Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Best Free Weight Exercise?

Below is a video of Gray Cook, that I saw last night. In it he explains the Turkish Getup as performed with a kettlebell. I think his speech is just as important as the tutorial. I mentioned Gray Cook in my last post. What I didn't mention is that I started my real search to try to improve my running mechanics and posture about 7 years ago after I read a Boston Globe preview of his book "Athletic Body in Balance Book. It did not come with the DVD when I bought the book. Maybe that would have helped! The reviewer raved that this book had saved him from imbalance injuries. I couldn't wait for the book to be published and when I got a copy, I couldn't figure it out at all. It just seemed too complicated. I need to look over the book again with fresh eyes after all I have learned in the past couple of years, but that book has led to new ideas and principles that Gray Cook and other trainers keep building upon and I think that a lot of that building up and sharing of ideas amongst the top trainers has finally led to a a PT finding a solution to my running and postural imbalances.

Anyhow, in the video below, Gray Cook answers the question, "What is the best free weight exercise  you could ever think of if you could only do one?" His answer is the Turkish Get-up. This goes back to the idea that the body is a stack of joints and that we should exercise the entire body as a coordinated unit rather than work just one muscle or joint at a time, particularly if you want your workouts to be movement based. The Turkish Getup with Kettlebells is such an exercise as I mentioned earlier here and here.

The get-up works and improves your posture, symmetry, core, flexibility, stability, low back-hip interaction, and tight hip flexors all in one series of moves. It is not just a stretch or a strength move designed in islolation for one part of the body. You do need to pay attention to the details and use your body correctly, however, otherwise you are training yourself to move incorrectly.

Gray Cook and Brett Jones have a whole DVD set dedicated to the get-up called "Kettlebells from the Ground Up: The Kalos Sthenos". It is sold through Dragondoor here. It is much too expensive for me, but I have considered getting it some day, but there is a lot of info in this free youtube clip. As noted in this youtube video,  "Kalos Sthenos" is the greek word for "beautiful strength" and is the word from which we get "calisthetics". Calisthetics these days refers to body-weight exercises, but it originally it referred to movements with weights like the getup. Here is an article telling more about Kalos Sthenos and this DVD. Gray Cook is involved with functional training and I think the get-up is used as a both functional assessment as well as a exercise to bring balance to the body and that is why they have a 2 DVD set on just one exercise.

If you haven't tried the Turkish get-up this video my prompt you to give it a shot. Don't worry about how much weight you lift, until you get the movement down.

And after running a total of 60 miles in the last 7 days including a rain-soaked run yesterday, I took the day-off from running today because of the constant downpouring of rain. It ended up being a good day for the TRX Suspension Trainer and some kettlebell work, including a bunch of get-ups, instead!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

On Bones and Joints

This week's running miles totaled 52 miles (Mon.=0miles, Tues.-Sat.= 8 miles per day, Sun. 12 miles)

In my fifth grade class we have started a unit on the human body. The first lessons were on the bones and joints that make up the skeletal system.
Did you realize that when humans are born, that they have over 300 bones, but as bones in the skull, sacrum and hips fuse together by the time we are adults we end up with 206 bones. There are also more than 200 joints in the human body
Thursday morning, I decided to make the lesson more fun and active by having the class practice movements related to the many different joints in the body. I had my class practice some of the Z-Health joint mobility routines that I use to move the joints in their feet, ankles, knees, hips, and torso, as well as the joints in their fingers, wrists, elbows, shoulders, neck, and face. Through the fun and discussions, one of the girls in my class asked about cracking knuckles. She wanted to know makes the popping sound. I explained that it is just a release of gas in the joint as it is twisted. At which point one of the boys asked, " Is that why my dad always asks me to pull on his finger?" And that is why I enjoy teaching fifth grade!

Lately I have been reading through a most wonderful book called Advances in Functional Training: Training Techniques for Coaches, Personal Trainers and Athletes by Michael Boyle. It is a book full of the latest thinking, practice, and opinions in the field of functional training. It explains how the body works and gives reasons for doing certain exercises to improve function. I find it up-to-date with the newest ideas and that makes it a great book to read. Instead of rehashing old ideas, it presents new thinking and practice. I find the field of sport medicine and practice increasingly interesting, but you have to be on the cutting-edge to find the new ideas and this book provides them. I will note that often this book doesn't provide clear instructions on "how" to do some of the exercises that are mentioned. It assumes you are a trainer and know what the author is talking about, but it is a gold-mine of pertinent thinking and applications.

