Monday, March 31, 2008

Getting in the Flow: Joint Mobility Re-Education

I am really enjoying discovering (or recovering) the movement of my body around my joints. First I started with Z-Health which introduced me to the idea of joint mobility. Stretching is something that works on flexibility issues by lengthening your muscles. Mobility issues are cured by mobilizing the joints through motions. I sense that some of my joints are "stuck" in repetitive motions and they need to be retrained back to the original and normal movement patterns.

I like the Z-Health approach and its focus on working all body joints through their range of motion. It also has a neural component that retrains the nervous system so that your joints will remember how to move correctly. I have gained success through using the R-Phase DVD.

I am still learning and adapting to the that system but wanted to know more so I then checked out Scott Sonnen's Ageless Mobility DVD. This also worked on mobilizing the joints but also worked on the surrounding connective tissues around the joints. It supposedly lubricates the joints and "flushes the body with nutrition". Well all I know is that it was pleasant and tiring at the same time and when finished a lot of tension within my body had eased.

Ageless mobility was working but was a long DVD and I wanted to learn even more so I next ordered the Intu-Flow DVD through the RMax website. I have used the beginner level (their are 4 levels) each day for a week now and boy do I like this program. It has some similar exercises to the Z-Health routines (you are working all the joints) but they are done at a more difficult intensity. They feel real good while doing them and my body feels relaxed and more and more in sync each time I run through the routine. I also notice a warm feeling around the tissues surrounding certain joints after doing the routine as if those parts are feeling the good effects of the movements. A lot of the minor aches and pains from my imbalances disappear and I feel that I am getting in control of things for the first time in a long time. I am noticing more looseness throughout my body. Particularly pleasing to me is my hips are loosening up and my knee is not knocking in but starting to be more balanced to the outside. I also notice how I stand more balanced and now that my calf pain is gone the running movement is feeling improved.

So far my experiment with adding the joint mobility component to my routines is paying off and I hope it continues to improve my movements and running. I look forward to moving up to more difficult levels of the Intu-Flow system in particular, I am looking forward to learning how to use the clubbells that came with the DVD I ordered. It is not sold on Amazon, but it is through Scott Sonnen's website. I wasn't sure what they would do but since I am also experimenting with and enjoying kettlebells I decided to see what these could do. They feel a lot heavier then you would expect and feel fun (in a Star Wars sense)when you start whirling them around but I am holding off on learning exactly how to use them for now.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The 1983 Cape Cod Endurance Triathlon

I uploaded my first video to Youtube. It is a video of the 1983 Cape Cod Endurance Triathlon. This was a full Ironman distance triathlon that was a response to the incredible finish of Julie Moss during the Hawaii Ironman race earlier that year. I was running the Boston Marathon in April 1983 when I heard that Dave McGillivray was going to put on this race. I knew I had to do this even though I had no competitive experience in either swimming or bike riding. I immediately bought myself a $300 bike and began my journey towards being a "triathlete".

I had just finished my first year of teaching and went back to the Cape for the summer. I swam in the ocean in Falmouth and biked and ran. I completed a small club triathlon put on by the Falmouth Track Club. I came in 2nd to last out of the water then sprinted by everyone I could to get to my bike (I already knew that transitions were important) and got on the bike and flew. The roads were wet and I skidded off the road twice but still had the 2nd fastest bike split and was in 2nd place. Then a funny thing happened. I tried to run, My knees kept flying up into the air and my legs would not behave. I got passed by one person and finished with a smile on my face. This was cool!

