Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Downhills and Uphills: The Millenium Mile

I ran the Millennium Mile on Sunday with my family. There is not much to write about as it was my slowest time ever on the course. From the first steps I knew I would not have an easy time of it. My finish time reflects how stiff and awkward I felt. I have had a couple of minor sicknesses that have limited my running (plus five days without electricity!). I also have not kept up with my stretching and other work. I have had a few good days of running lately, but mostly I have had days where I can't get things back into balance. I had been stuck for the two days before the race with my left knee twisting in and that lower leg twisting out with a weird pronation. Before the race I tried all my strategies but I couldn't get anything to get my legs back in balance. So I ran the race on twisted legs and hips and it wasn't fun. Even though it was a downhill race, I felt like I was running uphill!

After the race I went back to checking things out again to find out what is wrong with my body. Is it the feet throwing off my hips or my hips throwing off my legs? I went back to some pages I had bookmarked on the sacroiliac joint. I was reading through one page and tried this easy movement on both hips.

This is what I did: While lying on my back, I pulled the right knee snuggly to my chest to rotate the pelvis up in front. I held tightly with my arms around my knee and then pushed my knee out against my arms to cause the pelvis to shift downward in back of the sacrum. I tried to feel my back flatten. I did it 3 times for 10 seconds on each side. That is all I did except that I also tried it in the sitting position.

The site I got this version from seems to imply that the opposite side sacrum may cause the damage that you feel on the out of alignment leg. I also realize that this information owes a lot to Richard DonTigny's site which I have previously seen and bookmarked. Here are his exercises. Maybe previously I have tried too many of them or my body wasn't in the right mood for them to work, or the stars and moon weren't aligned properly, or who know why things work and don't work on my body?

Soon after this adjustment my hips felt completely balanced and free again. I didn't have the uncomfortable feeling of my hips being off and muscles in the hip and back pulling. I could stand balanced on my left leg. My legs weren't bent out and were much more even. In other words I was feeling great again. I couldn't wait to go running the next day and had a easy and quick 8 mile run where I didn't have to constantly adjust my stride. I kept doing the movement here and there during the day and while I was playing Monopoly on the floor with my daughter I tried it again. All of a sudden there was a very loud "THWACK" in my left hip. I didn't feel a thing but everyone in the room sat up and asked, "What was that?" It seemed that my leg (femur) had popped into place or something as it sounded like a giant Lego piece being snapped into another. I didn't feel any different, but maybe something got repositioned. It is just another strange noise my leg has made this year.

My hip still felt fine all day today. I ran on the treadmill which is something I find hard to do as it usually points out very clearly the imbalances in my stride and I have to concentrate hard on positioning. Today I just flowed along with the treadmill. The run was easy. I have no clue when my body will break down again and when it does, I probably won't be able to get it back in the same way. However the dramatic change between the the feeling of imbalance and balance lets me think that I have to target the sacroiliac joints.

I can stretch my muscles through resistance stretching, mobilize my joints through Z-Health, work on my strength and core, stretch my fascia through The Ming Method, and do releases for the leg muscles, but none of those worked so quickly to resolve the imbalances as that one sacroiliac movement did. I remember too that it was another stretch for the sacrum area that put my hips in balance after the Applefest Half-Marathon!

Now if only I could redo that Millennium Mile!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Recover Those Old Runner's World Magazines

A couple of weeks ago a fellow runner gave me a box of old Runner's World magazines and booklets. Let me just say that Christmas came early as my Runner's World collection goes back to 1975 or so. These are black and white issues from the early 70's. Not only that but there were plenty of those old Runner's World booklets, year end yearbooks, and Olympic recap magazines. I had only bought a couple of the booklets when I was in high school and I have been kicking myself since. I have always wanted to read Ron Daws' "The Self Made Olympian" or any of the other biographies: Jack Foster, Frank Shorter, Dave Wottle, George Young, and Gerry Lindgren . Take a look at all that I have to read. I consider myself a lucky guy and thank the runner who wanted to give these away rather than throw them away!

Fortunately I have had time to read through a few of the books and flip through the magazines already. Unfortunately it was due to losing electricity for 5 days because of the ice storm. Here is a video of the damage around our house from all the branches and trees that fell.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Recover the Mill City Relays Championship Trophy

Sunday was the 25th annual running of the Mill City Relays. My running club, the Gate City Striders, took the win. The results are here. The team I ran on came in 26th. I got stuck with the long 9.5 mile leg. Here is a video I made playing around with Animoto, a very neat site I have been using with my students. I used pictures of Gate City runners taken by Steve Wolfe and Frank Georges. The song is called "Hit the Ground Running" by The Alarm.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

First Marathon: 1977 Dallas White Rock Marathon

It was 31 years ago today that I ran my first ever marathon. I had just finished up my freshman cross-country season at Wheaton College in Illinois when I was invited to go down to Dallas to run the White Rock Marathon. Wheaton College was interested in building a new Fitness Center at the college so some faculty members where going down to Dallas to visit Dr. Ken Cooper, the author of "Aerobics", and his fitness center. I decided to join the group to run the marathon and so soon after Thanksgiving break we piled into a couple of cars for the long ride. It was not a pleasant drive as we were crammed into a car and I had a case of bad food poisoning or something that made me live for those rest stops.

We first stopped in Oklahoma to visit a fitness center at Oral Roberts University. After arriving in Dallas we had a private tour with Ken Cooper of his facility. That night we had dinner at a pizza restaurant and Dr. George Sheehan walked in. He sat at our table and we enjoyed some conversations with him. The day before the race we went to seminars where we heard many guest speakers. This is probably where I first got interested in the science of running.

Mike Pollack from the Human Performance Lab gave a talk on elite runners. From my notes that I still have, he talked about scientific tests that had recently been done on the elite American runners. He talked about the muscle biopsies as well as maximum oxygen update tests. We learned that better performers had more slow twitch muscles. He gave an example of Frank Shorter having 80% slow twitch fibers. He said good runners had an average of 70% slow twitch fibers. However Don Kardong, who eventually placed 4th in an Olympic Marathon, had only 50% slow twitch fibers. When measuring the maximum oxygen uptake he said that 70 mls seemed to be what elite runners had. The highest that he measured was Steve Prefontaine with 84.5 . He said that there was no difference between the measures of lactic acid and blood pressure when comparing elite athletes with others. The one thing he mentioned was that efficiency is what "does it". An elite athlete was able to run efficiently as well as have less than 5% body fat. "Streamlined is better for competition". He did end by stating that many things make an athlete elite so, "don't put all your eggs in one basket."

I found an article from the IAAF from 2006 that talks about a 1976 study that including Michael Pollack's studies. It says this:
"Back in the 1970s, Dr. Michael Pollack and other physiologists, collaborated to study the top US distance runners of the era, such as 1972 Olympic champion Frank Shorter and Steve Prefontaine. The data gathered from these athletes, such as muscle biopsy samples and oxygen consumption data, provided a profile of the make up of top endurance athletes but also created almost as many questions as it answered. Foremost among them, perhaps, remains the issue of what is lumped into the term "running economy." It is sort of a catch all term used to record the fact that an athlete can run at a given speed at a given cost. Some runners can run at higher speeds seemingly because they have a greater ability to process oxygen. They have a higher VO2 max. Others, with lower VO2 readings, can run as fast or faster, presumably because they are more "efficient." But what makes them more efficient? What allows them to generate as much or more power and maintain their speed for as long or longer than other athletes? These are the mysteries that future studies may discover. These are the questions that may be answered by research into the "triggers" of athlete's physiological adaptations to the training they endure to reach the heights of athletic excellence."

