Thursday, April 29, 2010

Warming up runners through the three planes of motion

I have been recently learning about the importance of movement through the three planes of motion. Thankfully, the experts are writing and making videos to help me in my understanding and guiding me towards corrective and strengthening exercises that can help me move and run better. Here is a good overview for runners on the three planes of motion by Lori Thomsen found at the  Postural Restoration Institute (I have linked to this before but it needs a bit of study and review). Lori works at the Huskra Clinic and has been putting out some very helpful videos on running using Postural Resoration principles. Here is her newest video. It includes Lori's recommendations for "Dynamic and Functional Warm-up Activities for Runners."

Dynamic, Functional Warm-up Activities for Runners from Hruska Clinic on Vimeo.

If you have imbalances or asymmetries this may be a great place to start correcting your mechanics.

If you  are a mechanically-balanced runner (all those smooth striding athletes that are ahead of me in races!) then you might want to maintain that perfect body balance by incorporating the Lunge Matrix into your warm-up routine. Coach Jay Johnson says this is the warm-up he uses before running. Jay also explains how the lunge matrix as devised by Gary Gray exercises you through the three planes of motion.

Lunge Warm-Up from CoachJayJohnson on Vimeo.

The three planes of motion are the frontal plane, the saggital plane, and the transverse plane. Runners are used to activity in the saggital plane and we tend to be weak in movements in the other two planes. Lori has a couple of videos showing how to strengthen the frontal and saggital planes. She promises to do the transverse plane soon.

Frontal Plane Strengthening Activities from Hruska Clinic on Vimeo.

The Sagittal Plane - the Importance of Squatting from Hruska Clinic on Vimeo.

Here is Gary Gray (mentioned above) addressing the issue of Hip Tightness. He completely explains all motions of the Hip Joint and how the different motions interact. He talks about how tightness of the hip capsules can restrict motion in all three planes of motion and begins mentioning how to address restrictions of the femur in the hip capsule which can create body disfunctions and bad motions throughout the body.

Carson Boddicker of Boddicker Performance has also been writing on the importance of multi-directional training. He recent post recommends runners should work all through planes of motion to avoid stress fractures. Here he recommends slideboard training (I think I have one of those somewhere) for runners to work on movements in the the frontal plane..

Jay Johnston did a similar video to the one above for Nike and  RunnerSpace a year ago. It provides more information on the lunge matrix.

And thanks to Jay, Lori, Carson, and all the other teachers out there who are helping myself and others to move better.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


So my 10th grade daughter, Emily, informed everyone last week that she has plans to run the Tufts 10K in Boston with a friend this October. I am thinking that is great news. I asked Emily if she had started training, yet. "No!" she said, "But we already have our outfits picked out for the race!"

My other daughter, Hannah, who is in 4th grade, had some friends visiting at our house on Sunday. One of the girls wanted to know where our dog was. Hannah told her that we don't have a dog anymore. The girl then wanted to know why we had all those dog toys next to the sofa in the living room. "Oh," says Hannah, "Those aren't dog toys, those are my dad's toys!"

Yes, she had only discovered one of the places I "hide" my recovery tools!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Trying out some Karhu racing shoes from Finland

Last week: 47 miles total (Mon-0 miles-BAA Marathon watching, Tues-8 miles, Wed 6 miles-GCS track workout-10X400m 82-83 secs, Thurs-12 miles felt great and extended the run, Fri- 6 miles, Sat-8 miles, Sun. 7 miles Reds Shoe Barn 5 mile race).

Overall it was a good week. I was thrilled to be back on the track again. Thursday was one of those great days. I could have run forever. I don't know why I wasn't sore after the precious day's track workout. Saturday I ran, but probably should not have done so before the race. My hip was a bit off on that run (I believe a decent description of my hip comes from Carson Boddicker which he describes as "the inability to control the femoral head within the acetabulum"). I did some stretching, but added in two hip stretches. I think I did one in the wrong direction and I believe that threw my hip off for Sunday's race. I was mighty uncomfortable before the race and struggled on the warmup run. I tried to stretch, but not stretch too hard, but my hip was back to where it was on its worst days in the past. It was not a good race. I had to stop to tie my shoe, but at that point who cared? (results here) I think I have run a slower 5 mile race only once in my life.

