Sunday, June 15, 2008

Things to Try, Think About, or Save for Later

Here are some things I have been just starting to experiment with or they are ideas I am looking into but I don't have the time to pursue fully at this point. Others are things I have bookmarked in the past but forgot about and they seem worthy to try at some time. I will save them here for future reference.

The first thing is something I have tried on my last two runs. The idea comes from author Matt Fitzgerald's blog article More Stretch, Less Strain. He writes about pressing his hips forward while he runs to help deal with tight hip flexors. I have heard about doing this before, but I find it hard to visualize what to do. I was having a sloppy run on Friday, so I tried to "press forward". I am sure I got it wrong at first and felt like my belly was leading things. Eventually it shifted down to pressing forward from the lower hip area near where the fibula inserts. It seemed to need it more on the right side. I started feeling better and less restricted (although I could be doing something very different than Matt). The right side of my body (hip and shoulder) always seem to be slightly behind the left side (hence the balance problems). Anyhow the run started going better and at times things moved into a smooth and wuick running alignment. I ended up running about a minute faster than I have on my 8 miler thanI have in months. I tried it again on Saturday and again it was hard to keep pushing forward all the time but it felt a bit easier and I took another minute off my time. I will keep playing around with this proprioceptive cue. Matt says it is simply "running tall".

The next thing I need to try is called a Foot Pad Release. This comes from an out of print book I have called "The Athletic Ritual" by Kate Montgomery. I have been wondering about the balance of my left foot on the ground. These release moves are supposed balance the three pads on the bottom of the feet (ball, side, and heel). With foot stability you can run and exercise more easily and avoid knee, hip, and back problems. According to the author you can restore stability and balance throughout the body by releasing these pads. The book has pictures and directions but I found this: Oh My Aching Feet by Kate Montgomery which explains the directions just as well.

This book has some other interesting and unorthodox approaches that I have tried in the past of have been looking at recently. There are breathing exercises, energy balancing exercises, acupressure points for increased energy and performance, stretching, visualization, and releases for the diaphragm and sacrum. I have explored some of these a few years ago. Sometimes they seemed like they worked a bit, but I can't vouch for anything long term for these ideas or I would be still doing them. I also see that she has a section on different cross-crawl patterns that include work with eye movements as you do the patterns. One component of Z-Health drills is the use of eye exercises, also!

Last week I took out some books on running posture to see what I had on my library. I have read through most of these books through the years and thought it might be good to check them out again. I started rereading one that I enjoyed a few years ago called "The Art of Running". It is peculiar because it is really based on a postural program called The Alexander Technique that is vaguely alluded to (you need to go to an Alexander teacher to learn it) but as far as I can tell it involves something to do with how the head balances on the neck. I like the pictures of great runners, the writing, and some of the visualizations so I decided to plow through this one first.
Here are the books I have that deal with running posture.

Next is a Yoga For Runners routine posted by Sadie Nardini on the Runner's World Forums. I only tried it a few times but it seems like a good routine for runners if you want to put some time into a Yoga routine.

Finally here is some exercises for the Tibialis Posterior muscle or tendon. It says that these exercises can help with ankle and leg alignment. I bookmarked this a few years ago and some day I will put some time into finding out more and trying these exercises.

There is always something new to think about or implement if one wants to keep running fluidly. I wish running was as easy as it was when I was younger when you could just run out the door and not worry about anything except the act of running!


Anonymous said...

The Alexander Technique helped my running big time. Check out their website at

Anonymous said...

Hey Jim,

What's a typical week of training look like for you?

Are there any days, in particular, where you feel more "out of whack" than others?

By the way.....using the sacro aligner every night and loving it. But I sit a lot....because of anything that helps counteract the effects of a lot of sitting is especially helpful for me.

One final thing ... I really hope you are able to find the time to check out the brain gym stuff. I've got several of the books....more than I need...but I can see how that could be of enormous value to a 4th grade teacher/runner.

Re your recent post....I recently met a trainer who feels the most important stretch for runners is "the pidgeon." In fact, he has a whole back rehab/strengthening protocol where the pidgeon is the only stretch. I don't stretch because I generally screw things up worse by doing so but I have to say the pidgeon is one of the few stretches that actually feels good....if done gently.

