Monday, June 30, 2008

Old Time Chills and Thrills

Dave Elger is a runner with a blog and has posted an interesting old 8mm video. In it he has some clips of the 1980 Boston Marathon. You can see Bill Rodgers and Amby Burfoot. Then you can see that cheater Rosie Ruiz (in the orange shirt about 45 seconds in).

Then the clip goes back in time to the 1978 NCAA Cross Country Championships. Alberto Salazar won this race, but I enjoyed seeing glimpses of my former teammate Dan Henderson doing Div. 3 runners proud. Danny finished in 10th place in the Div. 1 race just days after winning the Div. 3 National Championships. He was a junior that year. He dropped out of the Div. 3 race the next year but went on to run for Athletics West and was an outstanding 5k runner with a 5000m best time of 13:23.57 on the track in 1985.

We ran for Wheaton College in Illinois and I can't say I or my teammates ran with Danny much at all as he did he own thing way ahead of the rest of the team.

My track career is less illustrious. I did marathons in the Spring in college as I was not that fast of a runner and was trying to find something I might do well at. I did my best 5k and 1500m the same night at an all comers track meet at North Central College (a strange night where an errant hammer throw went over a cage and hit a spectator in the head- later killing him). Anyhow I ran a 1500m in 4:16 and then later the 5000m in a big field that included Danny, Steve Lacy and other studs in 16:02. Talk about getting lapped! I think Danny won and it and the lead runners were in the 13:50's.

In the video clip Danny wears Wheaton's bluish-purple top, orange shorts, and an orange hat. I see him in about 6th place at 1:46, in 9th place at 2:20, and again at 2:42. Boy, technology sure has improved since 1978!

Today I had another ART treatment. This time he worked on my Psoas Muscle (I lay on my right side with legs straight. He finds my Psoas and gets his fingers to hold it. Then I move my left knee to a 90 degree angle like I am sitting on a chair. He know holds that Psoas tight. I straighten the leg next to the other one and then push it back as he keeps tension on the psoas. We did that about 5 times. He also worked a bit on the inside of my left knee and the back of my left hip. I told him about my heel lift and he said to stick with one thing as I am changing around a lot of variables.

I ran the trail 5k tonight. My hips felt sloppy and uncoordinated so the stride wasn't smooth but it wasn't jammed up either. I improved my 5k time another 35 seconds from last week. It is slowly coming back but I had no oomph. My shoelace came untied at about 1/2 mile into the race but I just left it alone and my shoe didn't fall off and I didn't trip. At about the same time I got passed by a guy I didn't know. He had an Ipod in his hand and headphones. There was no way "that" was going to happen so I passed him and didn't see him again!

I also got the Sacro Aligner today. It is like a on steroids. I look forward to putting it to use.SACRO WEDGY

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Never Give Up

I was watching the opening night of the Olympic Track and Field Trials late last night and was again motivated by the sight of an athlete giving her all at a time when few gave her a chance to make the Olympic team. During the women's 10,000 meters final the first half of the race went out so slow that no runner was given a chance to make the Olympic A standard time. That meant that only 4 runners had a chance of making the Olympic team in the race as they were the only four to have a qualifying time. No one told Amy Yoder-Begley.

Eventually the two favorites Kara Goucher and Shalene Flanagan picked up the pace. Only one runner went with these two. That would be Amy. Amy started pulling and keeping the pace fast but the announcers still gave her little chance of making the cut-off time. With two laps left she got dropped by the accelerating two frontrunners. After they finished the announcers started remarking about the terrific sprint of Amy on the last lap and the cameras picked her up. She was told by her coaches she needed to run a last lap under 70 seconds to make the time. She ran 67.3 for that lap and finished the race 1.4 seconds under the Olympic A standard putting her on the Olympic team. Never Give Up!

A couple of years ago when I first met Steve Wolfe we had a great summer of racing against each other. We showed up at race after race and we had some fun competitive races and finishes (usually with Steve going by me in the last mile). Then he started having knee problems and eventually surgery and while he made it back into running, the fast times just weren't always there. He stuck with it and this year he is running up a storm. He is fast and furious (running all these relays, mountain and trail races, and half marathons). Never Give Up! He has a blog and it reminds me my why I don't do trail racing but it is fun to read about his adventures!

