Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Triathlon's beginnings

This post is inspired by and for the slowtwitch thread Was there a triathlon in 1972? It is in reference to a picture of Nina Kuscsik in the November 2012 Runners World magazine.

I remember when I saw this picture after I got my copy and immediately thinking, "What the heck?" There is a guy running the New York City Marathon in 1972 wearing a "West Point Triathlon" t-shirt. Did the triathlon really have its origins on the east coast? I have always heard that the modern triathlon began in 1974 in Mission Bay, CA. From Wikipedia:
The first modern swim/bike/run event to be called a 'triathlon' was held at Mission Bay, San Diego, California on September 25, 1974. The race was conceived and directed by Jack Johnstone and Don Shanahan, members of the San Diego Track Club, and was sponsored by the track club. 46 participants entered this event. It was reportedly not inspired by the French events,[11] although a race the following year at Fiesta Island, San Diego, California, is sometimes called 'the first triathlon in America.'

While the first Hawaii Ironman Triathlon was held in 1978, New England (and specifically Cape Cod) also played a part in the origins of triathlon. I received this handout at the 1983 USTS triathlon in Falmouth, Ma in 1983. There were 900 triathletes in this early race and many were first time triathletes.

However, it was not Cape Cod's first triathlon. At the bottom of this early triathlon history lesson, it lists these races:

1975-An "Ironman" competition was held at Nauset Beach with the Cape Cod Lifesaving Championships. It consisted of a 1 mile run, a half mile paddle, and a 600 yard run. Aren't lifeguards supposed to swim? I would be curious to know if this was really called an Ironman race back in 1975 or if the moniker "Ironman" was just tacked on to it for this 1983 article.

1979-The first real triathlon on Cape Coe was held in Wellfleet which was the Long Pond Triathlon. It had an 8 mile bike, a 4.5 mile run, and a 1/2 mile swim.

1980-1982 saw the Cape Cod Triathlon. It seems like a low key affair (maybe among friends?) which had a 2 mile swim, a 75 mile bike, and a 20 mile run. It went from Marshfield to Provincetown. Two time winner George Missailidis would go on to be the first champion of the Cape Cod Endurance Triathlon (a full Ironman distance race) held in 1983.

In 1983, I did 3 triathlons culminating with the CCET race, and preceded by the USTS race in Falmouth and the small local Falmouth Track Club Triathlon, a race that got its start in 1981 and had already grown too big for the organizers in 1983 when 58 racers competed.

Cape Cod was a good breeding ground for the new sport of triathlon, but I was intrigued by what could have been when I saw this article in the May 1972 issue of Runners World Magazine. It seems someone had the bright idea of making a swim-run biathlon race. It appears that this race had been run for a few years prior to this, as the article mentions Amby Burfoot racing it in 1969. Now if only the race director had thought to add a biking leg, then New England would have been the birthplace of the modern triathlon.

Not only that, but the publicity machines held off on their enthusiasm until a bigger race happened a few years later in Hawaii. I really like this quote from the article:
Sports Illustrated has shown some interest in our race, and there's a chance that we can get some ink in the magazine before long. ABC's Wide World of Sports turned us down flatly (not once, but twice). But they are more Demolition Derby type, anyway.

Now what about that West Point Triathlon shirt in the 1972 New York City Marathon? The best guess as to its meaning seems to be by someone named HAIM on the Slowtwitch thread:

It probably refers to pistol shooting/swim/run triathlons that were established by the Department of the Army to promote interest in Olympic Modern Pentathlon.

Don't forget to read the article from where the photo came from in Runners World. It is about 6 women how did a sit-down protest before the 1972 marathon race. Female marathon pioneer, Nina Kuscsik was the eventual female winner. I finished side-by-side with her in one of my first road races. I think it was the 1976 version of the  Falmouth Road Race. You can read the Runners World article on these female runners here.