I was wearing new shoes. I am trying out a pair of Karhu Racers. They are more of a shoe than I am used to wearing and I don't like white shoes, but I was thinking it was time to try something new. The new Asics Hyperspeeds that I had been wearing were making the top of my big toe sore. I have used these since Thursday for all my runs and I like them a lot except that I have to learn to double tie the laces. There is not too much heel, so I still land midfoot and the fulcrum things does seem to help transition my foot a bit more easily. Karhu are a Finnish brand of shoe. They have been around since 1926. I remember the brand in the 1970's from Runner's World magazine, but have never worn them before.

My hip had me uncomfortable all Sunday. Then I did a psoas muscle release and used that silly looking Muscle Angel thing I bought at the Boston Marathon to work on my left piriformis and glutes. I was regretting that purchase until this. Boy, could it target the tight spots more effectively than any ball or device I have used in the past. It could dig right in on a tight muscle target so precisely. After that,  I did about an hour of Z-Health joint mobility work on all my joints from the toes, to the ankles, knee, hips, pelvis, thoracic, shoulders, and neck. I skipped the arms. Rather than do the drills from memory or the DVD. I used the manual and reread all the directions and did them slowly with good form. I felt great after all that work. Monday was supposed to be an off day, but I felt so good I ran and had a wonderful 8 miler with super alignment, looseness, and balance. It felt 100 times better than Sunday's race! Now to keep things going that way! I am pleased to be able to get out of the bad alignment so easily. Last year, I would go through a week or two of trying to get out of the joint pains and misalgnments after a day like Sunday. 

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Jammed Joints Equal Weak Muscles: Z-Health Videos

Last weeks running = 44 miles: Monday- 8 miles, Tuesday- 8 miles, Wednesday-8 miles, Thursday- 8 miles, Friday- 0 miles, Saturday-4 miles, Sunday 8 miles. At the last moment I realized that there was a race at Mine Falls Park on Saturday and so I entered the Otter Run 5K put on by 3C Race Productions. I ended up finishing in 3rd place overall in the unremarkable time of 20:16 (results). My left hip felt so much more balanced then it has the past few years running so many times on this course. It was a much better race then the one on Sunday and a better starting point for the season. I am very much looking forward to the Gate City Striders track workouts starting this week.

What can you say about another entertaining Boston Marathon race. A new course record for the men and a dramatic finish for the ladies. Lots of Striders and other friends ran super races! Robert Cheruiyot ran a super race for a new course record. The most ridiculous news report on the race suggested that he may have cheated by stepping up on the sidewalk. Oh really? No this is silly and is certainly no Rosie Ruiz move. View the video here.

I saw some interesting Z-Health videos today where Dr. Eric Cobb demonstrates the Arthrokinetic Reflex. According to his thinking. a jammed joint equals weak muscles. I find the Z-Health joint mobility program interesting. It never solved my problems, but I did learn about the movements of the joints and probably just never became proficient in learning exactly how to utlilize the movements in the precise way and manner to effect the changes I needed. One problem I had with the program was that it never fully explained why things were supposed to work. These videos show a little more of the "why" about jammed joints.

This video shows how a jammed joint in the foot affects the hip flexor on the same side by weakening it. This intrigues me because I have had a weak left hip flexor along with misaligned joints in my left foot. The middle toe-pull move is supposed to fix the joint in the foot and thus strengthen the hip flexor. I can't always make it work, but last month it did work perfectly when my hip flexor was gimpy. If you scroll down this page you will see how to do a toe pull.

This video show how the limited motion of the heel in running shoes can impact the heel and create weakness in the hamstring.

This video explains the arthrokinetic response.

This one explains Z-Health in 3 minutes.

This video explains active vs. passive care. The body learns and responds best when it fixes itself not when someone else does the work. Of course it only shows the passive care with joint manipulations. If you look down this page a bit, you will see the outside toe-pull that is supposed to be the self-care for for the cuboid joint.

These final two videos explain more about Z-Health.

There is supposed to be a new Z-Health video coming out next month that explains more about the science of why Z-Health works. You can find out more about Z-Health here. What I would like to see from Z-Health is the "which" and "when" videos. They have some on the "how" and will be putting out the "why". It would be most beneficial to know which exercises to do for certain conditions, so you can use the correct joint mobility routines instead of hunting on your own for the right one which may or may not work. Seeing how quickly Dr. Cobb could manipulate a joint to jam and unjam it makes you wonder how a wrong movement pattern may be jamming joints and creating havoc in your body on a daily basis just due to bad movement patterns.