I remember when I starting running in the 1970's, the best sports medicine you could find would be an article by Dr. George Sheehan and his magic-6 stretches. A  lot of running books still precribe the standard static stretches as the means to stay injury-free. That stuff never worked for me, so I am glad to see some much growth in sports related medicine focused on biomechanics and muscular imbalances. I was reading in Michael Boyle's book last night on the joint-by-joint theory and the implications of learning to distinguish between issues of mobility and stability. Based on Gray Cook's Functional Movement Screen (FMS), the idea is that the body is just a stack of joints. Each joint has a specific function. Sometimes it is to provide mobility and sometimes stability. Dysfunction happens predictably and so rather than training body parts, therapists and trainers are learning to train movement patterns. Interestingly enough, the joints move between mobility and stability. Look at this chart:

The ankle joints primary need is mobility.
The knee joints primary need is stability.
The hip joints primary need is mobility (over multiple planes-my problems originate here)
The lumbar spine needs stability.
The thoracic spine needs mobility (most misunderstood)
The scapula needs stability.
The gleno-humeral needs mobility.
A most interesting idea is that problems in one joint usually show up as pain in the joint above and below. For example, a loss of ankle mobility can give knee pain, a loss of hip mobility can give back pain, and a loss of thoracic mobility can give neck, shoulder, or low back pain. I find all of this fascinating. The book, though,  is going to take many reads to figure out. Fortunately I found a PT who works with Postural Restoration. I am finally restoring lost function to my body and I feel so much better because of it.

This week I noticed that two very distinquished trainers both commented on their interest in Postural Restoration. Eric Cressey author Maximum Strength: Get Your Strongest Body in 16 Weeks with the Ultimate Weight-Training Program along with Matt Fitzgerald as well as the DVD "Magnificent Mobility" mentions going to a Postural Restoration workshop in his blog post, Stuff You Should Read. Carson Boddicker in his blog which is listed over to the left, mentions Postural Restoration in the artictle, Regaining the Frontal Plane, and tells how it works with the multi-planer movements and resulting dysfunction in the hips.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

5 Decades of Sub 3:00 Marathons

That is me and Runner's World editor Amby Burfoot before the 2000 Boston Marathon (long story here). That is a picture of him in the background winning the 1968 Boston Marathon.

So Amby Burfoot and Gary Allen have recently created a Facebook page called "5 Decades of Sub 3:00 Marathons." If you are on Facebook check it out. The premise behind the page is to find marathoners with the speed and longevity to have run a sub 3 hour marathon in five straight decades. Amby wrote about Gary Allen and added a  few names of runners who he knows have achieved this feat here. I would assume hundreds if not thousands have accomplished this (and maybe they have) but there are only a few names on the list so far. The names include Derek Turnbull, the late Larry Olsen and a few others. A few name runners are also ready to achieve this feat at the start of this coming decade. Interestingly enough, even the great Johhny Kelley did not quite achieve the 5 decades of sub 3 hours. He missed it by 3 minutes in his fifth decade.

I had already thought about the fact that I am approaching the running of a marathon in my fifth decade (post -see the last paragraph).

So I got to wondering if I could place on this list. I lost the list of marathons I was trying to keep over 10 years ago due to a hard drive crash and I have never tried to start the list going again. I know I have done about 40-50 of them, I just have to do some research and get all the times and dates correct. At first I thought that I would just miss being on the list (if I could run a fast marathon this decade-by less than 5 minutes, but I am thinking the last 10 years went by too quickly and times I thought I ran a few years ago where much further back in time).

This is the list I can come up with for now.

1970's November 25 1979 Philadelphia Marathon 3:03:57 (close!)
1980's April 26, 1981 Lake County Heart Fund Marathon (Illinois) 2:48:36
1990's September 28,1997 Clarence Demar Marathon 2:56:11
2000's Octber 15, 2006 Bay State Marathon 3:09:30

So unless I find a missing faster marathon. I can join the sub 3:10 club as soon as I go sub 3:10 this decade.

Another way to look at decades of running is to go by teens, twenties, thirties, forties, fifties, and if needed sixties. This is probably a more fair way to count decades as it relates to personal decades and not just a point on the calendar. According to this way of counting races. I have come up with this list showing that I have already accomplished 5 decades of marathon running.

