Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Classic Nike Running Shoes

I know a lot of people do not have much respect for the Nike shoe brand these days, but being a runner from the 70's I have nothing but pure nostalgia for the glory days of Nike. One of the few things I would spend my extra money on while I was a poor college student was the latest and greatest running shoes from Nike. I would admire the pictures of the shoes in Runner's World magazine and couldn't wait to try them on my feet.

My first running role model was a local high school runner named Tommy Johnston. He was four years older than me and I would see him running through my hometown of Falmouth on long training runs when he was in high school. I started running in ninth grade weeks after the first ever Falmouth Road Race. Tommy finished in 10th place in that race back in 1973. That fall he went off to run at Wheaton College in Illinois and I started running with his brother at Falmouth High School. As a footnote, I also ran at Wheaton College four years after Tommy and it took me until my last collegiate cross-country race before I finally beat his best time over the 5 mile distance. I don't recall ever running a step with Tommy in my life, but I do recall him showing me a new pair of running shoes that he had ordered from a new company in Oregon called Blue Ribbon Sports. They were a pair of Tiger shoes with that silly Nike swoosh stitched on in place of the Tiger stripes. I wonder how much that pair of shoes would be worth today if Tommy had kept them.

I sold a bunch of my old Nikes on eBay years ago and made some nice money for getting rid of my junk! My wife was very happy, but mystified as to why someone (most were sold to people in Japan and in Europe) would pay for my old sneakers!

But then you have guys like Lindy Darrel, who is a collector of vintage Nike shoes who just love the glory years of Nike. I recently found this interview with Lindy and and his shoe collection as well as wonderful photos of some of the classic Nike shoes from that period of time including some that I had never heard of before. You can read the interview here. It is on a website called Sneaker Freaker.

There is a slideshow on the interview page that has marvelous pictures of some of the pristine shoes in Lindy's collection. I see some of my favorite ever racing shoes in his collection: the lime green waffle racers, Oregon Waffles, the America Eagle racing shoes, and Nike Mariahs (in team colors-Nike used to send special team colored versions of their shoes to top racers and teams- the North Central College guys seemed to get a lot of these as well as our own Danny Henderson. I still have a pair of his old spikes that were handed down to me and which look exactly like the 1973 Americas in one picture- except mine still have some Illinois mud caked onto them). Then there is a pair of the 1980 Nike Eagle- probably the lightest shoe I have ever worn. Nike needs to bring back the American Eagle and the Eagle shoes. They were such great racing shoes. There are also pictures of the old Waffle Trainers. Nike did bring these back into production a few years ago and I got a couple of pair. The funny thing was I blistered in the same place as I did years ago when running in the originals. I don' recall how many pairs of these I ran through, but I used to kill them and my toes would be hanging out the sides before I threw them away. There is a picture of the Nike Terra TC, which Lindy says was a great shoe, but which was the first Nike shoe that I didn't like running in as I did not like the Phylon midsole. Then there is a picture of the Nike Sting, a shoe I always wanted, but never did get. I can only imagine what those shoes would feel like on my feet. Finally there is even a picture of the Nike pinwheel bag. I received that bag (in beige) one year for Christmas. I saw it once on eBay going for a large sum money, and wished I never threw mine away. If you remember the old vintage running shoes, you may want to check out the article and pictures. After awhile your monitor will aquire that new sneaker smell! As you can imagine, one of my favorite parts of being a runner is the shoes. Now you know a bit of why my wife calls me Imelda!

Here I am flying to the finish line of the 1980 Falmouth Road Race wearing a pair of Nike Eagles. They were so light I was going airborne!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Finishing the Year with New Approaches

My brain is running around with all sorts of new information and there is just not enough time to assimilate it all. As 2009 draws to a close, I am happy that it is ending as it has not been a successful year for running from my vantage point, however it is a year where I encountered tons of new learnings about how the human body works and how I might get my body to work better for me as a runner. I have come to the realization that there is no easy fix for the multiple number of imbalance problems that I have, but I have not given up and there are some promising solutions on the horizon. I just have to be patient and continue working and learning until I get there.

I have not been able to get much running in during the past month or two which I don't like, but a break is good to get things back in order and working a bit more properly. I intended to get going after Christmas as I get ready to run the Boston Marathon this April. The Postural Restoration physical therapy I have been receiving seems spot on for me. I don't get it all technically just yet, but I notice the differences and changes in how I hold my body and move.

According to this article,  Biomechanical Influences for the Runner:
Running requires the capability of muscles to work together in three biomechanical planes in the back, pelvis and hip. When these three planes are functional, the runner has the ability for muscles to turn "on" and "off." This allows for reciprocal alternating activity to occur in the back, pelvis, and hip. If control of all three planes is lost compensation, fatigue, strain, and injuries will occur.
One thing that PRI focuses in on is the "inability to shift into the left hip" and this seems to be one of the major things that the therapist is working on with me. The exercises are to strengthen certain muscles and "turn off" other muscles to restore functioning and to use the muscles to shift the bones back into their normal postitioning. I guess my whole left side does not do much work and I am learning to strengthen and use it more properly.

It seems that postural assymetry like I have can be quite common. In this PRI article written for cyclists, Understanding Postural Symmetry to Improve Performance and Prevent Injury, Lori Thomson writes about :

"...a common pattern that exists in all humans that contributes to postural asymmetry. How people compensate for this pattern can vary, however, the underlying dominant pattern exists in everyone. We all have a tendency to stand on our right leg more than the left. Whether right or left handed our right leg is our dominant leg. We have a liver on the right side that weighs approximately three to four pounds and on the opposite side we have a spleen that weighs less than a pound. We have three lobes of lung on the right and only two on the left. In our upper trunk, we have a heart that lies more to the left. This organ asymmetry coupled with gravity, environmental factors, primitive reflexes and vestibular imbalances results in a tendency to stand on our right leg and rotate our upper body to the left."

Part 1 of the article looks at malalignment of the pelvis and its assymetry.
Part 2 of the article looks at faulty breathing patterns and assymetry.
Part 3 of the article looks at ways to treat this assymetry. Some of my exercises are similar to those displayed in the article. There are not many videos that I have found on the internet, but this one shows  a simple way to sit and stand up. One thing that many of my exercises have me doing is pulling back on my left hip and pushing my right hip forward while sitting or doing the exercises. This seems to target, my contiuously chronically tight inner thigh muscle.