It was very interesting to hear about the cutting edge research going on at that time. Dr. Sheehan gave a talk on overuse injuries and gave out the mantra to "know yourself" something I am still trying to figure out in this blog. Dr. Steve Subotnick talked about podiatry. Bill Morgan gave a talk on psychological considerations for running. I always remember him talking about runners who disassociate as they run; they think about other things. He said world class runners associate as they run. They constantly go over strategy, monitor their bodies, and focus on relaxation.

Then we had the marathon. December 3, 1977 was hot and sunny in Dallas, Texas. We drove out to the starting area around White Rock Lake. I had never run more than 16 miles in my life. We drove down from cold Chicago and were not ready for the heat. I also had a knee injury that was giving me pain. I don't remember too much of the race. I guess it was going well the first bit except my knee kept hurting and I wasn't sure if I could finish. Halfway through the race my knee stopped hurting and I have been fortunate to have good knees since that day as the pain never returned. I remember slowing a lot in the last few miles. I finished in 306th place with a time of 3:25:44. I learned two things. Number one: never wear a shirt with stitched on letters on the front during a marathon.Number two: always wear band-aids so you don't bleed. The shower after that race was very painful. The winners of the race where John Lodwick in 2:16:43 and Marianne Pugh in 2:56:55. Other notable finishers were Ron Tabb in 3rd place with a time of 2:22:01 and Penny DeMoss, of Runner's World fame, in 2:56:58.

I had bad running form even back then, but this was 10 miles further than I had
ever run!

Wheaton College runners (none of us were even good enough to be JV runners) were Dean Nervik (3:19:09 -I wasn't happy when he passed me), Dale Anderson (3:53:48), and Ron Vlieger and Tim Johnson (both in 4:18:39 and just seconds behind the legendary Walt Stack). Dr. Cliff Schimmels ran 3:58:56. I was only 18 years old and I was impressed that an older roundish man could even run that far. He was only 40 years old at the time but seemed ancient for a runner! Even though Wheaton College did not have a woman's cross-country team at the time we had a good female runner join us. Susie Sandstrom finished in 3:29:23 as the 12th overall woman and second in the under 19 years old age group by only 4 seconds.

Dale Anderson, Ron Vlieger (behind), Susie Sandstrom, Dean Nervick, me, Tim
Johnson (behind), Cliff Schimmels
Other notable finishers were George Sheehan who at 60 years old ran 3:17:19 and Alex Ratelle, who at 53 years old finished in 2:36:46 for 19th place overall. 909 runners participated in the marathon. Tony Sandoval won the accompanying half-marathon in 1:09:02. It was a long drive back to Illinois, but I was happy. After 4 1/2 years of running I had finally won something. Every finisher got a small trophy of a shoe on a piece of marble. I have run about 40 more marathons since that first one in Dallas. Wheaton College did build a fitness center, but it was completed after I graduated.

Friday, November 28, 2008

ELDOA Stretching and More Joint Mobility

I have found a couple of PDF files that give some background information on myofascial stretching and joint mobility. The first PDF is called "Myofascial Stretching" and is on a stretching system called ELDOA. This system was developed by Dr. Guy Voyer and it is the system that many of the stretches used in "The Ming Method" are based upon. These are just demonstrations but they give you an idea of how the stretches do work (and how different and complicated they can be).

The other PDF file is called "Get Free to Move". It shows some of the moves in Scott Sonnen's Intu-Flow DVD. You can get a pretty good idea of the stetches and the joint mobility work that are on his Intu-Flow DVD. I have the DVD, but I see he has a book out now. There was only one review (interesting cons) on Amazon.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Recover Your 70's Network Stars Relay Video

I was reading the current issue of ESPN magazine when I saw this article by Bill Simmons on his favorite youtube video clip. The article is funny and sure enough when I checked out the clip it brought back some bad memories of 70's TV and lifestyles. There are all sorts of strange things going on in what surely is the reality TV forerunner to today's Survivor. The best part is when Gabe Kaplan (Welcome Back Kotter) defeats the Robert Conrad in the rematch. No one expected it, but no one knew Kaplan had run track in high school. Anyhow the clip has an Olympic Champion, a smoking Telly Savalas, Howard Cosell, Farrah Fawcett, Wonder Woman, Laverne, Opie, and a bunch of other 70's celebrities acting like it is the Olympic games. There is also a bunch of political incorrectness, funny uses of vocabulary, and tube socks. Who knew running could be so entertaining? Read the article then watch the video.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

How to Recover Your Stride: Recommendations 6-10

I started a list of the 10 best things I have tried this year in order to recover my stride. It was one of my worst years of running ever, but by the end I am finding my body is working better and I am feeling much looser and freer as I run than I have in a very long time. For once I don't live day to day wondering what is going to hurt or be out of alignment. Instead I am feeling better, in control, and on a postivie upswing with my running and feeling so much better and pain free thoughout each day. My first 5 picks can be found here:

Number 1 The Ming Method as learned through the book "The Permanent Pain Cure" by Ming Chew

Number 2 Resistance Stretching

Number 3 Z-Health Joint Mobility

Number 4 Ageless Mobility DVD

Number 5 Get Out and Try Something New: Relieve the Pressure!

Number 6
"Brain Training for Runners"

My number 6 pick for recovering your stride is the book "Brain Training for Runners" by Matt Fitzgerald. I like books that present new and different ideas towards improving your running and this in not a retread of the same old ideas. More than half the book is training plans and I have no need for these as of now, but the rest of the book (about 200 out of over 500 pages) is very interesting. I especially like the proprioceptive clues. These are cues that you can use to concentrate on in order to improve your stride. I also like his core conditioning exercises, his dynamic flexibility exercises (what you should be doing before a run instead of static stretching exercises), and the anti-sitting exercises.

You can also find more of the dynamic mobility exercises on Eric Cressey's Magnificent Mobility DVD. Matt Fitzgerald wrote another book with Eric Cressey called Maximum Strength. It is more about weight training than running but it has some good drills and warm up exercises in the book. For such a cheap price, there is a lot of interesting information in the Brain Training book.

Number 7:
Self-Adjusting Techniques:

Number 7 on my list is actually two different self-help approaches to help solve alignment problems. I link the two together because both are things I could only find through use of the Internet. They both involve "thinkers" or "tinkerers" trying to solve problems with the function of body and do so in a new or different way. They both are also self-help methods. Both of these methods I have used to bring some relief to a "stuck" sacrum. Both of the methods also utilize movement of your body to fix it.

The first method I discovered was The Dorn Method. It is likened to a gentle model of chiropractic or osteopathy. I have had two runners thank me for directing them to the Dorn Method website and they have found the exercises helpful. I have not used The Dorn Method much since I made these posts because they were not the "full" answer for my alignment problems. Some of the hip exercises have been helpful in loosening up my hip and I have also used the knee and ankle alignment exercises. However now my body is in my better shape then it was when first I made these posts. I think it is a tool I could use in the future to help if things start falling apart again although it didn't magically fix things for me.

Here are my posts on The Dorn Method:

The Dorn Method: Can it be a simple fix for misaligned joints?