Teens: Dec. 3, 1977 (18 years old) White Rock Marathon (Dallas) 3:25:44
Twenties: April 26, 1981 (21 years old) Lake County Heart Fund Marathon 2:48:36
Thirties: September 28,1997 (38 years old) Clarence Demar Marathon 2:56:11
Forties: Octber 15, 2006 (47 years old) Bay State Marathon 3:09:30
Fifties: October 25, 2009 (50 years old) Cape Cod Marathon 3:22:44

Well I got in five decades, but I am not that close to a sub 3 hour club. According to this list, I am in a sub 3:25 hour club for 5 decades).

I wish I thought of going for such a feat in the previous years. For example I didn't decide to run the Bay State Marathon (fastest in my 40's) until a spur of the moment decision the night before. I took it easy the first half and lost about 3 minutes waiting for port-a-john halfway through. I ddn't race and recovered nicely enough to run 8 miles the next day and a marathon (only 12 seconds slower the next week). I did no training run over 16 miles before that race either. In fact, I have never truly trained for a marathon by following a marathon training plan in all my years of running. I never did any runs over 16 miles training for marathons until 10-15 years ago, although I often ran back-to-back marathons throughout the years.

So, like most things running related with me, I get close to achieving something, but never close enough. It reminds me of a great song by The Alarm called "Close." "I've been close, closer than close, so close, not close enough."


I started thinking about decades. There is some debate about when a decade officially begins and ends. According to the experts, a decade really begins on the first year of the decade such as 2001 or 2011.
"The new decade will start on January 1st, 2011! There was no year 0 (our calendar went from 1 BC to 1 AD with no 0 inbetween). So the first decade started with the year 1, the second decade with the year 11, the third decade with the year 21, and so on.
If the calendar didn't start in the year 0 how can you say it ends in 9? This decade and century started on January 1, 2001 and ends December 31, 2010.
If we use this as our criteria, I actually have a chance to run five decades of sub 3 hour marathons. Can I do it? It might be close, but will I be close enough?

Here is a picture of the 1980 Gill Dodds Marathon  listed below. Back in 1980, you had to run a sub 2:50 to qualify for Boston (see a Runner's World daily news article from last year referencing my blog) . I missed it by 7 seconds. I did run into a parked car with less than one mile to go, stopping me for a few seconds and then after running onto the track for the finish in the stadium, I assumed we were to do a full lap like in the Olympics. No, as I went to finish the lap, I didn't notice that at the top of the track you were supposed to run onto the infield and finish on the football field. I lost a few more seconds turning around to finish correctly. Close, but not close enough to run Boston the next year. Oh yeah, I finished 11th. The top ten got awards. Always close!

Take a look now at my results according to this "mathematic" definition of a decade:

Decade starting in and ending in...
1971-1981 June 1980 Gill Dodds Marathon (Ill.) 2:50:07
1981-1991 April 26, 1981 Lake County Heart Fund Marathon (Illinois) 2:48:36
1991-2001 September 28,1997 Clarence Demar Marathon 2:56:11
2001-2011 Octber 15, 2006 (47 years old) Bay State Marathon 3:09:30

BUT, I still have until the end of this year to go sub 3:00 in my fourth decade. Someone explain to me if I have my math wrong. Can I do it? There is a good possibility. I am finding the balance in my muscles that have been missing for years. If I can train without getting injured, I believe by the fall, I could go sub 3:00 with effort and dedication. In fact, if I decide this is a worthy goal and my math is correct, then maybe I will have to follow a marathon training plan for the first time in my life! Then I would have to do a sub 3 hour one more time after the "new" decade begins in 2011. It sounds like I might just be developing a running goal in my mind. This could get fun, but would probably be noteworthy to no one else but me. It is a goal, however,  and this old runner could really use one. If not. I am keeping fit until my 60's and going for 6 decades of marathons, but I really do not want to think about that just yet!

And I might add, I may not have been very fast, but I guess I have had longevity in the sport!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Importance of Hip Shifting

A good week of weather and running. I ran a total of 50 miles (M=0, T=9, W=9, T=0, F=8, S=16, S=8 miles). I have nothing to complain about, just tweaking things and getting stronger.

On my last post, I linked to two Postural Restoration videos by Becky Fisher of the Huskra Clinic that show how to strengthen the glutes and hamstrings to push yourself forward. Becky has a new video up for runners. This one is on the importance of hip shifting to help you lengthen your stride and run less stiffly. When I had physical therapy through a Postural Restoration therapist, one major thing she noticed is that I could not shift my weight onto the left hip. When I started doing the retro-stairs exercises during therapy, I found could barely support weight on my left side. I could float up the stairs on my right. If you find that you have muscular imbalances, you might want to look for a postural restoration therapist. Here is an Postural Restoration article that describes more on hip shifting in sports.