This "sydrome" reminds me a bit of what TriggerPoint Performance calls LDLS (Left Drivers Leg Syndrome).

So how is it going. On Monday, during my second PT visit, I ran before and after doing my exercises. There was a very easy to feel difference in my movement patterns. After the  exercises, I had more movement through my left hip and I felt like I was running and rotating over my knee rather than skewing up my whole left leg. I did my exercises before heading out for the Tuesday night track workout. I hadn't done any speedwork or fast running since October and I almost turned around while traffic slowed me down and I knew I'd be late for the workout. I arrived after the second of six 800 meter runs. I whipped off my sweats and jumped into the third interval without any warmup. I finished in under 3:00, but was heavily winded. I did the next three in under 2:55. My left leg did not bother me, although I was stumbling on my right leg around the corners. It was nice to be slowed down in a workout by my conditioning and not by imbalances (although things are far from perfect). It was probably not a  wise decision to run without any warmup. My right achilles felt a bit tweaked a couple of days later. Yesterday I got outside  for a change and ran a nice 8 miler. I feel a bit more balance and stability in my left hip so I am happy. I did run knowing my achilles did not feel right so of course there was no running today as it was a bit hard to even walk properly as I was really tight in that achilles.

So I took out the Muscle Medicine book I had been looking through and decided to apply its principles. This book is easy to read and explains  how the body works together around various joints in the body. As part of the solution, there are ways to self-treat the muscles through a method similar to ART (active release technique). The author calls it Facilitated Active Stretch Technique (F.A.S.T.). Basically you apply pressure, usually with your fingers, around a restricted or damaged area, or in a series of points running up and down the muscle and at the same time you put the muscle through a range of motion. It is easy to do and well explained. I checked out the section on the achilles tendon and did the work, not on my achilles, but on my calf and soleus (where the restrictions led to stress on the achilles). Lo and behold, I had a much fuller range of motion when I was done and could walk normally again. I did not try running as I would rather heal than create more damage. It will be interesting to see if I can run tomorrow.

Here is a preview of what the book says about achilles tendonitis in runners:

Here is how to remove restrictions in the gastrocnemus and soleus muscles.

 The book is chock full of good useful knowlege like this for muscles throughout the body. I highly recommend it. I was talking to a Strider at the indoor track workout Tuesday after the workout. He was doing similar stuff on his muscles based on copying the ART techniques that he had experienced. He was close, but he wasn't getting it completely right as the book shows. He was just pressing down on a muscle rather than using angled pressure. Anyhow I was intererested in seeinig how it loosened up my stiff achilles and I was surprised at the improvement after only a few minutes of targeted work.

Other things I am doing this holiday season is working on my diet which stinks with all the food that my wife keeps cooking. Even though I have severely limited the junk: whoopie pies, cakes, cookies that she keeps baking, I have to eat "some" of it. Without the usual running that I do, I have to cut back somewhere. I have been trying something called "intermittent fasting." I haven't done much studying on it, but I was basically doing this in the summer with my Paleo diet. Basically I don't eat anything until afternoon. By skipping breakfast I don't get that insulin rush and I actually feel better without the food during the morning hours.

Finally I have decided to keep working on trying to build up my stregnth. I work with kettlebells, but I am now trying to work on my great weakness: full body strength. I have decided to do body weight exercises and am using the progressions in a book called Convict Conditioning from DragonDoor. It is heavily hyped like most of the DragonDoor material and I had to get over my leeriness over the title, but it seems to present a sound approach to progressively building your strength throught 6 basic body weight moves. I guess you have to decide if it is worth it to support an ex-con (in prison for what?) with your money and to decide even if the author is a real person: discussion here. I thought it was worth a shot and the book is well written, does not support a "thug" 'lifestyle, and the progressions are reasonable, well planned, and worthy of my energy.

See I told you I had a lot to think about and try, but I would rather be moving forward than stagnating or giving up!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Snowshoeing with my new Dion Snowshoes

Today I took a Christmas day snowshoe run on the fields at Nashua South with my new Dion snowshoes. Andy came along and ran with me in my old Tubbs 10K snowshoes. My new Dions felt fast and very light!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Postural Restoration: Physical Therapy that is Making Sense

I have been busy taking care of medical business the past couple of weeks. After cracking a rib last summer, I went to visit the doctor's office to get it checked out. I was reassigned a primary care doctor and told I needed to make an appointment since I had been avoiding doctors for too many years. So I had a checkup a couple months ago and the doctor got me signed up for all sorts of fun stuff. While getting me all these appointments I asked if I could see a physical therapist (about every five years I try to go in and see if there is someone that can help me out with my stride and mechanics). I haven't got much running in due to a minor surgery that left me with 2 inches of stitches on my hip and a week later the so very fun colonoscopy. I finally also got started with a physical therapist. I was hoping just to get a couple of questions answered on my ankle and hips and to see if a therapist could offer me some good information.

I ended up at Select Physical Therapy in Nashua. The therapist started looking at how my body worked and measured all sorts of angles and rotations. She spent some time looking at how my ankle did not work properly, but it was not the only thing she noticed. Hips, shoulders, back; there was something out of whack everywhere. She took lots of notes and I couldn't keep up, but it was nice I recognized every muscle, bone, and body part she mentioned. The hips were something she spent a lot of time on and I was hoping to get a diagnosis of what is wrong with my so I could get a better idea of what to do with the information in The Malalignment Syndrome book and DVDs I had studied last winter and spring. She noticed all sorts of weaknesses, tightness’s, and improper rotations, but the main thing is that my left hip is much higher than my right hip. This was a good confirmation if I got nothing else out of the visit.

Then she started teaching me some exercises. I received four that I practiced and then was sent home to do twice a day: before running and after. She said I could start up the therapy and that I could still run as part of the process! What I liked was that these exercises where not the standard exercises for hips or low back that I have been given by other therapists. These were targeted for my specific needs and problem areas. What I did on one side was completely different from what I did on the other. The exercises "made sense" to me too. My body could feel exactly what they were trying to do and if felt just right.

