Friday, November 28, 2008

ELDOA Stretching and More Joint Mobility

I have found a couple of PDF files that give some background information on myofascial stretching and joint mobility. The first PDF is called "Myofascial Stretching" and is on a stretching system called ELDOA. This system was developed by Dr. Guy Voyer and it is the system that many of the stretches used in "The Ming Method" are based upon. These are just demonstrations but they give you an idea of how the stretches do work (and how different and complicated they can be).

The other PDF file is called "Get Free to Move". It shows some of the moves in Scott Sonnen's Intu-Flow DVD. You can get a pretty good idea of the stetches and the joint mobility work that are on his Intu-Flow DVD. I have the DVD, but I see he has a book out now. There was only one review (interesting cons) on Amazon.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Recover Your 70's Network Stars Relay Video

I was reading the current issue of ESPN magazine when I saw this article by Bill Simmons on his favorite youtube video clip. The article is funny and sure enough when I checked out the clip it brought back some bad memories of 70's TV and lifestyles. There are all sorts of strange things going on in what surely is the reality TV forerunner to today's Survivor. The best part is when Gabe Kaplan (Welcome Back Kotter) defeats the Robert Conrad in the rematch. No one expected it, but no one knew Kaplan had run track in high school. Anyhow the clip has an Olympic Champion, a smoking Telly Savalas, Howard Cosell, Farrah Fawcett, Wonder Woman, Laverne, Opie, and a bunch of other 70's celebrities acting like it is the Olympic games. There is also a bunch of political incorrectness, funny uses of vocabulary, and tube socks. Who knew running could be so entertaining? Read the article then watch the video.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

How to Recover Your Stride: Recommendations 6-10

I started a list of the 10 best things I have tried this year in order to recover my stride. It was one of my worst years of running ever, but by the end I am finding my body is working better and I am feeling much looser and freer as I run than I have in a very long time. For once I don't live day to day wondering what is going to hurt or be out of alignment. Instead I am feeling better, in control, and on a postivie upswing with my running and feeling so much better and pain free thoughout each day. My first 5 picks can be found here:

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!

Number 6
"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:
Self-Adjusting Techniques:

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

Number 8:
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:

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.

Number 10:
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.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

How to Recover Your Stride: Recommendations #3-5

Previously I announced my first two picks of new ideas or methods I have tried this year that have helped improve my running. Now for my next three choices.

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

I have never really paid attention to the way my joints work and move. Who does unless they are injured? I came across Z-Health right before I started this blog. This was some very new thinking for me. I learned about it when I was searching outside the typical solutions that runners try when they are dealing with injuries or a loss of ability. I learned about it as I was exploring kettlebells and strength training.

My first blog post was about Z-Health. At first, upon ordering and trying the Z-Health DVDs I noticed an instant improvement in my how my body worked. I thought I had finally found the long sought after answer to my stride and imbalance problems. It worked for awhile, and although I did the exercises diligently, they stopped having the full effect that I anticipated. Yes the joint mobility routines helped my body, but the imbalances in my body were too overpowering and joint mobility work on its own did not restore my stride to an acceptable level.

I continued to use the Z-Health routines, but not as often, and tried other joint mobility programs to see what results I could get (see pick #4 below). Eventually I realized that my body needed more than just joint mobility work if I was to fully recover my stride.

In the past couple of months as I have seen significant improvements in my body, running, and stride due to resistance stretching and some of the Ming Method routines. I have begun to slowly reintroduce some of the joint mobility routines (or even just a few of the exercises). I have found them beneficial and a great compliment to the stretching I am doing. I think they work well in conjunction with the other work I am doing: they may help the stretching take hold better and when the stretching helps loosen the muscles the Z-Health drills help my joints relearn correct movement patterns.

I have also learned that you don't have to do all the drills standing up like on the DVDs. Dr. Eric Cobb, the inventor of Z-Health, has sent out some e-mails and one was to try some of the routines sitting or lying down. I have found that this lets me focus better on some of the drills. He also advocates doing the routines at different speeds. The DVD shows the being done quickly, but this is not always the best way. I know the manuals said to do them slower, but wrongly I figured "quicker was better". When I do them much slower I realize now that I find the results can be much more impressive.