It should never be assumed that hip shifting ability is symmetrical on the left and right hips. Athletes positioned in a Left AIC pattern are remaining in a shifted state on the right hip. They never shift into the left hip despite transferring weight to the left lower extremity. How do athletes accomplish this? They are compensating with excessive ball (femur) rotation which often results in extreme overuse of the hip flexors and lateral quadriceps. The left glutes and left inner thighs, the primary hip shifting muscles, adaptively become very weak because they are used less and less as the athlete continues to compensate around their right leg dominance. As left hip shifting (AF IR) ability is lost, the compensating muscles can pull the ball away from the socket until they are no longer congruently aligned. With hip stability compromised, the athlete is predisposed to abnormal joint forces and pain through the feet, knees, hips, and back.

That pretty much could be the best summary of my past 25+ years trying to run out of pain and imbalances and the frustrations often expressed on this blog because I could never find a therapy that would help me recover my stride.

Postural Restoration seems to be doing it for me and I just keep hoping things will get better and better. I feel I have gone from about 30% efficieny to about 80% efficiency since I found Postural Restoration and I keep adding a bit of efficiency each week as I tweak and manage things on my own.

The Importance of Hip Shifting from Hruska Clinic on Vimeo.

You have to love the tribute to Abebe Bikila at the Rome Marathon today.

Siraj Gena of Ethiopia paid tribute to an Olympic hero in winning the Rome marathon on Sunday, running barefoot while outsprinting two Kenyan rivals to the finish.

Gena took off his shoes with about 500 yards left and then outkicked Benson Barus and Nixon Machichim to finish the 26.2-mile race in 2 hours, 8 minutes, 39 seconds.

Gena was paying homage to Ethiopian Abebe Bikila, who won the 1960 Olympic marathon in Rome after running the entire course without shoes.

"I felt I had to do something to honor Bikila," Gena told the ANSA news agency. "For me he will always be an enormous inspiration and today I wanted to see what it would be like to cross the line in Rome barefooted like he once did."

Of course it seems that the Rome Marathon was offering a 5000 euro bonus to both the men's and women's winners if they would take off their shoes and socks and run the last 300 m of the race barefoot in honor of the 50th anniversary of Abebe Bikila's Olympic win in 1960. Who cares? It was a cool tribute and the right country won the race!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Every Runner Needs Good Glutes…

Here are two Postural Restoration videos for runners that show how to strengthen your glutes and hamstrings to better push yourself forward when you run. If you are a runner who has lost your butt, the videos may help to strengthen those muscles in the unique Postural Restoration style. The video comes from Becky Fisher of the Huskra Clinic. Ron Huskra is the founder of Postural Restoration. I have had over 25 years of muscular imbalances and I have tried every therapy possible to get my stride back. I had two months of twice-weekly physical therapy at the beginning of this year. Postural Restoration is the therapy that is finally working for me. I don't understand all of how it works. I do know that the therapist who worked on me figured out the correct exercises and strengthening moves to put me back on the right path. I did not do these specific exercises, but I have already added them to my routine and I will test them to see how they work for me, but they blend a few exercises that I was previously taught, so I see them as an extension of the work I am already doing. The exercises may look like simple bridges, but pay attention to the tweaks that help activate the glutes and strengthen the corresponding muscles.

Every Runner Needs Good Glutes, #1 from Becky Fisher on Vimeo.

Every Runner Needs Good Glutes, #2 from Becky Fisher on Vimeo.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Past two weeks of running

Two weeks ago: 48 miles total, mostly 8 milers with the last indoor track workout of 2 800's 2 1600's and 2 800's at 6:00 pace average. Last Sunday I ran the Freeze Your Buns 5k as my first running race of the year. Then I did another 8 miler in the afternoon.

You would think that I would be primed for a good week of running after that. No, I got lazy and lethargic. I only ran twice this week despite feeling good. I have no complaints or excuses, sometimes other things get in the way and you don't run. Oh well! Back at it this week.

I guess that is the good news. I have no real complaints. My body continues to get more balanced and in sync as I do the postural restoration exercises and other basic strength exercises. I feel good! I have switched away somewhat from the exercises my PT gave me and am experimenting with some of the running related exercises from the postural restoration website (PDF here). The first one seems to be working great as a reset for me right now.