I was told that these exercises where "postural restoration" exercises and I recall bumping into this before on the internet. Of course, I went home to find out more about postural restoration and I think it is a perfect opportunity for me to have an expert work with me on trying to bring my body back into balance. I think that I lucked into the perfect physical therapy situation. So I am getting work on my feet, my adductors and abductors, my hips, and my thoracic spine and shoulders. I think it is the first time I have had someone work on all the misalignments in my body as well as seeing how my body works together as a unit. Most therapists just worked on my hips or my back and never the whole.

Here is a bit of information from the Postural Restoration website:

Basic Concepts of the Postural Restoration Institute™

The human body is not symmetrical. The neurological, respiratory, circulatory, muscular and vision systems are not the same on the left side of the body as they are on the right, and vice versa. They have different responsibilities, function, position and demands on them. This system asymmetry is a good thing and an amazing design. The human body is balanced through the integration of system imbalances. The torso, for example, is balanced with a liver on the right and a heart on the left. Extremity dominance is balanced through reciprocal function; i.e. left arm moves with right leg and vice versa.

Postural Restoration Institute™ (PRI) trained therapists recognize these imbalances and typical patterns associated with system disuse or weakness that develops because of dominant overuse. This dominant overuse of one side of the body can develop from other system unilateral overuse

Many therapies I have encountered treat the body as if it should work perfectly except for one little problem area. Then a stretch or a strength move is supposed to fix that problem leading to a successful resolution. It doesn't happen that way with me and this therapy looks at the body as asymmetrical when in dysfunction. It also has reasons for those dysfunctions. So let's see if I can be fixed or brought into a better functional ability.

Of the four stretches I was initially given, I could not get one to work. It was an obturator stretch (next to the piriformis) so we are dropping that one. Then I had a 90/90 hip shift (like this without the stool and balloon). The hip shift down on my left side is the real key. This strengthens the hamstring and the inside of the thigh, but the shift into the hip teaches me a new position and works one of my most chronically stiff muscles.

I have another exercise that also promotes the hip shift on the left hip and one that works the outside of the right hip. After one day of doing the exercises I had a much better than average 8 mile run on my treadmill. When I do the exercises before I run, I find that I get a better hip position where I actually use the left hip (the left usually does not do the work that the right does) and feel a better foot placement and movement over my knee.

Today I had my second appointment and we are continuing the exercises and adding some new moves. I found that one is their exercise of the week here. It is called the PRI Supine Weighted Punch with Right Apical Expansion and it I am doing it because the right side of my chest and ribs is very tight and rotated behind my fight side. It does not move forward as I run as it is stuck. This should help to strengthen and restore the movement as well as to help me with my breathing. The left side of my chest always seems rotated forward ahead of my right side, so it is nice to find an exercise that works on this problem area. It reminded me of the first move in a kettlebell turkish getup, so I can practice that part of a getup with more meaning. I also have a bridge type exercise and a clamshell type exercise to work on. As for now, I am going in twice a week and I am very positive that I will gain some new insight and direction for fixing my stride.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Running on Vitamin D: A Runner's World Article

In case you don't read Runner's World, in the December issue there was an article on Vitamin D that is now posted online here.

I wrote a previous post on Vitamin D here and since that post have been taking 2000 iu daily. It is very cheap at under $15 for a years supply here.

It might be worth reading up on Vitamin D particularly when we don't get much sunlight in the winter months here in New England.

In case you haven't seen the January issue of Running Times. There is a nice article on Gate City Strider Cathy Merra that tells about her success as a master and now a senior runner. It is not posted online yet so go buy the issue. The same issue also had an article on New England legend Larry Olson, who unfortunately died while on a run last week. That article is posted online here.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Mill Cities Relay: A Great Finish to the Year

Photo by Mike Wade of Me, Ken Snow, and Mike Merra  with the brick we won for our efforts.

Today was the 26th annual Mill Cities Relay run from Nashua to Lawrence, Ma. I was running my first relay as a senior runner. The race also included another personal first. No, not the black knee-high compression socks I wore as I used to wear similar looking tube socks in the 1970's (and at 50 who cares what you look like!). Today I had my first ever photo finish sprint to the finish line.

The Mill Cities Relay is a five leg 28.3 mile relay along the Merrimack River. Over 200 teams and 1000 runners took part this year. I was running on the Snowmen team for the Gate City Striders. The first leg had team captain, Ken Snow, starting us off with his 5.65 mile journey. The next leg saw replacement runner, John Dalton racing 4.75 miles before handing off to Peter Davenport. Peter was so quick I never saw him the entire day. His leg was 2.5 miles and he handed off to Mike Merra for the long 9.5 mile leg.

Mike Merra cruising on the long leg. Photo by Justin Platt.

 Mike stepped it up as Jerry Fitzgibbon was unable to race this leg due to the fact that he is in Japan. That left me with the final 4.75 mile leg.

Justin Platt got a photo of my socks! My daughters are horrified!

I don't know my time or pacing on my leg. I did pass more than 10 runners durinig the leg, but many of them were veterans or fast females on mixed teams. I was thrilled with the fact that no one had passed me until I hit almost one mile to go. I heard fast footsteps and a runner went charging by. I decided that since he looked my age or a bit older that at least I should put up a bit of a fight. I gained back the 10 yards he had on me and tried to stay with him. I kept expecting to be broken and fall back and did get dropped a couple of times, but I renewed my enthusiasm and caught back up. I was pretty pleased to be putting up some fight, because I am not a fast finisher in races and this guy looked very strong and smooth.

With about 1/2 mile to go we had to take a left turn and he got 15 yards on me by running up the sidewalk. I closed that one down and tried twice to go by him with no luck. This was getting fun, but I know these duels always finish with me watching the heels of the other guy sprinting ahead. I was also thinking that I did not want to be the guy that lost by a few seconds to another team that might cost the Gate City Striders some points or even the championship. I also didn' t want to let my teammates down by losing a close finish. I recalled watching the Nike Team Cross Country National High School Champtionships online yesterday and said to myself that maybe I could pull off a finish like that! So at the last corner before the finish line I decided to give it one last go. I think this is about 200 yards or so to the finish. Not only did I gain a few steps, I realized I was catching another runner about 20 yards ahead. Things went too quickly from there. I think the other guy started catching back up with about 50 yards to go. I tried to dig deep and not give up and was quickly gaining on the guy ahead who was getting closer and closer. With about 30 yards to go I was caught and we were running side by side and inches from each other. I tried to keep my legs smooth but I was being pushed over to the snow covering on the side of the road. I was worried about slipping or losing my footing and then with 20 yards to go I got an elbow to my chest. That set my momentem back and I had to scramble from there. We were still attached side by side and I surged and surged and hit the line. I felt my chest was ahead by maybe an inch or two and thought I had it, but I slowed after the line and the other guy got ahead of me in the chute.

