Then I adapted. But my lower back still tightens up a bit. I ride it more for fun than fitness now. I really love it.

My only real concern about the kickbike is that it is not a cross crawl activity......the left arm does not come forward when the right leg comes forward. It's my understanding that this can confuse and wear down the nervous system. So it's been small doses on the kickbike for me.'re right....that procedure of putting the legs up on a chair while lying on the ground is an Egoscue exercise. It's called static back. I tried Egoscue a while back but actually had been doing static back for years before that. Stumbled onto it by accident. It turned out that Egoscue was just too time-consuming for me. But I kept the static back. Apparently it "un-loads" the spine and hips.

Re Z-Health.....I bought the Quick Start DVD just to see if I'd take to it. There are 4 basic exercises plus a couple of bonus exercises. I kept the hip circles, tossed the toe pull, and do the ankle and thoracic exercises every now and then. I'll often do the hip circles several times a day. I'm probably doing them at a medium speed.....definitely not slowly. I can feel the difference in my hips immediately. I put my foot in the "rehab" position (turned in for me) when I do them.

I try to pick something simple and useful from all these methods and discard the rest. If it gets to complicated or time consuming, I'm not likely to do it and I sometimes get in trouble by screwing up the form or whatever.

That's what I like about the Dorn method. It's quick and simple and very hard to mess up badly. God knows how you ever found it.

One distinct advantage I have had over the years is that I get treated by an applied kinesiologist/chiropractor once every 4-6 weeks. He is very good with athletes and can easily improve any hip alignment problems. I drive a long way to see him because he is so good. But I can't vouch for anyone else.

I'll let you know if I think of anything else......

And good luck with those one-legged pistol squats. Holy crap!

Bye for now,

Jim Hansen said...

Hi Paul,
"Cross Crawl Activity"- wow, I have never heard that phrase before. I'll have to check it out. That is exactly how I feel. I was thinking the other day that my body was like an "X" The bottom arms of the "X" are the legs, the top being the shoulders-arms. There is no "connect" for me. The legs seem to work independently as well as the upper body, but there is no connection where they meet and work together. Sometimes I feel the meeting "or rotation" is happening in the in one hip, sometimes in the lower back on one side, other times a point on the lower rib cage side, others times behind a shoulder blade. Does that make sense? I can move my legs...I can move my arms...but there is no balanced, fluid, connecting point where everything pivots around and together.

It sounds like you have a lot more of this stuff figured out and working for you. I have to get to that point!

I had two new mobility things I tried today that seemed very worthwhile (I'll report later if that is so) as I have been stiff from my late night "stretching" but I am going to head out for a run and see if I can get back into it again.
Where is this kinesiologist/chiropractor you go to? I have a few chiropractor friends but they can just patch me up for a bit and haven't shown me a long term solution. I have never been to a kinesiolgist but they work more whole body and with movement I believe? Is he off the Cape? I too would travel a distance to find someone with good answers. Thanks for the good advice feedback, and information.

Anonymous said...


The cross crawl thing might lead you to some web sites that seem a bit flaky but I can tell you, from personal experience, that you can feel really out of sorts if your nervous system is "switched" or off. It's really easy to repattern. You can do it sitting. Just lift your RIGHT knee the your LEFT elbow and then lift your LEFT knee to your RIGHT elbow. Just repeat a bunch of times (10-15?) and you should be "re-set." Do it regularly as a preventative measure.

Here is some info on it - along with a more thorough remedy for problems:

The kinesiologist I go to is in Katonah, NY.....4 hours from here. I'm originally from Rye, NY and many of my clients are still in that area so I work in visits to doctor with work and visits to family and friends.

Applied kinesiology is different from kinesiology. If you google it, you'll probably find a better explanation of it than I could
ever give. But is a whole body approach - physical, chemical, emotional etc...

Here's one site:

Many folks think its quackery. I would not argue about it. All I can say is that it has not been quackery for me and many friends and family. I've been treated this way for 25 years with wonderful results.

The first person that treated me this way was a Dr Phil Maffetone. He was also a chiropractor who utilized applied kinesiology as his main diagnostic tool. He was very successful. At one point, he became Mark Allen's coach and treated him regularly. Mark then went on to win 6 Hawaiian Ironman triathlons.

The trouble is I can't really vouch for other practitioners. All I know is that applied kinesiology is a very effective tool in the hands of folks that know what they are doing.

I get the feeling that you need some sort of professional to support you. You are trying so many things that if you start feeling strong, you're not going to know what helped and what didn't. That's often been my problem. I changed so many things at once that I didn't know what helped.

But fortunately you seem very tuned in to your body. That helps.

Another thing to just popped into my that muscle imbalances and weaknesses can have a chemical origin. It's not all structural/mechanical. For example, an exhausted adrenal system can cause problems with the soleus, gastrocnemius, sartorius, posterior tibialis and gracilis.

The body is so complex. Even mild dehydration can cause muscle weaknesses which can in turn manifest as bad posture and uneven gait.

I don't think you can figure it all out. But hopefully, with a little common sense, intution and maybe a little professional support, you can keep everything going well enough to feel good.

