Sunday, July 27, 2008

Excellent Core Training Videos featuring Matt Tegenkamp

Here are four excellent videos featuring 2008 USA Olympic 5000m team member, Matt Tegenkamp, showing his core routine. It features core work that involves balance and joint mobility along with strength and flexibility. I like some of the variations of familiar exercises that I have tried previously. I also like the adductor work during Part 2. I think this will be very helpful for me.

Part 1: The Warm-Up

Part 2: Floor Routine

Part 3: Dumbell Routine

Part 4: Balance and Glute Routine

Here Matt and Jonathon Riley demonstrate some range of motion exercises that they complete after a run. It is interesting to see what the elites do!

Friday, July 25, 2008

HA! I Think I have a Double Leg Length Discrepency!

This will be one of the strangest posts I make, particularly if you have read about the different strategies I have tried to recover my stride.

Back in junior high school I was diagnosed with a leg length discrepancy. The doctors followed my growth through high school and even wanted to operate at one point to stop the growth in my left leg to let the right one catch up. They did do this operation to my older brother but not to me!

Now before I get on with today's story, I was talking to my dad the other day on the phone. He enjoys tennis as much as I enjoy running. He likes to play in local tournaments with much younger players. He has remained surprisingly injury free for being over 75 years old and playing tennis for many decades. However the past couple of years he had an Achilles problem, then plantar fasciatis, and now he said he knee is hurting a bit. So he went to a podiatrist (and no, he is not into fixing problems or trying to understanding sports medicine like I do) and he told me that the podiatrist told him he had a leg length discrepancy. He said that was the first he heard of that, but told her that his two sons had that issue and that one even had surgery to correct it. She wanted to know who did the surgery and asked what they did. When he said this was through the Boston Children's Hospital and told her about my brother's surgery, she rolled up her pants leg to show him her scars on either side of her knee. She had had the same surgery my brother had many years ago!

Anyhow my right leg was the one diagnosed as the short leg and it was supposedly almost 1/2 inch shorter than my left leg when last diagnosed back in high school. The past few weeks I have been playing around with a heel lift in that right shoe. At first it felt great. I had almost a week of wonderfully balanced runs, but since that time it has been slowly unraveling. My left leg is doing strange rotations, my hips are rotating without pain but not in the same way on each side and I keep feeling like I need more lift in the right shoe.

Today I went for my longest run of the year. I could not get my legs right. True my left hip was not jamming up, but I was out of balance and fighting myself the whole way. I got halfway into the run and decided to try something radical that I had been thinking about. I took the lift out of my right shoe and put it in my left shoe. All of a sudden I felt more balanced again and my left leg was bending and working better. I wasn't sure how long it would last before I would feel a pain, or something wrong but that didn't happen and I completed my run of a little more than 15 miles. The second half felt so much better than the first. What in the world is going on here?

One thing I have learned is that my body adjusts to all sorts of strange positions and strides. Some people run with perfect form and if one little thing is altered they end up injured. I have horrible form but somehow I adjust to all sorts of imbalances and keep running. Last year I started calling new things I try as I run "distractions" because I will try something new and it will feel good for a day or week and then things will fall apart and it won't work anymore. I think my body gets fooled by distractions and runs better for a while before getting to a place where the distraction does not work. That may be what happened today. My body got distracted by a new running position and it felt good while my body tried to adjust or maybe just maybe.... I have two short legs!!!!!

Actually don't laugh too hard at that because listen to this. Back about 18 years ago (yes I have been fighting this stuff for a long time) I had a doctor x-ray my legs while lying down. I heard this was the only way to truly test a leg length discrepancy and what I was told when I was done was that one leg had a longer femur than the other, and that the other leg had longer lower leg bones. When they did the calculations the both sides together were not off by that much. It wasn't the nearly half-inch that I had been told. However (and I would like to find the results- I think I saved them somewhere) that could mean that when standing my right leg is the short leg (I do feel so much better with the heel lift in my right shoe when standing or walking around). But maybe just maybe my left leg acts as the short leg when running, possibly because when running the dynamics is changed because my knees are bent and the way the differences between lower leg and upper leg lengths are altered in a running stride.

Maybe that explains why pictures of me running show my left side (the one I was told is longer is always collapsed down) and I feel like I always have to hike up the leg to run. It may also explain why my right shoulder is always higher or why I had one massage therapist who used to force my left side's rib cage higher because it was lower than the other side. Then there was the chiropractor a few years ago who took an x-ray of my pelvis with a heel lift under my short leg. When he added height to the heel lift on my right side then the leg length difference seemed even more pronounced. He kept staring at the results and couldn't figure out why a leg lift made that short leg appear even shorter. Finally he abandonded what he was trying to do and just forgot about it because he was too confused!

