Friday, February 29, 2008

Joint Mobility Through Z-Health

Here is a picture before the start of the 1983 Cape Cod Endurance Triathlon (a full Ironman distance race). That is BAA Marathon Race Director Dave McGilliray in the blue shirt (I would later run the entire Boston Marathon with him in 2000).. The TV reporter is Robin Young - remember her?. I am the skinny guy behind Dave's right shoulder. This is the start of all the bio mechanical issues I would later have.

Back when I was just a runner (high school and college) I basically ran injury free. There were a few bumps along the way, but I didn't have to think about running, I just ran. I knew my knees knocked and I had been told I had a short leg, but I was able to run cross-country, track, and even 8 marathons in college (as well as 50 miles on the track a week after one marathon).

Then I found triathlons. There was no sports medicine that I knew of in 1983. I got a $300 bike, started swimming in the ocean and in a few months of self training did 3 triathlons including my first Ironman distance race. I fit myself to my cheapo bike and made some (years later I figured this out) huge mistakes. I twisted my saddle a bit to one side, and tried to get one bike cleat pointed away from the bike rather than straight ahead. I was trying to compensate for the short leg and the twist in my foot. For 5 years I was heavy into triathlons and still playing with getting comfortable on the bike and training my foot to pedal in a toe out position. Around and around I pedaled until my left lower back was so bad I could barely stand up straight. It was funny, I could do an Ironman distance triathlon yet constantly wanted to lie down and adjust my back. I am still trying to unravel from that damage.

Having tried every therapy and exercise I could I am now working with joint mobility through the Z-Health system. Hopefully this will get me running free again.

Here is why I like Z-Health. Z-Health is a simple set of exercises that work every joint in your body not the muscles. Having pummeled my muscles with every routine and therapy I could find, I am left with the opinion that my muscles are not the problem. If my joints are stuck and refuse to work through their intended range of motion then the Z-Health exercises will retrain them so that they can work like they are supposed to and get the correct range of motion back. When my joints work correctly then the muscles will feel better and work correctly too! Just as important Z-Health re-educates the nervous system to get rid of all those poor movement patterns. The goal is to let my body relearn how to move and not move in the way that it was trained by me when I did all those incorrect pedal revolutions on that bike.

When I first started Z-Health a month ago things improved immediately and everything felt great for a couple of weeks. After doing the two long treadmill runs my body sort of lost the plot. I was falling back into bad patterns even though I was doing the exercises.

So I called the Z-Health phone number today and spoke with Shannon for quite a while (great customer service!). I have a page chock full of pointers and tips. I tried a couple and right away was feeling better again. In brief I learned to do the exercise more slowly. I know this is mentioned in the book, but they go so quick on the DVD so I was doing them quickly all the time. I learned some different rehab positions and how to tell which direction to hold my foot. I learned a quick skin stim to recognize the joint that I am working on and to move that joint first. When I did the knee drops after doing this, it felt so much easier than the way I had been doing them previously.

So the rehabilitation goes on as I try to recover my stride. I am just a beginner at learning how this system works but it makes a lot of sense for my body. I hope my body continues to respond as well. You can learn more about Z-Health here:

Never Give Up!

Every once in a while someone infers that maybe I should quit running because it never seems to be easy for me. Well in the true spirit of never giving up, check out this video of a cross-country race in England. How many go down? Yet they all keep running. This is very funny!

"Never Give up...Never give up... Never...Never...Never."
Last words spoken at my high school graduation in 1977 at The Stony Brook School in New York by the Rev. Billy Graham.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Snowshoe Running

I have a nice pair of Tubbs 10K running snowshoes and you would think with the record setting snow this year I would have been using them a lot this winter. Well, I haven't even strapped them on for a couple of years. Today however, I took them out for a run with Steve W. in Merrimack at the newly opened Horse Hill Nature Preserve. Now I remember how fun they were to run on! Steve has been using his snowshoes a bit more than me so I tagged along and tried to keep up. It is amazing how quickly the heart rate moves up! We did almost 4 miles I think at about a 10 minute per mile pace. It was fun although my left hip was jamming up the whole time- making my stride very awkward. That is strange because I remembered how my stride usually felt better when snowshoe running. Could it be because I was doing some hamstring and quadricep stretches in the afternoon? I sometimes feel worse after stretching.

