Thursday, November 13, 2008

How to Recover Your Stride: Recommendations #3-5

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

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

Number 2 Resistance Stretching

Number 3
Z-Health Joint Mobility

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aging and Feeling Good While Running

Joint Mobility Through Z-Health

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

Some Reading to Explore on Joint Mobility and Z-Health

Why fast runners need good hip mobility

Ankle Mobility Drills: Can they Improve Hip Function?

Number 4
Ageless Mobility

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

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

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

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

Here are my related posts.

Ageless Mobility: More Training for the Joints

Getting in the Flow: Joint Mobility Re-Education

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

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

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

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

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

Now that was Fun!

Feeling Like a Kid Again!


Mike T Nelson said...

Z Health is good stuff!
Rock on
Mike N

Jim Hansen said...

Hey Mike,
Come to NH and set me right!
I read your blog (don't understand it all), but enjoy many of your posts (particularly the Z-Health stuff).