Or I could just be full of beans, but I do know this: at least for one day it helped me run more smoothly and I made it through my longest run of the year.

Maybe my new strategy should be to alternate which shoe gets the heel lift and just remain distracted and running free.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Looking on the Bright Side of Things

Wednesday night it stopped raining for a bit right before the GCS track workout. There was a low runner turnout due to the rain but I joined the A group for the workout! There were only 3 other runners in the group but it felt good to be back with the guys I am used to running with, even if I couldn't keep up the whole way. We did 6 X 800 meters. The first 3 I did in about 3:00-3:02 but then on the the fourth I dropped down to 3:06. I changed shoes and the last two were in 2:56 and 2:58. About the changing of shoes: I wore the Nike Hayward shoes that I have been road training in for the first four. I never wear trainers on the track and even though these are lightweight trainers they still felt big, bulky, and unstable to me but I wanted to try them just to see how they felt. Then I put on my lightweight Saucony Kilkennys. They may be a 1/2 too small and not a perfect fit but I did appreciate the lightness and the ability to feel my feet on the track.

Today I went to Boston for an ART treatment (in the pouring rain again). The shorts I wore which fit well in April when I went to Hawaii are now way too loose. I had to hold onto them to keep them from falling off or to prevent myself from looking like a junior high kid in his low-riding pants! That means my work to eat less and to eat more nutritious food is starting to pay off!

As for the ART treatments, I am not sure if it is worth my time anymore. I only get 5 minutes and I can't even feel like he is putting any pressure on my muscles as I move throught the treatment. He doesn't really answer my questions and the communication is not clear as to what he thinking. Maybe his plans are right on, but I am losing confidence. It would be fine if he was just down the road, but I have to travel nearly 2 hours each way to get 5 minutes of treatment. The exercise he gave me today was to do a hip hiker. Here is the closest video I could find for the exercise. I have done it before- sometimes with good results- but I find it hard to figure out how to do it properly. He had me standing on the floor and bending the non-standing leg, rather than use a stool to stand on with a straight leg. I usually have done it on a stair. He mentioned my upper body was rotating a bit and to stand tall. Strangely enough this works the same muscle that I found was tender in its insertion point to the hip on Monday.

Here is Dave Scott giving directions on top 6 stretches for runners. Some of them are partner stretches.

Here he gives his top four stretches for the hips and glutes. These involve stretch cords or resistance bands.

Recover Your Air

With the Olympics coming up in Beijing China in a few weeks, here is a very interesting report on the air conditions in Beijing and just what the athletes may face as they try to compete in the heavily polluted air. It also infers that the Chinese are "cheating" a bit as they try to claim that the air in the host city is improving. Athletes that competed in Beijing recently explain the effects the pollution had on their breathing and even in their ability to complete a competition. Is it any wonder that World Marathon record holder Halie Gebrselassie refused to run the Olympic marathon in the 2008 Olympics? This comes from ESPN's "Outside the Lines".

A new type of Running Shoe: Glide’n Lock

I see a new and unusual type of running shoe is being marketed. It is called the Glide’n Lock Running System. I couldn't find much information on them except through their website.

At first glance it sounds like the shoe is supposed to cushion your foot's impact through the "elements" on the bottom of the shoe. It looks like them may move horizontally on impact and then when the "elements" compress they lock in so that you can get a push-off. You may even hear the elements click as they lock in according to the website.

It looks like they would be very interesting to try. I always wonder if a shoe like this would help equalize the forces on my left foot as it strikes the ground so that it doesn't twist and roll. The Newton Running Shoe was supposed to do something like that but it certainly didn't work for me. The Newtons were expensive enough for a running shoe, but the Glide'n Lock retails for $199.00. I wonder if they would take my barely used Newtons as a trade in.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Getting to the Point: A Return to the Hips

My left leg has felt really off for the past few days. The knee and foot have felt stuck in bad rotations and I can't figure out what to do. I had a massage Monday and that didn't help. I ran the Monday night 5k trail race and had another poor time as I couldn't get that leg to work right. Monday night I tried working with weights on my leg as I did hip strengthening exercises and then I did an Active Isolated Stretching routine that I hadn't done in a long time. The foot still worked the same way.

Yesterday I was watching part of the Tour de France and was still uncomfortable and so I just pressed my fingers into the side of my left hip. I am not sure which muscle that is. I think it might be the insertion point of the gluteus medius at the top of the hip. Anyhow I noticed a tenderness at a certain point there so I started applying some pressure and working on it. When I was done, I walked around and noticed my knee and foot were lined up better and that left leg was back to feeling better again. I can't explain how or why this worked, but I always have strange things that work like that. It probably wouldn't work for anyone else as I think what my body does is pretty unique. I write it here so I can reference and remember it at some other time when the problem returns.

