Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Running off on Tangents: Z-Health, Vibram Five-Fingers, and Opposite Joints

I have been way off on tangents doing all the things that need to be done and have lost a bit of focus on my training and running. My son graduated from high school, I am ending the school year and packing up my classroom for a new school, and it has gotten very busy. It is time to restart and reboot myself. I am looking forward to getting back on track now that I should have a bit more free time for a change.

It is also time to get back to healthier dieting and eating like I was doing months ago. I miss eating properly as I have slid into enjoying too many celebratory eating experiences as well as cookies and ice cream again.

Two weeks ago I got an email that I did not get into the Falmouth Road Race through the lottery. I have been running this, my hometown race, most years since 1975 and still get a seeded number to run in the front pack when I am entered. I sent off an email asking to be reinstated. I didn't hear back so I sent another. This time I was reinstated into the race and am thrilled to give it another go this summer. Returning to Falmouth every year is just a continuation of something I do every summer since I have been running and I would hate to miss it. Thanks to the road race committee for allowing a long-time loyal Falmouth runner back into the race.

I received my S-Health S Phase DVDs and have viewed the the first DVD. It is different from the joint mobility work on the R and I Phase DVDs. This one seems really geared toward learning how to move quickly and appears geared for learning the speed and mobility needed for sports competitions of all kinds. I have gleaned some bits of information that may be helpful in thinking about and practicing how to move properly. I look forward to giving it more of my attention and just wished I had some coaching like this when I was much younger. Some of the visual drills are very interesting: throwing tennis balls with letters printed on them and saying the letter out loud as you catch the ball. I don't know how that translates into running but it looks like fun!

When you are really good at movement as well as visual acuity, your sporting performance would look something like this:

Here is an article I found on birthdayshoes.com related to Z-Health and Vibram Five-Finger shoes. In it the author postulates that the Vibram Five-Finger shoes help your feet to be feet. Then Z-Health optimizes that freedom to help you move and feel better. Here is the author's summation of the 3 phases of Z-Heath.

Z-Health provides an approach to enhance the neurological signals that a freed foot can send to the nervous system. It does this in several phases: the first phase, R-Phase, teaches the drills I've described to get all our joints to move as they're designed. If folks only do R-Phase they find huge benefit - including reduced pain and improved function.

The second phase, I-Phase, takes these movements that have been done "standing in neutral position" and runs them through more postures that increase demand on the body. If we move from standing to a lunge position, with 80% of our weight on a lunging leg, we feel that muscle being used more; we're also in position that requires more balance. Being able to perform precision movements of joints in these postures fires up more of those nerves to signal position in space; it also means that we are practicing moving our bodies in more positions that we will find ourselves in in real life.

Practice, as with anything, prepares the mind and body to better cope with the real (Here's a long digression on practice and lots of it). If you do ankle work in a lunge position with your foot turned in, your body will know better how to respond to that position when in encounters it running on a trail at speed. And speaking of speed, S-Phase is the "Run Forrest, Run" of Z-Health — but not just linearly; it zigs, it zags; it stops; it starts. Just like life.

In the article, another Z-Health tenant is mentioned in that "the site of the pain is not always the source of the pain."

If we look at the neuromechanics of running, when our lower body moves, and torques say to the right, the upper body counter-torques to the left. Indeed, since the early twentieth century, scientists like Sheriton (1910), Janda (1963) and Gracovetsky (1988) have looked at how the body links in terms of various cross overs, such that someone with a right shoulder pain may also have a sore left hip. Similarly, pain in the right knee may be approached by doing work with the left elbow.

These connections underpin interdependencies of the body: if one part of us can't move normally (say the action of our toes or ankles), other parts start to come into play to try compensate in ways they weren't necessarily designed to do. That compensation sets up it's own problems, which pushes on other parts, and eventually ]that cascade of effects causes a pain signal (or a few) to be sent up to the brain for attention. But again, here's where at least from the Z-Health perspective, it's critical rather than focusing on a site of pain to the person moving ("It hurts when I do this") to look at a more holistic approach of the person in motion. These same assessment heuristics apply to those who have restricted mobility, too: getting any limb to move more freely will enhance overall well being.

Mike T. Nelson has a similar blog post on opposite joints found here. Also he reports here on how he helped an elite female marathoner using Z-Health by working on opposite joints.

I find this stuff fascinating. I really should go to visit a Z-Health practitioner to see what he or she would say I need the most work on so that I don't have to try to figure it all out on my own.

1 comment:

Mike T Nelson said...

thanks for the shout out man!

I just did an interview today with Mark Young that should be up in a week or so and I will have a link to it on my new blog---I go into more details on opposite joints and other cool stuff.

yep, get your butt to a Z-Health person and some mobile shoes!

Rock on!
Mike T Nelson PhD(c)
Z-Health Master Trainer