I had a very good run today. As I wrote yesterday, I am going to experiment with lifts in my right shoe. Today I cut of the front end of an old Posture Control Insoles and placed it in under my right foot's insole. I felt so much better running than I have been. My hip didn't hurt, I had better posture and a more even stride. I could accelerate and didn't feel my hips wobbling or going off balance. My chest and shoulders felt more level and balanced. The right side didn't feel inches behind my left. I also felt like I was rolling off my feet and pushing off in my stride. It was not perfect but it was an improvement. Whether it is just a good day due to the distraction of a new running position or if I am on to something, only time will tell. Whether it sets off other problems. who knows, but I think I have thought this through and it makes sense to me to try. Anyhow I was happy running today and remembered the good feeling of a strong run that I had lost. Never Give Up!

Friday, June 27, 2008

If one leg is longer than the other leg?

I am thinking, thinking, and thinking constantly trying to figure out how to even out my stride. I am trying all sorts of ideas: scrapping some and keeping others, but still have not found the "key" that will get me back to a healthy and efficient stride. It probably makes for a boring blog as seem to complain a lot and go off in all sorts of divergent directions. I think many of the things I have tried would be extremely beneficial to many injured runners, but for me they seem to lead me to right back where I keep starting from. Last night the back of my left hip was tight and causing me to limp again. I woke up a few times in the night and tried different stretches, joint mobility drills, ect. and I was just moving on the floor and got myself into a "child's pose" yoga position ( I think that is what it is called. It is where you sit on your knees, and bend forward over them and rest. This time I moved my arms and body to the left over to the side of my left hip. I may have even rotated my knees and legs to the right. All of a sudden things felt loose and free. There was no click or pop or anything like that. Just loose and free. I got up. No more limp. I thought that was strange and walked around and things felt very good. When I woke up things continued to feel good. The pressure on the back hip was gone and I moved much better.

That was a good start to the day. But over the years I have had moments where I do certain movement, or put pressure on a certain points, and that eases the discomfort I have been feeling but I can never replicate the movement and get the same results again. It's bizarre but that is sometimes the way my body works. Anyhow I decided to ride one of my bikes. It was actually the first time I got a real bike ride in on this bike. It is a K2 Mach 1 bike like the one on the top of this page except it is black. I found it on clearance in L.L.Bean over a year ago. It is a $650 bike but I saw a clearance price on it for $200 something and then I saw there was another clearance of 30% off. I did some quick math and realized I could buy this bike for less than $200. But my wife wasn't there to OK the purchase and so I walked around the store for awhile doing the math and holding the bike because two other customers realized it was a good deal when I asked a salesman if I could really get it for that price and they were following me around seeing if I would put it down. Now I really didn't "need" a new bike. I have a 1985 Centurion bike (although the frame was made in Italy by Cinelli). That one took me through many a triathlon and bike race. Here is my Centurion with me aboard catching up to the pack in a race that went around a motor speedway in New Hampshire. It must be around 1992.

I also have a Cannondale aluminum (talk about a harsh ride) triathlon bike that I bought off a friend awhile back. Plus I have my kickbike which I like more than regular cycling.

Anyhow this K2 bike which I did buy has not been very accommodating. I realized it was a clearance bike because something was wrong with the back tire. I first pumped up the tires when I got it and rode it around the block a few times (it was winter). The next day I noticed it had a flat. Last summer I went to fix it. I found that the tire was really tight on the wheel. To get it on and later to put it back on took lots of effort. It was hard to move that bead over the rim. It would take 15-20 minutes. I fixed it once, pumped it up and heard air escaping. I fixed it again and again. No spokes were poking through so I figured it kept getting pinch flats. I gave up and tried again a couple of weeks ago. I got 2 miles down the road and saw I had a flat again. I finally bought I new tire. It still fits tight but it holds the air. So anyhow I took this bike out for a spin today. I went 10 miles and kept it easy. It felt nice. I remembered the wonderful feeling of riding a bike on a hot day and feeling the wind on my face as I ride. I'll have to do this more often.

Anyhow one thing that felt good was the inserts I had found at Goodale's Bike Shop when I was buying the tire. They are made by Specialized and are called Body Geometry High Performance Footbeds. They have shims you can put in them to alter the forefoot angle within the shoe. It adds height to the inside of my feet. Despite all my running problems I had even worse problems with cycling. My left leg would never be comfortable when riding bikes. I even used to play around trying to make shims on the bottom of my cleats to try to even out that foot. Particularly when starting up a cycling program the bottom of my left foot would always be sore as all the pressure was on the side of the little toe. If I tried to hold that leg flat and even in the shoe my knee would pop into the bar on my bike and my knee would not go up and down, when peddling, but around in circles (in and out). It was always uncomfortable and that is why I used to adjust my saddle some to point to the left side a bit. None of this was good for my back. When I cycled today the bottom of my foot felt fine and the knee was going up and down not around and around. Of course my butt still hurt sitting in the saddle. I did enjoy the ride even though it was a short ride. I was just glad the tire didn't go flat again!