I thought I felt ready for a run. I headed out the door and felt real stiff as soon as I started running. I had to really plug away at the run. My energy was there but it was a real battle to move my body. I kept plugging away and never fully loosened up, but I made it through 12 miles. I was really tight and stiff particularly through the quads and hips. I reminded myself it may be good to use my TP Massage rollers on them later (which reminds me that I lost my TP Massage Ball in Hawaii- along with my iPod- they were in the same bag). I used to use the ball in the same spot on my hips as I leaned into a wall. I believe that the stretching I did the previous night had something to do with the tightness. So I need to ease back slowly into the stretching.

I found a new hip stretch that I like. It is something I found and saved to my computer a while back but never really tried before.

Seated Knee Circles
Procedure: 1. Sit on the ground with
your legs in an “Indian Posture.” 2. Put
both of your hands on one knee. 3.
Rotate and bend your torso toward the
opposite knee and begin circling your
nose around this knee. USE YOUR TORSO TO MAKE
HEAD! 4. Once you have gone both directions over one knee,
switch to the opposite knee.
Muscles Being Stretched: Quadratus Lumborum, Erector
Spinae, Transversospinalis
Duration of Stretch: 1 min. for each side.
Important: It is crucial to circle your nose using your torso not
just your neck.
Type of Stretch: Oscillitory

I like this as it stretches the quadratus lumborum (as well as the whole back) and I haven't found a stretch that does this adequately before. I find this one hard to do (but I definately feel things pulling and moving out of stuck positions) but maybe that is why it will be a good stretch. Here is another:

Knee Circles (static)
Procedure: 1. Sit on the ground with
your legs in an “Indian Posture.” 2. Cup
both of your hands around one knee then
lean forward toward the same knee.
Muscles Being Stretched: Quadratus
Lumborum, Erector Spinae, Transversospinalis
Duration of Stretch: 1 min. for each side.
Important: This is a good stretch to focus on your breath to
fully relax into the stretch.
Type of Stretch: Static

Here is a video that shows some stretches that are supposed to increase hip flexibility.

I had this as a video but it played everytime the page opened so now I am just listing it as a link. "Hi' I"m Leslie...." shouldn't startle you anymore!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Personal Worsts are Never Fun!

Here are a couple of pictures by Steve Wolfe of the Gate City Striders Ultimate Runner night.

My right leg looked OK with the heel lift in it.

But my left leg still is all the wrong angles. It is depressing to keep seeing this! Even my face in the photo show me concentrating on form and not doing a good job of it!

This looks like it is going to be a year of PW's (Personal Worsts) with my running. I ran my first road race of the year (not counting the 5k trail races) at the Bill Luti 5 miler in Concord, NH. It is not my of my favorite races to begin with as there is a hill after 5 miles and it is run on the wrong side (left) of the road for me. Last year I had a lousy race and ran 32:07. My hips were very much off that race and I ran my one and only race in a pair of Newton running shoes. I figured I could do better this year. I felt energetic even though I ran some good mileage running up to this years race. I even took Friday off from running.

The day was very hot. I went out slower than normal in this race (about 6:10) and went up the hill OK but then the wheels fell off. I was hot. My legs were going in different directions. My hips weren't working correctly. I struggled all the way in watching runner after runner pass me. I finished in a 5 mile PW of 34:28. I was disgusted!

Anyhow I saw John V. of Kickbike fame (moderator of the KickbikeUSA Yahoo Group) at the Concord race. Not feeling pleasant after that race- the heel lift that had seemed to help my stride- didn't appear to be working the same way anymore. My hip was tightening up again and my left leg was all messed up. I decided to ride my kickbike in the afternoon and even found that hard to do. My legs didn't seem to be moving correctly. Strangely enough I seem to get more push off my left leg, but as I paid attention to what my feet were doing on the ground I noticed my right foot seem to track straight off the ground (as the footbed of my kickbike rolled forward past the leg on the ground). My left foot contacted the ground and the leg and foot rolled like this ). The leg doesn't track straight but curves in and then back out as it rolls over my foot. The kickbike ride wasn't smooth at but it felt good to get out and exercise some frustrations out.

Yesterday and today my hips and leg refuse to work right. They are back to the right hip angling in and the left leg rotating out. I am very uncomfortable. I saw a question on the Runners World forums about a rotated tibia and chimed in a question about stuck or rotated joints. A physical therapist, Damien Howell, wrote back after reading a what I wrote and looking at my running pictures at this blog. It is not a diagnosis but just some ideas (or a possibility) based on the limited information he saw. But he wrote:

"marathonnh this is a very interesting series of stillphotos. Your long history and the still photos do suggest the possibility that either the pelvic bone (acetabulum) has an odd shape; the femoral alignment having excessive femoral internal torsion; excessive tibiial external torsion; or a combination of the above mal-alignments.