Winning when the Running is not going well!

The other method came from the Self-Adjusting Technique website. I found the video for releasing the sacrum on youtube and used it after a 1/2 marathon that I ran with my sacrum stuck.

Immediately after doing the release it felt loose and free again. I have found that I shouldn't do this release when it is not stuck, but the two times it was jammed it seemed to help tremendously. Meanwhile it has not been stuck like that for a while now so I am happy. There are all sorts of other releases in the e-book but I have not really tried them as things are going pretty well these days. I did find the e-book easy to read and understand, I just don't want to mess around with my body when other things are working well for me.

Here are posts I have made on this technique:

Tips for the Adjusting and Releasing the Psoas, Sacrum, and Piriformis

Loosening Up Tight Hips: Sacrum Adjustment

Number 8:
The T-Roller: Roll Out Tight Muscles

I won a T-Roller massage tool at my first race of the year. I have a couple of The Stick massage tools and have used them heavily for years. The T-Roller is small like my Travel Stick but it actually is easier to get deep into a muscle than with my original Stick (which lacks much flexibility). The reason it gets a deeper massage is that it has rollers of different widths and this allows you to target a tight tissue or trigger point more effectively. I use my T-Roller (as well as The Stick too) often when I awake and my muscles are feeling tight. It is the best tool I have for relaxing and getting back to sleep.

You can find out more about the T-Roller here:


Here is my post on the T-Roller

The Stick vs. The T-Roller

Number 9:

Number 9 on my list it the only thing on my list that I was using last year, but it was at the end of the year so I include it here. I knew last year that I would have to try something new and different to help the hip and alignment problems that were plaguing me. I decided to look into kettlebells. They can be used for strength training but they also work the whole body out in a very fun movement orientated workout. Not only that but they get the heart pumping pretty quickly. I really enjoy swinging the kettlebells. I learned the techniques on my own through books and videos. When I use them I feel so much better particularly through the back and shoulders. I did find however, when my hips were off that the exercises were not that good for me because it would pull on my hips and back and I was practicing bad movement patterns.

Kettlebells have been the best strength training device I have ever owned. They are also the most fun. I can just barely do them indoors as when I do snatches the kettlebell swings up about an inch below the ceiling. If you are tall you better have a high ceiling. This winter I hope to get back into them more as I cut back some on the running. What is nice is that workouts do not need to take a long time. I also pick up the kettlebell at various times throughout the day and do a few swings or snatches and it always feels good.

There are a few books on kettlebells but the best way to learn is through a DVD. You can go to Dragon Door, the website of Pavel Tsatsouline to learn more about Russian Kettlebells. The best videos I have found have been the videos for the women. Pavel's videos show you how to do some of the lifts, but the women's videos take you through some routines that you can follow along with. The best is "The Kettlebell Goddess Workout". It has a variety of routines for specific body areas and includes some joint mobility work and stretches.

Kettlebells: The Iron Core Way Volumes One and Two are also good. Both take you through full body routines and explain how to use the kettlebell properly.

A kettlebell can be expensive (especially the shipping!). You need to read up on them and get the right size (which will be less weight than you think). I ordered my 35 pounder through Muscle Driver. The handle is thick but I think that is to help with your grip strength. I have two lighter weight kettlebells that I picked up at a Target store. They are good for light intensity exercise (or when learning). In summary I find kettlebells very appealing and a fun way to work with weights. But it is not just a weight workout as you are working on balance and form.

Number 10:
Relearning Good Posture

Number 10 on my list would be a book I haven't even finished reading yet. It is the book "8 Steps to a Pain Free Back" by Esther Gokhale. I find the book to be visually interesting, eloquently written, and a fascinating look at the way posture has changed in the past 80 years. It shows how toddlers, some modern cultures, and people in earlier times held their bodies and moved differently. It also explores why these changes happened. Then it has a way to bring us back into better posture. I tried a bit of the positions and found them interesting but have yet to have the time necessary to devote to this book while I am still making other changes. The book trains you how to sit, walk, move, and even sleep better and to do it without the pain of an incorrect posture. The pictures of people throughout the world and in art works just make the book something worthwhile and thought provoking to read.

Well those are my ten favorite things I have tried this year in order to recover my stride. I have bought and tried and used plenty of other things: some were helpful and some were a waste of my time and money. There are no orthotic or foot insert devices mentioned. There are no sessions with chiropractors, active release therapists, massage therapists, rolfers, physical therapist, or anyone else (except Janet the resistance stretcher). Not that these aren't good things to try or that they work is not important, but after using all of these people in the past I still could not fix the problems with my hips and alignment issues without going back for more visits. I have not gone in for an adjustment or even a massage since the summer and I am feeling more in control of knowing what to do and how to do it if I want to continue to be a healthy and competitive runner.

Every athlete and person responds differently to every different therapy. We are all an experiment of one. These seem to be strategies that work for me. They may be just as helpful to others. I also look forward to making more progress so that I can run freely into my 50's and feel as good as I did when I was much younger. I may even find more interesting and workable solutions to keeping healthy and running strong.

I am also open to learning new things. I would like to know what works for others and what else might be worthwhile to look into. Or what your experience has been if you have tried any of these suggestions.

I am very much looking forward to the next year, particularly if I can maintain and improve on the positive results I have been having for the past couple of months.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

How to Recover Your Stride: Recommendations #3-5

Previously I announced my first two picks of new ideas or methods I have tried this year that have helped improve my running. Now for my next three choices.

Number 1 The Ming Method as learned through the book "The Permanent Pain Cure" by Ming Chew

Number 2 Resistance Stretching

Number 3
Z-Health Joint Mobility

I have never really paid attention to the way my joints work and move. Who does unless they are injured? I came across Z-Health right before I started this blog. This was some very new thinking for me. I learned about it when I was searching outside the typical solutions that runners try when they are dealing with injuries or a loss of ability. I learned about it as I was exploring kettlebells and strength training.

My first blog post was about Z-Health. At first, upon ordering and trying the Z-Health DVDs I noticed an instant improvement in my how my body worked. I thought I had finally found the long sought after answer to my stride and imbalance problems. It worked for awhile, and although I did the exercises diligently, they stopped having the full effect that I anticipated. Yes the joint mobility routines helped my body, but the imbalances in my body were too overpowering and joint mobility work on its own did not restore my stride to an acceptable level.

I continued to use the Z-Health routines, but not as often, and tried other joint mobility programs to see what results I could get (see pick #4 below). Eventually I realized that my body needed more than just joint mobility work if I was to fully recover my stride.

In the past couple of months as I have seen significant improvements in my body, running, and stride due to resistance stretching and some of the Ming Method routines. I have begun to slowly reintroduce some of the joint mobility routines (or even just a few of the exercises). I have found them beneficial and a great compliment to the stretching I am doing. I think they work well in conjunction with the other work I am doing: they may help the stretching take hold better and when the stretching helps loosen the muscles the Z-Health drills help my joints relearn correct movement patterns.

I have also learned that you don't have to do all the drills standing up like on the DVDs. Dr. Eric Cobb, the inventor of Z-Health, has sent out some e-mails and one was to try some of the routines sitting or lying down. I have found that this lets me focus better on some of the drills. He also advocates doing the routines at different speeds. The DVD shows the being done quickly, but this is not always the best way. I know the manuals said to do them slower, but wrongly I figured "quicker was better". When I do them much slower I realize now that I find the results can be much more impressive.

