Sunday, September 23, 2012

Muscle Activation Technique: First Session

I am still in retirement from running, but looking to find a way out and back to feeling healthy. In the past two weeks I have done very limited exercise, which stinks with all the great running weather we have been having. Two weeks ago I did an 8 mile bike ride. Last week, I ran two miles twice. The running felt good and my hip had some additional mobility due to, I think, working on different exercises from the Muscle Activation Technique (MAT) cd. The day after both runs my body didn't feel good, so it took two days to recover from just those two short runs.

I decided to try going to a MAT therapist even though it is a little over an hour drive away and yesterday was my first appointment. While it is expensive, I am thoroughly pleased with the direction that MAT is going. Everything that the therapist mentioned was exactly how I felt my body is malfunctioning and it makes perfect sense to my experiences and feelings about what is going wrong with the functioning of my body. Some muscles, around the hip in particular, just aren't working and seem turned off. Other muscles seem to be taking up the slack and tightening up, tiring out, and pushing and pulling from slightly different angles wreaking havoc on my alignment and stride. My compensations are winning. Here is how MAT works based on their website.

MAT looks at muscle tightness as a form of protection in the body. Weak or inhibited muscles can create the need for other muscles to tighten up in order to help stabilize the joints. MAT gets to the root of pain or injury by addressing muscle weakness rather than muscle tightness. This helps to restore normal body alignment, thereby, decreasing pain and reducing the risk of injury.

I think I was in there for a little over two hours, going over my history and talking about how the body works. The therapist was very impressed with my body's neurological ability to ignore pain signals for so many years, but I think I have come to limit of being able to do that anymore. He also found my body works fairly symmetrically although I have funkiness with my left leg. This may cause my body to not be symmetrical when running as the foot pushed my body out of proper position as well as causing many muscles to work overtime just so that I can have stability .

 On the basic level, MAT involves testing each muscle for weakness, then doing some small contractions with the muscle after which the therapist palpates the origins or insertions of the muscles to get them fired up again. Then the muscle is tested again to see if it is switched on and working. The interesting things were that the muscles that were inhibited let him to palpate the spots where I always feel pain or stiffness after a workout. The testing and palpations are very exact as he went over each small individual muscle. He worked on the muscles around my hip with the testing of my legs in various positions and with feet straight, feet toed in, and feet toed out. It was very interesting work. He also found my quads to be not working well at all, something I have noticed post surgery. They seem tighter than the did prior to surgery and when I ran I felt like I could only use a small portion of my quads for movement, the other parts just felt dead.

When the session was done, my hips felt light and loose, and I feel a slight "burning" or "coming alive" feeling to the front of my hips and also to my feet and legs which weren't even really worked on. I can stand up much quicker, unlike the "old man" rising out of a chair routine that I have been stuck with.

Next week we are working on my lower back. I have limited rotation there, he found out and I find it hard to look behind me when running. The lower back and side muscles are really tight. There are many muscles running into the pelvis from below, with the legs, and from above with the muscles around the core.

Overall, I am more than satisfied and very pleased with MAT after just one session. It was much more precise and interesting than I had even hoped for. My concern would be wondering if the changes will last. I am not to run, but to let me body process the changes and I am OK with that, although I was dying to try running with looser hips today. Retirement stands.

Here is a video of the founder of MAT, Gary Roskops, explaining MAT.

Monday, September 17, 2012

New 1972 Olympic Marathon video footage

Relive your past or at least watch this for the first time. Here is a recently uploaded video of the 1972 Olympic Marathon in Munich which was won by Frank Shorter. This video wasn't available earlier this month when I made this post on the 40th anniversary of the race and it is a more extensive video than had previously been avaiable on youtube. It is the first time I have seen this in, well, 40 years.

Announcing is Jim McCay and "Love Story" author Erich Segal who ran the 1971 Boston Marathon as seen here on some photos I saw on eBay

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Old school press photo of Joan Benoit-Samuelson

I just noticed that there are a lot of vintage press photos of runners and racers on eBay. Many are photos that I have never seen. I guess these are photos that the press, newspapers and magazines, receive and can choose to edit and print in their papers. They are now selling them off and it is noted than many have not been seen by the public before. I thought this photo was most interesting and not for the content, but for the decision making process as to what the press saw as important. Here is a photo of Joan Benoit from a 1978 race that she won over Mary Shea and Ellison Goodall. It is not the "tall" one that matters, nor the winner who is a "track star", instead it is the "blonde" runner. Yup, they circled that one and you can only guess that a close up of Ellison made the paper the next day! All three were excellent runners in the late 1970's - 1980s. Joan showed that she was at an entirely different level in 1980!

Here are a few other of the more interesting photos I found looking around today.

