Thursday, June 7, 2012

Rolfing and Running: Part 2

In 2005, I was frustrated with my imbalanced running and sore hip and back, so I decided to try what I thought would be "one last resort" to get my body working right. I had first heard about Rolfing in a "scary" 1970s Runner's World article, but after reading more about the process, I decided that it would be the "final" thing I try to get my body in balance and to recover my stride. I realized it would be an expensive experiment, but it sounded very sensible and just what I needed. I went through 11 Rolfing sessions that summer and it was an interesting experience and it all made sense to my body. I felt incredible after each session, but would soon "fall apart" again. I ran well after all that work, but it didn't "take" with my body. I realize now that I had a faulty hip and possibly a labral tear at that time and no therapy short of surgery would have fixed that, so my body went into protective mode and kept up its compensations. I was not blogging at the time, but I did leave some comments on message boards about my Rolfing experience and wrote about it 3 years later in this post: Rolfing Can It Help Your Running? This is how I described Rolfing in that post:
Rolfing sometimes called Structural Integration, is system of soft-tissue manipulation that claims to realign the body. Each body part is aligned on top of the next to improve posture based on the bodies relationship to gravity. It works on the fascia, or connective tissue, to open up space inside the body that has become restricted at different depths. A person goes through 10 one hour of so sessions to work on all levels and areas of the body, head to foot. 
While it may look like a massage, it is not a massage. A Rolfer does not work on the muscles like a massage therapist, or bones like a chiropractor, but rather with the fascia and connecting tissues that surround the muscles and organs like a web-like shrink wrap. Here is an excellent article that describes the fascia and its importance to body health: The Web of Life.
Just beneath your skin lies a complex network of connective tissue called fascia. It helps you move well, stand straight and play hard. Keeping it healthy might be one of the fastest – and most overlooked – ways to improve your health and fitness.
 While my hip has been feeling better post-surgery, things are not just right with my body. I do my PT. I do some Somatics. I took a lot of time off from running and started up slowly again so as not to overdue anything, but I "know" things don't feel right still. My body feels old and sluggish and it feels like something (fascia?) is pulling at many different places. I don't feel like I am moving as I should and I have all sorts of tight spots on my body, plus things aren't lined up correctly. I decided that I needed to kick-start things and wondered whether I should get a deep-tissue massage or try Rolfing again? Frustrated by my PT experience and the lack of the PT looking at the "whole body," I realized I would be doing PT forever and not getting my stride back. 
I shared this video from Jonathan FitzGordon in my last post as Jonathan explained that one of the things that helped his rotated foot (similar to mine) was Rolfing. 
I read more from Jonathon at his Core Walking website and FitzGordon Method blog. I bought two of his books that I am in the process of reading The Exercises of the FitzGordon Method: The Core Collection and Psoas Release Party!: Release Your Body From Chronic Pain and Discomfort and I read some of his more interesting posts. One post that caught my eye was on the one called The Inner Foot and the Inner Thigh (and the Psoas Major) that addressed two of the things I wrote about in my last post: a big toe joint that doesn't touch the ground and tight adductor muscles on that same side. Jonathan wrote back to a question I had about this and said that the position of the pelvis needs to be corrected to get the foot to fall correctly.

As I thought more and more, I decided to pursue this idea of Rolfing further despite the expense. When I had my Rolfing done before I went to Beth at  Piscataqua River Rolfing in Goffstown, NH. I had a good experience there and I know another Gate City Strider, who followed my there that summer and I asked him a few years ago if he felt it was worth it and he was very enthusiastic. I know that once he turned 50, his hard work and dedication and Rolfed body helped him become an Ironman with a fantastic time of around 10:30. I did find a closer Rolfer and decided to get a different set of eyes to view how my body works, so I set up an appointment with Gregg at Bedford Bodyworks

I was very pleased with my Rolfing session. I don't expect miracles at this point, but I got exactly what I was looking for. I wanted to find and get rid of all those tight spots and get my toes back on the ground. I wanted to get the eyes of a Rolfer to find the ways to line up my body again. Gregg was great and a good listener and I enjoyed exchanging ideas and getting his insights. In a complete reversal from my PT, he listened, explained, and did not pretend to be a "know it all" discouraging any other ideas but his own. Within minutes of looking at my posture, he noticed things that he wanted to help change about the way I stood and my posture. What was cool was that he noticed things that I felt, but have not expressed because I don't want to seem like I am always complaining about things and these did not seem that important. He saw that my right hip and waist was very tight and overworked and that that hip (not the one operated on) was tight or locked a bit. He went about lengthening that side.

Rolfing reminds me of working your tissues as if they were like putty and I could feel things releasing and lengthening. He worked on my hips and shoulders and feet and wouldn't you know that when I was done, I was standing better and just the way I wanted. My toes were connected to the ground. My left leg felt strong and positioned better and my right side felt more open. I am still getting used to the feeling, but I hope this gets me back on the way to an improved posture and eventually an improved running stride. I also had work done on my very tight glutes on the left side. Trigger point injections didn't help this and all sorts of PT glute exercises haven't got rid of the tightness that I get. Maybe a better position of my pelvis and leg will get rid of this tight area soon.

Meanwhile today I ran for a little over 20 minutes. I am sticking with my plan of a long buildup with my running. I started with 5 minutes of running for about 5 days, then 10 minutes of running, and then some 15 minute runs. Today I added another 5 minutes. Eventually, it will feel like I am getting a workout in.  I am hoping that this helps retrain my body without over-stressing it. I will have to find a way to pull together some money and go in for another Rolfing session or two to just finalize and get these changes to stick.

Gregg said that Somatics would be a great compliment to the Rolfing and that the PT exercises would work real well together with the changes. He recommended a great side-lying stretch for my right side and advised me to do an Egoscue stretch called the Supine Groin Stretch. I have had experience with Egoscue and while the system seems to work, I did not appreciate the instructor I had years ago. Strangely enough, this post I made called The Egoscue Method: The Good and The Bad seems to be the most viewed post that I have ever made on this blog. The system is good and I will do this stretch to get the release that I need (it is easy enough to do while watching television or reading), but it is a time-consuming method in general. Martha Peterson has a better descriptiion concerning the differenes between Egoscue and Somatics on her Essential Somatics blog. You have to look through the comments to get to her reasoning. It is well worth it.

You can view a  video of testimonials for Bedford Bodyworks here. Gate City Striders will recognize Kerry Litka giving a testimonial to Rolfing.


Owen Marcus said...

You may enjoy our free download on Natural Running and Walking at

As an old time Rolfer, I can attest that alignment is key and that many ways we attempt to achieve it doesn't work.

Good luck.

Jim Hansen said...

I saw that last week and was reading through some of the pages on that blog. Thanks!