Muscle Activation Technique: Session 6

Saturday was session 6 in my Muscle Activation Technique (M.A.T.) journey. Two things happened last week. One, I felt great and balanced. I feel like my bones are lining up correctly (particularly on  the left side of my body) and they stayed that way pretty much all week (just going slightly off a bit on Friday). That was the good news. I also started a slow build up towards running again. My stride feels good and balanced and I am certainly ready to enjoy running again. However, there is always a devil in the details. While my left hip (operated on for labral tear last year) is finally lining up correctly with my knee and ankle, the area around the hip doesn't feel strong or right. It is hard to describe. At times, I thought it felt like it was taped together at the front and a bit rickety. I get a pinching and weak feeling if I try to flex my hip and lift my leg up. This is something that has come and gone both pre and post surgery. If I lean forward and brace my arms on a table while bending forward, it is difficult to lift up my left leg. I started running 2 miles a day last Sunday and it feels great to run, except for that hip. I was hoping it might strengthen and go away with repeated runs, but after 6 straight days of running 2 miles a day, I had to stop yesterday as running seems to aggravate it. I did get in 12 miles for the week.

It really stinks to be feeling the best that I have in years when not running and then not being able to run. Saturday, during the MAT session, I explained this to Greg and so he tested all my hip muscles and they were doing pretty good. He did do a little work on the left psoas and illiacus. I am happy with that, because it shows that the MAT work is holding as we haven't worked on the hips in a couple of weeks. It seems like working the feet is making the most changes, so we went back to working on the feet. This time we worked on the toes and the plantar surfaces of the feet. There are a lot of little muscles in the toes and feet and it was interesting seeing which ones were strong and which were week and then activating them through the palpating them and then doing light isometrics.

After the session, I noticed that I had a lot of tightness, sort of like it you had walked over rocks and sand at the beach or just maybe had someone pushing and pressing on all your toe joints and the bottom of your foot. It is starting to calm down now a couple of days later.

I am really hopeful because I feel good and balanced with my body working with a better coordination  I am really concerned about my hip however. It could just be reacting to the changes and new positioning,  but I am also wondering if I need to see the surgeon and get an MRI to see what is going on. I am pretty sure it is the hip flexor that goes over the front of the hip bone that is bothering me. Last week, I thought it felt like a frayed rope, being pulled back and forth over the bone. It could be that it is just too tight and pressing on the hip joint. I am also worried about the lifting of my leg. That is a different feeling. It feels like something is getting caught on bone or pinching which creates a big weakness when I try to lift up my leg.

Maybe I am just relying on my hip flexor too much to create movement. I am studying Lori Thomsen's  video on how and why to turn off the hip flexors. It is very interesting, but I am looking at how get into the optimal position for running to turn off the hip flexors and then how to use your glutes for running.

Lori works for the Hruska Clinic which specializes in Postural Restoration. You can see many of her videos for runners here.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Muscle Activation Technique: Session 5

Saturday, I had my fifth weekly Muscle Activation Technique (MAT) appointment. If I were to rate  myself before starting this process as I would say that my body (alignment and movement) were about 20-30% of where I would like it to be. It is a feeling I am very used to, but never satisfied with because it just never feels right. After the 4th session of MAT, I had an interesting week. I thought I was about 70-80% of where I should be and that is a huge improvement. Working on the muscles of my lower legs and feet have really been revealing. I had good days that week and days I thought my feet might be unraveling. By that I mean for the first time in years, it seems that my left foot points straight ahead or nearly close to that and I have so much more function and mobility in my feet and ankles which translates right up my leg, hip, and back into vastly improved movement. This I am very happy about.

I did a slow start to exercising again at the YMCA last week.