Frank Shorter in 1972 with a Florida Track Club shirt
without an orange
Franks Shorter in 1972 sporting an awesome mustache!
Frank Shorter 1973 looking very thin.
Bill Rodgers
Henry Rono nipping Alberto Salazar at the tape in that famous 10,000 meters race one week before Salazar won Boston at the Duel in the Sun.
Race favorite Rob DeCastella tripping over the starting line at the 1978 Boston Marathon.
Gate City Strider teammate and friend Walter Swanbon as the winner
of the Boston Junior Marathon in 1972.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Sitting on the Bench

I have decided to stop running and exercising for now (what a horrid opening sentence). The great thing about the sport of running, when I was a kid, was that you never had to sit on the bench. You always got to train and race, unlike in other sports where you had to sit out and watch others play. I am not a bench sitter or at least I never aspired to be one. I like to be "in the game" and putting in my best effort. I am, however, a bench sitter for the time being.

Now that I have retired, here are the results of my last two weeks of running before I pulled the plug.  Two weeks ago I got 22 miles of running in along with 28 miles of cycling, 8 miles of kickbiking, and an hour of mountain biking. Last week I did 16 miles of running, 8 miles of kickbiking, and 8 miles of cycling. My muscles are just not working right, I am extremely fatigued after each run, and I am just tired of my body not working right and my muscles tightening up and leaving me feeling uncomfortable just about all the time. I have tried to push things, but it doesn't want to work right. My last 8 mile run was my fastest run post-surgery by about a minute, but I had to lie down exhausted the rest of the evening and it took 24 hours for the fatigue to lift and then I still had muscles all around my left hip, back, and leg tightened up for a couple of days.

I have tried various shoe inserts: 3 different kinds over the last month and I am now wearing my orthotics that I stopped wearing in April. At least they are comfortable, even if they don't seem to work correctly with my feet like they should.

This week I have done nothing, not even cycling and I am still tired. I have been sifting through options the past month trying to figure out what to do as I need some type of therapy.

I saw my surgeon last week for the follow-up to the cortisone shot I had one month ago. The shot seems to have taken out the inflammation that was tightening up my hip joint previously. My hip looks great from the surgery. He did mention something I never heard before, that my femur has a flatter head and doesn't sit in my hip properly, but I always had that it seems. Otherwise, he had nothing to offer in advice, beyond stretching the hip flexors. He did say the adductor tightness could be an impingement of the synovial, but he didn't explain that or say what could be done about it. I did ask if the hip tightens again, what might I do. He said I could get a cortisone shot once or twice a year. I did not think that was true.I though it was 2-3 times per joint. I do hope the tightness never comes back.

That leaves me with four potential choices to mull over. All seem worthwhile, but I can barely afford one choice and I want to make the best decision about what to do, as I am convinced rest will fix nothing either.

I could go back to my podiatrist and get my feet adjusted again and see if he can modify my orthotics. My left big toe and MTP joint really wants something built up underneath it to work well and give me stability (or at least that is what they seem to be telling me). I used the Posture Control Insoles for a couple of weeks and my left foot somewhat likes the wedge under that area, but I found my right foot doesn't like the wedge at all and something about the hard rubber material of these seems to really beat up the bottom of my feet. I went back to my orthotics and for the past week have put some material under the toe area to build it up and I walk better like this (I haven't tried running). The downside of this is it costs money (my podiatrist doesn't take insurance) and I am not sure that he would like or listen to me telling him what I might like done to the orthotics to change them. He is a top notch podiatrist, but sometimes doctors only see what they want to see and after a few minutes they have you "all figured out" and I think he needs more time to "really see" what is wrong with me. He has never asked to see me run in the orthotics (or without them), which upon reflection is something he should have done. I can't afford to pay close to $100 for a 10 minute visit and the possibility that he doesn't fully listen to me again.

I also have been debating whether to go back and get some rolfing done. The drawback is that this costs big money too (I have two kids in college and money is very tight). I think the last time I went in the spring, it was beneficial and even helped pull my left everted foot back to a better position for a while. Unfortunately, rolfing never seems to help me permanently. I like it, but at this point I can''t keep going back, like I wish I could.

I also would like to try Somatics with an instructor, but it needs repeated visits at about the same cost as rolfing. I can't afford to pay for something that just might not work. I like the idea of somatics and the theory of muscles tightening up and needed to release, but I sense that it is a gentle movement therapy, and I can't just picture something gentle unwinding and turning my muscles back on. I need more faith on this one, before I invest some money into it.