My hip still felt good after the bike and later in the day I went out for my run. Again my hips turned wobbly and as the run progressed it never loosened up and just got worse. So I resorted to thinking things through again.

I am waiting to get the Sacral Aligner in the mail to try that, but something else is definitely wrong in the world of my biomechanics. I am having a harder time then ever trying to run and I am putting more effort than ever in trying to strengthen and mobilize my joints for running. I feel better sitting and walking than in past years, but when I run things start to get worse. So I started evaluating what it going on.

I think that as I have been strengthening and doing joint mobility work I am starting to get my legs into a more normal position. I think my left knee is not knocking in as much and my left leg is straighter. However as I do so I "wonder" if in straightening out the leg I am getting rid of the "compensations" that my body has resorted to over the years to run injury free despite an actual or functional leg length discrepancy. Possibly what my body has done (due to a longer left leg?) is to roll that leg in and knock the knee in so that the hip is lowered. A PT said last year that that hip does drop down as I walk. Maybe that is what kept me running and although not pretty and definitely not pain free that is how my body accommodates the leg length difference.

There is a precedent for thinking about this theory. Back in Junior High when they did a scoliosis test, both my brother and I were picked out as needing a second look. Eventually we both ended up many times at the Boston Children's Hospital as they studied our legs and and determined their growth rates. One year my brother went in for surgery and they took out a portion of his femur (near the knee) and reversed it when putting it back. This was to stop the leg from growing so his other leg would catch up. Except for stitch marks on his leg it may have worked. He is an academic and does not do sports however. When they wanted to do surgery on me in high school they said I would not grow taller than 5'8" tall. I was a tiny high schooler. See here I am (the short guy out front) in tenth grade.

However I was away at a prep school and when I came home that year I was already 5'10" so my parents decided not to follow up on that. I would not have allowed the surgery anyhow I was running cross-country and felt no pain so what was the point? By the way I grew to 6'0". If I had that surgery I would have a leg maybe 4 inches shorter now!

I have played around with lifts in my right foot before. The last time when I got a pair of orthotics about 10 years ago. I was told the leg was a little short. When I wore the orthotics the imbalance "seemed" greater (could that be because the left leg was straighter?) . So I added a lift, then more lift. It felt real good when I got up to about 1/2 of lift in the right foot. Strangely enough a chiropractor x-rayed my hips. As I put lifts under the right foot the right leg appeared to get shorter and shorter. Maybe the hip was moving up. He puzzled over that and then dropped any discussion because he could not figure it out! I thought things were going OK. The hips and legs felt more balanced but my back was taking a beating. I was running the Cape Cod Marathon that Fall and just holding my right back stiff for mile after mile because I could feel something was wrong. I hit a water stop at 16 miles and leg go of using my muscles to hold my back in place and it went into an impossible spasm. It took about 10 minutes to grab a tree and ease down to the ground. I had to wait for the bus to pick up the stragglers and then they drove all the way back to the last runners on the course to pick up any other stragglers before getting me to a medical tent for ice and treatment. That spasm was no fun and I think that is when I put an end to orthotics and ditched the heel lifts forever (I promised!).

So now I am wondering if the ceaseless nature of fixing my biomechanics may really be do to that leg length difference. The Children's Hospital was saying it was close to a 1/2 inch difference back when I was growing up. Or I think it may possibly be a functional difference, possibly due to the way my left leg works. Because that knee knocks in and the foot everts out, that leg does not bend as much as my right leg. What if it "acts taller" because it bends at a smaller angular degree pushing that hip higher into the pelvis and throwing everything off?

Well that is what I thought about as I ran today and things got stiffer as I lumbered rather than run. Could improved leg strength and mechanics of the left leg be causing more pelvic imbalances and the pains in my hip? Does a lack of compensation in its movement patterns mean it is harder to run? I really don't know but massages, chiropractic visits, ART visits, stretching, strength work, mobility work, and everything else I am documenting here are not working to make it easier to run. In fact it is getting worse and if I had a normal mind I feel like I should just quit, but I don't want to give up on figuring this out.