Monday:  5 miles cycling, 1/3 mile running, 1 mile ellipitcal
Tuesday:  5 miles cycling, 1/3 mile running, 1 mile elliptical 1/3 mile running (stopped as soon as hip muscles tightened up)
Friday: 5 miles cycling, 1 mile running, 1 mile elliptical (no more running as my hip seems to tighten up after the elliptical machine- its time to no longer use this machine)

The running felt straighter, however I still have a lot of tightness at the front and side of my left hip and my glutes start seizing up from tightness also. Despite that, I have had a hard time running slow as everything else feels light and loose and ready to run. The big question I had all week was, "Oh no! When is it all going to fall apart? Is my foot starting to point to the outside again, because when it does it throws my knee and hip off?  This had me nervous as I saw such great improvement and I want it to stick.

At the MAT appointment on Saturday, I had more work done on my lower legs.It seemed to be more a finishing touch on some muscles and a review of muscles already tested. Since that appointment, I feel like things are at 80-90% and my feet feel solid on the ground including my left big toe and toe joint that never seemed to touch the ground before. I don't sense it falling apart like what would happen last week. For me I can walk and run with a freedom and ease that I haven't' had since I don't know when. I still have to concentrate to do a full stride to complete my gait as I walk, but I am starting to feel like I am getting to something more normal. Yes, I still fear that it will fall apart and I will be forced into old patterns again, but this week is improved as my feet feel more solid and secure in its positioning.

I have also got out of the YMCA and started a very slow build up to running. I have done 2 miles a day now, for 3 days in a row and I hope to continue doing this until my hip and glute loosens up. It may take a few weeks or even a few months, but I am going to be patient and get it right. I still have a pinching and tightness in the inner adductors and my glutes and outer hip can get tight, but I am hoping that some of this is due to a new positioning and  movement pattern inmy left leg as it moves, in what appears to me as a straight line. It is good to be making progress and to feel my bones and body realigning itself throught the Muscle Activation Technique.

Here is a news report introducing Muscle Activation Technique.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Run in the Dark

Have you every wondered why you seem to be running faster when you run at nighttime? Well, someone studied that. Scott Douglass over at Runner's World explains why running at night feels faster. I have enjoyed some of those perceived sensations of speed at many times when I used to regularly run at night. My favorite nighttime run was when I was in college and I had just watched Breaking Away for the first time at a theater. I went back to my dorm energized and ran to the track where I busted out a fast mile at close to midnight. That run, however, may have had more to do with being pumped up by the bike racing I had just seen (which for many of us runners during the running boom was the first introduction to another sport that began to grip our imaginations). According to the article:

“An interesting implication of these findings is that different environments may create different perceptions of effort for the same running speed,” Parry told Runner’s World Newswire. “When running at night, in the dark, objects further away aren’t visible and you only have close-by objects to use as reference, and so you get a greater sense of speed compared to running during the day.” Most people who have done track workouts in the dark will agree that it seems to take more effort to hit a given time than when doing the same workout under a sunny sky.
Which seems like a good time to recommend that you listen to a song my son Andrew just recorded in his free time while he is at college. The song is aptly called "Run in the Dark" and tells of his own inspiration on a late night run. You can listen to it here.

Breaking Away is still one of my favorite movies and was definitely one of the inspirations that got me involved with triathlons just a couple of years later. Here is the trailer for the movie.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Muscle Activation Technique: Session 4