The next race was a bigee on Aug. 27, 1983. The United States Triathlon Series came to my hometown of Falmouth. Julie Moss was even in attendance to promote the race. Back in 1983 the distances in the USTS races were a 2k (1.2 mile swim), a 40k (25 mile) bike, and an 15k (9.4 mile) run. The day was stormy and that meant there were hills on the swim course. The race directors did not want to listen to town officials and did not delay the swim (costing the chance for another triathlon to be held in Falmouth for many years). Everyone (600+ swimmers) started the swim at once and I swam in survival mode (like everyone around me), head up out of the churning water trying to stay alive. It took me 48:22 to finish the swim, next I completed the bike in 1:15:14, and finally I got to run. I ran the 15k in 58:39 and only got passed by one runner, Dave McGillivray, who finished 4 places ahead of me (but he was a running legend- having run across the USA- and had competed in the Hawaii Triathlon so that was fine with me). I came in 90th place overall in 3:02:42.

That race was my longest swim before the Cape Cod Endurance Triathlon on September 10. My longest bike ride was about 60 miles with a nice McDonalds meal before starting (I had no idea about nutrition). As you can see in the video the jellyfish were annoying. I kept feeling them on my fingers. Since my head was mostly out of the water I didn't get stung like the competitor who took one in the eye.

When Robin Young is interviewing Dave McGillivray at the beginning of the race with all the triathletes gathered round, you can see me directly off Dave's right shoulder. I am the very skinny young guy who should have been a lot more nervous than I look.

The swim was very intimidating for me. At around 2 miles I got a calf cramp. Someone on a surfboard wanted to know if I would like to quit. No way. Then I noticed I could stand on a sandbar at this point which calmed me down completely and was something I kept note of for future years.

Then it was onto to the bike. My cleats were loose but that was OK because I still hadn't found a way to get comfortable with my left foot (even to this day) so there was a lot of wiggle room.

At the beginning of part 4 as Robin is interviewing Dave at the Provincetown bike turn-around you can see a biker trying to figure out what is for lunch. That is me back there looking at the sandwiches, cookies, and bananas. There was no such thing as an energy bar back then.

I was so happy to get off the bike and to do something I knew how to do and that was to run. At halfway however I sat in a restroom and it was so quiet and still I didn't want to come out. Eventually I got back to running and walking. But with 6 miles to go I started running with another runner and had such a reawakening and ran the rest of the way feeling great and passing runner after runner (the last 6 miles of the race for the next 4 years went just the same- super energy and pushing the pace). We finished in a tie in 13:37:18. I was 75th overall.

The top 3 men were:
George Missailidis in 9:47:20
Gary Passler in 10:12:27
Andy Rogovin in 10:19:43

Top female was:
Deborah Perry in 11:58:50

I completed the Cape Cod Endurance Triathlon the next four years:
1984 in 10:52:15
1985 in 10:20:20
1986 in 10:23:42
1987 in 10:21:14

In 1988 I got married, then had a bike crash that broke my collarbone, and had a back that was in such terrible shape that I am still trying to fix things today. I have only done a handful of triathlons since those days but I remember competing in triathlons throughout New England quite fondly and the 5 days that I did the CCET were 5 of the best days of my life!

I put these videos on Youtube wondering if anyone would be interested in a 25 year old race. I posted it on a triathon message board called Fellow competitors of the CCET showed up (fishman, Norton, and IronRod) and they mentioned how they loved they race. Then this morning I see I post by BermudaBill and he mentioned that "the circle is now complete" and posted a website that I really did not need to see. They are having another Ironman distance Triathlon on the Cape (well Plymouth) and all of a sudden I started thinking and dreaming. Can I do it again? Oh how often I wished the race was back and here one is. The thrill was starting in my body even though I know that I only have a 23 year old racing bike and cannot afford the exquisite and expensive racing bikes of today.

Triathletes were commenting on this "old school race" and talked about the "personality of the sport" that is "missing in big time triathlons today". Someone else wishes that races "could capture that type of feeling in events these days" and remarked that "the emotions displayed are like little kids at Christmas, just pure joy!, raw joy." And that is absolutely correct. That is how it felt back then.