What is Z-Health? It is a joint mobility program that helps you use proper joint movement patterns. It re-educates your joints so they function as intended. There are exercises for every joint in the human body from the toes to the head. The exercises are very brief with limited repetitions, but you are training for perfect movement, not for quantity of repetitions. The other aspect of Z-Health is that it claims to retrain the nervous system so that it will function more efficiently. I don't find the exercises hard or tiring. In fact I feel much better after doing them. Sometimes an exercise will result in an immediate improvement. The interesting thing is an exercise for one joint may have an effect in another place on the body. For example freeing my right shoulder can often result in a freeing of my left hip. I have taught some of the exercises to my fourth grade students. They love doing them. For example, before writing we may try some finger mobility drills (which they found hard to do) or when "joint" was a vocabulary word, I taught them some joint mobility drills with their legs and shoulders. They had fun and I often see them repeating a drill on their own.

If you are interested check out the Z-Health website to learn more. I know one person (Paul are you still out there?) who bought the introductory DVD and found it valuable. I bought the package deals. At first I bought the R-Phase with Neural Warm up package and this may be all you need. I then bought the I-Phase package much earlier than I would have needed it just to see what the new drills would be. These are more advanced versions of the drills with different positionings that mimic some of the positions athletes may find themselves moving in. It is interesting, more advanced, but not that essential. I think I tried to work too hard at the Z-Health at first and, as recommended by Dr. Cobb, you should spend a lot of time on the first routines and change them up by altering the speed and your position rather than rush into more advanced drills.

One important tenet of the Z-Health system is the SAID principle. It is an acronym used in human physiology that means "Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand". In other words your body gets better at exactly what it practices. In education terms I often call this "perfect practice makes perfect-imperfect practice makes imperfect". In other words if I have been running for years with a body with poor movements patterns that makes continuous compensations to keep running (which is what my body does for whatever the reason) then I will continue to run and move with those same patterns until I practice other movement patterns and get the nervous system to recognize and utilize these new patterns. So I am an imperfect runner because I keep running imperfectly- that is what I trained my body to do. The Z-Health neural training and joint mobility work alongside other methods of freeing and releasing tight muscle and connective tissue can be an important part of getting back into proper running form.

To find out more about Z-Health you can go to their website here:

Here are some of my posts that refer to my experiences with Z-Health. I should mention that the people at Z-Health are very friendly and helpful . They will even talk to you over the phone and answer questions and give some advice.

Aging and Feeling Good While Running

Joint Mobility Through Z-Health

Z-Health I Phase: Joint Mobility with Athletic Movement Drills

Some Reading to Explore on Joint Mobility and Z-Health

Why fast runners need good hip mobility

Ankle Mobility Drills: Can they Improve Hip Function?

Number 4
Ageless Mobility

After working on joint mobility with Z-Health I explored joint mobility exercises further. I came upon the of Scott Sonnon and his DVD "Ageless Mobility". When I ordered and tried this DVD for the first time I was amazed at how thoroughly it worked my entire body. In fact I remember finishing it and being so relaxed and refreshed that I immediately lay down and took a wonderful nap right in the middle of the day. While the joint mobility of Z-Health seems easy on my body and works the joints through their movement patterns, the "Ageless Mobility" worked the tissues around the joints. You will hear Scott Sonnon continuously say that you are "lubricating the joints" or "feeding the joints" as you do these exercises.

This long DVD (over an hour workout) sort of mixes yoga style positions with stretches and worked the muscles around the joints for each joint in the body. The neck movements were fabulous and my neck is no longer sore and tight like it had been for years. I always had a hard time looking to the left and over that shoulder and it was often tight and uncomfortable. After doing this DVD and other work since the beginning of the year, I realize that my neck is no longer a problem area for me. The best way to describe the program is that it "wrings out" the body. That is exactly how it feels. I know I feel so relaxed and loose after I take the time to go through the DVD. It is almost like getting a massage from the inside. Sometimes I only do the first 45-50 minutes and skip the floor exercises if I do not have the time. When you think of all the stresses that running places on our bodies, doing a program like "Ageless Mobility" makes a lot of sense as it seems to debug and destress all the tightnesses that build up.

