Thursday, September 18, 2008

Getting Back in the Saddle Again with Something New to Read

Matt Metzgar has a blog called "Musings on Big Ideas, Health, and Other Topics." He has visited this blog before and sent me an e-mail of a book that he has been reading and blogging about. The book is called "8 Steps to a Pain Free Back" and was written by Esther Gokhale. I looked at what Matt wrote on his blog and checked out the official site for the book and also the reviews on . I also watched a video that Matt had on his site. The video is long so I didn't know if I would watch it all but I sat through the whole thing and tried some of her exercises. It was definitely worth my time to view this video and learn where her ideas come from and how people can simply implement them. Here is the video:

The book has wonderful reviews and seems to be not just a book about back problems and posture, but a book that looks at the way that Americans have changed the ideal posture to something that is less than ideal. The posture that is emphasized today is not correct according to this book. Esther has studied other countries, cultures, and civilizations from the past to the present and noticed that many Americans no longer how to stand, sit, and move correctly. Young children, some people in other cultures, and our own ancestors move or moved in a different way than most of us do today. She reteaches us how to stand, move, and to achieve a pain-free posture. Since her methods apply to movements like running, I think this book will be interesting to read.

I like when someone goes against the grain of popular wisdom to figure out how to solve a problem and then teach a new approach in a completely different way then all the "experts" offer. Bob Cooley did this with resistance stretching and this author seems to have her own method to teach us how to be pain free. I ordered a copy of the book and look forward to reading it. You can download a chapter of the book at her site too.

So thanks for the tip, Matt! I am always open to suggestions about what might work for me and what others find works for them.

After getting stretched by a resistance trainer on Saturday my running has felt really good. I was feeling light and free as I ran (not perfect) but a lot better than I have been all year. I ran 10 miles on Saturday, 10 more on Sunday and was feeling very good at the end of both runs, Monday I had limited time and managed to speed through an 8 miler, but Tuesday I had appointments all day and did not run. That night I had a little tightness in my hip and because I couldn't sleep I kept getting up to stretch. I think I pulled too hard or did too much but I had a lousy sleep and woke up in the morning with a tightness in my left sacrum or sacroilliac joint. Anyhow it is the same spot that often gets "stuck" and it has been doing this for years. It is the same spot where I kept pressing on my back to get a "crack" back in the 1980's when I was doing triathlons. It got me to the point where I had to do this every 15-20 minutes to feel good and of course messed things up for years! Anyhow it was stuck again all day Wednesday and I wondered if this is where the resistance stretching work would start falling apart.

I had a track workout at night so I did both resistance stretching DVDs before riding my bike to the track. The hip was still sore and tight but the workout went fine and was one of my best of the year. The workout was 8 X 800 meters at 5k pace. I did them all between 2:51 and 2:56 except for the first one in 3:01 and the 7th in 3:04. We had a good group and I hope my teammates don't mind but I like leading the pace in workouts at least until some of the guys would go by me on the 2nd laps and then I would have to work hard to hang on. I feel better and more determined in the front. The 7th one was started haphazardly so I decided not to lead to see if I would do better. Of course I drifted off the back and never caught up so I returned to my front running ways on the last one. I have to go with what works!

Even though my hip was off a bit my muscles were much looser and I was told my stride looked better than it had previously. After that hard track workout I didn't know what would happen today. I did the back exercises last night on the video above and by the end of the video the hip and back tightness was leaving my body. Today it is about 90% better as there is just a little niggle in the hip. I ran 8 miles today with no muscle soreness from the track workout at all. My legs were again loose and free. The hamstrings are really feeling much smoother and my legs seem to extend more as I run. The quads still have tightnesses, but I don't stretch them enough yet. The left one is still tight from where I had that "snap" last week. I still don't know exactly what happened except I really pushed the stretch to an extreme and I think some nerves must have rioted against the stretch. I am being gentle with the stretches to that area.

I am really pleased with how the resistance stretching is turning things around for me and giving me back control over my body. I notice that my legs are straightening out and rotating around the joints in ways that they were too tight to do before. My left femur does not feel jammed into my pelvis and so my hip rotates and works so much more easily. Sometimes I feel like a normal runner and not someone lumbering around trying to push my body in any way in can in order to move through a workout. My hips seem more even now and and although my right and left side do not yet work in symmetry they are a whole lot closer to that ideal than they have been.

