Saturday, February 9, 2013

If you have bad hips, knees, or ankles

Ironman Triathlons and the damage
 being done back in the 1980s.
If you have bad hips, knees, or ankles then listen to this. I have read everything I could find to try to solve my running imbalances and bad hip. Since the 1980s when I jumped into triathlons from a running background, I have been constantly sore, tight, and imbalanced after most runs and have spent a great majority of that time in constant discomfort. After five years of doing triathlons and five Ironman distance races,  I was even having a hard time standing up. I went to my first doctor (and was told never to run again) and got my first PT because I was worried I would not even be able to stand up painlessly for my wedding ceremony 25 years ago. Sitting in chairs killed me and driving in a car for an hour would set my back off for days. I was spending so much time cracking my back to try to get relief and stretching every which way possible for hours a night when sometimes when I could not sleep. Ask my wife, I am not making this up.

Eventually my journey led me to many types of therapies. Some provided relief and I got more control over the pain, but I also started running in an even more twisted up fashion. Eventually, when I had exhausted every therapy I could find or afford, I had read enough to believe I had a labral tear in my hip. I was correct and one year later, I had surgery to repair the hip. That was July 2011. I bounced back quicker than any other labral tear person I have heard of and was running within 3 weeks of the surgery and did an 8 miler within two months. However, I never got running more than 8 miles again, except for a 13 miler right after my one year surgery anniversary (and after a cortizone shot).
Totally twisted at the 2009 Applefest 1/2 Marathon.

My hip and body feels so much better since the surgery, but I still had a tightness surrounding  my hip and tight adductors, hip flexors, and glutes. Last fall I had lots of Muscle Activation Technique work which has pretty much dealt with strengthening my feet and toes and flattened my toes on the ground again. This was huge for helping my running stride, but I still felt the tightness in my hip.

Last week I got an email from The Ageless Body email list. It referred to a new ebook by Sean Schniederjan called "The Ultimate Hip, Knee, and Ankle Guide for One-Legged Squats." It sounded like a lot of hype, and I have found many ebooks that I have bought to be of limited help, including "The Ageless Body" ebook itself. Now even though, back in 2008 I wrote about pistols (one-legged squats) in this post, they really are not on my radar as for something I can or should be doing, but the email was not just about pistols, but rather imblanced and weak hips.

The email said,

What is the Ultimate Hip, Knee, and Ankle Guide for One Legged Squats?
A 34 page e-book containing a series of corrective strengthening exercises (and one flexibility exercise) aimed at drastically improving mobility and strength so that a person can have very strong and well balanced hips – even to the point of doing one legged squats (more on what that means below).
Well, I know I wanted and was still working on imbalanced hips and weak hips.
Why is hip and leg strength important? 
Hip and leg strength is a sign of vitality and longevity. I quoted Troy Aikman (retired NFL quarterback) in the ad. He said that in football, leg strength goes first and when that goes, everything else starts to go down with it. He had a relatively short career because he didn’t take his leg strength more seriously in my opinion. He and Brett Farve entered the league at around the same time, 1990. Troy retired in 2000 and Brett took a team to the championship game in 2009. If he wanted to, many say Brett could still play in the NFL. Not many people know this, but Brett could squat more than some of the guys twice his size who played on the offensive line. Strong legs=longevity. Now let’s look at a more mundane example.
Hips and legs might be the most important physical quality to have for anti-aging. Here’s what I mean. I work at an estate planning law office during the day. I frequently work with people who are in their 80s, 90s and 100s. I have one client in her 90s who is built like a tank. She can quickly and forcefully get out of a chair without using her arms. She has strong hips. She told me her secret is walking up stairs every day.
I have another client in his 70s. He can’t get out of his chair, I have to lift him in and out of the chair (thankfully I use kettlebells so that isn't a problem like it is for the others in my office). His hips are gone. I don’t know how it happened, but that poor man can no longer move.
I do have a hard time getting out of chairs and that is troubling. From reading more about Sean, he went from being very strong to losing strength in his left hip and they he had to find a way to get that strength back due to his imbalances. I wasn't convinced that I would learn anything from the ebook, but I did not want to give up the opportunity to learn something new, and a lot of what I have learned through the years does not come from the running community, but from the kettlebell-strength community, so I decided to give the ebook a shot.