Then last week, I remembered a therapy someone recommended to me again last spring called MAT or Muscle Activation Technique. I think a had a massage therapist use some of this technique many years ago and it seemed effective on just that limited scale. I have visited the MAT website, like I have many times over the years, and it still is frustratingly dated as it was years ago. I ordered the "new" CD and got it yesterday. The CD is just as dated and looks and works like the website (which is not good). It seems like it could be (or styled to be) 15 years old or at least put together on 15 year old version of a software (shockwave flash). It is not easy to use: it wouldn't work in a portable DVD player or in the player hooked up to our television. It would only work on my computer, but that means I have to read about a move and go to another room to try it out. Navigation is difficult (after every exercise you have to go back to the beginnning), the few movies are postage stamp size, and you have to scroll to read through information. There is no audio. Moves are shown using computer animations, rather than with real people. However, the information looks interesting, thorough,  and precise. I did the first test and tried the fix and I felt one of my chronically tight muscles actually working in a new way. The muscles are also labeled so you know exactly which muscle you are activating. I went through all 20 tests and most of the exercises and my hips felt re-energized for a change, so I think there is something to this. Most of the movements are movements similar to Somatics or any other movement program, but by precisely targeting a muscle with a movement that ends with a 5 second resistance that you push against seems to target a muscle in a way that hopefully "activates" a "turned off muscle". I guess you are paying for information and not glitz with this cd, but if the movements work, that is all that matters. If you like a scientific and technical approach to a movement therapy this may interest you. If you like soothing and calming music with an instructor demonstrating moves, then this is definitely not a CD for you.

I am thinking about visiting an MAT practitioner and am waiting to hear back from one.There are three in Massachusetts. Again, it is expensive (at least for me) and you need repeated visits, but if I can learn how to turn on my muscles to untighten them, then this might be a therapy just made for me, particularly when I feel like I am compensating for non-working muscles by using nearby muscles to help me move and run. There has to be a way to bring back a smoothness and ease to my walking and running stride. I don't want my favorite position to be lying down or sitting down, when I would rather be outside moving, playing, and running. Hopefully, I can get a few sessions in and learn to target the right muscles to see if MAT might be the therapy to get me off the bench. I feel I have to choose only one thing to try over the next few months and I want to to be something that works. I can't afford another failure.

I do not intend to run or do much of anything else till I get out of these bad movement patterns or at least start feeling normal again. I just had some blood test done for my fatigue, too, so I am waiting for those results. For the past few months I have been taking a good dose of Vitamin D (4000 iu/day), some vitamins, joint medicine for joint mobility, and even Magnesium Oil for muscular tightness but to no noticeable effect. I hate sitting on the bench, but it seems to be the smart thing to do, as I hate the way my body is working now and the way it responds to any movement or exercise.

Friday, September 7, 2012

40 Years Ago: Frank Shorter won the Olympic Marathon

It was 40 years ago (Sunday September 10, 1972) that Frank Shorter became the first American in 64 years to win a gold medal in the Olympic Marathon. In doing so he inspired a generation of runners like myself to take up the sport. I watched the race on our black and white television and exactly one year later in 1973 I was running cross-country as a ninth grader. In 1977 I ran my first marathon and I hope I haven't stopped. I recall watching the race, just days after the tragedy with the terrorists and some images still stand out along with the fact that the author of "Love Story" Erich Segal was commentating during the race. I remember how Frank took off to an early lead at about 8 miles and never relinquishing it through the twisty corners of the Munich course. I remember Frank's elegant stride and his mustache and the imposter who preceeding him running into the stadium for the final lap stealing some of Frank's glory. A couple years later, Frank Shorter showed up at the 1975 Falmouth Road Race, my hometown race, where his dual with Bill Rodgers started the road racing boom.


The imposter: Here is a video of Frank's final lap including video of the imposter.


Shorer 1st Moore 4th


More on the marathon fomr "1972 Olympic Games"

Here is a video of parts of the Olympic Marathon (no sound).

Here is a recent video on of Frank Shorter reflecting on his marathon victory.

Recent Runner's World article by fourth place finisher Kenny Moore on the Olympic tragedy and marathon in 1972. Kenny Moore is one of the most eloquent writers on the sport of running.Here is an accompanying video of Kenny and Frank talking about the 1972 games.

Here are some photos from the 1990s of Frank Shorter at Nashua's Fitness University inspiring young children to run and be fit and passing on the running bug to my own kids who are now both in college.

After a run at Brookdale Farms in Hollis, NH.

I was so impressed with the 1972 Munich Olympics with Dave Wottle, Steve Prefontaine
Mark Spitz, and Frank Shorter that in 1979 when touring through Europe over the summer, I had
to visit the Olympic Stadium. Here are my three traveling companions Rob, Rob, and Larry all from
Wisconsin and fellow students at Wheaton College.
It is good to see Frank still running. Here he is running, although hobbled from back surgery, at this years Falmouth Road Race.