I got to wondering if "going for it" at a race like the new Plymouth race would ever recapture the true spirit of triathlons that I miss so much. Maybe it would and maybe I will set a goal to do it one day if that race continues on. I know I would love to do that training and racing again (if my body would allow me to)and it was good to feel those stirrings again like I did today: getting all out of breath dreaming about having another go at completing an Ironman distance race.

In the year 2000 I would later reconnect with Dave McGillivray and ran the Boston Marathon with him. The story is here.

Here are the complete results of the 1983 Cape Cod Endurance Triathlon.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

NY Times Article on Stretching: Helpful or Hurtful?

The New York Times published this article on stretching: To Stretch or Not to Stretch? The Answer Is Elastic on March 13, 2008. In it the author, Gina Kolata, says, "The truth is that after dozens of studies and years of debate, no one really knows whether stretching helps, harms, or does anything in particular for performance or injury rates."

Dr. Julie Gilchrist in a study published in the March 2004 issue of the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise" asserts that research still can't answer the question as to whether stretching helps or hurts. She does say that, "If your goal is to prevent injury stretching does not seem to be enough. Warming up, though, can help. If you start out by moving through a range of motions that you’ll use during activity, you are less likely to be injured."

This is a process a bit different from stretching and something that I have been exploring recently through Z-Heath joint mobility drills and the Ageless Mobility routine I have been using. It also corresponds to the the dynamic Flexibility exercises I have learned and am trying based on the book "Brain Training for Runners". Author Matt Fitzgerald showcases some of the drills here.

In the NY Times article Dr. Gilchrist also mentioned that in her review of published papers, "Every one of the handful of studies that concluded that stretching prevented injuries included warm-ups with the stretches." I can assume that I am on the right track with some of the things I am now trying.

Another doctor quoted in the article Dr. Malachy McHugh, who is the director of research at the Lenox Hill Hospital Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma in Manhattan maintains that while flexibility is important to many sports (think gymnastics) he says, "Distance runners do not benefit from being flexible. The most efficient runners, those who exerted the least effort to maintain a pace, were the stiffest." According to Matt Fitzgerald stiffness is one of the key characteristics of good running technique as it allows you to spring as you run.

Other anecdotal evidence is presented in the article: a running coach who no longer advocates stretching and a doctor who maintains that stretching, "Weakens performance and makes an injury more likely." and then says, "Stretching the hamstring muscle, for example, teaches the muscle to relax when the knee is fully extended. But that is not what a runner needs. Instead, runners need to have their hamstrings stiff and activated when the knees are extended."

In the end we have to find out what works for us. I know that I steer clear of cookie cutter books and articles that advocate the same basic stretches and stretching routines. You know the stretches, the ones that "everyone seems to do so that must mean that is what runners need to do". A few years ago, before running the Boston Marathon, a TV news station was doing a profile on me. They wanted some clips of me running and then asked me to go into stretching poses so they could have a few more clips. I had no real poses for them but knew they wanted the old "calf stretch" and the "hamstring" stretch and tried to please them but felt silly as this wasn't the routine I used at the time. I didn't have a rope and was used to doing "active-isolated" stretching at the time. I gave them the poses they wanted, but felt a bit silly pretending that these stretches were important to my routine.

To keep running decades after I first started, I know I need more that just stretching to keep up my longevity in the sport. I believe I am headed in a positive direction. However I just want to get out there and run. Presently my body feels good and balanced. The drills I am doing seem to work. Unfortunately I haven't been able to run much the past two weeks. I got a twinge in my right calf that I am being careful with. It is the third time in the past year it has happened in the same area. Last year I had a horrible Boston Marathon with my hips barking up a storm. I had been using "posture control insoles" for the 3 months before the race. but forgot to bring them to the start. My feet ran "naked" and after 10 miles my hips were going crazy from the change in positioning. Plus I hadn't run for the 11 days before the race due to bronchitis.