We congratulated each other for the fun finish, for it really was fun! He said he thought it was a tie and I said that I was fine with that because I really enjoyed the thrill of the whole thing. I got his name, but forgot it and I am not sure it is the name listed in the results. And the results show that we had the same exact time and we just missed catching up to the other guy as he finished just one second ahead of us. Ten minutes after the finish I asked the timer, Mike Amarello who had finished first and he said I had and the results show this. In the hundreds and hundreds of races I have run this was my first photo finish and the best and closest ever dual I had ever been a part of. I was thrilled with the finish and in a year when I did not have one satisfying or memorable race (other than a snowshoe race win-with only 15 competitors) this one was a great one that I should remember fondly.

To the spectators it may have looked like two weary old-timers lumbering together towards the finish, but to me it felt like this:

And isn't that why we run, to experience such really thrilling moments!

My club the Gate City Striders won the competition for the second year in a row. My team finished third overall in the 50-60 age catagory.

Here is a video of the Nike Cross Nationals High School National Meet. The race is great, but check out the finish starting at about 14:30. The top three runners finished within 6/10 of a second from each other.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Facilitated Active Stretch Technique: FAST Self Massage

Yesterday  I posted an article on self-massage techniques fron a New York Times report. The three massage techniques reminded me of Active Release (ART) techniques. Today I received the January issue of Runner's World and there was an interesting article (not online) called Release 2.0. It shows five similar self massage tecnniques for the shoulders, achilles tendon, hamstrings, iliotibial band, and calf. They are similar to the other do-it yourself techniques in that you use your fingers to apply pressure around a damaged or restricted area and then move the muscle through a complete range of motion. This can loosen up your soreness and tightness. I was particularly pleased to see that these are techniques that you can now find in a book.

Dr. Robert DeStefano, a chiropractor and author of the recently publlished book Muscle Medicine: The Revolutionary Approach to Maintaining, Strengthening, and Repairing Your Muscles and Joints, calls this the FAST method or Facilitataed Active Stretching Technique. According to his website:
We’ve modified ideas from a number of muscle therapies to create a new manual technique that you can do yourself. We call our self-treatment technique F.A.S.T.™, for Facilitated Active Stretch Technique tm. In simplest terms, you are using an external pressure - your fingers, a ball, a stick—to “pin” the muscle near a tight, restricted area.
It appears FAST stretching is a mix of Active Release Technique (A.R.T.), physical therapy, and massage.  I was wondering when someone would come out with a book like this and it looks like it is finally here. Part of Ming Chew's book The Permanent Pain Cure: The Breakthrough Way to Heal Your Muscle and Joint Pain for Good (PB) has similar active stretches like this tennis ball hamstring stretch.The book is called Muscle Medicine: The Revolutionary Approach to Maintaining, Strengthening, and Repairing Your Muscles and Joints and I have already ordered my copy. I would like to get "healed" so I can write a review like this one on

I have been a long distant runner for over 30 years. I have run over 30 marathons,suffering many overuse injuries over the years. I have been to orthopedists, chiropractors, massage therapists and accupuncturists over the years for an assortment of injuries. After reading "Muscle Medicine" I have a new clarity on the cause of many of my past problems. Most importantly, I now have a strategy for self treatment which should resolve my problems. As a senior runner, this material is critical! And, the best part are the sections on prevention. I am now in control! I feel sorry for the medical practionioners in New Jersey- no more business!! I thank the author for sharing this information. For athletes everywhere, this is long overdue!!!

Dr Marvin Lagstein
(very amateur but determined athlete)

Here Dr. DeStefano talks about his book:

Thursday, December 3, 2009

New York Times Article on Self-Massage for Athletes

The New York Times  published an interesting article on self-massage for athletes called Becoming Your Own Massage Therapist by Dimity McDowell. It talks about some of the tools of the trade like the foam roller. I have found that the original white rollers compress too quickly and that the black ones like thisare much harder and last longer. My favorite traditional roller is the The Grid Foam Roller (it even serves as my pillow when I lie on the floor and watch TV). If you want a gentler and softer roll that feels more like a deep tissue massage try the Quadballer Roller. If you particularly want to target the lower legs use the Footballer. The most interesting (and deadly looking) of all the rollers is the Rumble Roller. The Rumble Roller does what other rollers cannot and that is to pin and stretch a muscle in multiple directions. You can more finely tune what points you are hitting with this tool. You can more finely tune what points you are hitting with this tool.

Another way to hit specific spots is to use the Trigger Point Massage Ball. This works well, but it looses its shape quickly and can then feel a bit lumpy. You will find that using a  tennis ball is not firm enough, but the massage ball is gentle and hits the points well. If you can tolertate a harder ball, then do what I do and use a golf ball on the muscles of my feet and other balls like a Lacrosse Ball for the glutes and other leg muscles. I have a variety of balls that I pull at when the mood fits from a softball to a little PINKY foam ball. There are a variety of prodcts, kits, and DVDs such as those from Trigger Point Performance that can make self-massage a breeze. Not mentioned inthe article are excellent products like The Stick or even for more concentrated work the Range Roller .

A more practical article is the companion piece Happy Muscles: Suggestions for Quick Relief that shows three self-treatment massages that you can do without any tools. There is a calf-massage, a quadriceps massage, and a massage for the tibialis posterior- the muscle behind the shin. The two lower leg moves were new to me. What I like about these massage moves is that they are not passive. You move your foot or leg with flexing or straightening moves as you apply pressure to your muscle so that the muscle tissues are stretched and scar tissue can be loosened  (sort of like ART moves).
Here's a quick video showing how to use the Trigger Point Therapy tools (or other substitute tools) before going for a run or workout.