What is Z-Health? It is a joint mobility program that helps you use proper joint movement patterns. It re-educates your joints so they function as intended. There are exercises for every joint in the human body from the toes to the head. The exercises are very brief with limited repetitions, but you are training for perfect movement, not for quantity of repetitions. The other aspect of Z-Health is that it claims to retrain the nervous system so that it will function more efficiently. I don't find the exercises hard or tiring. In fact I feel much better after doing them. Sometimes an exercise will result in an immediate improvement. The interesting thing is an exercise for one joint may have an effect in another place on the body. For example freeing my right shoulder can often result in a freeing of my left hip. I have taught some of the exercises to my fourth grade students. They love doing them. For example, before writing we may try some finger mobility drills (which they found hard to do) or when "joint" was a vocabulary word, I taught them some joint mobility drills with their legs and shoulders. They had fun and I often see them repeating a drill on their own.

If you are interested check out the Z-Health website to learn more. I know one person (Paul are you still out there?) who bought the introductory DVD and found it valuable. I bought the package deals. At first I bought the R-Phase with Neural Warm up package and this may be all you need. I then bought the I-Phase package much earlier than I would have needed it just to see what the new drills would be. These are more advanced versions of the drills with different positionings that mimic some of the positions athletes may find themselves moving in. It is interesting, more advanced, but not that essential. I think I tried to work too hard at the Z-Health at first and, as recommended by Dr. Cobb, you should spend a lot of time on the first routines and change them up by altering the speed and your position rather than rush into more advanced drills.

One important tenet of the Z-Health system is the SAID principle. It is an acronym used in human physiology that means "Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand". In other words your body gets better at exactly what it practices. In education terms I often call this "perfect practice makes perfect-imperfect practice makes imperfect". In other words if I have been running for years with a body with poor movements patterns that makes continuous compensations to keep running (which is what my body does for whatever the reason) then I will continue to run and move with those same patterns until I practice other movement patterns and get the nervous system to recognize and utilize these new patterns. So I am an imperfect runner because I keep running imperfectly- that is what I trained my body to do. The Z-Health neural training and joint mobility work alongside other methods of freeing and releasing tight muscle and connective tissue can be an important part of getting back into proper running form.

To find out more about Z-Health you can go to their website here:

Here are some of my posts that refer to my experiences with Z-Health. I should mention that the people at Z-Health are very friendly and helpful . They will even talk to you over the phone and answer questions and give some advice.

Aging and Feeling Good While Running

Joint Mobility Through Z-Health

Z-Health I Phase: Joint Mobility with Athletic Movement Drills

Some Reading to Explore on Joint Mobility and Z-Health

Why fast runners need good hip mobility

Ankle Mobility Drills: Can they Improve Hip Function?

Number 4
Ageless Mobility

After working on joint mobility with Z-Health I explored joint mobility exercises further. I came upon the of Scott Sonnon and his DVD "Ageless Mobility". When I ordered and tried this DVD for the first time I was amazed at how thoroughly it worked my entire body. In fact I remember finishing it and being so relaxed and refreshed that I immediately lay down and took a wonderful nap right in the middle of the day. While the joint mobility of Z-Health seems easy on my body and works the joints through their movement patterns, the "Ageless Mobility" worked the tissues around the joints. You will hear Scott Sonnon continuously say that you are "lubricating the joints" or "feeding the joints" as you do these exercises.

This long DVD (over an hour workout) sort of mixes yoga style positions with stretches and worked the muscles around the joints for each joint in the body. The neck movements were fabulous and my neck is no longer sore and tight like it had been for years. I always had a hard time looking to the left and over that shoulder and it was often tight and uncomfortable. After doing this DVD and other work since the beginning of the year, I realize that my neck is no longer a problem area for me. The best way to describe the program is that it "wrings out" the body. That is exactly how it feels. I know I feel so relaxed and loose after I take the time to go through the DVD. It is almost like getting a massage from the inside. Sometimes I only do the first 45-50 minutes and skip the floor exercises if I do not have the time. When you think of all the stresses that running places on our bodies, doing a program like "Ageless Mobility" makes a lot of sense as it seems to debug and destress all the tightnesses that build up.

I should probably do the routine every week or two, but lately have only done it about once a month. I also bought the "Intu-Flo: and "Flow-Fit" DVDs from Scott Sonnen. The "Intu-Flo" DVD has shorter routines at 4 levels and was well done, but it doesn't seem to give the same "wrung-out" feeling as the "Ageless Mobility" DVD. "Flow-Fit" had even shorter routines that are interesting, but not as useful to me.

Not only is this DVD my favorite of Scott Sonnen's DVDs. It is also the cheapest.

Here are my related posts.

Ageless Mobility: More Training for the Joints

Getting in the Flow: Joint Mobility Re-Education

Number 5
Get Out and Try Something New: Relieve the Pressure!

My fifth recommendation actually is my favorite. Just when I was ready to give up on my running because nothing seemed to fully work for me I got a mountain bike. I have done triathlons and bike racing in the past. I have road bikes. I love cycling and was actually a better cyclist than runner (even though my background is in running). I also have had fun with my Kickbike scooter. Unfortunately, when I ride my road bikes or kickbike I get in training mode. I want to go faster and farther. It just becomes another workout.

When my mountain bike arrived I took it out to wooded paths. I had no worry about time and pace. I was just having fun. I enjoyed every minute on my mountain bike. It was such a change of pace for me. I noticed my running felt better after cycling and started to ride it to Wednesday night track workouts as a bit of a warm-up. The mountain bike helped me relearn the "fun" of being outdoors. I was riding trails just off my daily running routes and I had no idea what cool trails were there just steps away from my daily runs. I can't wait until Spring when I can get on the mountain bike again and just enjoy being out in the woods.

After one fun day this Fall I remarked to my wife that not much has changed in the 40 years since I was a fourth grader. I wake up, go to school (I teach fourth grade), come home, go ride my bike around the woods, then take it to the track for a workout where I hang out with my friends doing sports. Life is pretty good!

Never underestimate the power of just having fun and being a kid again, no matter how old you are!

Now that was Fun!

Feeling Like a Kid Again!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

My Top Two Recomendations to Help You Recover Your Stride

This is my 100th post on Recover Your Stride. I have worked extremely hard at becoming a better runner or should I say I have worked hard at becoming a runner that can run pain free, injury free, be more balanced, and run with a more correct running stride. I have tried a lot of different ideas throughout the year and at one point was ready to quit because of the ongoing problem with my hips and left side. The past few months I have have really progressed and I have put together some routines that have allowed my running to feel so much smoother and to start bringing back the balance that I have not had in my running stride for over 20 years. So this 100th post on my blog will begin to highlight the 10 best things I have learned, tried ,or discovered this year. A year that is ending on a high note as just about every run I do now feels so much better than I have felt while running in years. I am getting to the point where running feels fun and free again, rather than it being a daily battle to see if i can get out the door and run in a way that doesn't hurt or feel uncomfortable.

I will start with my two favorite things I have discovered this year. Both have given me a lot of control over how my body feels and responds to running as well as they have both left me feeling so much better in my daily life. My legs are already so much looser and smoother as I continue to implement the changes brought on by working on my muscles and connective tissues. My stride feels so much lighter and younger and my joints, particularly my hips, do not feel so tight, old, and stuck in place.