I should probably do the routine every week or two, but lately have only done it about once a month. I also bought the "Intu-Flo: and "Flow-Fit" DVDs from Scott Sonnen. The "Intu-Flo" DVD has shorter routines at 4 levels and was well done, but it doesn't seem to give the same "wrung-out" feeling as the "Ageless Mobility" DVD. "Flow-Fit" had even shorter routines that are interesting, but not as useful to me.

Not only is this DVD my favorite of Scott Sonnen's DVDs. It is also the cheapest.

Here are my related posts.

Ageless Mobility: More Training for the Joints

Getting in the Flow: Joint Mobility Re-Education

Number 5
Get Out and Try Something New: Relieve the Pressure!

My fifth recommendation actually is my favorite. Just when I was ready to give up on my running because nothing seemed to fully work for me I got a mountain bike. I have done triathlons and bike racing in the past. I have road bikes. I love cycling and was actually a better cyclist than runner (even though my background is in running). I also have had fun with my Kickbike scooter. Unfortunately, when I ride my road bikes or kickbike I get in training mode. I want to go faster and farther. It just becomes another workout.

When my mountain bike arrived I took it out to wooded paths. I had no worry about time and pace. I was just having fun. I enjoyed every minute on my mountain bike. It was such a change of pace for me. I noticed my running felt better after cycling and started to ride it to Wednesday night track workouts as a bit of a warm-up. The mountain bike helped me relearn the "fun" of being outdoors. I was riding trails just off my daily running routes and I had no idea what cool trails were there just steps away from my daily runs. I can't wait until Spring when I can get on the mountain bike again and just enjoy being out in the woods.

After one fun day this Fall I remarked to my wife that not much has changed in the 40 years since I was a fourth grader. I wake up, go to school (I teach fourth grade), come home, go ride my bike around the woods, then take it to the track for a workout where I hang out with my friends doing sports. Life is pretty good!

Never underestimate the power of just having fun and being a kid again, no matter how old you are!

Now that was Fun!

Feeling Like a Kid Again!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

My Top Two Recomendations to Help You Recover Your Stride

This is my 100th post on Recover Your Stride. I have worked extremely hard at becoming a better runner or should I say I have worked hard at becoming a runner that can run pain free, injury free, be more balanced, and run with a more correct running stride. I have tried a lot of different ideas throughout the year and at one point was ready to quit because of the ongoing problem with my hips and left side. The past few months I have have really progressed and I have put together some routines that have allowed my running to feel so much smoother and to start bringing back the balance that I have not had in my running stride for over 20 years. So this 100th post on my blog will begin to highlight the 10 best things I have learned, tried ,or discovered this year. A year that is ending on a high note as just about every run I do now feels so much better than I have felt while running in years. I am getting to the point where running feels fun and free again, rather than it being a daily battle to see if i can get out the door and run in a way that doesn't hurt or feel uncomfortable.

I will start with my two favorite things I have discovered this year. Both have given me a lot of control over how my body feels and responds to running as well as they have both left me feeling so much better in my daily life. My legs are already so much looser and smoother as I continue to implement the changes brought on by working on my muscles and connective tissues. My stride feels so much lighter and younger and my joints, particularly my hips, do not feel so tight, old, and stuck in place.

I will continue in further posts with recoomendations 2-10 as well as where I think I am going next year: as I have a few things in mind and am starting to generate a "plan" for next year. That would be a first because in most recent years I have just been trying to make my body recover my stride but it was always so haphazard and I had no control. I think I am now getting to where I have control over the imbalances in my body so that I can start building on that to further enjoy running (even into my 50's). And hopefully race fast too!

Number 1
The Ming Method found in "The Permanent Pain Cure" by Ming Chew

"The Permanent Pain Cure" is the most recent book I have read and I am using bits of it on top off everything else I am doing as well as still exploring everything else in the book. I wasn't sure if I should recommend something so recent as my top choice of the year. But I think that this book has the most bang for the buck.