I believe a CT scan would be required to definitively rule in or rule out anti-version of the hip, excessive femoral internal torsion, or excessive tibial external torsion. A CT scan could also quantify the degree of torsion. An Orthopedic Surgeon could order and interpret a CT scan of both lower extremities, and transverse plane measurements should be compared to the uninvolved side.

The fact that you have had a remarkable career in competitive running, and if you have permanent bony mal-alignment from childhood, you are an example of the remarkable ability of the humans to compensate and accommodate for short comings in order to achieve remarkable successes.

I found the description at your blog site remarkably insightful and analytical "If I position my left knee pointing forward, the left ankle points correctly, but the foot rotates or splays to the left and tilts up on the inside. If I place my left foot straight on the ground, the left knee is rotated to the inside. If I try to force that knee straight the inside of the foot rotates up. I can't even get that knee into proper alignment with whatever force I use. I still can't tell if it is a knee rotation, or a foot or hip problem. It just won't line up".

You should recognize that Orthopedic Surgeons order this kind of a CT scan measurement in order to plan surgery, the surgery involves breaking the bone rotating the bone and fixing the parts together. It is a extensive procedure and for some one who is functioning as well as you are the Surgeon is likely to think you are a bit odd for requesting such a diagnostic image test.

Good luck

Damien Howell MS, PT, OCS"

It is not pleasant to think that the only way to resolve my issues would be to cut my femur apart and then put it back together. Of course, I could never do that- but it does point to the real possibility that what I am really dealing with it a faulty skeletal problem and whatever I try I can never fix that!

I had a PT tell me before that it may be hip problem that I was born with before. I remember her telling me, "Jim, You are someone who is so made for running, but you are also someone who is not so made for running." She was a young PT that couldn't figure out a problem in that left hip. It was so jammed I couldn't run. The PT work and exercises she tried didn't help. She enlisted all the other PT's in the office to look and talk about the problem (some had helped me in other years). No one could figure out why my hip (or where the femur inserts into the hip) was jammed up. She kept researching and found a hip capsule stretch (sort of a figure 4 stretch) that moved the hip into a new position and I all of a sudden I could run again. I went back to that PT place last year but that therapist was no longer there.

So I am back to dealing with the same issues all over again and maybe it will never be resolved. Everything I try works for awhile and then it stops working. Maybe it is a skeletal problem that will never ever be fixed!

I saw an ad in New England Runner Magazine for something called Structural Management. I was checking it out today and the website says all the right things that I would want to hear from a therapy. The out of balance skeleton on the home page looks like my posture and it talks about structural imbalances and all the things that I observe about my mechanics. They give you a "structural fingerprint" exam. Here they are giving one to Bill Rodgers. Then they give you a conditioning program to get you back to health. It sounds like everything is integrated into one and they look at the whole body (something most therapists I have encountered do not do). It involves orthotics (possibly), leg length determinations, joint mobility work, and a lot of other things that I have been looking at own my own. The website says,
"The key is to restore normal motion back to all joints, increase flexibility, improve balance with muscle strengths and leg lengths, correct pelvic angle defects and gravity line defects. These changes make a dramatic difference in injury frequency, intensity and duration. Without the biomechanical influence, injuries will continue to exist and active participation will continue to decline."

It all sounds so very good and if I was a involved with sports medicine ( I really wish I was) this is how I would market and run a clinic (if I had the answers!). It just looks like it may be very expensive and the nearest person may be a couple of hours away. I will look into some more to see if it could be a possibility and if I could at least "know" what my biomechanical problems are.

Anyhow being in Kickbike mode I started putting up some YouTube videos of portions of an introductory tape to Kickbikes I got when I first purchased my kickbike. Here is what is up so far! Enjoy! Maybe someone will get motivated to try a Kickbike!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Recover Your Country: Kenya and the Death of Patrick Sang

"Even You?" is an interesting article written by Wright Thompson on It tells the story of the life and death of Olympic runner Patrick Sang during the tribal warfare in Kenya that occurred after the Presidential elections in December. According to the article questions remain unanswered. Was Patrick Sang a hero, a villain, or a victim? In his last days did he consider himself a Kenyan or a Kalenjin? Was he a leader of an attacking mob or was he just someone who was in the wrong place at the wrong time? Will things change politically in Kenya or will it continue to be more of the same? This is an sadly informative read, particularly for runners who admire the Kenyan athletes and and know the beauty of the country and its people. It is just another example of what happens when the world goes a bit off-kilter. The photographs accompanying the article are wonderful too! You can read the article here.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

How I Made Sports Illustrated Magazine!