Carson Boddicker has an interesting blog post on the hip flexor muscle today regarding stretching and strengthening the psoas muscle. You can find it here  on his blog (also found under my blog list on the left of this page). He suggests doing moves like bridging before doing hip flexor stretching to fix dysfunctional movement patterns in the hips.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Picked up my Boston Marathon Number

My daughter Hannah accompanied me down to Boston to pick up my Boston Marathon number and to go the the marathon expo. My number is 9600, but I am not running it this year, so it ended up being a very expensive t-shirt that I received for my entry fee. When I told I told the BAA officials that I was not going to run, they wanted my number and chip back. I had been told I could keep them earlier. I wanted to show my class on Monday, plus I paid for them, why should I give them back? The BAA will not use the chips next year, so they are letting people keep them after the race this year. I remember the first year that they were introduced into the race, I had volunteered for the expo and had received the job of showing people how to use the chips and to screen them for the correct info. It was a lot of fun as it was brand new to everyone at the time. Anyhow, they  finally said I could keep my number and chip as long as I didn't give them to someone else to use during the race. That is the last thing I would do! I have been asked by a few people if they could use my number, but if I did so I could be banished from the race forever. Not only that, but the race is very public in Nashua and the results in the paper would say that I finished, even when everyone knew I didn't run.

I always enjoy going to the expo, although nowadays I have seen just about everything that someone is trying to sell and the shoe displays just don't interest me anymore. I did catch up with a few people and Hannah likes getting autographs and free food and stuff. I did pick up a some Illuminite shirts, tights, and gloves that were really cheap for next winter and found another massage trigger point tool that is new to the market. It is a really strange looking tool called the Muscle Angel. It looks like it dropped in from another planet, but I checked it out and particularly liked the foot massage that it gave. I have tried just about everything else on the market so why not try this out, too? It works like a tennis ball, or even a tennis ball in a sock (if you get the sleeve that goes with it) but has a much firmer and targeted massage. When I used it on the bottom of my feet, it easily hit the right muscles with the right amount of control and pressure. It was not too soft like the TP Massage ball and rollers can sometimes be. I will have to test it out on other muscles to see how well if does. Aw, what's another tool? My house is full of stuff like this. The Muscle Angel -- Combo-Pack Bundleis also sold on Amazon, but I don't see any reviews up just yet. It might go well with books like Muscle Medicine: The Revolutionary Approach to Maintaining, Strengthening, and Repairing Your Muscles and Joints and The Permanent Pain Cure: The Breakthrough Way to Heal Your Muscle and Joint Pain for Good that tell you how to use a tennis ball of other objects to do ART (active release) type work on your muscles. I did reviews of these books in previous posts: Facilitated Active Stretch Technique: FAST Self Massage , Stretching Your Fascia Using "The Permanent Pain Cure, and How to Release Your Hamstrings with a Tennis Ball.
At the Boston Marathon expo, I felt the tuggings to just jump in and run the marathon on Monday. I think for the first time in my life, I am getting smart enough not to rush into races just to do them. Things are going well on the running front and I am sure I could pace my way through Boston, but I think it is better to keep building than to risk another injury. The good marathon will come in the fall! I'll be ready. Plus, I have to be in school teaching on Monday!
I have found my muscles and some joints to be getting really tight as I push up the mileage. I started reviewing all the things I have tried through the years to see what I should add back into my routine. 10-15 years ago I was doing active-isolated stretching just about daily. I had a video put out by Runner's World and the Whartons, that was lent out and never returned, but I still know the stretches. They can also be found in their book The Whartons' Stretch Book I had found the stretches really loosened up my muscles back when I did them, but they did not help my hip problems and muscles asymmetries. Now that I am doing the Postural Restoration routines to deal with my imbalances, I think it should be the best stretching routine to help my tight muscles and I started doing them again mid-week. Here is a Runnng Times article on some of the stretches.
I would like to give best wishes to all my friends who did qualify, train, and remained injury free for the Marathon. I hope you all have a great race. I will be enthusiastically following you all on Monday. So to all my old running friends, the Gate City Striders, and internet running friends, be smart and have a great race!
Speaking about Boston Marathon numbers, I really enjoyed this video from that has an MIT student giving improbable answers to strange number questions about the Boston Marathon.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Running like a Turkey

photo by Steve Wolfe (more photos)

Today was a race day and I was very excited to run the Nashua Soup Kitchen and Shelter 10k race this morning. It was to be a test of my fitness and the start of the racing season. I had got up to 60 miles last week and toned it down a bunch this week so that I could be ready. I only ran on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, but each day I ran my 8 miler pretty well. All three were my fastest times on the route this year. With that in mind I decided to take Saturday off too, so I would be well rested.