I will continue in further posts with recoomendations 2-10 as well as where I think I am going next year: as I have a few things in mind and am starting to generate a "plan" for next year. That would be a first because in most recent years I have just been trying to make my body recover my stride but it was always so haphazard and I had no control. I think I am now getting to where I have control over the imbalances in my body so that I can start building on that to further enjoy running (even into my 50's). And hopefully race fast too!

Number 1
The Ming Method found in "The Permanent Pain Cure" by Ming Chew

"The Permanent Pain Cure" is the most recent book I have read and I am using bits of it on top off everything else I am doing as well as still exploring everything else in the book. I wasn't sure if I should recommend something so recent as my top choice of the year. But I think that this book has the most bang for the buck.

What I like about the program that Ming sets forth is that it is fairly comprehensive in that he covers a lot of ground. It covers stretching, strength work, and eating and hydration, but what I find most noteworthy are the self-therapy releases (based on ART) , the spinal decompression work, and the stretches for the fascia. I have not seen these things put into a general book that make them easy to understand and use. Particularly I like his releases based on ART (Active Release Technique). These up the notch a bit for people who use foam rollers, tennis balls, or elbows to a different level because you move your muscles to achieve a stretch and break up scar tissue. It is so much more effective. It has done a great job on my hamstrings and quads and allows them to loosen up and improve my running stride.

I am still playing around with the releases as well as thinking up some of my own based on the techniques. For example there are no calf and lower leg releases in the book. Last night I took out my TP Massage roller and spent just a couple of minutes on my lower leg just beneath my calf. Instead of just rolling my muscle up and down the roller, I held my leg in place and twisted and turned my foot and ankle around and back and forth. This not only loosened my leg up, I felt the effect up into my hip and lower back as they loosened up also. The most interesting thing was when I did my right lower leg, I felt the stiffness at the bottom of my right heel in certain positions. This is where I thought I might be getting plantar fasciitis in the summer. So there might be a tightness in my lower leg's muscles and tendons that could be contributing to the problem near my heel.

Here are my previous posts where I reviewed or commented on this book. I consider it a great resource for athletes (or non-athletes) using some newer techniques that they might want to try.

Stretching Your Fascia Using "The Permanent Pain Cure"

Number 2
Resistance Stretching

Static stretching has never worked for me. Right at the point where I was about to give up on my running this summer I took out a book I had bought a couple of years earlier. The book was "The Genius of Flexibility" by Bob Cooley. I had quickly looked at the book when I bought it and tried a few of the stretches. Unfortunately I had never read "how" Bob Cooley wanted the stretches to work. I had never used resistance against the stretches. I tried a few stretches after "reading" some of the book this time and noticed something happening that was not happening with other stretches I had tried. I read more and realized this was the method used by Dara Torres on her incredible return to the 2008 Olympics. Upon exploring resistance stretching more (you provide resistance against the stretch) I found it started loosening up my hips and muscles so that running started to become easier again.
Besides reading through the book I bought two different resistance stretching videos. One was Bob Cooley's "The Genius of Flexibility 1.0" and then as soon as it was released I got the Dara Torres Resistance Stretching Video from Innovative Body Solutions. Both DVDs are cheap and go through a 20 minute resistance stretching routine. Some stretches are different on the two DVDs so I mix up which one I use.
I also went to a resistance stretcher named Janet. She worked on my muscles and gave me some stretches and tips on how to do the stretches. I have not had the opportunity to go back as it can be expensive, but I wish I could go for a few more sessions as it felt great to have this work done on my muscles. She was able to stretch my legs and hips in many different ways that I would never be able to duplicate on my own. Resistance stretching has worked great for me and it might be just the type of stretching and strength work (it helps in that department too) to get your body untangled and running smoothly again.
Here is Bob Cooley's book:

You can go to Innovative Body Solutions to order the Dara Torres video or order through Amazon:

or you can go to Meridian Stretching to order "The Genius of Flexibility 1.0" DVD

I have had many posts on resistance stretching.

Resistance Stretching: This is what Dara Torres does!

More on Resistance Stretching

The Genius of Flexibility Video 1.0 Review

More on the Dara Torres Resistance Stretching DVD

The Growing Influence of Resistance Stretching

SNAP!!! What in the World was That? OK don't stretch too hard!!!

Hold Steady and Stay Positive After getting stretched by a professional.

Partner Resistance Stretching

Improving a Hamstring Stretch

Plus I am sure I touched on how resistance stretching has helped my running in many other posts.

Let me know if you try any of these methods and the results you get as I am curious as to how they work on other runners.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

How to Get Mentally Primed and Physically Warmed-Up Before Your Next Competition

The New York Times had a recent article called Stretching: The Truth. The article basically says what we already know, that static stretching before a workout is not only a waste of time, but can be bad for you because it can actually weaken your leg muscles. It goes on to say that,

"THE RIGHT WARM-UP should do two things: loosen muscles and tendons to increase the range of motion of various joints, and literally warm up the body."

A good warm-up then would involve sports specific dynamic stretching. Terrence Mahon the coach of Ryan Hall and Deena Kastor is quoted as saying,

“You need range-of-motion exercises that activate all of the joints and connective tissue that will be needed for the task ahead.”
I have found something that would not only warm-up your muscles to get them race ready, but also to get your mind and spirits pumped up for the competition ahead of you.

Check out this video.

It is from before a rugby match where the Maori Haka goes up against the Aboriginal War Cry. I love the commentator at the end, "Well, that was better than Billy Idol."

Here is another video of New Zealand against Tonga.

And here is one more Haka Maori dance'

From Wikipedia:

"A haka is a traditional dance form of the Māori of New Zealand. It is a posture dance with shouted accompaniment, performed by a group... Various actions are employed in the course of a performance, including facial contortions such as showing the whites of the eyes and the poking out of the tongue, and a wide variety of vigorous body actions such as slapping the hands against the body and stamping of the feet. As well as chanted words, a variety of cries and grunts are used. Haka may be understood as a kind of symphony in which the different parts of the body represent many instruments. The hands, arms, legs, feet, voice, eyes, tongue and the body as a whole combine to express courage, annoyance, joy or other feelings relevant to the purpose of the occasion."

Now it that doesn't get you charged up. I don't know what will.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

How to Release Your Hamstrings with a Tennis Ball

This is a simple and very easy way to release your hamstrings. I believe it works on the same principles as ART (Active Release Technique) and the idea comes from a great book I am reading called "The Permanent Pain Cure" by Ming Chew. I have found when I do this correctly my hamstrings are much looser which creates much more free movement in my hips as well as getting rid of tightness in my lower back.

The first thing you have to do is to sit on the edge of a table where your feet can dangle below you. Sit back and place the tennis ball a bit behind your knee and under your hamstring. Sit back a bit and rest on your hands. Put a small bit of pressure down onto your hamstring. Now point your toes and slowly straighten your leg.

When you get your leg fully extended pull your toes back towards you. Then while you keep your knee straight, start leaning forward. Tighten up your thigh and hold the position for a couple of seconds. You can do this a leg motions a couple of times depending on how tight you feel.

Then move the ball a bit higher and again do the release, repeating as necessary. Keep moving the ball slowly up your hamsting until you get to your butt. I also move the ball to the inner and outer parts of my hamsting and do the release where I feel I am tight. I also use a harder rubber ball (or even a baseball) at times when I do the release. Go gently at first however.