Here is a good presentation on the Rumble Roller.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Taking a Closer Look at the Ankle Joint: Dorsiflexion and Mobility

For over 20 years, I have been looking at my hips and back trying to figure out the pain and imbalance problems that I can't get rid of. My left lower back and my left front hip have always been the two areas that I can never seem to fix. I have been told not to run anymore by many doctors and even physical therapists have said it must be something wrong with my hip. But they are never sure what! I have actually helped my back, this past year, to feel the best that is has since the mid 1980s when triathlons just killed my back (or as I now suspect- a faulty bike set up and fit caused the problems).

I have always looked at my hip for a solution, but what if the hip is just the symptom and the problem can be found somewhere else. I have started looking somewhere else and I think I may be able to pinpoint the problem. Is there a solution? I don't' fully know, but if I could run marathons prior to my excursion into triathlons without the problems I have now, then why can't I get my body back to that point.

About a month ago, after much work with Feldenkrais, I started realizing that my hips and back seemed to work just fine (at least while lying on the ground). My left hip could do the same movements as my right hip. I then wondered if Feldenkrais would work on lower body parts, particularly my left foot and ankle. My left ankle does not work like my right ankle. The foot twists out to the side and the inside half of the foot is higher than the outside part. It is sort of like a twisted foot. If I point my left knee forward, the left foot points to the outside. If I straighten my left foot on the ground, my left knee knocks into the right knee. This has been a long-standing problem. In high school, I was jokingly given an award for being knock-kneed. When I started triathlons and fit myself to my bike, I knew my left foot pointed out, so I locked them into that position with my pedals. I did five intense years of triathlons (including five Ironman distance races) with this toed-out position on my left foot. After one year of triathlons, I was trying to figure out the pain in my back (I didn't do stretching or know anything about chiropractic back in those days 1983-1987). By 1987, I honestly thought I would be in a wheelchair by my mid-thirties as I couldn't do much of anything without trying to relieve the pain by cracking my back every 15 minutes all day long. I was a mess! I have improved a lot since then and have kept myself out of a wheelchair, but I have yet to fully straighten out my body again. I went to get physical therapy for the first time in 1988 right before my marriage, because I wasn’t sure that I could stand up long enough during the ceremony without needing to crack my back! This was less than one year after my fifth and final Ironman distance race.

Here I am back in 1985 winning a triathlon in Lakeville, Ma. The ankle-knee-hip thing isn't so bad. Same with this photo from  the Falmouth Road Race in 2004.

But look at what is happening at this year's Applefest 1/2 Marathon. It is painful to look at. I have to straighten things out starting somewhere.

So I started thinking again! What if the problem isn't my lower back (first problem area) or hips (a later problem)? What if it has to do with my feet. I have experimented with Morton's Foot remedies, but that doesn't fully address my misaligned foot. Could it be that my weird stride is because of my foot? When I run the left foot splays out to the side and then my foot rolls over the arch, sending my left knee in the opposite direction so that it knocks into my right knee. Then my femur sticks up into my hip socket at a weird angle causing the hip, butt, and back problems. My body has learned to compensate by getting all out of alignment and running with all sorts of twists and imbalances that somehow work (but is very ugly). I started wondering if I could fix my foot and ankle, thus creating a fix for my hip and back. I found a Feldenkrais ATM lesson for the ankles and used it the night before the Cape Cod Marathon in October. It was an hour-long practice with the ankle and I noticed something right off the bat, well I already knew this, but never really thought much about it. Part of the lesson was done lying on my belly. From this position, you have to leave your knees on the ground together and lift up your lower legs to a ninety-degree angle, bottoms of the feet pointed to the ceiling. With you feet together, you had to do slow movements: toes out-ankles together, toes together-heels out. I could move my right heel out, but the left would go nowhere. Doing these and other movements I was able after an hour to get my left heel to move less than an inch, but there was some improvement.

I have no idea if my left ankle-foot arrangement is something I was born with or something I developed through misuse or poor movement patterns (or locking myself into an unnatural pedal position). I decided to try to find out more information, and am still looking, and I am not sure it is something I can fully fix, but I am willing to see what I can do to improve my movement patterns. I am no expert, but unless my bones are formed improperly or worn down, (can that happen?) then it might be my muscles and ligaments that are holding things in bad positions and alignment and maybe that can be fixed. There are 26 bones, plus the tibia and fibula, in the lower leg, ankle, and foot so there are many places where "something" can go wrong.

In a well-written article called The Ankle Paradox: Building Indestructible Ankles for, Jimmy Smith writes:

Some of my colleagues may want to slap me around a bit, but I'm convinced that the ankle is the primary cause of abnormal gait.... Pain or improper movement will cause the individual to compensate for the dysfunction.

I never have pain in that ankle, but I certainly have dysfunction and an "abnormal gait." So maybe the ankle is where I really should be looking and it looks like a very complicated joint complex. Here is a wonderful video of how the ankle joint complex works:

I still don't know how or if I can fix things. I do know this. Once I start running forward and put weight on my left foot rather than moving straight ahead over my foot, it feels "stuck" as my leg moves over my ankle (that part right in front of the angle-sort of like the vertex where the foot and leg meet).. Rather than move straight over the foot, the front of my ankle rolls to the inside, everting the foot out to the side, and rolling down towards the arch. Could this movement be throwing off my stride? Could this habit be the cause of my funky left foot positioning?

What if I could roll forward over my ankle in a straight line?There are many ankle mobilization videos that show how to test and work on this dorsiflexion. Bill Hartman shows how it is done in this video, as well as a tennis ball trick to work on the soleus muscle, calf muscle, and plantar muscles. I have been working on this mobility work to see if I can get a better sense of moving properly and gaining better dorsiflexion.

Here are other videos that take the ankle mobilizations further into a kneeling position. It helps you line up the knee and ankle with a long dowel or broomstick. The blurb for the first video states
Great warm up for walkers and runners, especially if you have suffered from a previous ankle sprain. Improves ankle and opposite hip flexibility, but more importantly helps to re-wire the front knee on how it is supposed to move and keep it from caving in during walking and running.

Here is another take on that mobilization:

I was also wondering a bit about something that chiropractor, Brian Bigelow, told me many years ago. He mentioned something about my tibia or fibula being out of position. I really didn't realize that these bones move in a small way as your ankle flexes. Bill Hartman shows a technique he developed to mobilize the ankle when the fibula is stuck in the forward position. I used a regular belt when I tried this and it seemed to do something the first time I did it. This stopped some of the pressure I was feeling in my left peroneals and knee. I used it again twice more in the following week when I had the same pressure. It seems to do something positive with my leg, so it is something I am trying to learn more about.