Anyhow, I need to do this more often. The trails were nice. I usually have just snowshoed in Mine Falls Park. The hills here weren't bad at all, but they got the ticker thumping and the few quick downhills were fun. There were a lot of turns and tiny stream crossings: jump or cross on a narrow "bridge". It was a good afternoon, Maybe I'll try it again tomorrow.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

TP Trigger Point Therapy

Another product that I can highly recommend for those seeking to recover their stride comes from a company called Trigger Point Performance Therapy. It is a step up from using tennis balls and foam rollers to release tension held within muscles. Many times I have felt wonderful after using the Massage Ball or the Quad Roller. Other times, however, they have not done what I would hope for and at times made things tighter. That could because I have done a movement wrong or maybe I just overdid it.

TheTrigger Point Performance Self Myofascial Release and Deep Tissue Massage Ballis great if you have back or gluteal tightness. When you find the right spot you can feel the tension move away. I find the massage ball works best when placed against a wall and I lean into it. Otherwise I tend to overdue things with it, probably because it doesn't hurt at all and I must expect some pain to get relief. I sometimes use a baseball or other hard ball to try it relieve tension and these can work too. The Massage Ball and their other products are supposed to soften after a few seconds of use. I do find that the ball gets disfigured and doesn't last forever. I am on my second ball.

TheQuadballer Roller works like a foam roller. I find it a bit small and clumsy compared to a foam roller, but more effective when it works.

The FootBaller is a smaller Quad Roller and is effective on the soleus and lower leg in particular. You can put it on the baller block to do some work but it isn't always easy to keep it in place. You could use anything else to hold your foot up.

The Ultimate-6 Kit takes you through a good routine for runners using all of the above products. Sometimes I feel great after the routine but if I use it more frequently I find it tightens things up.

My dad is a club tennis player in his late 70's and never seems to get injured, unlike me! He recently, though, is fighting with Plantar Fasciitis and he thinks it could put a stop to his tennis playing days. I think I may see about getting him the this kit for dealing with this foot problem. Like a lot of athletes, I have met, he thinks whatever the doctor says goes and I don't want to see him give up his sport of choice over something that he may be able to heal with an alternative approach.

On a side note, since I have started the Z-Health program I have not used my foam rollers, TP products, or any other of my tools or techniques that I relied on daily to make it through the day and into the next workout. However, the thought of using the footballer on my lower leg seems real enticing at the moment and I think I will give it some time tonight. I realize I will have to find out what best compliments the joint mobility work I am doing. Will I find a stretching routine that works well or will I find that something like the TP products work best when things are on the mend instead of trying to pound some tight spot in my leg or back to try to put my body back into balance.

The Stick vs. The T-Roller

For many years one of my favorite recovery and warm-up tools has been The Stick. I have the original model as well as the travel stick. I use it before workouts if my muscles are tight or knotted. However it is also my best sleeping aid. If I find I can't sleep or wake up in middle of the night due to heavy training I spend a few minutes using it on my legs. I use it standing or sitting and find that it relaxes my muscles enough so that I can get to sleep easily.

After many years with The Stick, I was given a prize at the 2007 Millennium Mile of a similar product called the T-Roller. I like this much better than The Stick. It works like The Stick, but it has protruding knobs that allow you to get deeper into the muscle tissue. It is smaller but don't let that fool you, I think it allows you to pinpoint knots and tight spots much more productively. I have been using the T-Roller exclusively since receiving it. Either The Stick or the T-Roller should be a tool in every athlete's toolbox.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The A to Z of Recovery

I am just starting a list of the top of my head of many of the things I have tried to attempt to achieve greater balance, stride, and effeciency as I run and move about in my daily life. Can I find something for each letter?