O.K. This is slightly old news, but it is a bit relevant as there are many American Olympians who were not born in America. Some started running after arriving in America (Abdi Abdirahman in the 10000m) and others have Olympic medals from other countries (Bernard Lagat formally of Kenya who will represent America in the 1500 and 5000 races in Beijing. Unless we are paying them to come run for us, I agree with many others-but not all, that they are American runners if they are American citizens.

Anyhow back in 2002 Sports Illustrated had a short one page article "Catching up with" on Alberto Salazar. I read it and while appreciating an article on distance running and Alberto, Sports Illustrated missed the mark and did not even acknowledge the fact that Khalid Khannouchi (an American who came from Morocco) had just broken the world record in the London Marathon with a thrilling race against Ethiopia 's Haile Gebrselassie and Kenya's Paul Tergat.

I sent off this letter (the only letter I have ever written to a publication):

Marathon Man
It was nice to revisit Alberto Salazar (CATCHING UP WITH, April 22). However, the article begins, " Alberto Salazar has no desire to be known as the last great American marathoner, but that's exactly what he is." Well, in case you didn't notice—and it looks that way—an American set a world record in the London Marathon on April 14. Khalid Khannouchi broke his own mark in a long-anticipated, epic race against two of the greatest distance runners ever, Ethiopia 's Haile Gebrselassie and Kenya 's Paul Tergat . The often overlooked Khannouchi is an American citizen who was born and raised in Morocco , but this does not make him any less an American. Just ask Alberto Salazar , who was born in Cuba . The greatest marathoner in the world today is an American!
JIM HANSEN, Nashua, N.H.

I remember receiving my issue in the mail and seeing a large picture of racing greyhounds. I held it up to show my son since we had a greyhound at that time and as I held it up I was startled when I saw my name and letter printed on the reverse side of the page.

I was even more surprised when I was reading the Jan/Feb issue of Running Times and an article called "Foreign Born Americans". Imagine my surprise to see my letter to SI quoted in the article.

Anyhow in the 2002 London Marathon Khalid Khannouchi set the World Record against two of the greatest runners of all time. It was a classic race. I remember getting up early that morning and listening to the race on internet radio. Here are the top three times.

2 TERGAT, PAUL (KEN) 2:05:48

I wasn't really in running shape that Spring but decided to run a marathon that same day to celebrate the London race and also to celebrate my first Boston Marathon 20 years earlier almost to the day in Boston. That race was the "Dual in the Sun" between Alberto Salazar and Dick Beardsley. My results there are another story but I died like I have never died in a race that day in Boston. I went out trying to run 2:42 and was on pace through the half, but it was hot and I dehydrated bad and stumbled in with a time of 3:23:58.

My school board was not going to let me run Boston in 2002 so I decided to do Fred's Marathon (a Boston alternative in Worcester, Ma). I had only run a couple hundred miles since the beginning of that year. My training was to do a 16 miler two weeks before the race and a 20 miler the week before. I ran Fred's in a time of 3:23:58. A week or two after the race I realized I had run the exact same time that I had run in Boston 20 years earlier. Fred's was basically an easy run on limited mileage. Boston 1982 was a dreadfully hard day when I was in the best marathon shape of my life. A week after that Boston I ran a 5 miler in 26:36 to break my 5 mile best PR set in college a year earlier. Two weeks after that Boston I broke my foot sliding into a base (sandbag) during a softball game and I have never run as fast.

Alberto Salazar and Dick Beardsley both suffered from that race in 2002 and never achieved the times or places in races that they had before that epic race. Here is a video of that race:

Here is Dick Beardsley talking about the "Dual in the Sun".

On a smaller scale, tonight the Gate City Striders had their Ultimate Runner workout. The Ultimate Runner consists of a 400, an 800, a mile, and then a 5k run. Then they age grade the times to find out who is the Ultimate Runner. It was a hot night like usual for this contest. I couldn't wait to get on the track because I really bumped my mileage up the week before. In the past 7 days I accumulated 64 miles of running and I feel like I am training for the first time in a long time. My times were 76 seconds for the 400, 2:44 for the 800, 6:00 for the mile, and 20:28 for the 5k. The heel lifts are helping although I still need adjusting. My left hip and adductor was tight all day today and during the races. My times were slower than normal but it was good to push and run for a change.