After I raced on Sunday my whole body felt off on the left side. I did one back spinal stretch to get a point where I had a crick in my mid-back and did the hamstring release on the left hamstring. That was all I needed to get out of the discomfort I was in. I am still playing around with this and other releases from the Ming Method book and trying to experiment to see what effect each stretch or release has on my body. I do know that when I get these correct (as well as the resistance stretching) my legs feel like they are loosely hanging from my hips rather than feeling jammed or tight into the hips.

If you like the release you can find the instructions for this and other releases in the "The Permanent Pain Cure" book that explains the Ming Method. The quadriceps release is wonderful as well as the ITB release. I haven't found instructions like this in any other book. The releases are only a very tiny bit of the book as the rest has to do with how to stretch your fascia as well as well as other information as I reviewed here.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Improvements All Week! Some Big, Some Small

After a good week of running fast in workouts and making big improvements in my workout speeds, I was looking forward to racing today. I ran the Santa Fund 5K race in Nashua. After a week of feeling good, my hip had tightened up again this morning. I did not have the good stride that I had all week, but still ran my best 5k race of the year. Unfortunately it was only a one second improvement from the race 2 weeks ago. I did 18:58. So my big improvements only resulted in a little improvement!

The time was 40 seconds slower than last year. I do now know that when my hip is off it slows me down. I never got going in the race and I lacked the looseness I had when running those workouts. This race was another struggle, although the first mile was 5:18 (a real short mile!) I wasn't up near the lead group like last year. I hit two miles in 11:30 so I thought I might be on a faster pace then I felt (but wasn't sure any course markings were accurate) but it was not to be. Jeff and Chris, passed me more than halfway into the race and they finished almost 40 seconds ahead of me. They were moving. I was plodding.

Now my body is all off on the left side: neck, back, sacrum, knee, etc. I have been letting it stay that way and I notice I can't sit straight when it gets this way. The positive is I get to go through the different routines tonight and see what works to put things back together again evenly.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Things are Scary...Being it's Halloween and All!

My girls are looking a bit scary...or at least Emily is. It must be that ninth grade attitude showing through!

This has been a crazy scary week of running and with it being Halloween this week has been filled with thrills. I can't figure it out but it has been the most fantastically bizarre running week in my memory. I usually run the same 8 mile or so loop every day. Very rarely do I deviate from the path unless I add some extra loops to it. Anyhow I previously mentioned how on Saturday I ran a minute faster than my fastest time of the year. Then Sunday I ran a minute and 10 seconds faster than that. These were the two easiest runs of the year for me. My hips are all of a sudden loosening up and my legs are swinging free.

Monday I slowed the pace down but it was my 3rd fasted run of the year with only the previous two days being faster. Then Tuesday I slowed down a bit more but it was still my fifth fastest time this year. Still I was feeling great and loving it. I did not run the next two days because of meetings and school work and today I laced up the shoes again. Wow, a little rest sure helps! I ran another two minutes and a few seconds faster than my best time of the week. Now I am down to times I haven't run on this route for many years. Scarily, they are still easy free floating runs. I haven't had a streak of feeling this good for a very long time. The tightness connecting my legs to my hips and all around is disappearing. It is still far from perfect but wow, what an improvement!

I think my sudden improvement has to do with the resistance stretching, and doing the Ming Method releases for the hamstings, quads ands ITB bands is the kicker that has allowed things to happen much more quickly. That is all I can figure because this has been so dramatic. I may just be finding the perfect mix of things that I need to do to get my body working correctly again.

It sure is a great way to finish off a really hard and disappointing year of running by having such good results (even if only on training runs). But it is not the times that are remarkable, it is how loose and easy my legs and hips feel and the additional movement I have that is what is really thrilling. For most of the year and previous years I didn't think I would ever feel this good again. Even if for only one week, it is great to be feeling like a youthful runner again! I guess for at least one week I can say I have "recovered my stride". It does give me hope that I can run well and easy again particularly as in a couple of months I will hit 50 years old!

I found a few photos I haven't seen before on my wife's camera. All my kids were active in sports this Fall and it was fun to cheer them on in all their athletic endevours.

Here is my son, Andy in his last high school cross-country race a couple of weeks ago.

The next day Hannah ran in the City of Nashua's 3rd graders x-country race.

Emily decided to play field hockey this year and enjoyed being on that team.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Workouts Don't Mean Anything... But...

Workouts don't mean anything but I really should have raced this weekend. Yesterday I did my normal 8 mile route and easily ran over a minute faster on the route than I have all year. Today, I figured the workout would be a recovery run and I did not try to run hard. But the running just flowed and and I ran one minute and ten seconds faster than I did yesterday. I know how hard I normally have to run to go fast and am usually happy with a workout if I go 6 minutes slower than today, but both runs were very easy and my form felt smooth and relaxed. I wasn't even trying to go faster today and didn't even concentrate on the running except to lengthen my stride if I felt it shortening. I didn't even breathe hard except for a short sprint the last 50 yards. I wonder what would have happened if I had raced!

I guess that is called "being in in the zone" and it is something Steve W. is in right now. He ran a 5:17 track mile a few days before setting a marathon PR at Baystate of 2:58:29 and then 6 days later ran a 17:53 5k. I would be thrilled with any of those times, yet he ran them in a space of 10 days!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Stretching Your Fascia Using "The Permanent Pain Cure"

If you have muscle and joint pain then I have found a new book that might interest you. I read a review of "The Permanent Pain Cure" by Ming Chew in a magazine and then checked it out on Amazon. I decided to buy it at a local bookstore so I could read it quicker rather than waiting for an Amazon order to arrive. It has some very good stuff in it, is easy to read and follow, and explains a method of restoring lost physical function in a way that is different from other books out there. Ming Chew calls his therapy "The Ming Method". He works on professional athletes but has written this book for the rest of us. What I found in the book was a mix of different therapies and an organized plan as to how to use them.

The target of Ming's pain relief is to work on the body's fascia to improve movement and bring pain-relief. Fascia is often a misunderstood or unrecognized source of many problems that athletes suffer from. Unless you get plantar fasciitis or have problems with your ITB illiotibial band you don't hear much about the body's fascia. Yet fascia is all around you (literally). It is sheets of connective tissue that wraps around all of the structures of the body: muscles, nerves, organs, bones, and blood vessels. They hold together these body structures and separate them from each other. It also connects the body together as it runs through it like a web. I notice the effect of this when a shoulder problem affects my opposite hip or a pain somewhere is relieved when I press or massage another muscle far away from the pain. I was first introduced to what fascia is when I went through rolfing sessions a couple of summers ago. Rolfing is where your fascia is stretched and molded back to its original or optimal placement so that your body works in its ideal position. It removes tightness in your body and gives your muscles and joints "space" to move correctly. It worked wonderfully for me, but unfortunately I was given no idea of how to keep my fascia in good health or how to keep my body in the great posture I had achieved after the Rolfing sessions were over.

When I saw there was a book that was dedicated to working on the fascia I decided it was worth checking out.