Saturday a package arrived for me in the mail. I had decided to order the "Kettlebells From the Ground Up" DVD that I wrote about here. I started looking through the manual and then started watching the first of the two dvds. I reallly liked the content, the instructions, and the background information as presented by Gray Cook and Brett Jones. After watching, I was ready to try out what I was learning. So a started doing the Turkish-Getups "naked". Naked just means without weight or a kettlebell. It helps you hone the movements before adding weight.

This DVD is all about one exercise, the Turkish get-up.  As luck would have it, I have a picture of my first ever Turkish Get-up. This is a photo of me in the summer of 1979 doing a college summer study. We spent 3 days in Turkey. The location is Sardis. I did a get-up in Turkey and am sitting on the top of an ionic styled pillar in the ruins of the Temple of Artemus.

Anyhow the DVD breaks down the get-up into seven steps. I was practicing the steps and the corrective actions for about half an hour. Later after dinner, I was still feeling energetic so I started doing the moves with a kettlebell. I did another half an hour or so of steps, corrective actions, and get-ups. I was learning a lot, but I wasn't smart enough to think about the impact this work would have on my running today. The get-up involves lunging as one of the steps. It is a good exercise, but not when done so heavily before a race. I also did about half an hour of light stretching using the TRX last night. I don't know if that had any impact.

I knew I was in trouble the second I started my warm-up. My glutes and hamstring were stiff and tight. My quads and calf muscles were a bit tired too. I could not get a strong or loose stride going at all. When the race started, I tried to force my muscles to work, but I had a very short powerless stride. I felt like I was running in sand the whole race. In other words, it did not go well. I was being passed left and right, and I had no response in my legs. Halfway through, three other 50 year runners went by, although at the time I didn't realize two were in my age group. I started to feel a bit better on the last mile, but it was much too late. I ended up about one minute slower that last year with my slowest 10K ever (results here). At least I was fourth in my age group and scored 7 points for the Gate City Striders in the NH Grand Prix. According to the age graded times for the race, it was the equivalent of a 36:51 10K, but I am still not happy!

Some days are just not good days. I won't mention names, but a much faster teammate had an even worse day than me out there, so these things happen. Mine could have been prevented, if only I was not so foolish about introducing so much work on the Get-ups in the previous day. I think I will slow down my work on that exercise, but I think it will provide tons more benefits, then the one poor day of running I recieved from being so gung-ho about practicing them. Yesterday was Turkish Get-up day. Today was just a day to run like a Turkey.

On that trip through Turkey, I had an interesting run in a place called Hieropolis, I went out before evening for a solo run from my hotel. It got dark as I headed back. I was running up the road which was over a cliff looking down at some white calcium rocks from the hot springs in the area. I wasn't paying attention or I just couldn't see, but I ran into a man who was walking with another man and some donkeys. I was startled as I am sure they were too, and they started yelling at me and chasing me down the road. Fortunately, I was fast in those days.

Here are a couple of old dusty photos of some of the calcium rocks and hot water we saw.

Laodicia was a nearby city. If you know the prophecy in Revelation, it says that the people in that city are neither hot nor cold, so they will be spat out of his mouth. The interesting thing about the city was that they had lukewarm water only and no local water supply. They could get the hot water from Hieropolis, but by the time it arrived it was not longer hot, or they could get cold water brought down the mountains a few miles away. By the time this water arrived from the aquaducts, it too was lukewarm and no longer cold. They knew hot and cold, but they were only lukewarm! Here is how the water came down from the mountains.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Hope Springs Eternal!!

This year is off to a super start. This week I made it to 60 miles (Mon. = 8 miles, Tues. = 0, Wed. = 12 miles, Thurs. =8 miles, Fri. = 8 miles, Sat. =16 miles, Sun. = 8 miles). I am looking forward to racing the 10K in the Nashua Soup Kitchen and Shelter race next Sunday and trying to find some racing and speed muscles.

Today is Easter as well as the start of another season for the Boston Red Sox. Tomorrow,  I read "Casey, at the Bat" for my fifth grade class. Every year, a new season of baseball brings me back to that phrase, "Hope springs eternal.". Each year as I start another season of running, I hope that it will be the year that I am done with imbalances and can run like I did when I was younger. Hope springs eternal!

Here is another Postural Restoration video showing a dynamic hamstring stretch to replace the traditional hamstring stretch.

Dynamic Hamstring Activities from Hruska Clinic on Vimeo.