There are two good books on Dick Beardsley and the "Dual in the Sun" Boston Marathon race of 1982. I enjoyed reading "Staying the Course" by Dick Beardsley that talk about his running and what happened after with accidents and drug addictions. "Duel in the Sun" by John Brandt is another good read comparing Alberto Salazar and Dick Beardsley and their personalities as well as that great race and what happened afterwards to both runners.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Return of the MP3's

I was the first one I ever knew to have an MP3 player. I got a Sensory Science RaveMP 2000 back in 1999 and I couldn't believe such technology. It could hold 30 minutes of music! I had to explain what an mp3 was to everyone I knew, because no one had heard of or seen such a thing before. I actually liked this player, its hourglass shape meant it fit snugly in my hand.

My next MP3 player, a Creative Nomad 2, held 60 minutes of music. I could also put a media card in it to add songs. Both players fit neatly in the palm of a hand and on long runs I would take both so I could hear a change in music.

Eventually I got an mp3 player with a mini-hard drive that could hold tons of music, The Rio Nitrus. It worked great at first, but like everyone else that had this player it died about 2 days after it 90 day warranty expired.

I had a few other low cost mp3 players through the years, but eventually ended up with my first iPod: a mini. It worked great and held lots of music but I had to use an armband like this to run with it and after a year the battery died. I replaced the battery but that lasted less than a year. It is now plugged into my alarm clock to wake me up to tunes of my own choosing.

Finally I got an iPod shuffle. This mp3 player is perfect for running. I clip it onto my shorts and listen to music without feeling encumbered at all by the mp3 player. It worked great, but unfortunately it disappeared from my stuff while I was in Hawaii in April. I have run tuneless since then until I replaced it this week. I am happy to be back in the music. I have no apologies for running with an mp3 player. It is one of the few times I can listen to music during my day and after running for over 30 years, I need a little diversion. However the important rule about mp3 players is never use one during a race or while training with friends.

I had another good day of running and adjusting to the heel lift. Today I ran 8 miles, yesterday 12 miles, and Thursday 10 miles for 30 miles in 3 days and I felt great when finished with each run. My hips seem balanced side to side. My right hip doesn't dip down and back. My legs feel straighter although they are still adjusting and I am being careful about overdoing it (it doesn't sound like it- but I feel like running more than I have the last 3 days). I have about 1/4 to 3/8 of an inch lift in my right foot so the angles of my feet landing on the ground, my ankle, knees, and hips all have a different angles of motion and supporting my weight as I run. I would guess I would be having all sorts of problems if I wasn't on to something with the lift. I hope my stride keeps on making improvements and adjustments as I feel a new balance as I run.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Things that are making me run better: a heel lift, ART (Active Release Technique) and also more on the Tibialis Posterior

I went to Boston for my third Active Release (ART) appointment today. I was feeling good since my run on Tuesday, but didn't run yesterday as I spent a couple of hours in a dentist's chair before celebrating 20 years of marriage!

Today the I had a quick treatment on the back of my left hip and my left adductors (I didn't tell him that this was bothering me on Monday). The ART therapy never hurts me and I don't feel a thing but it does do something. He has me check my balance doing lunges and of course my left side is awkward when I do these. He gave me a hamstring strengthening exercise. I am to lie on the floor on my back with me knees at 90 degrees and my heels resting on a bench at knee height. I am to press my heels into the chair and lift my rear off the floor. I am to do this until tired (maybe 50 times), rest a minute, then repeat. I am to do these once per day. He doesn't say anything when I mention I am working on the tibialis posterior.

Here is a video where an Active Release Technique therapist explains the process. The second technique he does for this persons sciatica is similar or the same as one of the hip movements I had done the last two appointments. I do it with straight leg and bent leg as shown.

Here the founder of ART, Dr. Leahy, talks about what ART is and its effectiveness.

This is another video dealing with sciatica and ART. At about 7 minutes into it you will see the ART Psoas release similar to the one that is done on my Psoas muscle.

Today my run was really good. I think the heel lifts are right on. I feel so much more balanced and my hips don't have to do all this work trying to be leveled and balanced. I feel better walking and running and the back of hip pain is subsiding. Today I added an extra loop to my run so I did close to 10 miles. I would do more but I am nervous that the change by using the heel lift could create a new problem from adjusting muscles. I am getting my legs to feel straighter and I could happily train at this level as I don't feel so exhausted from fighting my own body. Although not 100%, I do feel a whole lot smoother and solid as I run.