It took a couple of weeks to get my hips sorted out after that and while having my best workout with everything clicking and feeling smooth, my calf seized up. It took a few weeks before I could run again. Then in the summer, I ran the Cigna 5k in a brand new pair of those same insoles but with a bigger lift in them. That was fine, except that I someone went home with my car keys by mistake and when all was said and done, (my home phone wasn't working) I ended up walking 23 miles home. I intended to run but taking the insoles out of my shoe was stressing the calf again. Leaving them in was not comfortable either. I was wearing a very thin soled minimalistic shoe, the Puma H-street, so I just walked and walked and walked. That calf injury didn't last long and I was able to do the Falmouth Road Race 3 days later with a newer type of insole in my shoe. The Aline insole distracted my feet enough that the calf was ok and I felt decent while running. I thought it was an interesting concept and used them for a couple of months before going back to no insoles at all in my shoes.

This present calf injury came on all of a sudden while I was running in close to perfect form for me. My hips were lining up well, my knee felt fine and I was getting good ankle movement all due to the drills I have been using. I think that this put more weight and stress on the muscles of my calf, and the altered positioning re injured this area. I have run workouts of 4-5 miles on it but there is still a tender knot there. I am keeping away from stretching it!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Egoscue Method: The Good and the Bad

I first heard of The Egoscue Method over 10 years ago when I bought "The Egoscue Method of Health Through Motion" and later "Pain Free" both by Pete Egoscue. I found the books interesting reading, but I was looking for a magic bullet and the programs seemed difficult to undertake and figure out. Upon further reading and practicing the stretches over the past year I have come to a better understanding of the program and its strengths and limitations. The Egoscue Method is basically a set of prescribed stretches that should put your body back into it's natural alignment and function. Rather than use manipulation, massage, or any other technique Egoscue strengthens the appropriate muscles which then can be used to pull your body back into alignment.

The Egoscue Method of Health Through Motion: Revolutionary Program That Lets You Rediscover the Body's Power to Rejuvenate It is dependent on your understanding of some diagrams that depict different types of body abnormalities. After you figure out your body type (if you can do this) then you follow a prescribed menu of exercises (or e-cises). The diagrams of misalignments captured my interest first because the showed rotations and imbalances that reminded me of "me". I found that you had to diagnose your own body, but this was rather difficult because I was a mix of more that one type and was not fully any of the types listed. From this point you find a list of prescribed exercises listed on one page and then you have to flip through the book to find how to do each exercise. It is a pretty ambitious book and the exercises were interesting however it didn't solve any problems for me.

The next book I bought was Pain Free: A Revolutionary Method for Stopping Chronic Pain. This book also has menus and e-cises but it is a bit more specific based on the reader's need. You can find menus for hips, or knees, or any other problem areas. I suppose this is easier to read and figure out particularly when you have just one problem area. Again nothing was resolved for me when applying this book to my posture.

Last year I noticed some the Egoscue: Pain Free Workout Series DVDs. These are generic Egoscue exercises not particularly geared to any specific problem. I find both to be good stretching routines that are worth the investment if you wish to learn more about some of the stretches and to receive good instruction. Like other Egoscue products, I find them to be a valuable resource but that they really didn't solve any problems for me.

Up until last year, Egoscue had a message board. I visited every once in a while to learn more and ask questions. One thing that kept being repeated was to visit a clinic to get the right exercises and to make sure I was doing things right. I signed up for a session with a therapist at a traveling clinic. I told the therapist during a phone conversation prior to the visit that I had a couple of simple questions I wanted answered. I was assured that he would have the skill to answer my question. I basically wanted to know if I had a structural issue with the bones in my foot, knee, or hip and if the way they moved or didn't move could really be "healed" using Egoscue. I realize they are out to sell something so of course "Egoscue" should be able to fix anything, however I wished an honest assessment. Could I possibly I have a bone or joint problem that no matter how wrong I got me muscles, they would never be able to pull things right if the bones got in the way?