Bill Hartman together with Eric Cressey (I have a couple of his books, plus the Magnificent Mobility DVD), and Mike Robertson have recently come out with a new DVD called "Assess and Correct". I do not have this yet, but it looks very interesting. I am wondering if it gives any more information on ankle mobility techniques.

Here is an article with more videos called Alleviating Ailing Ankles by Carson Boddicker with many exercises to increase dorsiflexion. Carson writes:

All the issues can be both joint mobility restrictions and muscular tightness; achieving proper dorsiflexion should be addressed with a multifaceted approach including altering tissue lengths, joint mobility, and other modifiable lifestyle factors.
Here is a good blog post. It is for frisbee player, but they run too!
I am also looking again at the joint mobility work through the Z-Health exercises. I am paying proper attention to foot placements when doing them.

Many ankle mobility mobilizations require an expert to evaluate and practice. Here is an overview and then some other more complicated videos that I just want to keep track of.

Who knows if doing the simple mobilizations will improve my stride. I am willing to try. Like anything, I assume it will take some time to alter the tightness and alignment issues and then to let the body adjust.

My foot seems a bit better in alignment and as it straightens out. I notice more arch in my left foot. Mywhole foot seems to do its own wiggling and rotations that are not normal. I assume this is also a neurological problem and hope that if things fix in my foot, I can retrain the brain for proper movement patterns. Like everything else I try, I never know if it will work, but I think it is another step on the way to recovering my stride.

Yesterday was another warm and beautiful November day for running. I was stiff, particularly in the hamstrings, as I spent most of the week doing lots of additional things, Z-Health, resistance stretching, yoga, and a return to kettlebells. I think the kettlebell swings tightened up my hamstrings, but I wanted to get back to a consistent use of the kettlebells.

It took a few miles to warm up, but I ended up doing 11 miles and my stride was shifting after a while to a different position as I tried to keep the left foot straight. It really affects the rotations in both hips and the imbalances in my back. By the end of the run (which went very well), I was very stiff over my entire back. I will just take that as a sign that my balance is shifting and my body is readjusting. After a month, I can now rotate my left heel out about two inches when I do the Feldenkrais exercise I wrote about earlier.

The ankle joint is something I have to learn a whole lot more about. I would really like to know if it is possible to get that left foot to rotate back into position. If it is doable then I may really be onto something!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

One Half Running Geek: Running with a Compression Sleeve

World Class runners like Paula Radcliffe can be seen racing in them, triathletes (Joe Friel's blog) wear them with all their fancy triathlete attire, and they look like the old ankle covering tube socks that we use to run with in the 1970's. Compression socks are what I am talking about. According to this Running Times article they are:

aimed at improving oxygen delivery to muscles, speeding lactic acid removal and stabilizing the lower leg for greater muscle efficiency

Running Times also reports that:

The primary rationale behind wearing compression socks in a race is that they may enhance venous return to the heart through a more efficient calf muscle pump, leading to increased endurance capacity. And there is the notion that because muscles are kept more compact, balance and proprioception are improved and muscle fatigue is minimized.

However the article states that:

at the 2007 American College of Sports Medicine annual meeting in New Orleans suggested there were no statistically significant differences in maximal oxygen consumption, heart rate or minute ventilation between treadmill runners who wore compression socks and those who did not. According to the study, conducted at Stellenbosch University in South Africa, subjects did, however, show a faster lactate recovery rate after exercise when wearing the compression socks, suggesting that compression socks might speed recovery after a strenuous workout or a race.

So wear them in a race if it suits you, but definitely wear them after the race.

That is all fine with me and I would be happy to laugh at the geekiness of fellow compressioned socked runners, except that for the past few years I keep getting calf injuries two or three times a year which keep me out of running for a week or two each time.

I have talked to a few other 50+ runners who started using compression socks for this very reason. They felt they could run when the calf still had the strain. By the way, these calf strains seem to be a very common problem for us older guys who continue running.

I decided to try out a pair after my recent (3rd time this year) calf issue. I ordered what I thought was a good deal on, the Zensah Ultra Calf and Shin Sleeve. The claims for this sleeve (not sock) were that :

Zensah Ultra Calf and Shin Sleeve... just the solution to build circulation and ease muscle strain This super soft, ultra-breathable sleeve is uniquely designed with ribbing on the front and back for 360 degrees of support to the calf and shin. Pinpoint weaving creates upward gradient compression, which helps increase blood circulation, getting oxygen to the muscles faster. Latex-free Zensah Fabric® is renowned for its thermo-regulating ability to help keep the lower leg at the right temperature-warm or cool-when relief is needed. Also aids in locking out moisture and bacteria. Recommended for those with shin pain, poor leg circulation or muscle strains. Caution: Not recommended for those with diabetes.

It all sounded good so bought the black color (why hide geekiness) and waited for the order to come from Footsmart (through Amazon). I was suprised when my $19.99 order came (plus $4.99 shipping) and there was only one sock (or sleeve). I always thought socks came in pairs, but there was only on sleeve shown in the photograph and sleeve is singular (foolish me). However they have another sleeve on Amazon that shows two sleeves and the title is singular so I was easily confused. I wasn't sure what to do with only one sleeve and I certainly don't want to order another and pay the outrageous shipping for one sock (it seems like the shipping is to pay more for the catalog they threw in with the sock). To return the sock it looks like they will charge me $6.99 plus lose the shipping I already paid!

I decided to try the sock today while I wait for a company response. I will pay for another sock, but not the shipping. If I had bought two in the first place the shipping would have been free. I ran on the treadmill for an hour, and switched the sock to the other leg halfway through. I can't say that it did anything for me, but it wasn't uncomfortable. It also got sweaty quick. If I buy a second one, the winter would be a good time to try them out. If I get another calf strain, then that is when I plan to see if the sock is really helpful. If I don't get another one and use this when injured, does that make me 1/2 of a running geek or a double running geek?