I am doing the Tibialis Posterior exercises. They are simple and feel so right for what I need to do with my knee and feet. I found another exercise to try for strengthening the tibialis posterior. The accent is from New Zealand and the person, Gary Moller, is the older brother of Olympic Marathon Bronze medalist Lorraine Moller. Here Gary writes more about correcting foot pronation. What I find interesting is that his diagram and the diagram on the Yoga site I listed the other day, both show the inward knee rotation and hip problems that I suffer from.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Olympic Track Trials in One Workout

I missed four days of running last week due to going to the Olympic Swimming Trails. When I came home Saturday night the heel lifts I had ordered had arrived. My left hip and left shoulder were off the whole time I was away so I was happy to try them out. I adjusted them by taking many layers off and put them in my shoe. I liked the feeling of balance. I woke up and wore them again and the tightness I had were gone. I had a very well balanced 8 mile run and felt good afterwards and the next morning.

Then I went in for a massage. It went well and I got looser. I had a very tight right ITB band and left hamstring. When I was done my hip was tight in a new way. I had lost the balance I had. Still I decided to do the 5k at night. This time I did a 4 mile warmup right to before the start of the race, but I was all off and my hip was not working. I had a horrible race and lumbered to a slow finish.

Then my hip was sore all night. I couldn't sleep and got up a few hours early. All day it was out of whack. I tried rolling the left adductor which was tight. It is hard to do but here are two clips on how to do it:

It helped ease a little tension, but not enough. I did Z-Health drills (no help), used a heating pad on my back (nothing), and although I was dressed to run I decided the hip still hurt so I decided to bike.

I got dressed for biking but then thought I'd go back to an earlier page on my blog where I had placed a web link that I intended to get to later. I decided it was later. I decided to take a closer look at the tibialus posterior tendon as explained here. This muscle can cause a flat pronated foot and knock knees. That is me!

I read it through and tried the strengthening exercises on my left side. That is the side where my knee knocks in. The exercise gave me an idea of what that muscle should be doing and the effect it should have on the functioning of the foot and knee. It lifted the arch up like the orthotics I had tried last month did artificially. I learned to push the knee out and what that felt like (actually like I felt the Z-Health knee circles should be doing-but aren't). I also felt I lot of tightness and work being done on the outside of my hip. After doing the exercises my muscles felt distracted enough that I though I'd try running, so it was back to putting on my running gear.

I tried running with some of the cues from the exercises I had done and it was tough but I was able to get a better alignment and feel. However since I only did the exercises on the left side, I found it hard to use the cues on the right side. After about 3 miles I started cuing in the right side and things were falling into place a bit. I was running and my stride was changing. I felt I was bearing the running load on the outside of the hip rather than on the inside like I normally do. I am sure I was only making minor movements toward straightening my knee-leg out. It started getting easier and flowing and I realized a good mental image would be to picture Gabe Jennings running the 1500 at the Olympic Trials. There is not a whole lot I care to emulate about Gabe Jennings and in particular his running style, but I put the image of his almost bow-legged running stride in my mind and used it to help keep my knees straight and because of that they were not buckling in.

It was all going well until all of a sudden I felt a sharp twinge at the inside bottom of my left heel. Bam I had to quickly adjust my stride, I felt like Tyson Gay pulling a muscle. Of course he was going fast when his hamstring went and he veered all over the track trying to stop. I was going slow and veered about 5 inches as I tried to adjust my stride and stop. I walked for a few minutes and got back to running but without such an effort to adjust that foot! Fortunately the pain did not reappear.

In the end I feel like Alan Webb. Last year he was fast and set the American record in the mile. This year he looks lost and confused without the stride he used to have. Of course Alan's worst day is still 5th best in the USA. I can't get my body working correctly and it too is confusing. The 5K's I am running are pathetic and I can't move my body properly. Sooner or later I hope to hit on the right combination of strategies and recover my stride. I will continue with the heel lifts and work more on those posterior tibialis strengthening exercises.

I hope you like the pictures of Gabe, Tyson, and Alan running in the Olympic Trials, because pictures of me trying to straighten my knees out, hobbling with a pain on the bottom of my foot, or racing last night would have been really horrible to look at!

More on Tibialis Posterior Dysfunction:
"The tibialis posterior tendon is the primary dynamic stabiliser of the medial longitudinal arch,6 and its contraction results in inversion and plantar flexion of the foot and serves to elevate the medial longitudinal arch, which locks the mid-tarsal bones, making the hindfoot and midfoot rigid.7 This later action allows the gastrocnemius muscle to act with much greater efficiency during gait. Without the tibialis posterior, the other ligaments and joint capsules gradually become weak, and thus flatfoot develops. Furthermore, without the tibialis posterior the gastrocnemius is unable to act efficiently, and therefore gait and balance are seriously affected." (from here)

Here is another look at the same exercise I did today from a Yoga perspective:
It says, "If you have a tendency toward flat feet and knock-knees, use an elastic exercise band to create the resistance...Even if you don’t have flat feet, this exercise will help you learn and practice good action in the feet. The essence of the exercise is to learn how to keep the inner heel and ball of the big toe grounded while lifting the arch, and not throw all of the weight to the outer edge of the foot.