As I was finishing up the run today. I had pains in my hip. It rotates all wrong and doesn't even feel like the leg is in the hip socket correctly. I guess that leaves me to wonder about leg lengths. It felt good to wear a lift last week for a couple of days. Maybe I will order these lifts and slowly see if adding a little bit of height in my right leg can balance things out. I really don't know what else to try and this is starting to make sense. I will certainly give it a try at this point because nothing else is working and it may be time to revisit this and see if this is the root of my problems.

Here is a wall hip mobility drill I saw posted on Youtube. It sort of reminds me of riding a kickbike. Anyhow I like the range of motion by kicking the leg out to the side and then across the back of the other leg.

The same person has a hip circle drill that is another way to mobilize the hip, but a bit different than the Z-Health version.

Also I noticed and ankle mobility drill that is also somthing like a Z-Health drill. These may be good ways to introduce yourself to mobility work.

There are some other drill and exercises posted by the same person. Or you can go to the listed website There you can find more warmup and mobility drills in the exercise library.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

5 Minutes of ART

Well I went all the way down to Boston for an ART (Active Release Technique) Treatment. Getting to Boston and back took a little over 3 1/2 hours. The treatment took 5 minutes! I had been to this doctor before, but the last time was 4 years ago. I think he is good at what he does, but now I remember that he isn't that communicative and seems a bit disinterested in explaining the treatment process. Of course, he can be real good at what he does, but I would like to know more of his thoughts about what is going on.

He wanted to quickly know what was going on with me. How can I explain my funky mechanics? So I told him about what was going on now, and pointed out how the back of the left hip was stuck or weak. He had me bend over and touch my toes and wanted to know if it hurt. Then he had me do a squat and asked the same question. Nothing hurt. I tried to explain that when I run it is all out of balance.

He had me lie on my right side and then move my top (left) leg straight out (like a field goal kicker) and also move it down in a straight line to cross over the other leg and below the height of the bench. While I did that he applied pressure to points around the back of the pelvis so that my movement moved my muscles under his fingers. I did that and he then had me do it with lifting my left arm straight up and behind my body to create a rotation. The Art treatment doesn't hurt me. I don't feel a thing. I guess some people feel a lot of pain with ART but maybe they have different muscles that are being worked on. I did each movement about 5 times. I think I did another movement moving my straightened left leg forward and I think another where he was holding a bit behind the upper hamstring. That was, "enough for now" he said and that he'd like me to return and maybe work on my hip flexor. Well it was dissapointing for all the traveling but my insurance does cover the treatment. I will return Monday for the next appointment.

I was hoping for good things at tonight's track workout. I had to kickbike there as our cars wore both in use. When I started running my hip felt "stuck" in the same place and so my stride was still not good. We did 3 times a set of a 400, a 400, and then an 800. I kept them all at just under 90 second pace but it is still dissapointing to be running with the "B" group: not that they are bad runners (as it is our top women and the good 50+ men), but I still like running with my buddies in the "A" group better (particularly because it means I am running faster!).

Well my hip still felt stuck and I am feeling a twinge in the 3rd metatarsel of my right foot after runs and during the day as I walk. I had a stress fracture there back in high school and every once in a while I feel the twinge coming back. I think I will lay off runnning in the orthaheels for now. They feel stable as I run but maybe they are hurting that right foot and possibliy contributing to the stiffness in my left hip. I was limping a bit from the hip and foot after the last interval. At first kickbiking home on the tender right foot hurt a bit. After a half mile (I had taken the insoles out) it started feeling OK. Tomorrow may be a good day to take off.

Here are a couple of videos I have watched about running form. I can't get the cues to work right for me because each hip feels like it is working differently but someday when I get things sorted out they may be helpful. The first features Ironman legend Dave Scott. He has some biomechanical drills to help your form and push your hips forward as you run. I had a chance to briefly run with Dave Scott once. He came to run the Bay State Triathlon in Massachusetts one year in the mid 1980's (when he was at the top of his game). I was in the race and as I came out of the bike transition and onto the run course I found myself running directly behind Dave. I kept within 5-10 yards for a few minutes watching his stride (and hoping someone would take a picture!). Of course I was just starting the first lap and he had already finished that lap and was on his second lap. It was fun while it lasted but then he sped away.