Here are the seven components to the Ming Method:

1. Hydration (the fascia needs to be hydrated fully)
2. An anti-inflammation diet (bye-bye sugars and trans-fatty acids)
3. Supplements to improve joint health (bye-bye money!)
4. Spinal decompression stretches to separate the vertebrae and release pressure on compressed nerves (I thought my gravity inversion table might do this but the book explains why these stretches do something different).
5. Fascial stretches
6. Strengthening exercises (he likes the use of kettlebells)
7. Self-therapy techniques

I started with the hydration last night. I am drinking a ton more water than I usually do. This might become problematic at school when I can't leave my class some days for over 4 hours to use the restroom. The dieting is sound advice, but the supplementation may be something I just ignore for the most part. Ming Chow suggests you do these for over 10 days before you begin the stretching as you have to get your fascia in a healthier state. I did try some of the spinal decompression stretches to see how they went. They are tough but you did feel whole body stretches as you lengthen your fascia.

The fascial stretches look similar in form to other stretching techniques but the directions help you get the correct positioning while stretching. In order to stretch the fascia it has to be anchored at both ends of the muscle (this is not static stretching). I like the resistance stretching I am doing so if I like this it would be in conjunction and not instead of resistance stretching.

The strengthening exercises would come into play later in the program as your fascia and body should be in the correct posture or otherwise you would be strengthening an imbalance. This makes sense as I enjoyed doing kettlebells last winter but noticed that if my hips were off then I felt imbalanced and did not enjoy the routines. I have kept away from the kettlebells because I didn't think they were helping my inefficiencies. I would like to be balanced enough to do them again.

The self-therapy techniques are really good and worth the price of the book (even though there are only a few and this section is very short). I believe these are based the ART (Active Release Technique) and the author did study under and credits Dr. Michael Leahy, the founder of ART, in this book.

The hamstring release shows you how to use a tennis ball to release the hamstring. His techniques is not just rolling your loose hamstring on a ball or foam roller. It involves moving the leg as in an ART treatment. The ITB release shows you how to use the foam roller to release the ITB band. Again movement from the involved leg is required not just a rolling over the ITB. The quadriceps release shows you how to use your own elbow to hold the muscle and fascia in place so as you move your leg you can target and stretch the fascia. This is all good stuff and I liked the effect they had on my leg. There is also a sole of the foot release that I have not tried yet, but will as the bottom of my right foot has been stiff and sore for months.

The book is an easy read. The directions are clear for the stretching (there could be more pictures of each stretch) and I particularly like the "What it should feel like" box that goes with each stretch. I think the fact that the book makes it easy to understand the role of the fascia in the body and details a method to easily improve your fascial health makes the book unique among all of the books I have seen or read. Doing his techniques and program should not take that much time out of your day. He says about 15-20 minutes. This book is informative and I intend to continue exploring it further.

I have not had a good week of running. Wednesday I started feeling a little off and did my first treadmill run of the year (3 miles on a treadmill seems like forever!). Then I think I had a minor fever or infection. It wasn't bad but kept me from running. Today, however, I went for an 8 mile run on my usual loop. I ran one minute faster than my best time of the year. I wasn't even running hard. My legs were feeling loose. My stride felt long. I didn't even push. It was an easy run. What happened? Was it a break from running? the water I had been consuming? the hamstring release I tried last night? I think the biggest difference was the quadriceps release from the book. I did it right before the run.

Since doing the resistance stretching my muscles have become much looser. The problem has been that my left knee continues to buckle in. I think it is tightness within my inner hamstring, but for a few weeks I have had a tightness in my outer left quadriceps too. I can't seem to stretch the tightness out. I did the quadriceps release and it felt so much better. Maybe this helped make my left leg stretch out better on today's run? Anyhow it was a great run that felt very effortless.

As this running year draws to a close I feel that I have some good techniques in place to get my body to the point where I can have great runs most of the time and not worry about imbalances and tight muscles and joints. Maybe next year I will have a year of running where everything goes right and I can hit the times I know that I can run if my body works correctly. I will use resistance stretching to get my muscles loose and strong. I will use the sacrum adjustment when my sacrum gets stuck (I have found this doesn't seem to be a daily adjustment-it works when needed though). This is what Kalidasa wrote me in regards to how the release works:

"The sacrum release on that video uses the piriformis muscle. It attaches to the sacrum and to the top of the thigh bone. When you draw the back leg hip is drawn forward the piriformis is pulled and so is the sacrum. The arch picks up the sacrum where it is (out of alignment) and moving forward brings it along with piriformis."

I am going to continue to check out "The Permanent Pain Cure" and work on stretching the fascia and keeping it healthy. I need to make a concerted effort to work on my diet with the "Precision Nutrition" and not eating too much this winter and to eat healthy. I need to keep my left leg, knee, and hip in alignment (this is the toughest one) and then just keep running. Hopefully the coming winter will bring me more ways to to recover my stride.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Improving a Hamstring Stretch

I have continued playing around with stretching and other techniques trying to get looser and more balanced in my running. After having a great track workout two weeks ago running 5 X 1 mile my left leg went wobbly again. It was back to rotating in and that made running and walking uncomfortable for a week. I couldn't get it aligned right no matter what I tried. I still ran but that leg was not balancing correctly. A week later at the track we had an all out mile. I couldn't run correctly and only ran about 5:55 and it wasn't fun. The week before I had done 5 repeat miles in 6:00. Something was amiss.

That night I used my T-Roller to work on my muscles because it was hard to sleep. I noticed a lot of tightness on the inside hamstring down near the knee. I knew that in the past this muscle would get tight and pull things out of alignment. I took a hard ball and used it to massage deep into that muscle. That seemed to loosen things up for a change.

I had been doing resistance stretching on the hamstrings every day, but when I do the self-stretching my knee is pulled close to my chest and it seems to work more on the upper hamstrings. It looks like what Steve is doing at about the 5:58 mark in this video.

That is a good stretch but it was not doing the same thing as when I went to get stretched by Janet, a trained resistance stretcher. When she did similar stretches my leg was held further out about 90 degrees from the other leg with the knee pointing straight up. When I stretched in this position I recalled how I felt the muscles getting stretched at the lower end, toward the knee, of my hamstring and it felt good as I never had found a stretch that worked those tight muscles. I had to figure out a way to stretch out the lower hamstrings.

I think I found a workable solution for now. A year or two ago I bought a stretching tool called the Hamstretch. I hoped it would help me get my legs positioned to give me the good stretch I would get in my hamstring when a therapist would stretch me. It never seemed to work right because I think I only used it to do static stretches and it has just been sitting around unused.

I tried using it and positioning the bands so I could push down and resist the stretch as I used the hamstretch to pull up my foot and lower leg. I can use one hand to hold me knee in position and the other hand to pull on the side bars. It seems to work. I have been getting a much better stretch in my hamstrings using the Hamstretch to keep my knee further away from my chest. It has been loosening up my hamstring even more and I think that is my my hip is loosening up more and not being so stiff and tight. Here is the Hamstretch device.

I put it to the test on Sunday by running a 5k road race in Manchester. I didn't finally decide to race until race morning. I was feeling a bit lethargic but my left hip loosened up while running and it was the best my hip has felt in a race all year. I ended up running 18:59. It was the first time I had been under 19 minutes since last Thanksgiving day. I wasn't feeling real competitive but ran it at a pretty constant effort, although I slowed in the last mile. I hit 1 mile in 5:45, two miles in 11:50, and I had visions of going faster than my final time but then we hit a long straightaway with a cold headwind. It never seemed to end. I had run by myself from mile 1 to mile 2. At mile two I was 20-30 yards behind a teammate that eventually finished in 18:25. But then a pack that had stayed behind me started catching up and I got passed by some runners to which I had no competitive response. I was not sharp and had no kick except enough to just make sure I got under 19:00. I am pleased with the time and hope to improve on it soon. It was nice not to have my hip jamming up for a change.