The visit to the traveling clinic was expensive! They young therapist was nice and he seemed to know the Egoscue protocol. He went through a logical set of steps while watching my posture walking back and forth across the room and bending. Then he set up a series of e-cises and watched me perform them. I was performing them correctly just like in the book and video so I did not learn much. What was unnerving however was our beginning conversation when he asked about me and then told me why he got into Egoscue. His friend ran the clinic and it seemed to be a good way to earn a living with the degree he had. I guess that is all fine, but I really would have appreciated meeting with someone who had "been there" and dealt with pain and imbalance issues themselves not someone who was out to earn a buck! He really couldn't answer my question except to insist that given time (and I can assume-plenty of clinic visits) that eventually things would work for me. I could tell he had no clue as to why my leg is stuck in the positions it is in with the ankle everting the foot out and the knee knocking in. If I try to straighten my knee and foot the foot is in a horrible and useless pronation.

I went home enthusiastic about trying the program. I did my e-cises every day (sometimes twice) for the little over an hour that was necessary. I felt muscles strengthening a bit but no release or fixing of my mechanical problems. I carried on for over a month and even did the "free" set of new exercises that was provided (after a phone consultation with the therapist). I was not happy that this was going to fix anything unless I was willing to commit tons of money to attend more visits with the therapist.

I decided not to go back for more exercises but continued doing the e-cises and making menus of my own to try. A lot of effort was wasted as it had no real effect on the positioning of my bones and joints and the way my leg moved. I also grew discouraged as the Egoscue website discontinued their message board. I had enjoyed reading about the success of other patients and the asking of questions but for some reason that could no longer be accomplished. One thing I did learn from the message board is that for many people the process takes lots of time (years in some cases) and is a long-term process that needs to be continued each day. I had to believe there is a better and more affordable way out their to recover my stride. Doing the exercises is also very time-consuming.

On the message board Pete Egoscue was sometimes called a "genius" by his followers. I would gather that having him work on you and observe your gait and patterns would be a very worthwhile opportunity. I am sure he would be able to do the pinpointing of specific problems and finding the right exercises to get my posture returned to normal pretty quickly. The fee for the clinic that I paid should have earned me some time with the man himself. However, having a "trained" therapist follow a script and protocol soesn't seem like the wisest use of my money. I think the method has tremendous merits but it almost seems marketed as a way to earn money from some well heeled clientele. I am just not that person!

I do think his books are a worthy read and I would certainly encourage anyone struggling with an injury or going in for surgery on the hip, knee, or other problem area to read his books and give his method a try first before going under the knife. It does seem that plenty of people achieve success with this method. The videos are a worthwhile and well-thought out stretching routine too! I would avoid the clinics unless you have time and money to spare. I have even recommended the books and program to my mother-in-law.

I have  found two other resource books that describe and outline programs and exercises similar to the Egoscue program. One is a take-off by a former Egoscue person and is similarly called The Pain-Free Program: A Proven Method to Relieve Back, Neck, Shoulder, and Joint Pain. The other has plenty of exercises written in menu forms for common alignment problems and is called Posture Alignment. It is probably the simplest and easiest of the books to follow and implement. Many of the exercises are the same or similar to Egoscue which makes it easy to create your own menus. They are all good additions to your sport library and just may help you recover your stride.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Rolfing: Can It Help Your Running?

Rolfing, sometimes called Structural Integration, is system of soft-tissue manipulation that claims to realign the body. Each body part is aligned on top of the next to improve posture based on the bodies relationship to gravity. It works on the fascia, or connective tissue, to open up space inside the body that has become restricted at different depths. A person goes through 10 one hour of so sessions to work on all levels and areas of the body, head to foot.