The second clip is a Chi Running clip and explains some of their running cues for Chi Running posture.

Here is a link to lower some lower back stretches I had bookmarked and found again. I like the last one, which is pictured at the top of this page. I think this stretches the hip in a similar way to some of the ART Treatment I recieved. I also think that I will do the cross body hip circles from Z-Health a bit more and use some tubing to stretch that left leg across the body in a similar way to some of the stretching I did with the ART Treatment today.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Winning when the Running is not going well!

I wouldn't really call it hitting rock bottom, but last week I ran my first 5k of the year and it went awful. I think it was my slowest 5k or 3 miler since I was in 9th grade. I just couldn't run smoothly at all. The last 5k I ran back on Thanksgiving was 18:09. Last Monday I ran 21:20. I knew after the race that I needed professional help (no- not that kind!. My hips were just so tight and nothing I could do would relax them. My right leg felt an inch shorter than my left and so after the race I put a heel lift in it to balance things off. I felt more balanced walking around with the lift but I know this is probably more a functional leg length difference than structural and I have the feeling that in the long run the lift makes things worse. So it was time to take care of things.

Wednesday I went to the chiropractor and had an adjustment. The last time I had gone was last September. The good news was that my back was in better shape than usual due to all the work I have been doing. Only a minor adjustment to the upper back and to a hip was needed. Friday I had my first massage since August. I also signed up to go back in 2 weeks and to continue to be consistent with this care if it works and keeps me loose and running.

I also ordered the Spynamics Sacro Aligner. It is a self-help tool based on the Dorn Method. Paul, who has been giving me a lot of good advice, thinks it works well for him and I like the simplicity of the Dorn Method so maybe this will help me keep things in alignment.

Tonight I went back to the 5k race series and ran a bit better than the previous week 20:00 but I still felt imbalanced at the hips. The massage has loosened up the muscles or ligaments around my hip joint but since the massage I feel tight (or a lack of movement)at certain points on the pelvis. It is an old familiar tightness that I have had off and on for years. The main thing I feel is that the left back side of the top of my pelvis (about three finger widths from the back bone is "stuck" or tight. It is the same point I used to lie down on the floor and push on to "crack" or release the tension back in the 1980's when my back first went bad while I was doing triathlons. I have the feeling that this tightness may have something to do with the psoas or hip flexor muscle. I am going to try to go down to Boston to see an A.R.T (Active Release Technique) specialist that I went to a few years ago. He got rid of the scar tissue in my psoas and other tight areas in that hip and I remember how things worked well again for awhile after that. Maybe he can clear up some of the issues with that hip again so that I can continue running properly.

I got new shoes in the mail: Nike Zoom Haywards and Nike Free v.5. I had a pair of the original Nike Free and I liked them for walking around in and I did some running in them too. They just plain wore out. I replaced them last year with the version 3 (lower heel) pair but I got them a bit too small and my feet felt cramped so I don't use them. I wore the Haywards for my last three runs. They are more cushiony than I like but they feel OK so far.

I also ordered two types of orthotic type devices from Orthaheel. One is full length for running shoes and one is 3/4 length for regular shoes. I have been wearing them for walking around in as they take some getting used to. The arch pushes up on my flattened arch and they do compensate for 4 degrees of pronation. Yesterday I put them in the Haywards for an 8 mile run. I felt more stable in them and had no problems. Tonight I fit them in my H-Streets to run on the trails for the 5k. They feel like they weigh as much as the lightweight H-Streets but again I felt more stability with my feet and I am hoping that they may help balance out my feet and hips. I am giving them a shot. At least as a temporary move they seem to help stretch out the bottom of my feet. I do know that using Nike Frees to strengthen you feet and wearing an orthotic type device because your feet are not strong are two different directions to pursue. We'll see which one wins out.

The running is going slowly compared to what I like, but am I getting hints that I should get back into triathlons? Saturday I got a letter that I had won a contest and my prize was a Specialized Hard Rock Pro Disc mountain bike. I have wanted a mountain bike for years, but could never see affording one. This looks like a bike that would be perfect for the trails around here. Today I got a phone call that I won a trip to the Olympic Trials. I thought at first it was the Track Trials, but it is a trip to the swimming trials next week which should be very interesting and loads of fun. I get to take my 8 year old daughter who has never been on an airplane. When I have nothing to do or am watching TV I do enter contests and so far it works out real well for me as I have won stuff I could never afford and vacations I could never go on. I won that trip to Hawaii in April and among other things in the past couple of years I have won a kayak, a trip to Florida with my other daughter so she could play soccer with Mia Hamm, and a visit to a Red Sox game and everything NESN last Spring with my son. I like winning these sports related contests!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Things to Try, Think About, or Save for Later

Here are some things I have been just starting to experiment with or they are ideas I am looking into but I don't have the time to pursue fully at this point. Others are things I have bookmarked in the past but forgot about and they seem worthy to try at some time. I will save them here for future reference.