What I like about the program that Ming sets forth is that it is fairly comprehensive in that he covers a lot of ground. It covers stretching, strength work, and eating and hydration, but what I find most noteworthy are the self-therapy releases (based on ART) , the spinal decompression work, and the stretches for the fascia. I have not seen these things put into a general book that make them easy to understand and use. Particularly I like his releases based on ART (Active Release Technique). These up the notch a bit for people who use foam rollers, tennis balls, or elbows to a different level because you move your muscles to achieve a stretch and break up scar tissue. It is so much more effective. It has done a great job on my hamstrings and quads and allows them to loosen up and improve my running stride.

I am still playing around with the releases as well as thinking up some of my own based on the techniques. For example there are no calf and lower leg releases in the book. Last night I took out my TP Massage roller and spent just a couple of minutes on my lower leg just beneath my calf. Instead of just rolling my muscle up and down the roller, I held my leg in place and twisted and turned my foot and ankle around and back and forth. This not only loosened my leg up, I felt the effect up into my hip and lower back as they loosened up also. The most interesting thing was when I did my right lower leg, I felt the stiffness at the bottom of my right heel in certain positions. This is where I thought I might be getting plantar fasciitis in the summer. So there might be a tightness in my lower leg's muscles and tendons that could be contributing to the problem near my heel.

Here are my previous posts where I reviewed or commented on this book. I consider it a great resource for athletes (or non-athletes) using some newer techniques that they might want to try.

Stretching Your Fascia Using "The Permanent Pain Cure"

Number 2
Resistance Stretching

Static stretching has never worked for me. Right at the point where I was about to give up on my running this summer I took out a book I had bought a couple of years earlier. The book was "The Genius of Flexibility" by Bob Cooley. I had quickly looked at the book when I bought it and tried a few of the stretches. Unfortunately I had never read "how" Bob Cooley wanted the stretches to work. I had never used resistance against the stretches. I tried a few stretches after "reading" some of the book this time and noticed something happening that was not happening with other stretches I had tried. I read more and realized this was the method used by Dara Torres on her incredible return to the 2008 Olympics. Upon exploring resistance stretching more (you provide resistance against the stretch) I found it started loosening up my hips and muscles so that running started to become easier again.
Besides reading through the book I bought two different resistance stretching videos. One was Bob Cooley's "The Genius of Flexibility 1.0" and then as soon as it was released I got the Dara Torres Resistance Stretching Video from Innovative Body Solutions. Both DVDs are cheap and go through a 20 minute resistance stretching routine. Some stretches are different on the two DVDs so I mix up which one I use.
I also went to a resistance stretcher named Janet. She worked on my muscles and gave me some stretches and tips on how to do the stretches. I have not had the opportunity to go back as it can be expensive, but I wish I could go for a few more sessions as it felt great to have this work done on my muscles. She was able to stretch my legs and hips in many different ways that I would never be able to duplicate on my own. Resistance stretching has worked great for me and it might be just the type of stretching and strength work (it helps in that department too) to get your body untangled and running smoothly again.
Here is Bob Cooley's book:

You can go to Innovative Body Solutions to order the Dara Torres video or order through Amazon:

or you can go to Meridian Stretching to order "The Genius of Flexibility 1.0" DVD

I have had many posts on resistance stretching.

Resistance Stretching: This is what Dara Torres does!

More on Resistance Stretching

The Genius of Flexibility Video 1.0 Review

More on the Dara Torres Resistance Stretching DVD

The Growing Influence of Resistance Stretching

SNAP!!! What in the World was That? OK don't stretch too hard!!!

Hold Steady and Stay Positive After getting stretched by a professional.

Partner Resistance Stretching

Improving a Hamstring Stretch

Plus I am sure I touched on how resistance stretching has helped my running in many other posts.

Let me know if you try any of these methods and the results you get as I am curious as to how they work on other runners.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

How to Get Mentally Primed and Physically Warmed-Up Before Your Next Competition

The New York Times had a recent article called Stretching: The Truth. The article basically says what we already know, that static stretching before a workout is not only a waste of time, but can be bad for you because it can actually weaken your leg muscles. It goes on to say that,

"THE RIGHT WARM-UP should do two things: loosen muscles and tendons to increase the range of motion of various joints, and literally warm up the body."

A good warm-up then would involve sports specific dynamic stretching. Terrence Mahon the coach of Ryan Hall and Deena Kastor is quoted as saying,

“You need range-of-motion exercises that activate all of the joints and connective tissue that will be needed for the task ahead.”
I have found something that would not only warm-up your muscles to get them race ready, but also to get your mind and spirits pumped up for the competition ahead of you.