I have completed four sessions of Muscle Activation Technique (MAT) and some interesting things are going on. I have been going in weekly and after my 2nd session of focusing on my left side, we went back to  bilateral work. I felt much better after the third session. I was getting the sensation that the left side of my trunk and pelvis were rotating forward (which was something I needed) for a few days. Monday night I had the feeling of well, nothing. It was one of those rare days that nothing was hurting, pulling, or out of place anywhere in my body. That feeling lasted all day Tuesday and I even remarked to my wife that it felt like a new or missing part had been placed on the outside of my left hip and my stride and balance was perfect when walking, standing, and moving. It lasted all Tuesday night. Wednesday morning, I went back to feeling off again and couldn't get the "magic" back, but that day showed the possibilities of what we are shooting for. By the middle of the day on Wednesday, I took my orthotics completely out of my shoes. They just feel like too much in my shoe since I started the MAT work. I felt they were pushing my feet and legs into the wrong positions. I haven't put them back in. Maybe I will need to someday, but it just doesn't feet right now. On Friday, I decided to try my first run in about a month? When I started off (the goal was 2 miles) my legs and stride felt pretty good, but soon I felt a lot of tightness in and around the front of my hip joint. It was more than usual on a bad day, and although I hoped it would go away, it didn't. I probably should have stopped. but I was only going for a short run. I am guessing that muscles and tendons around the hip are in some new positions and my body doesn't like them just yet as my stride felt pretty good and strong and when I looked down, my left leg was behaving very well. When I finished the run, my left glutes started tightening up deep in the area neat the backside of the top of the femur. It is still loosening up a couple of days later.

Saturday's MAT session started off with Greg asking questions about what my body was telling me. I really appreciate this. I have had a PT recently who wouldn't listen to me or want me to think. Here, I get to think and talk and then have Greg explain what could be going on and how it all fits together. Each session is a running dialogue  I had been feeling tightness all up my left side from my neck to my ribs and to the outside of my hip and ankle, but on the inside of my knee. I figure most of that is my body getting used to changing positioning, and I felt it was time to look below my knees to my toes, ankles, and lower legs. Greg agreed. I have been getting the sensation that my big toe not touching the ground and was throwing me into a position that put the pressure of standing and walking on the inside of my knee.

We did a lot of work on the muscles of the ankle and the muscles related to the toes that cross over the ankle joint. We were working on improving dorsiflexion and plantar flexion. Through testing and retesting we found some muscles that needed some activation, but the big one this week was the posterior tibialis. The interesting thing was the that my calcaneus (heel bones) are very much stuck in a position that does not allow much movement of the foot. I have heard this before (being told I have an inverted heel) and so I get the compensations that I get because I cannot go into pronation. There is probably a thickening and stiffening of tissue keeping it stuck, but I should be able to improve on loosening this up although it could take a year of two. The other interesting thing was it is just not my left foot, but my right foot also has its problems. Anyhow it is good to get started unraveling dysfunctions like this and get my feet working properly. We testing my foot in various positions and I got a bit of cramping at times, but it is always interesting to see a muscle that was weak become strong after the palpations at the the origins and insertions of each muscle all along the foot, ankle, and lower leg up to the top of the calf area. Some of the points on the calf and bottom of the foot can be a little intense. There was one point where there was an immediate and dramatic improvement in my range of motion, After the MAT work my feet are flat on the floor and I can feel a strength and alignment returning up through the knee (not so twisted) and up the inside of my hip. I also feel a pleasant slight burning or awaking around the toes and feet similar to what I felt after my first MAT session and the work on my hips. I also notice that I can rotate my left tibia through my ankle to the inside (pointing my toes to the inside) much further than I ever could before. It would always get stuck when I tried to go beyond 12:00, but it seems I can now easily go a bit beyond 1:00.

Today, I started a slow build up. No more 2 milers sad to say. I went to the YMCA for the first time in months and spent a little bit of time on the stationary bike and the elliptical machine. I ran one lap between using the two machines and two laps at the end of the workout for a grand total of 1/3 of a mile of running. My stride felt strong, but I can still feel the tightness in my left glute a tiny bit. My whole leg is changing its alignment and pattern of stability (could it even be straightening out?) so I have to go into this slowly if I want to do it right. There are no instant fixes after years of dysfunction, but I like where MAT is taking me. The one thing MAT does is give me hope that I will eventually be running pain free again and doing it much better than I did for years.