I undertook the 10 sessions, actually I did 11 sessions, and found the process fascinating. You might think it seems like a massage, but it is much more as the fascia is relengthed. I liken it to feeling like my connective tissue was putty or clay being pushed or pulled slowly and I could feel the tissue slowly melt and give way. During the process I wrote this reply to on a message board concerning rolfing and running. I am TDF on

6/12/2005 In a response on to a person called "bold and beautiful"

I just had my 4th of 10 sessions and I am very impressed. I am a long time runner that has struggled with biomechanical issues lately. What chiropractic and massage never did (along with everything else I tried) Rolfing seems to do. It works with the connective tissues and fascia to get your body back into balance. It looks at the whole body not just parts (some movements seem an awful lot like ART). I am hopeful that the long term benefits stick. I like the fact that the 10 sessions are done only once. They don't look to get you back and keep at it, although I guess you can go for tune ups. SO far it doesn't hurt. I had a lit of imbalances and bad rotations throughout my stride that are balancing out. My 5k time has gone down over a minute since I started 1 month ago."

As I said the process was interesting and you could tell what body part would be working on next before even going in for the session. I was thrilled with the "changes" that were taking place.

However good I felt at first. Within months after the Rolfing my stride was falling apart and old familiar patterns and pains were taking place. I went back for a readjustment that Spring before the Boston Marathon and nothing changed. I tried a month later with a different Rolfer who uses a different system called the Rossiter System. In this process, the practitioner steps on you with their body weight and you them move your muscle against the weight: sort of a cross between ART (Active Release Technique) and Rolfing but done with a "foots on" rather than a "hands on" approach. It was pretty powerful and the next two runs felt fantastic. But as I was running I felt a shift in my back and it later went into a type of spasm that took a couple of weeks to clear up. I went to the starting line at Boston knowing I wouldn't be able to run and made it 9 miles before dropping out.

I went back later that summer for another session using the Rossiter System, but this time the practitioner said maybe he and I worked too hard the first time. This time he worked mainly my shoulders and arms and it had no effect on my running. I have the book and DVD for the Rossiter System and think it is a good way to get at the knots, but you need someone really attuned to what is going on to be precise in knowing what muscle to work on. My wife enjoyed stepping on me a bit at first but it was hard to know exactly where to apply the technique.

A year and 1/2 later I wrote this response to another question on

12/19/2006 In a response on to a person called "I'm rotated"

"I did the full 10 series (actually 11 for me) 2 summers ago. It was good while it lasted. I am very messed up with all sorts of bad rotations, imbalances, and compensations. I felt much better than I had in many a year. It did not last, however, as within months I was falling apart again, I went back for two tune-ups last Spring and that did nothing. A chiropractor did mention I was much looser and easier to adjust months after it was all done. This summer I was coming out of my problems much easier and am now getting to feel and run more balanced through the intelligent use of foam rollers and more targeted stretching as well as eliminating improper stretching. I have also been using an Egoscue Method video the past month which has helped with back tightness. I think that Rolfing has made it easier for my body to readjust itself. I am not sure if I will ever get perfectly balanced because it may be more structural issue with me. I did my best running in over 7 years this summer and fall and I do not get twisted out of shape for weeks at a time without relief like I used to. It was very expensive for my wallet but worth it in the sense that I had to try something new and although I do not feel as perfect as I did after some Rolfing sessions it was another step in the right direction. Don't just do your legs. I found that work on the shoulders helped my stride immensely so try to do the whole series if you go for it. One caveat: I think it balances the body standing at rest (which is helpful) but it didn't always address the "body in motion" questions I had. I don't' think it was that painful-except the work around the face and arms which was not used to being worked on. It was rather interesting to go through the process."

My final evaluation is that it was an interesting therapy that definitely had immediate results. I felt taller with a much younger posture as I was undergoing the process. No one, however, has yet been able to pinpoint what is wrong with my body. At times I think it is a skeletal issue that can never be helped. Whether it has made adjustments quicker and injures easier to heal, I don't know. I do know that my old patterns came back but maybe I am not as tightly wound as before.

Here is an abstract on a study that says their is no benefit from rolfing to male runners on running mechanics and flexibility.

Here is an article on rolfing from Trailrunner magazine.

