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!

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