Read about the Ironman Greats

Yesterday was the 34th Hawaii Ironman World Championships. While I don't follow the sport of triathlon as intimately as I did in the 1980's and 1990's, I always follow what happens at the big race in Hawaii each year. Yesterday's race was won by Australian Pete Jacobs and Leandra Cave from England. Along with the racing, I notice that two recent books by Ironman greats have their Kindle prices temporarily reduced to $2.99 each. A Life Without Limits: A World Champion's Journey by four time champion Chrissie Wellington and I'm Here To Win: A World Champion's Advice for Peak Performance by two time champion Chris McCormack look like good reads so I have purchased both copies at this price and look forward to reading them.

The sport has come a long way since its early roots and I am more familiar with the triathlon greats of the 1980s then the names and careers of the current stars. If you really want to read about the greatest Ironman race of them all, make sure to read Iron War about the Dave Scott-Mark Allen 1989 dual.

If you want to read some interesting and entertaining tidbits about the first Ironman Triathlon held on Kona, rather than the first few races on Oahu, then read Mark Montgomery's training and racing experience from the 1981 race. You will be entertained and maybe astounded about how little was known  about training and racing the Ironman distance in those days. I can confirm how little information was out there as I did my first Ironman distance race in 1983 and I had no clue (yet 1983 was light years ahead of what was known in 1981). What the current crop of triathletes are missing is the total wide-eyed innocence of racing in those days, and how much fun we had making it up as we went along. Here is where you can read Monty's accounts.

Ironman History Lesson that First Year (Slowtwitch forum)
Part One
Part Two
Part Three

The interesting thing for me is of all the many names mentioned in Monty's posts about 1981, I recall each and every one except for one name that doesn't ring a bell. I look at the top ten lists of this years winners in Kona and some names are unfamiliar to me.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Muscle Activation Technique: Session 3

This was the third weekend in a row that I went for a Muscle Activation Technique therapy session. I am going for broke and seeing what this therapy can do for my body. I am also hoping for the best. After my first session, my hips felt loose. After my second session, my body went hairwire. So this session was about finding out when wrong and using that to inform what direction to go. Actually, I shouldn't say, "What went wrong," because I think good things happened and it was just my body rebelling against so many changes to its usual way of doing things. Last week, I just felt my body body warring against itself. My left side felt all off from head to toe. The left side of my back was tight and compressed. It wasn't a happy week. I did not expect this to be an easy or quick way to change the way my body works, so I somewhat expected this rebellion somewhere down the road, but it still was a little unnerving.

I went over this with the therapist and he explained that is a process of finding out what works best. The first week we worked both sides of the hips. The second week we worked mainly on the left side of the body and down to the knees. One sided therapy can work for some people. but we needed to go back to working on both sides and to try more work above the pelvis.

The good news is that most of the tested muscles were holding their strength over a week's time, so that nothing was lost over the week. The one muscle that stands out on me is the left TFL (tensor fasciae latae). This small triangular muscle at the top outside of the hip is tight and does not hold its strength. It not only loses its strength over the week's time, but loses its strength after being activated in a session. It is a key muscle for the gait cycle. Its insertion point is at the head of the iliotibial band that runs down the outside of the thigh. It supports the iliotibial band and stabilizes the hip and knee joints. It helps to flex, abduct, and internally rotate the hip. If it is not working then I am overworking the hip flexors and other muscles to do its job. When I walk or run I cannot keep my leg straight  and the knee and hip rotates internally. I knew my femur rotated internally (knock-knees due to femoral anteversion), but I guess my whole left hip follows along. The TFL may be tight but it is weak, as the hip joint internally rotates the hip gets pulled along by the tight and weak muscle. I am told that this could be a neurological issue (see it is all in my head) as the central nervous system can't or doesn't send the right messages to this muscle. We are trying to get it to activate and recognize the messages. This could be something from birth or an accident, who knows?