Here is an article called "Can Rolfing® Help your Running?"
by Brian W. It was originally printed in Footnotes a publication of the Road Runners Club of America vol. 12 #6 Summer 1985.

If you don't want to undertake the full Rolfing program, you may be interested in a book called "Deep Tissue Massage, Revised: A Visual Guide to Techniques at a Glance". It uses some of the principals and techniques of a Rolfer. I bought it right before getting into the Z-Health and Joint Mobility exercises so I haven't given it the reading it deserves, but it looks like it explains things well.

Right now I am using a mix of Z-Health and the Ageless Mobility DVD to work on my joints, kettlebells to work on my strength, and the exercises, routines, and cues from Brain Training for Runners to work on my stride.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Ageless Mobility: More Training for the Joints

I got home from a great day of teaching, after a week off, and found a message that Steve Wolfe would be off snowshoeing again with Bill Morse at the Horse Hill Nature Preserve so I grabbed my gear and headed out immediately to meet these two for a workout in the woods. It was indeed a good day for snowshoe running and we did about 4 miles. When I got home I was happy to open a new package that arrived from

Now you must think I am partly ADD with all the different things I try to get my running form down because here I am with something new to try. I had read that Z-Health may be derived some from Scott Sonnon's Mobility exercises. I may not be correct on this, because there is only a limited amount of information that I have found. So I ordered Scott Sonnon's "Ageless Mobility" DVD to give the two systems some comparison and because I am very curious about what it takes to improve my functioning as an athlete knowing that I have some very serious limitations.

I don't think of myself as old, but my body has been telling me for years that it is not handling exercise the way that it should, so getting something that has "age" in the title seems odd to me on one level. I still think I have the outlook, goals, and enthusiasm of a 20 year old. It is just that, well, things don't seem to work right that often! Next January I will hit 50 years old, it would be great to not only be in the best shape of the past 10-20 years when I do, but to run pain-free and with the stride of someone much younger. If I could, I believe the time goals I would like to reach would be much more easily attainable.

This evening I plopped the DVD in the player and gave it a shot. The program claims that it is a "genetically-programmed sequence of movements, lubricating each joint, one after another, until the entire body becomes fully flushed with nutrition". It says that, "Once each joint is well oiled and ready to move, then soft, flowing yoga movements, easily learned, release the body of chains of tension. This specific process helps prevent daily aches and pain." It sounded good and a bit different than the Z-Health drills that seem to target the joints. This seemed to emphasize the movements, muscles, and connective tissues around the joints.

This is a very well-done DVD and the quality and instructions were easy to follow and well explained. While the Z-Health program started at the feet and worked up this starts at the head and works down. I immediately found the neck mobility drills more intense and it felt like they worked at a much deeper level. Scott Sonnon teaches you how to move and it is easy to get in the correct positions but it is not easy to perform. I do not "work" or feel any tiredness while doing Z-Heath, but this worked muscles and required you to push and keep pushing as long as you could do it correctly and the breathing, which is so important, was always emphasized.

Many of the movements were similar to yoga style movements, but the explanations and instructions left me feeling like I was doing things properly as it literally felt like I was wringing out my body. The movements for the torso: shoulders, back, and hips burned a bit but I felt comfort in the fact that according to the directions I was doing thing correctly and this was how it was supposed to feel. Indeed they felt "good" too, like I was moving "stuck" tissue into proper patterns.

The DVD was a workout, at almost an hour, I think. Whether it just worked me hard, or the combination of teaching, snowshoeing, and stretching left me feeling suddenly tired, but I went from being wired and energetic like I had felt all day to suddenly being calm and tired at the end of the DVD. I plopped down into bed and took a nice long relaxing nap as soon as it was over!

I did like the workout. It was not working on the joints in the same way as Z-Health although many exercises were similar in movement. This seemed to work the tissue around the joints more than the Z-Health which seems to more on the movement of the joint itself, but whatever the similarities and my understanding of both systems I am definitely a beginner in understanding either.