Then the article describes a "wide-legged standing forward bend" that uses the same lifting of the arches by strengthening and lengthening the tibialis posterior. It says, that this stretch "is obviously a stretch to the hamstrings, but a big part of the stiffness that holds us back from fully expressing the pose comes from tight adductors. These inner thigh muscles pull the thighbones toward each other, tightening and even locking the hip joints. And you will find that what goes hand in hand with tight adductors is the inability of the tibialis posterior to keep the arches of the feet lifted." What I find interesting is I do have that tighntess of the adductors (particularly the left side) and this is the side where I have the most trouble with the knocked-knee and fallen arch and it was the first thing I thought of treating today!

Of the many sites I visited, these two suggest a stengthening of this tendon. The other doctor related sites suggest surgery, orthotics, or arch supports. This quote from the last site suggests why this is not the best strategy, "In the orthopedic world, what is often offered as a solution for fallen arches—particularly when they cause a knock-kneed condition—is support in the form of a lift or orthotics in the shoe. The artificial arch takes over the job of the tibialis posterior—and certainly the support is appreciated over the course of a long day as our feet get tired. Yet when the tibialis posterior is not working properly, a host of postural misalignments ensue, and some of them are not rectified by arch supports. With arch supports, changes do happen in the lower leg: the arch is lifted, and the shinbone of the lower leg (i.e., the tibia) rotates out from its base at the ankle, as it should. But not much changes in the thighbone: it remains inwardly rotated and, in the case of knock knees, adducted. This means that while the shin is now rotating out, the inner thigh muscles remain tight and pull the femur in toward the midline of the body, causing a twisting and grinding in the knee. It’s not enough to shore up the arches. This simply shifts the problem up the leg to the knee, where the twisting can damage the knee ligaments and cartilage. The solution, beginning with the tibialis posterior, has to involve the whole leg."

Monday, July 7, 2008

Recover Your Stroke (part 2) Champions

Here are a few more pictures from the Olympic Trials in Omaha.

New Hampshire Olympian Jenny Thompson

Legendary Olympian Mark Spitz

Future Olympian Hannah

Mark Phelps (no we are not underwater-this huge poster was on the ceiling)

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Recover Your Stroke

There will be no running the next three days. but I will be seeing lots of swimming. My daughter Hannah and I are in Omaha, Nebraska watching the Olympic Trials for swimming. We have great seats for all the races and we are staying at the Hilton that is connected to the Quest Center. There are athletes all around. While I would feel comfortable at the Olympic Track and Field Trials knowing who all the athletes are, at a swimming meet I know some names and only a few faces.

The first face we recognized was Michael Phelps' mother in our hotel. I watched a tall guy having a conversation and couldn't figure out who it was until the races at night when the interviewed him. It was Matt Biondi. We met Mary T. Meagher and saw lots of people that "could have been somebody" as they looked real familiar but I just couldn't place them.

The race atmosphere is great. The preliminaries in the afternoon had race after race. In the evening sessions with some finals it was more theatrical with lights, interview, announcements and more.

We are having a great time.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

How important are the hips for injury-free running?

I know if I could get my hips working together as a balanced unit my running would be much more efficient and fun. While some people say that money is the root of all evil, I have found someone else who mirrors that weak hips are the root of many running injuries. In this article found at, which is based on a study at the University of Calgary, hips are often the culprit when it comes to leg injuries in runners. In fact 92% of the runners who came to the clinic over a seven month period of time had weak hip muscles. By strengthening the hip muscles runners may be able to overcome other injuries such as knee troubles. Reed Ferber, who runs the clinic, said that, "89 per cent of the patients reported a significant improvement in pain within four to six weeks," after undertaking the hip strengthening exercises and other recommendations. "While strong hips aren't a guarantee against future running injuries," Ferber says, "improving the strength in your hips is a great way to reduce the number and severity of lower-leg running injuries."

What is helpful is that the clinic shows the hip strengthening exercises here. This is nothing new to me as I had these same exercises given to me by a PT many years ago. It is a reminder that they may be a good thing to implement in my routine to keep them strengthened.

I got this from an email from RMAX (Scott Sonnon) and it is an interesting hip mobility drill. I have not tried it at this level yet. I have done the leg swoop on the Intu-Flow DVD at a more beginning level. This is supposed to open and strengthen the hips. Here is a video of the movement.

From the same RMax email was this post concerning called "The 4 Myths of Joint Mobility".

Speaking of mobility and flexibility check out this 6 year old kid in India. That is taking things to the extreme!