All the best,

Jim Hansen said...

Hi Paul,
For training I just hope to get outside these days! I am doing about 8 miles a day when I run (slow pace). I also am doing Wednesday night track workouts and started a Monday night 5k trail race series. Now that school is ending I do best with the trail race, track workouts, and a regular race on the weekend together with regular training. In the summer I have been doing 50-60 mpw in the past but if my body would allow, I'd like to do more. I find the more I can run, the better I feel.

I can't find a rhyme or reason to what days are out of whack, although there is often a cycle to what is not working right. I am better at adjusting things now.
However right now I am finding that I can't even run fast at all. I am all embarrassed by the 5k Monday night, I ran it in 21+ minutes. My last 5K on Thanksgiving was 18:08. I knew I might not break 20, but I think that is the slowest 5k since I was in 9th grade. Yesterday I could barely move my hips when running (not fatigue-just tightness). Today at the track I bailed out of the workout. I couldn't keep up with the B group, I am used to being at the front of the A group.

I did get angry and get in to see the chiropractor today and signed up for a massage on Friday. I just think my muscles are fried, tightly wound, and although they feel better aligned (when walking and sitting than they have on years due to all the stuff I am trying) they just seem tense.
Last year I had a similar stall in my running in August (although not so slow) I had a massage and I think that was the start of beginning to turn things around. I guess I should be doing that more often. I was just hoping I could fix things myself.

I will probably end up buying that sacro aligner. I am spending too much money lately though.
I am definately going to be looking into the Brain Gym stuff next Amazon order.

About stretching and the pidgeon pose: I am learning not to stretch or at least not push through stretching as I overdue it also. I did wake up late last night and couldn't sleep (the muscles don't hurt or feel strained- however they feel stiff, tired, or contracted-maybe tense) anyhow I tried some of the pidgeon pose (I can't really do it properly) as it felt like the right stretch to do at the time (I'll have to look into it more). Maybe I'll will consistently try that running yoga set I posted.

I am getting new shoes in the mail this week but I can't find anything new I enjoy running in. I ordered a Nike Free 5. I had this original version I few years back and liked them (although more for walking around in). I also ordered a Nike Air Zoom Hayward (I tried on a pair at the Nike store in Hawaii). Maybe one of those will work for me.

I was so frustrated after Monday's "race" because my left leg felt much longer than my right one. I put a heel lift (something I vowed never to do again a few years ago) for walking around in yesterday and today. My legs felt much more balanced than they have when walking and my pants fit correctly for a change across the hips. That really led me to go back to the chiropractor and sign up for the massage because I have been at this place before. I know the lift is just "fixing" a muscle problem and with it things will get even worse. I do remember one of the things about rolfing was how amazed I was that pants fit correctly and didn't pull on my waist because my hips were uneven. I guess that solidifies my thinking that my muscles are too tight and need that massage. I hope it works wonders.

Do you have any races planned? I used to know most of the Cape races from many years ago, but don't race there at all any more now (expect for the ones in Falmouth).

Tomorrow I will not run. I will celebrate the last day of school and maybe kickbike for a change. I did a short kickbike ride Saturday to a soccer game and I realized my legs were even stiff compared to how easy it was in the past to ride the kickbike.


Anonymous said...


I feel for you and your struggle to right things. I've gone through periods like that and it was very frustrating. I have been lucky in that I have nearly always had professional support to help me get back on track. There have been plenty of times when I corrected things myself but there also have been plenty of times when I needed someone's help.

One of the major hurdles you are I see that when you try something, you don't have much in the way of objective feedback. You have your feelings and instincts....which are quite good...but not much else. It's difficult for you to know what is working and what is not working except through years and years and years of trial and error.

Here is stuff I do when the wheels start coming off.....maybe something will click for you:

1) Tend to the basics - hydrate, sleep, balanced eating - usually more greens, avoid too many sweets etc..