I am hoping I feel just as great from the work tomorrow as I do now and feel it may become another tool in my arsenal. I try to do Z-Health daily as it is quick and easy. This took more time and effort so I may try it once or twice a week. It was recommended as a weekly workout that you can do up to once a day if you choose. If you struggle trying to understand yoga and want something a little more structured and easy to follow that doesn't turn you in to a human pretzel then even from my one viewing I would highly recommend this DVD. I know it won't sit on my "useless" DVD shelf like many other yoga or Pilate's DVDs I have tried do.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Brain Training for Runners

The last thing I need is another book on running. However last night I was at Barnes and Noble looking to use up some gift cards. I got a book on improving my teaching, Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire: The Methods and Madness Inside Room 56 and a book I always wanted to read Between a Rock and a Hard Place about Aron Ralston getting his arm stuck under a boulder while hiking in a canyon and having to cut it off in order to survive. On my way out I saw on a table of new books a running book, "Brain Training For Runners: A Revolutionary New Training System to Improve Endurance, Speed, Health, and Results". I had never heard of it so I gave it a glance. It had a lot of pages and it seemed 1/2 of them were training tables (not something I am usually interested in). But I saw some interesting stretches and read a bit to see what the "brain training" was all about.

I decided it was cheap enough and picked up a copy, particularly because some of the ideas I noticed in the book were similar to some of the things I have been exploring in Z-Health as to the importance of the "brain" in regulating stride form. Since this blog is titled "Recover Your Stride" I think this is an important subject.

I skipped through a lot of the book to get to the important stuff that I wanted to explore. First I liked how the author, Matt Fitzgerald, started the book, "Other runners think I am weird..." and then he goes on to explain how he is incorporating his studies and thinking into bettering his own running performance by doing out of the ordinary techniques.

Chapter 5 is entitled "Pursuing the Perfect Stride" and in here he begins by writing, "The stride is's truly amazing how little attention has been given to stride development in the training of distance runners." Whereas other coaches will tell you not to play around with your stride, he is all for it! His brain training approach has 3 components: emulation (study elite runners), proprioceptive cues (thoughts and sensations to focus on while performing), and technique drills (to enhance good running form).

I like how he analyzed runners to come up with 5 characteristics of good running technique. These are explained well in the book: stiffness (that allow you to spring as you run), compactness (of stride), ballistic action (allows push-off), stability (prevents joint collapse), and symmetry (something I don't have in the least). This chapter is worth the cost of the book alone. There is a lot to digest, yet it is simple and precise in presentation.

I tried one proprioceptive clue as I did my treadmill run today (more snow!). Because it sounded the most fun (actually because it says it will maintain greater stability in the hips, pelvis, and lower spine) I tried the "Butt Squeeze". Basically the idea is to contract the muscles of the hip and butt on the side of the body that is about to hit the ground and then maintain that engagement through the stride. As silly as it sounds I tried it and well it wasn't easy. However when I got it right my stride evened out and in particular my bad left side felt like the femur was setting in the hip much better and even the whole hip reacted differently then the usual collapse it does as I run. As I looked down my legs seemed to be running straighter.

There are other proprioceptive drills to concentrate on (only do one per workout) and that gives you something to think about and try while doing any workout. There are also some core conditioning drills that seem like some of the "best of" exercises of what I have tried in various programs. I am also excited to see the "Dynamic Flexibility Exercises". Static stretching has never worked for me, in fact I think some hamstring stretching I did this week affected my progress with the Z-Health and my running. These drills have to do with relaxation and tension of the muscles (something else I have seen written about elsewhere but haven't yet begun to explore). Dynamic flexibility is also referred to as mobility exercises (ah- similar to what I have been exploring with Z-Health).

I think these couple of chapters alone are well worth rereading and studying again and again. It may be awhile until I get to the rest of the book, because there is a lot of food for thought as I train my brain.