I have not put up my running mileage from last week, but last Tuesday I ran 7 miles, the next day I got the ebook, did some of the movements (including one in particular that opens up the hips) and ran 7 miles, again, then Thursday I repeated with 7 miles, and still feeling strong and balanced, I ran 10 miles on Friday. That was my second time over 8 miles since the surgery and I felt great the next day too. I took the day off and Sunday ran a 5k. Running fast (in my current condition) makes me sore, so on Monday I got on the treadmill hoping to run 3 miles, but instead because I was feeling balanced, I ran 10 miles again. Whoa! I felt great after this run (except for some developing blisters) and hit the treadmill again on Tuesday. I was wondering if I could run after running 10 miles the previous day. Ever since my surgery, I have gotten weaker on back to back runs. I started out, felt balanced, and did another 10 miler. The biggest problem besides the blisters was dealing with the boredom of 1 1/2 hours on the treadmill. Wednesday, I hit 10 miles again. Thursday, ditto! Friday, well I was tired, and was going to take the day off, but as the day went on I started feeling recuperated again and so I did my fifth 10 miler in a row. That is 50 miles this week and I still have two days to go. I was beyond thrilled to just hit 30 miles two weeks ago. Now, I do know I am not really doing this because it is smart! I am doing this, I guess, because it has been a long time since I could run and not be twisted up and hurting in some way after the run. I run, do a few movements and I am fine. I like the mental aspect of pushing myself. I am an endurance runner, however and I do like tests of endurance. Will I run today and tomorrow, probably. I'd like to see what type of mileage I can hit and I will be so much more mentally strong when I am ready to run more on a weekly basis. I will be cutting the mileage down next week. But, can you believe it? I can train like a marathoner again!

I have been keeping pretty hush-hush about my training this week (don't want to jinx myself), except I  wrote an email to Sean after my first 10 miler telling him how the movements are working for me.

Sean quoted parts of my email in his latest introduction to his ebook:. So this was my response last week that was included.
Thanks for the link to the ebook. I was hesitant about possibly seeing the same old exercises again, but took a chance and ordered it. I have had hip/back issues for years. I am/was a marathon runner. Eventually, I figured out I had a labral tear and had surgery 1 1/2 years ago. I got back to running quickly, but I still had some awful compensations from years of running through the injury. You can see how bad things looked a few years ago in some of these photos taken at a 1/2 marathon where I was so crooked, I don't know how I could run like that (look for red Triad shirt):  
I really enjoyed the ebook particularly the emphasis on the relationship between the foot and the hip. I couldn't get PTs or anyone to tell me why my big toe joint wouldn't touch the ground, until I got some Muscle Activation Technique work done this fall to pretty much fix that imbalance. I still had a tightness high up in my adductors I think, pulling my left (operated hip) in tight which left me unstable and limping after my runs. No one could help me on this. I am enjoying the exercises in the ebook, but the one for "creating space in the hips" was the real deal for me. Immediately after doing this move, I felt my hips pop open and since Wednesday, my left hip is so much more balanced over that leg. I had run 7 miles on Tuesday (which would usually mean I couldn't run much the next day as I would normally be limping at that point and getting weaker in the hip), but no, I ran 7 miles the again after doing the stretches, and 7 miles again the next day, and 10 miles today (2nd longest run since the surgery) and I feel great and more stable as I run (I still have a way to go)! This stretch really works for me and I have looked around and read everything I could find trying to relieve that tightness in that hip. I am hoping that things stay this way and I can continue building my strength in that hip.
There are a few things I really liked about the ebook. I like how Sean tied the feet to the hips. That is my belief and something I have been working on. Neither works in isolation! An imbalance in one leads to an imbalance in the other. I also found his movements to be new and simple! The hip opener seems to be the big money shot for me. So much of the tightness around my hip disappeared the first time I did this simple move. Some of the others like using a kettlebell to strengthen the hip flexor sound so easy. Why didn't I think of that? I am working on this one. While I can run now for a longer distance, I still have a hard time lifting up my left leg to put on socks or just to lift it up. That has been going on since the surgery and I have just ignored it, hoping it would go away, or thinking it is part of an impingement still in my hip. Now, I will see if strengthening the hip flexor with this move will help with that problem too!

If you have some imbalance issues with your hips, or problems with your knees, ankles (and I would ad lower-back) then I would strongly recommend this ebook. As you can see it is adding on to all the work I have been doing and pushing my beyond the places where I was stuck. Here is Sean's link to purchasing his ebook. The ebook seems to come and go. It was offline for a week after I first ordered it and it sounds like the newest offer ends on Sunday, so that is why I am doing this post today, rather than on Sunday, when I would have divulged all the running I have been doing since spending only a few minutes each day on the movements in the ebook.

Here is a new video from Sean showing a couple of the movements: including the kick back and the kettlebell one I mentioned earlier. The book goes into more details and shows the hip-opener that has been key to me.

And to all my running friends who might be inclined to call me an idiot for bouncing my mileage up so quickly, please don't. When someone lets a wild animal out of its cage, it likes to run. That is how I feel. The prison that was my hips are being opened up and I can now run! I have to run!


Mike said...

Very awesome! Glad you have had such amazing results. I am sure you will keep us posted on your progress. You got me interested enoguh to buy the book. Thanks for the heads up on the book deal.

Jim Hansen said...

Mike, Let me know if it works for you and what you find helpful.

andy Smallhorn said...

Jim I am trying your streches I have an arthritic hip , due to sports a car accident and age. I'm 51 still active in ball hockey and men's slow pitch. Running is a chore for me. I've had 3 injections in hip with a lubricant orthovisc helped some what if all fails will get total hip replaced then that will be end of career so I am going to work hard and forward my results. Andy Smallhorn Windsor Ontario canada

Jim Hansen said...

I would like to hear how it goes for you. Best wishes!