2) Get treated by chiropractor who uses applied kinesiology with a proven track record with athletes. Take note of all the findings. Ask lots of questions and try to avoid making same mistakes over and over again.

3) Make sure I'm supplementing diet with high quality professionally prescribed (see #2)supplements which include multi-vitamin, anti-oxidant, Omega3 oil, wheat germ oil, and other nutrients which I personally show a specific need for.....chromium, iron, L-Tyrosine.

4) Do a few runs with a heart monitor, just to make sure I'm not training way harder than I think I am due to stress or other factors which may have sneakily eroded my fitness and health. If I have been running too hard, slow down.

5) Don't do any serious amount real hard running. Run easy most of the time but maybe throw in a hard 800m at the end of the run or add a few strides. But only do very small doses of hard running until I feel better.

6) Do alternate activities in small doses....nothing too extreme or challenging. Try to avoid making everything even worse by overdoing a new activity. Introducing something overly challenging when you are not firing on all cylinders can make things worse....I think.

7) Do simple, gentle things that I know will help my alignment and structure. Static back (egoscue) is my old standby. And now, thanks to you, I have the Dorn method and the sacro aligner. I don't think you can go wrong with this stuff. From what I can tell, Z-health is safe too. I do those hip circles nearly every day. I've also made it a habit to do those simple cross-crawl exercises.

8) Look at the you are doing. Make sure they are not too worn out. I have the kinesiologist muscle-test me to determine if the shoe is OK.

9) NO YOGA (for me of course)

10) NO STRETCHING (also for me)

11) NO WEIGHT LIFTING......light calisthenics OK....

12) Look to participate in activities with new movement patterns like dance (not too stenuous and not requiring overly wide range of motion). This seems to help me ..... consistently. I don't know the reason but I suspect it has something to do with the nervous system....using different parts of the brain's beyond me. All I know is that it helps.

13) Imagine things going well.

That's essentially my "get out of the toilet" program. Hope there is something in there you can use. I think it's important to remember that the answer can come from subtraction as easily as it comes from addition. In other words, the answer may require to eliminate something just as easily as adding something.

Not doing Falmouth this year because of a conflict. But I am going to run a 2 miler in Hyannisport on the 4th of July and a 4.12mi race in Osterville on the 19th of July.

Oh....and I'm signed up for the NYC marathon in November. Yikes!!

Thanks again for sharing all this.

All the best,

Jim Hansen said...

Hi Paul,
Thanks for the good and wise insights here. I need more time to digest these. When I went to the chiropractor yesterday I saw there was a kiniesiologist working in the office too. I asked the chiropractor about what type of kiniesiologist he was. He said it was more a nutritional thing and didn't seem like he would suggest that I should set up an appointment. How do you find a chiropractor who uses the AK? Does your guy in New York recommend any in the Massachusetts-New Hampshire area? The funny thing about the visit yesterday was my back was in pretty good condition. Just a very minor tweak in the upper back and another in the lower hip. I hadn't even had an adjustment since September. I guess some of the stuff I am doing has helped my back very much. I don't get the pinches between the shoulder blades and neck problems I sometimes had in the past. So there is some good news!
Thanks for the very good advice and encouragement. I still have to digest it all. You are right, though, I need to find the right professional to get things on the right track.

Anonymous said...


I'll see if my NY doctor knows of anyone in your area. I wouldn't just select someone out of the phone book. You want someone who really knows what they are doing and I'm afraid that many do not....or they are simply in the learning process.

I've been all over the internet trying to find someone in your area that sounded like the real deal.....but no luck yet.

You want a guy like this:

I haven't been to him but I can tell he knows what he is doing.

Unfortunately, he's in North Carolina. Maybe he could recommend someone in your area.

In the meantime, I'd hang with the chiropractor you know and get maybe a get a few massages.

I'll keep my eyes and ears open....

Bye for now,

Jim Hansen said...

Thanks Paul,
I had an hour massage on my legs today and signed up to go in again in 2 weeks for 30 minutes. It certainly gets to areas that you could never hit with a foam roller. She also nailed the spot where I have had calf knots-ouch!If it works I'll keep at it. The run felt a bit looser today plus I had new shoes.