Saturday, February 18, 2012

How Somatics Can Help Runners

I wanted to highlight a recent and important blog post by Martha Peterson called How Somatics Can Help  Runners. I have been on a years long search to find the best ways to recover my stride as a runner. I have found many useless ideas as well as many promising exercises that may help this aging beat-up runner get back to the form and feeling that I lost along the roads and trails of New Hampshire. I really like Somatics and Martha Peterson's book "Move Without Pain" and her  DVDs which are an integral part of helping me get the "feel" back into my legs and my whole body as I make my journey back into running. The book is clearly written and has the photographs and instructions to help you understand the movements and how to do them properly. It also presents the rational for learning Somatics. I highly recommend it to any athlete that wants to explore and restore lost movement patterns. I ordered my third DVD, Pain-Free Athletes: No Pain, All Gain last week and like the previous two DVDs, Pain Relief Through Movement: The Basics and Pain-Free Legs and Hips, that I have, I learned all sorts of new ways to move and the timing of doing the movements (go slow and don't force). Sometimes a new movement just reaches out and immediately my body says, "Ahhhh!" like it reopened up a new possibility of movement that I had been guarding against. As I am building up my running, post hip surgery last summer, I have a lot of patterns to relearn and years of compensations prior to the surgery that I have to erase.

In her new post, Martha writes about deals with the issues of sensory motor amnesia with runners. That is my story with so many years of my running. She says:

  • When you’re injured, your muscles reflexively adapt and learn to move differently. This is called compensation.
  • Long term compensation develops into sensory motor amnesia (SMA).
  • Running while compensating for an injury doesn’t doesn’t change what your muscles are doing; it only creates more compensation.
  • You must first eliminate the compensatory pattern (the SMA), and then you can regain your original running form.
Anyone that has run with me could probably "see" this with my form and could hear my complaints through the years as I tried to figure out what was wrong with my running. It is not long-lost cases like mine where it is so obvious that something is wrong. On the running message boards and forums, I see so much written about inactive glutes, a loss of coordination in leg while running, or many other posts asking for help about injuries. I wonder how many runners just "quit" when they lose the feel for running or can't get out of an injury pattern? I think Martha's ideas and Somatics could help a lot of athletes, injured or not. The movements are simple, painless, and powerful and the payback for doing them may keep you running for a long time.

When you read her post on running, you will discover some of the reasons that runners can start creating compensations that may eventually derail their running career: running on injuries, running on paved slanted roads, running with limited hip movement, and running with orthotics or supportive shoes. These are just a few of the things that many runners are guilty of doing on a regular basis. We are not invincible. Eventually these may lead to injuries or compensationary patterns that we can't get out of. As you can see by the credit at the end of Martha's post I tried to give her some feedback while she was writing this post, but I really want to thank her for her insights as she answers my questions and gives advice and encouragement.  Currently I am rethinking my use of orthotics while running.

Martha gives a few Somatic exercises that may help runners prior to going for a run or post run. It is just a starting point. You can search her site and find videos or descriptions of some of these and other movements. I would highly recommend trying out one of her DVDs along with her book. I would also suggest reading through her blog and website. The original book by Thomas Hanna on Somatics is called Somatics: Reawakening The Mind's Control Of Movement, Flexibility, And Health. I find Martha's book easier to read and it certainly has better and easier pictures to follow, but is it is the source book from the founder of Somatics.


terri said...

Interesting. I've never heard of "somatics" but I'm sure I am compensating for years of misuse. I'll have to look into it. Thanks.

Run-Dream-Achieve said...

I thank you for posting this that you are able to share this information about Somatics.

Jim Hansen said...

Thanks Terri and Nate.

Liz Bondar said...

Jim, it was through one of your earliest somatics posts that I found Martha's work. I'd been aware of and curious about somatic education for a couple of years, but (for some reason) was unable to find accessible information on the subject - everything I found was a tease... "there's a magical and REAL solution to your problem via somatics, I'll tell you a little about it, otherwise you're on your own." I was curious, but (for lack of transparency) everything I found made it seem a shady practice. So...

Wanted to let you know that through your story and links to Martha's site, I'm now a believer and not just a hopeful skeptic.

Her sites contain so much useful information, I was persuaded to buy her book and DVD. I found so much immediate benefit, I purchased another set for my 80-something parents. And now I'm working with her via Skype to do some focused unravelling so I can continue running and do so injury-free.

Thank you for bringing the discipline of somatics and Martha's work to light for the rest of us. I hope it continues to help you recover your stride!

Jim Hansen said...

That is great to hear. Thanks for sharing, Liz. I am not an expert on Somatics, but I know it does things for me that no other therapy was able to do, so I just like to share and help others out. The nice thing about it is it is simple, easy to do, and you can feel the movements and change in your body. I am very happy that you found it helpful! Martha makes it very accessible through her book and DVDs and she is very helpful on her blog.