Check out this video.

It is from before a rugby match where the Maori Haka goes up against the Aboriginal War Cry. I love the commentator at the end, "Well, that was better than Billy Idol."

Here is another video of New Zealand against Tonga.

And here is one more Haka Maori dance'

From Wikipedia:

"A haka is a traditional dance form of the Māori of New Zealand. It is a posture dance with shouted accompaniment, performed by a group... Various actions are employed in the course of a performance, including facial contortions such as showing the whites of the eyes and the poking out of the tongue, and a wide variety of vigorous body actions such as slapping the hands against the body and stamping of the feet. As well as chanted words, a variety of cries and grunts are used. Haka may be understood as a kind of symphony in which the different parts of the body represent many instruments. The hands, arms, legs, feet, voice, eyes, tongue and the body as a whole combine to express courage, annoyance, joy or other feelings relevant to the purpose of the occasion."

Now it that doesn't get you charged up. I don't know what will.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

How to Release Your Hamstrings with a Tennis Ball

This is a simple and very easy way to release your hamstrings. I believe it works on the same principles as ART (Active Release Technique) and the idea comes from a great book I am reading called "The Permanent Pain Cure" by Ming Chew. I have found when I do this correctly my hamstrings are much looser which creates much more free movement in my hips as well as getting rid of tightness in my lower back.

The first thing you have to do is to sit on the edge of a table where your feet can dangle below you. Sit back and place the tennis ball a bit behind your knee and under your hamstring. Sit back a bit and rest on your hands. Put a small bit of pressure down onto your hamstring. Now point your toes and slowly straighten your leg.

When you get your leg fully extended pull your toes back towards you. Then while you keep your knee straight, start leaning forward. Tighten up your thigh and hold the position for a couple of seconds. You can do this a leg motions a couple of times depending on how tight you feel.

Then move the ball a bit higher and again do the release, repeating as necessary. Keep moving the ball slowly up your hamsting until you get to your butt. I also move the ball to the inner and outer parts of my hamsting and do the release where I feel I am tight. I also use a harder rubber ball (or even a baseball) at times when I do the release. Go gently at first however.

After I raced on Sunday my whole body felt off on the left side. I did one back spinal stretch to get a point where I had a crick in my mid-back and did the hamstring release on the left hamstring. That was all I needed to get out of the discomfort I was in. I am still playing around with this and other releases from the Ming Method book and trying to experiment to see what effect each stretch or release has on my body. I do know that when I get these correct (as well as the resistance stretching) my legs feel like they are loosely hanging from my hips rather than feeling jammed or tight into the hips.

If you like the release you can find the instructions for this and other releases in the "The Permanent Pain Cure" book that explains the Ming Method. The quadriceps release is wonderful as well as the ITB release. I haven't found instructions like this in any other book. The releases are only a very tiny bit of the book as the rest has to do with how to stretch your fascia as well as well as other information as I reviewed here.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Improvements All Week! Some Big, Some Small

After a good week of running fast in workouts and making big improvements in my workout speeds, I was looking forward to racing today. I ran the Santa Fund 5K race in Nashua. After a week of feeling good, my hip had tightened up again this morning. I did not have the good stride that I had all week, but still ran my best 5k race of the year. Unfortunately it was only a one second improvement from the race 2 weeks ago. I did 18:58. So my big improvements only resulted in a little improvement!

The time was 40 seconds slower than last year. I do now know that when my hip is off it slows me down. I never got going in the race and I lacked the looseness I had when running those workouts. This race was another struggle, although the first mile was 5:18 (a real short mile!) I wasn't up near the lead group like last year. I hit two miles in 11:30 so I thought I might be on a faster pace then I felt (but wasn't sure any course markings were accurate) but it was not to be. Jeff and Chris, passed me more than halfway into the race and they finished almost 40 seconds ahead of me. They were moving. I was plodding.

Now my body is all off on the left side: neck, back, sacrum, knee, etc. I have been letting it stay that way and I notice I can't sit straight when it gets this way. The positive is I get to go through the different routines tonight and see what works to put things back together again evenly.