When I was researching compression socks I came across the SmoothToe Compression Sock, but didn't buy it because of the marketing gimick. It looks like a better deal now because you get both socks for $35 plus shipping. If you download "Free Report" you are promised a free pair of compression socks. But they also send two other socks for you to purchase and then you are on a plan to keep getting more socks.

Long time Gate City Striders may recognize that these socks sponsor former GCS runner David O'Meara who is the spokesman for the socks. David most recently completed his self-titled New England Marathon where he raced miles one at a time throughout New England at under 5 minute/mile pace:

On 8/30/09, David accomplished his 61-day, 2009 challenge as he completed the "SmoothToe® New England Marathon...One Mile at a Time” in 2 hours, 7 minutes, 9 seconds and 14 one-hundredths... beating his sub-5 minute mile target of 2:11.

Here you can see him doing the Bigelow Chiropractic Mile in Hollis, NH with chiropractor Brian Bigelow. Brian is a long time friend, Strider, fast runner, and the chirpractor I go to for tune-ups. Brian explains his techniques with David in this video.

Brian turns 50 this year and I am encouraging him to get back into running (he ran a sub 2:50 marathon in Chicago about 10 years ago) when he was more of a runner than a Cyclist.

Friday, November 27, 2009

What to do about that Pain in your Butt: Piriformis or Gluteus Medius?

There are so many things to be thankful for at Thanksgiving time. One thing that I am thankful for this year is that my back and hips have probably felt the best that they have felt in about 25 years. I can stand, sit, walk around, and go through my day without the pains that I have had since the mid 1980s. My daily life feels so much better. When I stop running for a few days it feels really good. At this point however, once I start running and particularly when I try to run fast it doesn't work so well. I seem to have lost a lot of the little bit of speed I had over the past two years.

When I do try to run fast my imbalances take over and the success I have had during the sedentary part of my day hasn't been accomplished yet. I am learning how to get out of the pain and tightness I have had in the past where once I get stuck or imblanced and my body would go through a week or two week cycle where I couldn't fix it. Now I can usually fix things in a day or two. That is all great and I feel I am on the right path to regaining some running success. One thing I have noticed this year is that after most track workouts or races my left gluteal muscles tighten up and I end up limping for a few hours or days before it calms down.

I had the same thing after yesterday's Thanksgiving 5K race at Nashua South High School. The gluteal and lower back region tightened up during the race and by the end I was limping and unable to even run a warm down. I am guessing that I get this due to my poor biomechanics and running with imbalances which leaves to a stress on the muscles. It comes when I run fast and demand more from my body in power and more specifically range of motion. So what to do?

First is a nerve flossing stretch that I really like. I previously wrote about nerve flossing here. I am working on things in my left foot and ankle that seem promising (haven't reported here yet) and that will give me more balance and effecient movement. As I make positive changes it does change the stress on the gluteal muscles (everything is connected) as I straighten up my stride. I have been trying a few new stretches and exercises for these muscles and thought I'd share them here. I am paying more attention to the piriformis nerve flossing stretch that I linked to in that post. For some reason, this time when I followed the video and did the stretch 20 times it worked a whole lot better. It seemed to be targeting exactly where I was tight so I will continue duing this one. Here is the video again:

Here is another stretch for the hip rotators and piriformis that I have never seen before. This one felt good too.

Finally, not knowing which muscle of mine is really being irritated: the piriformis, the gluteus minimus, or some other neighboring butt muscle, here is a good video explanation showing how to use a tennis ball to work on the gulteus minimus. You can use a tennis ball, a TPMassage ball, or a hard rubber ball. I use all three at different times.

Here is a good article on the anatomy of the hips and back and it shows how to use the TP Massage balls and rollers to loosen tightnesses and imblances.You could also use a tennis ball or a foam roller to do the same thing. I have had the TP Massage products for a couple of years and am learning how to responsibly use them (rather than beat myself up with them) through two of their DVD's that I recently bought. I got the Hip and Lower Back DVD and the Foot and Lower Leg DVD. Previously I had just used the Ultimate 6 book that they sold, but I work better when I see a video then read it in a book as I don't always pick up the subtle nuances and tend to do things to quick and too hard.

I ran the Great Gobbler 5k on Thanksgiving on limited mileage and no speed work and it showed. The course is a bit long (I see it is listed as a 5.25 K in the race results) and I ran 20:46 for 31st place and 2nd out of 47 in the 50-59 age group. It is a low key race so I don't think the splits and finish time are too accurate but at the one mile mark I was 6:07 and I was 12:10 at the two mile mark. Then I started passing people who had passed me in the first two miles. I was placed real well for the first 1/4 mile until Steve Wolfe bumped me at the corner around the purple shed and ruined my chance to run better and allowed 20-30 people to pass for a while! Anyhow that is 36 seconds slower than last year. It is also much worse than my 18:09 time in 2007 (shorter course) and my 18:16 in 2006. Did I really slow down that much in such a short time?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Taste of Heaven

Today I got outside to run for the first time in a couple of weeks after a calf injury kept me from running. I got back to training two days ago, but I only had time for treadmill runs the previous two days. Today I rushed home from school, got the gear on, and headed out the door, and ran. It had turned dark before I finished, but it was still a bit like heaven, running again, outside, on a warm November day.

As I person of faith, I believe that someday I will be up in heaven. When I get there, I am holding God accountable for that "getting a new body" thing that He promised. I intend to get in line for the lean, fast, and powerful body type and I am going to make doubly sure it has perfect biomechanics. Then one of the first things I am going to do is run like the wind on those "streets of gold". I intend to run a sub four minute mile and then go off and run a sub 2:10 marathon and because there is no pain up there, I am going to turn around and do it again just for fun. I want to "feel" how if must feel to run so fast and perfectly. When I am done, I will then know I am in heaven and will sit on my cloud and play my harp. And while I am getting a new body, I am sure it could not hurt to get a better looking one too! Then on my harp, maybe I will start playing "Where the Streets have no Name." When "I go there...I want to run... where the streets have no name." Now that is one of the all time great songs. I have not seen this video for years!