We also worked on the right side of the body as my rigth trunk doesn't rotate forward freely (my left  rib cage always feels like it is twisted backwards and the hip seems "behind" the left hip. I need to practice this movement by doing small lunges (left leg forward and then moving my right side forward- or the left side of my torso back. We worked the psoas muscles, the right quadratus lumboron and other muscles like the obliques. We also worked around the iliac crest and some of the muscles going up the spine such as the multifidi and the other spinal muscles. I can't  remember all the muscles as we must be doing 50-100 tests and retests of muscles throughout the session.

I feel better today than I did all last week so I think the changes we made are going in a positive direction. It is just not one part that needs an "instant" fix. It is finding out how everything works or doesn't work together. The place of pain or discomfort may not be the place that needs the treatment. I like Greg's explanations of how gait works and falls apart as we talk, because it matches the things I have found that don't seem to be working correctly when I run. The good news is that MAT matches the type of thinking I have always had about my imbalances and I like the way that it is a muscle by muscle whole-body approach, Next week I go back for session four and more work on the hips and torso. He doesn't want to work on the lower legs for now as that does't seem to be the crux of my problem. He did say he has observed the way my foot functions and that I am going to find some amazing things happen when he gets to the foot. If he worked on them now before fixing things higher upstream, it probably wouldn't hold. There are a lot of muscles in the feet, so I look forward to what he can do with that. I have noticed that my left leg doesn't rotate out so much since the first session and after the second session my feet and big toe interact much more strongly with the ground. I have had to take the orthotics out of my shoes halfway through a day of teaching a few times as it felt like too much in my shoe. So even if we are not working there, things seem to be stabilizing a bit with the hip work.

As for running and exercise, I am being good and have not done any. I do feel itchy to get out there and I am really tired of sitting on my butt for over two years now without being able to do heavy training or at least a contiuous diet of even light running. My day will come and I feel I am on the right path.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Muscle Activation Technique: 2nd Session

Sunday I went in for my second appointment with a MAT Muscle Activation Technique therapist. I had my first appointment a week earlier and I am more than enthusiatic with the results. Every day since that first appointment my hips felt loose and stable and I can get up out of a chair quickly instead of slowly getting up like an old man. I expected the feeling to go away, but every day it stayed the same. I did get some tight muscles in the my legs at times, but simply walking around or resting seemed to snap them back after awhile. My hips felt great, but I did not do any exercise as instructed. Each day I was itching to just try out my looser feeling hips with a run or even a sprint, but I don't want to mess things up by running when I had been instructed not to. The only exercise I did was moving some cut up logs from some trees we cut down. Some of them were about 1 1/2 feet thick and about 2-3 feet long and I was able to carry them 50 feet, while stepping over a rock wall, before throwing them into the woods. My hips remained stable and strong with no stumbling, giving out, or weakness. I was very impressed with the results after just one therapy session.

During the session on Sunday, I had more work done on my hips (primarily the left one), as well as the muscles around my knee (again mostly the left), and then some work on the muscles above my hips and back. Some of the muscles needing work were the usual culprits: the poplitius behind the knee, the QL (quadratus lumburon) on the left side (tight and weak), the TVA (transverse abdominus), and the TFL (tensor fasciae latae). The TFL seems to be the one that is tight and inhibited. As soon as we get it working, it wants to shut down again. I think the sessions are spot on and all the conversations about the muscles make complete sense to me and give me some answers to the things I have been sensing for years. I wish I had a transcript of all the things we talk about concerning the muscles and how they work as well as how MAT attempts to work with these muscles. To me, this seems like the most scientific and muscle specific approach I have yet undertaken to fix my imbalances and my running stride. Each muscle is tested in different directions and positions, then if it is inhibited, we do some isometric contractions, then he palpates the origins and insertions of the muscle before it is retested again. I am amazed by how a muscle that was weak, just minutes earlier suddenly feels solid and strong. He retests certain muscles again after treating surrounding muscles and sometimes they have held their strength and sometimes not, and we go back to fixing that muscle again. It is a very active therapy, as I am moving muscles and turning over on my front, back, or side multiple times. It was also a long therapy session and while my money is very tight, I think that I am certainly getting my money's worth out of these sessions due to the therapists time and expertise and the fact that I am noticing changes and how it makes complete senses to me. I am going back again this weekend. I am still cautioned not to run or exercise in ways that may reinforce my bad patterns and compensations, so I am still on the running retirement list!