Sorry to ramble on a bit...and possibly to add even more to your confusion.....

Bye for now,

Jim Hansen said...

Good stuff Paul,
You got me thinking about a lot of things! I checked out "cross crawl" before todays' run. I got it right away (I hope) I will investigate more. Yes, I found the "flaky side" Actually some of the "hits" I found when I searched for it referred to something called "Brain Gym". I ran across this a week ago and haven't had much time to explore it. I was helping to interview a some candidates for a principal position at my school and one lady showed me a "Brain Gym" card she had used at a school. I immediatley noticed some mobility exercises with some other things that supposedly get kids moving but also "charged up" for learning. I was very interested in it and explored a little of it that night and hadn't got back to it. Whether everything it claims was science or psuedoscience is up for debate but it gets kids moving and I want to look into it more. I thought the lady was a great candidate for other reasons and would like to see her at my school next year. Her husband is also in my running club! Anyhow the cross crawl is used in BrainGym as many hits went to that site. I liked the feel of doing the exercise before running today for whatever the reason and the cross connections is certainly an area where my running has lost the plot! It helps to think of it not as an "exercise" for the body- I know I have seen or tried this in the past here or there and it didn't seem hard. When I think of it as something to help the neural pathways, now I see it not for how easy it is but for conditioning the way the body works!

Yeah, Rye NY is quite a haul! Yes I do know of Phil Maffetone. I have his original book, "In Fitness and in Health". He is what I firts thought of when you mentioned applied kinesiology. I remember before the internet message boards there was something called Rec.running (maybe it is still there). He showed up for a while there and I think I e-mailed him a few times with questions and he replied. If I remember some people on rec.running where quite harsh to him and he disappeared.
I do have to change my nutrition. I was the classic skinny guy that ran and could and did eat whatever I wanted. That changed when I hit 40. I cut out more and more and eat better than I did but I have a long way to go. I need to lose my winter weight, but when the running doesn't work, I eat!
Two years ago I got down to my best weight in years by the fall and the running was so easy. I want to get there again. I did order some stuff from a place called "Precision Nutrition". I should get it this week and whatever I take from it I just need to kick start a program into place. I do need to eat healthier food and hopefully this will get me on track.
You may be right about hydration too. As a teacher I can't leave my class when I need to go to the bathroom and when I have a break (somedays it is it 4 hours before I can escape) all the other teachers are lined up to use the rest room. It is not ideal and I purposely do not drink much! I have had 5 calf problems in the past year!

Thanks again for your comments. They are not confusing, but rather keep pointing me in better directions and they seem right on.

Anonymous said...


I came across this article that was written from a very competent applied kinesiologist and I thought of you.....

Might be of interest......

Also, thought I'd mention I purchased that sacro-aligner from Thomas Zudrell - Dorn method fellow. It came a couple of days ago. I've used it twice and like it very, very much. Hips and sacrum feel very good after use.....a lot more free-moving. Of course, that's just my subjective impression.

Thanks for leading me to all of this....


Jim Hansen said...

Hi Paul,
I was looking at that sacro -aligner. I was wondering if it was basically similar to a sacro-wedgie. I have one of those lying around that I got years ago. Have you tried one of those? It didn't always seem to have the intended effect. Let me know how it goes with that. I may have to try it.
I was taking a second look at the Dorn self-help exercises last night. I am not sure I am putting my hand on the correct spots to do the exercises. I have to read more carefully to do them right.

As to the kinesiologist article. I do like minimalistic shoes. Most shoes feel uncomfortable to me now except the Puma H-Streets. I haven't found a shoe to run in that I like. I want it flat, low, and with no doodads.

Do kinesiologists work with the function of the foot? I notice that my left foot (with the wonky knee and hip)has a weird contact with the ground. It seems the bones under the foot pad on the outside of the foot contact the ground but don't do what my other foot does. This seems to keep the big toe side higher and off the ground and sets pronation into play becasue it seems "stuck" or locked into place (although it never hurts!). I guess instead of rolling forward my foot gets pushed over to the inside. Now whether the hip causes the toes to act funny or the toes cause the hip to do weird things I can't figure out.

Last Fall I started cutting out a section of the insoles of my feet under this bone out of my shoe. I had some very comfortable runs and some great track workouts where I was raving how I felt balanced and just flew through workouts. I could never get the insoles felling just right on either side though and didn't know if I might be causing some other damage so somewhere after a month of so I stopped. A PT I was seeing at the time for my hip released me as she thought I had solved my problems by doing this. I remember I felt more in contact with the ground across the foot when I ran. Actually I can't remember why I stopped. Maybe I couldn't get the cutout size just right (I went through a lot of insoles). Anyhow there could just be a malfunction in the foot!

Actually that's why I think the cheapo orthotic things I have in my shoe seem comfortable. They give more support and height to the arch and inside of my foot.

I just don't want to go to podiatrists because "orthotics" always seem to be the answer. But if a kinesiologist looks at how the foot works in relation to the whole body that would be interesting. I will have to read some of the articles on that site.
Thanks for the tips.

Jim Hansen said...

I have read some of the articles on that site. Some gait and injury issues could be diet or hormone/gland issues. Interesting!

