Number 1 The Ming Method as learned through the book "The Permanent Pain Cure" by Ming Chew
Number 2 Resistance Stretching
Number 3 Z-Health Joint Mobility
Number 4 Ageless Mobility DVD
Number 5 Get Out and Try Something New: Relieve the Pressure!
"Brain Training for Runners"
My number 6 pick for recovering your stride is the book "Brain Training for Runners" by Matt Fitzgerald. I like books that present new and different ideas towards improving your running and this in not a retread of the same old ideas. More than half the book is training plans and I have no need for these as of now, but the rest of the book (about 200 out of over 500 pages) is very interesting. I especially like the proprioceptive clues. These are cues that you can use to concentrate on in order to improve your stride. I also like his core conditioning exercises, his dynamic flexibility exercises (what you should be doing before a run instead of static stretching exercises), and the anti-sitting exercises.
You can also find more of the dynamic mobility exercises on Eric Cressey's Magnificent Mobility DVD. Matt Fitzgerald wrote another book with Eric Cressey called Maximum Strength. It is more about weight training than running but it has some good drills and warm up exercises in the book. For such a cheap price, there is a lot of interesting information in the Brain Training book.
Number 7 on my list is actually two different self-help approaches to help solve alignment problems. I link the two together because both are things I could only find through use of the Internet. They both involve "thinkers" or "tinkerers" trying to solve problems with the function of body and do so in a new or different way. They both are also self-help methods. Both of these methods I have used to bring some relief to a "stuck" sacrum. Both of the methods also utilize movement of your body to fix it.
The first method I discovered was The Dorn Method. It is likened to a gentle model of chiropractic or osteopathy. I have had two runners thank me for directing them to the Dorn Method website and they have found the exercises helpful. I have not used The Dorn Method much since I made these posts because they were not the "full" answer for my alignment problems. Some of the hip exercises have been helpful in loosening up my hip and I have also used the knee and ankle alignment exercises. However now my body is in my better shape then it was when first I made these posts. I think it is a tool I could use in the future to help if things start falling apart again although it didn't magically fix things for me.
Here are my posts on The Dorn Method:
The Dorn Method: Can it be a simple fix for misaligned joints?
Winning when the Running is not going well!
The other method came from the Self-Adjusting Technique website. I found the video for releasing the sacrum on youtube and used it after a 1/2 marathon that I ran with my sacrum stuck.
Immediately after doing the release it felt loose and free again. I have found that I shouldn't do this release when it is not stuck, but the two times it was jammed it seemed to help tremendously. Meanwhile it has not been stuck like that for a while now so I am happy. There are all sorts of other releases in the e-book but I have not really tried them as things are going pretty well these days. I did find the e-book easy to read and understand, I just don't want to mess around with my body when other things are working well for me.
Here are posts I have made on this technique:
Tips for the Adjusting and Releasing the Psoas, Sacrum, and Piriformis
Loosening Up Tight Hips: Sacrum Adjustment
The T-Roller: Roll Out Tight Muscles
I won a T-Roller massage tool at my first race of the year. I have a couple of The Stick massage tools and have used them heavily for years. The T-Roller is small like my Travel Stick but it actually is easier to get deep into a muscle than with my original Stick (which lacks much flexibility). The reason it gets a deeper massage is that it has rollers of different widths and this allows you to target a tight tissue or trigger point more effectively. I use my T-Roller (as well as The Stick too) often when I awake and my muscles are feeling tight. It is the best tool I have for relaxing and getting back to sleep.
You can find out more about the T-Roller here:
Here is my post on the T-Roller
The Stick vs. The T-Roller
Number 9 on my list it the only thing on my list that I was using last year, but it was at the end of the year so I include it here. I knew last year that I would have to try something new and different to help the hip and alignment problems that were plaguing me. I decided to look into kettlebells. They can be used for strength training but they also work the whole body out in a very fun movement orientated workout. Not only that but they get the heart pumping pretty quickly. I really enjoy swinging the kettlebells. I learned the techniques on my own through books and videos. When I use them I feel so much better particularly through the back and shoulders. I did find however, when my hips were off that the exercises were not that good for me because it would pull on my hips and back and I was practicing bad movement patterns.
Kettlebells have been the best strength training device I have ever owned. They are also the most fun. I can just barely do them indoors as when I do snatches the kettlebell swings up about an inch below the ceiling. If you are tall you better have a high ceiling. This winter I hope to get back into them more as I cut back some on the running. What is nice is that workouts do not need to take a long time. I also pick up the kettlebell at various times throughout the day and do a few swings or snatches and it always feels good.
There are a few books on kettlebells but the best way to learn is through a DVD. You can go to Dragon Door, the website of Pavel Tsatsouline to learn more about Russian Kettlebells. The best videos I have found have been the videos for the women. Pavel's videos show you how to do some of the lifts, but the women's videos take you through some routines that you can follow along with. The best is "The Kettlebell Goddess Workout". It has a variety of routines for specific body areas and includes some joint mobility work and stretches.
Kettlebells: The Iron Core Way Volumes One and Two are also good. Both take you through full body routines and explain how to use the kettlebell properly.
A kettlebell can be expensive (especially the shipping!). You need to read up on them and get the right size (which will be less weight than you think). I ordered my 35 pounder through Muscle Driver. The handle is thick but I think that is to help with your grip strength. I have two lighter weight kettlebells that I picked up at a Target store. They are good for light intensity exercise (or when learning). In summary I find kettlebells very appealing and a fun way to work with weights. But it is not just a weight workout as you are working on balance and form.
Relearning Good Posture
Number 10 on my list would be a book I haven't even finished reading yet. It is the book "8 Steps to a Pain Free Back" by Esther Gokhale. I find the book to be visually interesting, eloquently written, and a fascinating look at the way posture has changed in the past 80 years. It shows how toddlers, some modern cultures, and people in earlier times held their bodies and moved differently. It also explores why these changes happened. Then it has a way to bring us back into better posture. I tried a bit of the positions and found them interesting but have yet to have the time necessary to devote to this book while I am still making other changes. The book trains you how to sit, walk, move, and even sleep better and to do it without the pain of an incorrect posture. The pictures of people throughout the world and in art works just make the book something worthwhile and thought provoking to read.
Well those are my ten favorite things I have tried this year in order to recover my stride. I have bought and tried and used plenty of other things: some were helpful and some were a waste of my time and money. There are no orthotic or foot insert devices mentioned. There are no sessions with chiropractors, active release therapists, massage therapists, rolfers, physical therapist, or anyone else (except Janet the resistance stretcher). Not that these aren't good things to try or that they work is not important, but after using all of these people in the past I still could not fix the problems with my hips and alignment issues without going back for more visits. I have not gone in for an adjustment or even a massage since the summer and I am feeling more in control of knowing what to do and how to do it if I want to continue to be a healthy and competitive runner.
Every athlete and person responds differently to every different therapy. We are all an experiment of one. These seem to be strategies that work for me. They may be just as helpful to others. I also look forward to making more progress so that I can run freely into my 50's and feel as good as I did when I was much younger. I may even find more interesting and workable solutions to keeping healthy and running strong.
I am also open to learning new things. I would like to know what works for others and what else might be worthwhile to look into. Or what your experience has been if you have tried any of these suggestions.
I am very much looking forward to the next year, particularly if I can maintain and improve on the positive results I have been having for the past couple of months.