Here on planet Earth, where I have to continue to run with my messsed up biomechanics, I am putting together a hodge-podge "best of" plan to get my body working better and it is good to get things rolling again. I like the Feldenkrais, but I had limited myself to just that and running since August and I need to put back into my routine the other things that may work best for me in the right combination. So I have a mix of Feldenkrais, Z-Health, Yoga, trigger-point work, and Kettlebells that I am doing with a few additional strengthening and stretching routines that target certain muscle groups. It sounds busy, but I have "faith" that I can still improve on my running mechanics. My plan is to continue targeting my hips and back with the Feldenkrais and use what I have learned through Feldenkrais to better inform my movement patterns using the other methodologies. Some of the work I have done has really helped me understand movement patterns and while far from perfect, I feel so much better and in control as I reorganize the way my body works and moves.

I am not sure if it will make me any faster, but at least I want the running to be more enjoyable. However, if you hear of me running these outstanding world class times any day soon then it "must be a mistake" because "Heaven Can Wait"! Remember this old Warren Beatty movie?

Wasn't Beatty a football player in the movie? Did he die while running? I can't remember. I saw this film years ago with the Wheaton College Cross Country team during a preseason running camp in the Northern Woods of Wisconsin. We geeky runners loved it, and like any college age group of guys we used lines from the movie as jokes all that year. We really thought that "I'm just memorizing your face" would be a great line to use with the girls!

I wonder if any of my teammates ever tried that line. Here we are trying to be a bit more macho! I am 3rd from the right and I know I never did!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Bone Rhythm: An Interesting Way of Looking at Movement

I have been thinking about the skeleton a bit in terms of my posture and mechanics. Is it my bones and skeleton that produce my imbalances or is it the muscles, tendons, fascia, or even the neurological way I have wired myself for movement that create the imbalances? As I relearn movement patterns through Feldenkrais lessons, I have been applying some of the movements and pacing to joint mobility work through Z-Health. I have found that I understand and can use the Z-Health joint mobility work much more successfully and in a more targeted way than I could previously. I recalled some interesting lessons from the more advanced Z-Health S-Phase DVD I got earlier this year. I basically watched it from a curiousity standpoint as much of the DVD was too advanced for my body. If I was a young athlete I would find it very useful particularly if I was playing sports with lots of athletic moves. I am not young and just want to run straight ahead so I just keep it in my collection. I did find one concept very interesting and that was something called "bone rhythm". It is an interesting way of looking at the skeleton when performing movements like lunges and squats. The idea of bone rhythm is to get the timing of the joints down so that they work together. You don't concentrate on the muscles, but on the movement at the end of the bones.

Here can see a quick video off the Z-Health DVD that explains bone rhythm with squatting that focuses in on the femur.

This video shows bone a rhythm variation using the lunge. Bone rhythm can be used with other joints.

I don't know how or if it will improve your running, but it gives an alternative way of thinking about movement when exercising. If you start out with Z-Health you should start with the R-Phase DVD unless you try the Quick Start DVD which is an introduction. This is the only DVD I don't have so I don't know what four exercises are highlighted. I have had the Z-Health R Phase DVD for almost two years now and still find it useful as I refine my use of the drills.

Friday, November 13, 2009

1978 Falmouth Road Race: When Bill Rodgers was King

I recently found an old Kenny Moore Sport's Illustrated article on the 1978 Falmouth Road Race which you can read here. Not only was Kenny Moore a great American runner (fourth behind Frank Shorter in the 1972 Olympic Marathon) but he is also one of best writers when it comes to the sport. This was one of the many Falmouth road races that I raced and I found a few pictures of the race from my old Kodak 110 camera. This race is notorious for the heat that felled a young Alberto Salazar. He was famously read his last rights after suffering heat exhaustion. He survived and went on to suffer in the heat again at the 1982 Boston Marathon (a race I also ran as it was my first Boston Marathon). In the article, Kenny Moore laments the rapid growth of running:

Last week the Cape, or that 7.1-mile length of its triceps from Woods Hole to Falmouth Heights, resounded to the footsteps of some 4,000 overheated runners celebrating the sixth renewal of the Falmouth Road Race. Afterward, the bended arms hoisted no-deposit, no-return bottles, solitude was unavailable and thoughtful distance runners were forced to conclude that their sport is rapidly outgrowing its Thoreauvian roots.

and ends with a note about what "spectacles" these running events had become with their "masses of runners" and "exploitive" entry fees.

There are runners now, usually those who have run for years, who no longer come to the big races, who feel them to be perverted simply by the crush, the leveling of numbers. "It's headed toward sin," said one New England runner who chose an obscure race in Maine over Falmouth. The New York City Marathon now has closed its lists with more than 10,000 entries, and Chicago expects as many, even with an exploitative $10 entry fee. So we may see the stream divide, one small branch slipping off into the forest. "The simple satisfaction of a good training run," said Bill Norris, "is now more enjoyable for me than one of these spectacles."

It sounds more like the "good old days" to me!

Here is a brief summary of the race from the Falmouth Road Race site.

1978 — Four thousand runners, and this year the race was called "the best road race ever in the United States at any distance." The list of runners read like a "Who's Who," with only Frank Shorter, coming off heel surgery, missing among the world's elite. Sports Illustrated's Kenny Moore called the 1978 race "the best organized race of this size I've ever been in." Bill Rodgers, in the midst of a streak which saw him win 16 races in two years, including two Boston marathons, two New York City marathons and a pair at Falmouth, was at the top of his game. He outran the star-studded competition and shaved two seconds off his course record (32:21). Salazar made news again, but this time for collapsing with heat exhaustion at the finish and being rushed to the hospital in critical condition. He recovered and would have his day in the sun in a couple of years. For the first year, the woman's record stayed intact, as Joan Benoit won, but couldn't eclipse Kim Merritt's 1977 mark. Records would come later for Benoit.


2nd place finisher Mike Roche near the 6 mile mark

3rd place finisher Craig Virgin

my high school teammate Bill Hobbs came from New York to run (with 78 BAA marathon champion Gayle Barron)

Gayle Barron finished in 6th place
me getting an autograph

71 year old Johnny Kelley

Here are the results. I came in 435th place in 45:47. I was a little over one minute slower this year 31 years later in the 2009 version of the race.

Runner's World did a cover story feature on the race.

For the Letsrunners who are identifying the runners at the start of the race. Here is an article that explains the race time discrepencies.

And you thought the first photo was tough. Try naming these runners!!

More on the timing problems in 1978 and other interesting logistics

A bit deeper results