I got the "precision nutrition" stuff in the mail yesterday. There is a lot to read. But it looks like good healthy eating. I know I eat horribly in the winter: ice cream, cookies, carbs! ect! I bet some of my problems (non-mechanical) are diet related. I can't wait to start healthier eating. That makes sense as the past few years I have a horrible spring and then as summer rolls around, I can run more and I do eat better and less! I feel real good by October. Then there is a less sunlight for running and holidays and I fall out of shape and feel horrible in the Spring. My last 5k was on Thanksgiving and I almost broke 18 minutes. I would be 1-2 minutes slower now, I am sure.
Two years ago I decided to run the Baystate Marathon literally the night before the race. It just looked llike such nice weather. I had a lot of mileage (50-70 miles per week for months) but no long runs over 16 miles at all. I took the first half easy- even waited in line for a porta john without worrying and then started picking up the pace at the half and got faster each mile untill I finished in 3:09 something. The next day I did 8 miles without any fatigue or stiffness. Two days later I had my best track workout of the year staying ahead of all runners on my team and felt great! I ran a decent 10K that weekend. And two weeks after Baystate did another "easy" marathon in Falmouth. Again a 3:09 running the second half much faster (despite 50mph wind gusts- actually they were great coming down surf drive in the last few miles!). I took a day off the next day (minor stiffness) but was on schedule with workouts the two days after the marathon and the next weekend ran a X-C 8K in my fastest time over the distance in years. But guess what? I was at the lowest weight I had been at in many years due to reduced and healthy eating. I ran Boston in April just months later with my hips in pain and stiffness and had to force myself to a 4 hour marathon finish. Looking back a winter of bad eating may have helped do me in (Although I did have bronchitus before the race and did not run a step in the 11 days before Boston).
I guess I can't eat like a teenager anymore! Anyhow I do have to study, eat better, and learn from my mistakes. I shouldn't feel so stiff and awkward after easy workouts when I can do marathons and recover so quickly at other points of the year! AHH my head is exploding as there is too much to think about!

Anonymous said...


Yes....I had the sacro wedgy. Actually, I just lent it to friend. I got one well over 10 years ago to help with a nagging case of piriformis syndrome. I liked it but the improvements were subtle. It wasn't a cure all but I felt it had some benefit.

The sacro aligner feels a lot like the sacro wedgy but it's more sophisticated and seems to be significantly more effective. My sacrum itself feels much freer after using the sacro aligner. You can use it another ways as well... like for moving it to different places in the body. I'm delighted with it but I haven't a clue how someone else might do with it. I like to think I'm sensitive to even small changes in my body but who knows?

I don't really know why, but I'm clicking with the Dorn stuff and the sacro aligner is product invented by a Dorn practitioner Thomas you know. I like the simplicity and gentleness of the Dorn method. It just feels right. And I'm not really trying to figure it all out. Also, I'm really happy to just get small improvements.

As for applied kinesiology (AK), the practitioners I use have always treated the function of the foot. In fact, most of the relatively minor problems I have had over the years have stemmed from a loss of function in the foot. More specifically, the most common cause of any ailments I have had over the years has been a jammed talus bone. This has caused minor calf strains, achilles & foot soreness, knee pain and poor gait. But it's really easy to diagnose and remedy.....for a capable least the few that I have been treated by. It's a very simple adjustment. Sometimes it also requires taping as well as nutritional support. It's a little hard to explain. You sort of have to experience it.

I must tell you many folks think AK is complete and total BS. They do not believe in the validity of muscle testing.....which is the foundation of AK. They explain what it is here.....better than I can:

I must confess that I'm one of those people that doesn't necessarily need something to be proven before I believe it. I just try it and if I feel it's working, I stick with it.....regardless of whether or not I know why. I'll also dump it quickly if it doesn't work for me....or if I feel it is no longer useful.

I'm right with you on the minimal shoes. For the most part, haven't worn anything but racing flats for 20 years. And it really is hard to find good models. I end up rotating a bunch of them.....Nike Katana Racer3, Asics Bandito, Nike Katana name a few...always looking....

Running is extremely weight sensitive. I imagine a lot of the slowing down as you get older comes because of additional weight. I have a couple of friends that have done really well (sub 35 10k's) since they turned 50 and both are very thin. In fact they are lighter than they have ever been. I've also stayed about the same weight and I think it's helped.

You know....for all the talk about your stride being off.....your times are excellent for your age far as I can are aging really well. It doesn't appear like you've had all that much of a drop-off as you have gotten older. So you must be doing something very right.

Part of me sort of wants you to keep thinking your stride is all messed up.....even if you do find a remedy...or two. I'd hate to see you lose any of your enthusiasm for finding new things......just kidding....sort of...

I think those 4th graders must be keeping you young....

All the best,

Jim Hansen said...

I am going back and rereading the Dorn book again and slowly trying to do the exercises properly. I noticed that some of the exercises that I do are note recommended by the Dorn Method.
When school gets out I will have to look more into applied kinesiology, particularly if they can explain or fix my foot (see my last post).
The banter has been good. I am learning just as much from you.