Here is a partner hamstring resistance stretch that Janet sent my way. You can see Bob Cooley, the author or "The Genius of Flexibility" getting stretched. If you know someone who is good with muscles you could try the stretch like this. My wife prefers that I use the Hamstretch. His knee is closer to his chest in this stretch than I use with the Hamstretch.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Good Stretching for the Hips

Here is a resistance stretch that I really like although I don't have the flexibility that Luther from flexiblestrength.org demonstrates in this video. This is called the gall bladder stretch but it stretches the hip and outer leg.

Here is an interesting and similar stretch that may be modified to use as a resistance stretch. I like how the non-stretching leg is held against a wall to keep the hips from rotating. Dave Schmitt calls it the #1 stretch to eliminate low back pain.

Here is a fascinating video of Bob Cooley author of "The Genius of Flexibility" doing some pretty hard-core and advanced resistance stretching. The stretches are on the arms and fingers. I would like to see him perform some work on legs and hips. It looks unusual, sort of like working on human clay, but that is because the person being stretched resists against the stretch. When the person pushes back against Bob's stretching then they are getting a strength workout. One direction is a stretch, the other is a strengthening workout. It is pretty interesting, but I don't know what he is talking about the first minute or so; I guess he is referring to positive results from the stretching because he links stretching to personality awareness.

I have only done my Z-Health drills sporadically lately. I did receive my weekly training tip from Dr. Eric Cobb of Z-Health and it was something new that I never heard or noticed before when doing these joint mobility drills. He writes,
"If you are struggling with any particular Z-Health drill, have a seat. One of the things that many people overlook in Z-Health is that you are not required to perform the exercises standing in neutral stance.

You want to begin to think about the Z-Health drills simply as templates -- you can perform them seated, lying down, on your stomach, on your back, or on your side. Make sure that you explore the exercises in different positions because they will have very different effects.

Many of our happiest clients feel that the greatest benefits from Z-Health drills came about when they began applying the drills to their everyday situations. The office worker who practices Z-Health while seated will often see a fantastic effect from that during the course of their normal day.

Keep Moving,

Dr. Cobb"

Maybe I will take a second and new look at some of the drills and see if a seated or lying down position will help. At least it will give some variety. You can sign up for the weekly tips at the Z-Health website. You can listen to an interview with Dr. Cobb here. Here is an interesting article called "The Body is a Unit" that tells why Z-Health focuses on mobilizing and coordinating all the joints in the body. You can find out more about Z-Health here:

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Loosening Up Tight Hips: Sacrum Adjustment

After running the Applefest 1/2 Marathon on Saturday my hips remained as stuck as they had been for the days before the race and during the race. Sunday as I reported here I found some new videos. As soon as I did this video with the sacrum release, I felt immediate improvement and loose again.

Now I don't know if it was the sacrum adjustment that did it but the tightness was gone even though I felt nothing move, shift, stretch, or adjust. What was going on? Well Monday I ran and felt great. I was running and my quads were moving me as opposed to feeling forces in my hip joints. Tuesday felt good too. I had a great run. Again I did nothing new just the resistance stretching, a bit of light psoas release, and this sacrum adjustment. Wednesday I was feeling even better. The workout was 5 X 1 mile on the track with a one lap rest. It was supposed to be run at 1/2 marathon pace, but as the first mile started I felt good and loose and I just ran free. I did a 6:01+ first mile, the second one was about a step faster again at 6:01, on the third my left lower hip QL started tightening up but I ran through it to 6:00+ and I was a step faster again to the finish clock. I did a little version of the sacrum stretch and then did the 4th in 6:00 and about 1/2 a second but without the tightness. Literally I was running about 1/4 of a second faster for each interval. I did the last in 6:00 and about 1/4 second. It was faster than I was supposed to go but it felt great and I had perfect pacing throughout. It was the first track workout where I wasn't constantly stretching between intervals trying to get looser. In fact it was my best running of the year. This is how I want to feel when I run!

I bought the ebook form the Self-Adjusting Technique website. It doesn't describe this stretch but I would really like to know what it is doing and if it is what is making my sacrum loosen up. Only time will tell if it continues to work. Meanwhile I am reading through the e-book and seeing what other good things are in there that may help me recover my stride.

Applefest Half Marathon: Racing for the Pie

Here I am with a slight lead at the start of the Applefest 1/2 Marathon. Photo by
Dave Delay
for the Gate City Striders.

Saturday I competed in the Applefest 1/2 Marathon in Hollis, NH. It is one of my favorite races. I was hoping that it would be my first decent race of the year. My running has been coming along since I started working on resistance stretching the past month. I have been feeling looser and having better workouts but every few days my left sacrum has been jamming up. It forces me to run all wrong and I haven't figured out how to fix it. Unfortunately it jammed up on Thursday of last week. I didn't run on it Thursday or Friday hoping I wouldn't make it worse, but Saturday on race morning it was still tight and hopelessly stuck.

It was a beautiful day for running, however and I hoped it might loosen up in the race. I was in the port-a-john downhill from the start when I heard the National Anthem being played and I had to sprint up the hill to get to the start on time. I did not heed my plan to start slow and when the gun went off I started gliding down the hill and into the lead and had to slow down because I would have passed the lead truck. By the end of the hill the adrenaline wore off and I got into pace and watched the lead runners go by. My hips remained horribly tight and I could not get settled. My muscles were loose however. I ran the first mile in about 5:50, but could not find form going up Wheeler Hill. I almost stopped realising that it was going to be a long day ( a mental challenge of constantly finding a balanced running form rather than a physical day of pushing my body). I hit 3 miles in about 19:00 which was probably faster than my only road 5k of the year at Cigna where I ran a very slow 20:10. I hit 5 miles in about 32:00 which was better than my 5 mile race at Bill Luti where I ran a horrible 34:28, and I hit 7 miles just at 45:00 which was faster than I did for the same distance in Falmouth this year at 48:52. So I ran faster in Hollis than the 3 other road races I have done this year. Granted the weather was perfect in Hollis and I had some downhills in my favor but despite feeling out of alignment I was running better than I had earlier in the year. I kept waiting to die out there and although I slowed down in the hills I ran at the same effort. I finished in 1:28:41 good for 36th place and 2nd in my age group which got me another Mile-High Apple Pie. I had improved slightly from last years time of 1:28:56 but last year was a very hot day.

Overall I am happy with the time and the effort I put into the race. I wish I had been feeling smooth like I have for some workouts lately. The race would have been much more pleasant and a bit faster I am sure!

Here is a photo by Dave Dunham with less than a half-mile to go. Look how twisted my legs are. That is how I felt for most of the race!
In checking out Dave Dunham's site I noticed that he is a fan of The Alarm. Mike Peters and The Alarm are my favorite band so not only is Dunham fast. He knows his music!

Here is Mike Peters of the Alarm singing about overcoming cancer for the second time. If you listen too much to songs like this then you might have a problem at the start of races being too pumped up and taking off way too fast at the gun!