One of the most interesting threads that I follow on Letsrun.com is the 3+ year old "loss of coordination in leg" thread that is sometimes disheartening to follow, but also full of great advice and inquisitiveness. This week foorunner wrote:

What are your physical responses to the exercise "hip suck" mentioned in "No glutes=No results"?

Try holding that sensation as u walk and even run; does it change any of the coordination problems?

Also check out the material in the following article, esp the stuff on hip suck, femoral glide and external rotators.....


From pure personal experience, the iliopsoas, glutes and transverse abdominus shd be kept engaged (as opposed to tight) as a unit when you run or perform athletic activities. I realise the labral tear effectively negates proper engagement of hip muscles but there's a reason why yr PT kps addressing those same exercises, its that u have to engage those muscles in activity to increase the time the femur is properly hinged to the pelvis. This gives the labrum optimal positioning from which to heal. Same logic goes for spinal treatment using TVA strengthening.

When u go running next time try engaging yr groin muscles to keep the femur firmly in the hip socket throughout, effectively doing the "hip suck" all thro the run. Chances are your TVA and glutes will co-currently engage. You shd get a feeling that yr quads and hamstrings are 'freed up'and loose, that yr legs r like one of those stick-thin Kenyan runners, and that power seems to be returning to yr lower body.

But with the labrum still disjointed u will not be fully asymptomatic of coordination issues, but do try this and see if it has a more positive impact on yr running. Keep practising and see if there is improvement all the time. This is effectively translating all the strengthening work into movement.

I looked over the "hip suck" and still don't quite get it, but the advice offered referred to the same muscles that I need work on according to my therapist. I replied to foomiler with the "postural restoration" page as the "hip suck" sounds similar in goals to many of the postural restoration re-set exercises. Foomiler is going to check it out. It will be interesting to see what someone else thinks.

I don't have the "loss of coordination" thing that other athletes seems to have (notably Josh MacDougal the 2008 NCAA X-C champion), but I have similar muscular weaknesses and overcompensations.

I have had a slightly weird problem the last month in that my left ITB and quad seems to have a "sleepy feeling" like they have been novacained. It doesn't affect anything and I am told it might be a compressed nerve or something. I only notice it when I put pressure on my leg and it feels like it is asleep.

Speaking of torn labrums (also in the article). Many runners have had to have a torn hip labrum repaired. It doesn't sound like fun! My son, Andrew, just had a torn labrum in his shoulder operated on. He has been in a lot of pain since the Friday surgery. I wish him a speedy recovery.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Kickbikes in Time Magazine

It is always nice to be slightly ahead of the curve and for two weeks in a row Time magazine has published exercise related articles on two of my favorite things! Harriet Barovick has an article in this week's issue of Time Magazine called, "Kickbike and Enjoy It."
Kickbikes, also known as footbikes or kick scooters, are being embraced as a fast, fun, furious way to cross-train, run errands, commute and even rehabilitate injuries.
I have used my kickbike since 2002. You can read a bit more of my 127 mile ride as well as find other links to articles and videos on kickbiking here. It is great to see Kickbikes get a little more publicity. I love using mine. In fact, a neighbor wanted to borrow one of my bikes on Saturday. I told him to use the kickbike as he was going to be riding on the rail trail with his son. My kickbike hasn't returned. Maybe he liked it so much he is not going to return it all! I better check into that!

Here is an article from the June 2009 issue of Running Times magazine that highlights kickbikes.

I ride the Millenium Racer model. Kickbike America has an ongoing sale of City Cruiser and the Sport Classic models. Footbike USA also sells racing models that are similar to the Kickbike.

Time magazine even has a video showing how dog mushers use kickbikes! Maybe I need to get a few dogs, so I can try that too!

Last week Time magazine had an article on Terra Plana shoe founder, Galahad Clark, as the company is unveiling its Vivo Barefoot Evo running shoe. The article is called The Cobbler's Child by Coeli Carr. I will not be buying a pair of the Evo shoes as long as they are at $160 per pair, but I am interested in the concept (link here). The only shoes I do wear when I am not running are my Vivo Barefoot Dharmas and Lesothos. The are the most comfortable minimalistic shoes that you could imagine. Here are a couple of my posts on Vivo Barefoot shoes. (here and here)

Here is a video on the Vivo Evo running shoe.

It is nice to see that Time magazine is writing articles about things that I enjoy that the rest of the world does not quite get-yet! I wonder how well the Vivo Barefoot Evo shoe would work on a Kickbike, as kickbikers are always trying to find the perfect shoe for kicking.