Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Being Thankful for Health and Running

I know it is not Thanksgiving time yet, but two tragic circumstances has just made me feel a tiny bit thankful that I have good health and can enjoy running, but very sad for these two fine gentlemen. A friend of my son's and the camp director of the camp Andy worked at this summer was on a missions trip to Haiti at the beginning of the summer and was involved with a motorcycle crash. He suffered some brain damage (no helmet) and is still in a hospital in Boston. Last week a friend of mine was in a horrific car crash. He was just married this July and had just bought a new house up in Bedford. He crashed his car head on into a tree. He has multiple fractures in his leg, 5 ribs, face and worst of all in his back. Most likely he will be paralyzed from the chest down. He had to be revived three times and had to have a pacemaker inserted to keep him alive. My thoughts and prayers are with Dan and Sean for the long recoveries they face. It makes it very silly to worry about miles, seconds, and minutes in my running, but gives me pause to be very thankful for the health I do have. You never know what can happen to change the things we often take for granted.

Speaking of thanks. A big thanks to Mike Wade and the Gate City Striders for the Mine Falls Trail races that ended on Monday night. There are many Strider volunteers who show up week after week and help put on this race series and they deserve thanks too. It is a fun part of the week to be able to show up and put in a decent workout testing your legs on the trails of Mine Falls. This year I graduated away from the 5K races that I have always done and for the second half of the series participated in the 5 mile races. I won two nice aluminum water bottles for winning my age group in each half of the series. They will be great for school if my kids don't steal them from me (which I think they have already done!).

Tonight's track workout was my best so far this year. It was a killer: 2 miles, 1 mile, 3/4 mile, 1/2 mile, 400, and 400. I was feeling good. I did the two mile in 12:17, but I had no warm up. All the other intervals were under 6 minute mile pace as I tried to keep pace with Mike Wade and Steve Wolfe. I felt more balanced in my running then I have all year on the track. I was able to run relaxed and concentrate on trying to have good form. I attribute this to the Feldenkrais lessons I have been doing each day. I am working on my own to see how much I can figure out. The Feldenkrais teacher says my ribs and torso are very tight. He suggests that to get fixed I would need to take 6 months off of running. I am not sure I am ready to do that just yet.

I remember a massage therapist who used to tell me that the left side of my ribs were dropped 2 inches below my right side and then would attempt to push them back into place. On reflection, I always pay attention to my hips, but I do notice how my rib cage is tilted and rotated. Just because it didn't hurt, I didn't pay it too much attention. That is something that I am working on with the Feldenkrais movements.

I found an interesting article the other day that exactly describes my running form and posture, explains why it works that way, and offers a solution. If the article is correct, it will be the first time that someone has relayed to me (well in this case relayed in an article) exactly what is going on in my body. I have lightly tried the stretches the past two days and my runs have gone better and the hip misalignment and weaknesses I had Sunday and Monday in the races have cleared up.

The article is called "Corrective Methods For Common Postural Deviations: The Anterior Pelvic Tilt" written by Marc McDougal. I am just working on the anterior pelvic tilt in my left hip and leaving alone the other hip. First off the article gets right to something I have always overlooked and what Feldenkrais is teaching me. The article says:

"Your chest position effects your pelvic position. The Thoracic Cage is roughly the area from your shoulders to the bottom of your ribs, and movement here causes a muscular chain reaction all the way down to your pelvis."

Just what I am working on. Which leads to:

"Tightness or instability of any of these (muscles around the rib cage)can cause shifting of the Cage, which can then translate to a shift at the pelvis.
A pelvic tilt will most certainly cause the muscles of the lower limb to compensate. It’s not always easy to tell what caused what, but usually one will find an internally rotated femur accompanying a forward pelvic tilt. Simply put, this is when the knee starts to turn inward during standing, walking, squatting, etc."

That has been my complaint for many years. My left femur rotates in and makes the knee knock-kneed. Finally this is the first article I have ever seen (or doctor or therapist) that explains why my knee rotates in and my foot rotates out.

"When your knee turns inward, your lower leg compensates by turning the foot outward to maintain balance and keep you from walking like you’re on a boat. This outward foot rotation then causes another host of problems, including a pattern change in the hamstring recruitment.

Specifically, because of the mechanical advantage, this results in an over-reliance of the medial hamstring muscles (semitendinosus and semimembranosus), and an under-recruitment of the biceps femoris group of the hamstrings; which can lead to eventual atrophy and further knee problems."

I really don't have knee problems, for some strange reason, however it always feels tight under my left kneecap when I am out of alignment. But my hamstrings and tight adductor muscles on my left side are always part of my problem. This is also addressed in the article.

There is a lot more in the article, including a very good presentation of remedial stretching and strengthening exercises. The directions for the stretching are a bit more precise than just "stretch your hip flexors." It tells you exactly how to target the muscles at the proper angle to affect change. Because the article precisely describes my postural conditions, I am going to keep working on these stretches while I loosen up my movement patterns with the Feldenkrias exercises.

That is something else to be thankful for, a means to fix problems within my own body and relearn good movement patterns for a healthier life. You just don't have to give up.

I ran with a new pair of shoes that I bought last weekend on the track tonight called the Puma K Street. I always liked running in the Puma H Street shoe, a very minimalistic shoe that is now hard to find. I went through about 5 pairs. The K Street doesn't have the fancy colors of the H Street and although minimalistic, it didn't seem to be built the same as the H Street. That being said, I absolutely enjoyed running the workout on the track in them. They are lightweight and have a wider toe box than the H Street. That is good for me. The sole was flexible, but not the same as the H Street. However on the soft spongy track, I actually like the nubs and feel of running in them better than the H Street. They will certainly make a great track shoe, I am not sure if I will take them on the roads.

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