AIS (Active Isolated Stretching)
Aline foot devices
ART (Active Release Technique)
Brain Training
E-3 Hand Grips
Foam Rollers
Gravity Inversion
Proprioceptive Drills
POSE Method of Running
Posture Control Insoles
Rossiter "Step out of Pain"
The Stick
TPMassage Balls
Val Slide

I did another 13 mile treadmill run yesterday. I practiced the Z-Health routine before the run and felt OK although not perfect. The hips and foot placement are much better than one month ago but definately it is still a work in progress. The hips were jamming up a bit. I woke up, not with stiff muscles, but with with tightness in my hip area. I didn't do any Z-Health until after school which calmed things down greatly. I can't figure out which exercise helps the most, so it must be a combination. It was a busy day so I took a day off! I need to get outside and run on some uneven ground and do some corners!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Running Form Dissection

O.K. I found some pictures (although from a race in 2005). This is the Applefest Half-Marathon in Hollis, NH (one of my favorite races). I finished in 11th place overall (out of 905) in 1:25:00 but look at the pictures and see what, on a good day, my body does as it tries to run efficiently. The legs look O.K. , but there is a lot going on in the upper body that is not good!

Here I am in the opening miles. Does it look like the upper body is balanced over the legs? There is a lot of twisting and a slew of compensations going on! At least for the moment I am ahead of Joe Rogers.

Here in the middle of the race you can see what my left hip, knee, and ankle do on each stride I take. The left femur rotates in and drops down at the hip, the knee does a knock-knee action, and the left foot splays out causing a rolling-in pronation as the foot hits the ground.

Look at the finish line picture. Here you see my knee knocking in and the foot turning out. Not a pleasant way to run , but I have made it work. Even the race singlet can't fit correctly as one shoulder is higher than the other. How do I undo all those
motions and get to an efficient stride? Can it be done? I haven't given up yet! My wife says it is all in my brain. According to Z-Health, maybe it is, as I have to retrain the movements of my joints. I have a lot of places where my joints get "stuck" particularly with the left hip and ankle. I already feel freer in the places, particularly the left hip, as I continue to do my Z-Health exercises.

Aging and Feeling Good While Running

A thread on on which I was participating got me interested in starting this blog (I am TDF in the message board posts). For a few years now I have considered writing an article for my local running club's newsletter highlighting the A-Z of therapies and strategies that enable me to keep running and to help out with the many imbalance problems, pains, and struggles that I have as a runner. Many strategies worked for a while or worked while I can afford them or at least brought me closer to that running feeling that I had lost. The problem was nothing brought me to a point where I could feel in control of my imbalances and as a result each day, workout, or race was a new effort at trying to run pain free and bio mechanically smooth.
It looked like another winter of losing all the gains I had made in the summer and fall as my activity levels dwindled and my body reverted to worsening level of running form. In January, I began trying a new type of therapy called Z-Health. I learned about it as I read about Kettlebells online (something else I started doing this Fall). I have worked on the bones (chiropractic), the muscles (massage), and even the connective tissue and fascia (rolfing), but Z-Health works on joint mobility and the nervous system. As soon as the DVDs arrived I popped it in the player and did the routine. It was easy and different, but remarkably, I noticed an instant improvement. Now not yet a month later, I continue to do the exercises and I have a control that I never had before. Running is definitely easier and my form is making drastic improvements. Most important my body feels loose and free throughout the day and the old patterns of pain and imbalanced posture are becoming a thing of the past. I enjoy running because I don't have to think as much about what my bones and muscles are doing. Z-Health looks like a real keeper. I will blog more on my experiences with Z-Health and all the other stuff that keeps me running.
This weeks running has all been on the treadmill as weather and time have kept me indoors. I have missed a few days but the last three runs were 10 miles, 10 miles, and my longest treadmill run in years 13 miles. Last year at this time, I was in better shape but running just a few miles on the treadmill seemed impossible as I couldn't hold a form that made running remotely pleasurable.