Remarkably I also noticed something when I rode my bike yesterday and today. I have never been able to be comfortable sitting on a bike saddle. It has seemed for years that my left hip is pulled in tighter to the saddle than the right one and so I am aways shifting trying to get comfortable on a saddle because of the tighness and the fact that that hip doesn't drop down through the pedal stroke. I was sitting in the saddle so much better on these two rides. The only other time I have felt like that was when I rode my bike a few times in the midst of going through rolfing a couple of years ago. When I sit like this without the tight hip, my left leg is able to press down on the peddle with strong force. When I usually ride a bike (and this goes back to my triathlon days- I would angle my left foot out and leave that peddle loose to try to feel comfortable. I would also keep changing the nose position of the saddle right and left an awful lot-often a couple times a ride trying to get positioned correctly). So maybe these stretches are starting to change the tightnesses and imbalances that have bothered me for years. I hope this positive progression keeps up because I am thrilled to be able to move and run much more easily than I have in a long time.


AGPA Blog said...

Hi Jim,

I am halfway through the youtube video and its GREAT! I love how she goes back to the basic posture and I believe what she is saying is true!!! I love the comparisons to the tribal posture and the statues, it shows so much! She is a very smart lady i would love to meet her!

I read the part in your post where you wrote about your hip tightening up after stretching. I think I can help you understand why this happened.

The way I would explain it would be that you gained flexibility by stretching, you felt better, so you pushed your usual limits. Your hip was moving in a new and different way than usual so other muscles were recruited that were not typically used.

It is a case of too much, too soon.

I am glad that you tested how you felt after stretching though. It showed you how much you could gain by using the Meridian technique. You know how your body felt and how differently running felt and how easy it was to run further and faster. Your performance was improved by the flexibility increase.

The lesson to learn from what happened to you is that you have to be aware of how much your body can handle after increasing flexibility, and you have to take it slow. Baby steps are prudent.

This happens often with my daughter. She achieves flexibility increases and goes back into the gym. When she does, the coaches pick up on it right away so they demand more immediately, before her body has had time to get used to its new ability. A good example is that her hamstrings are extremely tight, so tight they protect her knees from hyper extending. One of her teammates was like this too. The teammate built up cysts on the backs of her knees to further protect from hyperextension. When I work on opening up the flex in my daughters hamstrings she becomes vulnerable to hyper-extending her knees which has happened several times. In her old pre-meridian body hyperextension NEVER happened. Over years of working on this slowly with Meridian she has gained flexibility and also eliminated the hyperextension of the knees as well. She needed time to gain the strength she needs in the hamstrings to prevent hyperextension. In her old ways she looked like she always had a slight bend to her leg, now her body line is much improved and her strength has caught up to prevent both the bend and the hyperextension. It takes time and patience and slow adjusting.

Pay close attention to your limits each time you stretch. It's so tempting to go for broke but it's more responsible to tread cautiously.

I would recommend repeating the same assisted stretching when you can and evaluating the runs after each and every time over the course of a longer period of time. Pay attention to areas where you felt weakness or tightness and do the self stretching for those areas specifically at home all the time. Morning, noon and night!

I hope this is helpful!!!

LOVE THIS BLOG and the way of communicating. It's GREAT!!!!!

Janet :)

AGPA Blog said...

hey in thinking about it, stretching before you run is great but stretching AFTER you put the tension in your body running is EVEN MORE VALUABLE! remove that tension so the next day you start running with no issues! :)

Jim Hansen said...

Hi Janet,
I am glad you found the video interesting. I am reading the book and you can tell she is really intelligent and passionate about learning and teaching correct posture. She just doesn't retell us what others think but she has researched and worked on her own ideas. Good stuff!

You are probably very right about doing more stretching (in the morning and after working out). I was thinking the same thing, but I get too busy and feel so much better than I have in the past that I haven't done all the work that I should.

I am learning "easier does it" too! I don't feel as good if I push the stretching. I was pushing it way too much before I came in to see you. I have to keep in mind that you were not trying to "kill" my muscles, but that the stretches were within my limits.

I think watching some of the online videos of partner stretching that someone might think they have to push to the extreme like some of the stretchers appear to be doing. That was not the case when you stretched me. The stretches were gentle (although my legs were shaking at times) but they hit and worked the muscles that really needed it. I wasn't being turned into a human pretzel at all or I would not have been able to walk let alone run!

I really think that this resistance stretching hits the mark! I am trying to listen to my body to find the tightnesses. Instead of reacting to the places that get sore due to tight muscles I think I am finding out where the tightnesses really are.

I hope to get in again soon when I have the opportunity and see how things are going. I am also curious to find out what "mashing" can do to help loosen things!

Thanks for checking in and writing, Janet!