That being said, as good as I felt after the first session, I returned home after the second one and started feeling stiff from my toes to my head. Partway through the session, I noticed I had a stiff neck, but didn't say anything. I may have had it earlier in the day. I don't recall. By Sunday evening, my whole left side felt like it usually does on my worst days. All the nice looseness of the previous week was gone. My toe joint hurt, my ankle, my lower leg felt rotated off my knee, my outside hip was tight as well as my glutes and lower back and I felt like a had a kink in my upper back and neck. All of this on my left side. Maybe the therapy was too aggressive, maybe we did too much work on one side, maybe my upper back or neck had something to do with it, or maybe it was just my body readjusting in another way to all the changes. It lasted for two nights and then last night I got up and shifted my hips a bit and there was a loud thunk in my pelvis (or hips) and things started calming down. I guess some muscles let go or something shifted back into position. The muscles in my legs are still tight like I have done some heavy exercise, but I haven't, however I still feel more balanced and can walk up and down stairs without lurching, holding on to the railing, or shifting to one side. My upper back and neck still are stiff so maybe that is something else, but I am writing it all down so I can remember when I go in for the next session.

Here is a new article on Muscle Activation Technique as found on the Hugo Anywhere blog. It looks like it was written for older people with mobility problems that may be more obvious (using canes and walkers), but if I don't get myself taken care of soon, that could be me in a few years. The article stresses a couple key points about MAT therapy very clearly. If your are interested in learning about the working of MAT, read these highlights from the article.

According to Greg Roskopf who began developing MAT twenty-five years ago, the key to building strength is through reducing tightness and increasing range of motion.
Roskopf posits that tightness is a symptom of muscle weakness, and it’s actually caused by faulty wiring of the neuromuscular system preventing information from getting to the muscle from the brain. Without the proper signals, muscles tighten up as a defensive mechanism, resulting in pain, inflammation and limited mobility. MAT aims to restore those neuromuscular pathways in order to slow, or even reverse the progression of muscular dysfunction that causes weakness and muscular imbalances...“As we age, this instability becomes an internal issue, maybe part of the muscular system itself becoming dysfunctional, causing the same neurological response as walking on ice, to take shorter strides and limit their range of motion. The goal of MAT is to melt the ice, provide a sense of stability. If you do that the body will provide all the mobility in the world.” ...While other therapies treat tightness directly using stretching or massage, MAT treats the muscular dysfunction as a neurological disorder. Using digital manipulation of the muscle (manually pressing and palpating) MAT trains the muscles and brain to work as a connected system. Imagine trying to start a car without a battery. Much the same way, MAT aims to restore the electrical pathways between the muscle and the brain. By patching that channel of communication between the muscle and the nervous system the chance of injury is reduced.

This technique involves palpating the muscle where it attaches to bone, called the points of origin and insertion, and retraining the brain to fire the muscle and connecting muscles...

Unlike movement-based therapy therapies such as yoga or Qi Gong, MAT is an isolate-based technique. Similar to the way mechanics works on cars, MATs examine the body in stasis as an integrated system and isolate the dysfunction. MAT practitioners want to know what you can’t do. When a movement is activating a muscle that is weak, other stronger, synergistic muscles will compensate. MAT aims to resolve the perpetuation of strong muscles getting stronger and weak muscles staying weak.

You can find out more about Muscle Activation Technique at the MAT site here (which I note has been recently updated from the earlier archaic design). This video gives a bit of a picture of a what a MAT assessment and treatment looks like.