The first thing is something I have tried on my last two runs. The idea comes from author Matt Fitzgerald's blog article More Stretch, Less Strain. He writes about pressing his hips forward while he runs to help deal with tight hip flexors. I have heard about doing this before, but I find it hard to visualize what to do. I was having a sloppy run on Friday, so I tried to "press forward". I am sure I got it wrong at first and felt like my belly was leading things. Eventually it shifted down to pressing forward from the lower hip area near where the fibula inserts. It seemed to need it more on the right side. I started feeling better and less restricted (although I could be doing something very different than Matt). The right side of my body (hip and shoulder) always seem to be slightly behind the left side (hence the balance problems). Anyhow the run started going better and at times things moved into a smooth and wuick running alignment. I ended up running about a minute faster than I have on my 8 miler thanI have in months. I tried it again on Saturday and again it was hard to keep pushing forward all the time but it felt a bit easier and I took another minute off my time. I will keep playing around with this proprioceptive cue. Matt says it is simply "running tall".

The next thing I need to try is called a Foot Pad Release. This comes from an out of print book I have called "The Athletic Ritual" by Kate Montgomery. I have been wondering about the balance of my left foot on the ground. These release moves are supposed balance the three pads on the bottom of the feet (ball, side, and heel). With foot stability you can run and exercise more easily and avoid knee, hip, and back problems. According to the author you can restore stability and balance throughout the body by releasing these pads. The book has pictures and directions but I found this: Oh My Aching Feet by Kate Montgomery which explains the directions just as well.

This book has some other interesting and unorthodox approaches that I have tried in the past of have been looking at recently. There are breathing exercises, energy balancing exercises, acupressure points for increased energy and performance, stretching, visualization, and releases for the diaphragm and sacrum. I have explored some of these a few years ago. Sometimes they seemed like they worked a bit, but I can't vouch for anything long term for these ideas or I would be still doing them. I also see that she has a section on different cross-crawl patterns that include work with eye movements as you do the patterns. One component of Z-Health drills is the use of eye exercises, also!

Last week I took out some books on running posture to see what I had on my library. I have read through most of these books through the years and thought it might be good to check them out again. I started rereading one that I enjoyed a few years ago called "The Art of Running". It is peculiar because it is really based on a postural program called The Alexander Technique that is vaguely alluded to (you need to go to an Alexander teacher to learn it) but as far as I can tell it involves something to do with how the head balances on the neck. I like the pictures of great runners, the writing, and some of the visualizations so I decided to plow through this one first.
Here are the books I have that deal with running posture.

Next is a Yoga For Runners routine posted by Sadie Nardini on the Runner's World Forums. I only tried it a few times but it seems like a good routine for runners if you want to put some time into a Yoga routine.

Finally here is some exercises for the Tibialis Posterior muscle or tendon. It says that these exercises can help with ankle and leg alignment. I bookmarked this a few years ago and some day I will put some time into finding out more and trying these exercises.

There is always something new to think about or implement if one wants to keep running fluidly. I wish running was as easy as it was when I was younger when you could just run out the door and not worry about anything except the act of running!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Learning to Eat Healthier

Here is some good Kickbiking inspiration. Look at how smooth the strides are of these kickbikers. By the way these are not ordinary kickbikers, included in in the video are Hannu Vierikko, who developed the Kickbike in Finland, Alpo Kuusisto who among other feats completed the 1200km Paris-Brest-Paris tour in 2003 on a Kickbike, and Andres Koers who looks like another fast kickbiker! Kickbiking is as fun as it looks. Check it out.

I haven't been on my Kickbike much this year, yet! However I have had four 90 plus degree 8 mile runs in a row. I like running in the heat and humidity! The cutouts on my insoles seem to be affecting my stride for the better. It is far from perfect, but my hips are rolling through a stride much easier. The experiment is still on!

I recieved my Precision Nutrition kit last week and have been slowly reading some of the material. It is sensible. I am not looking to "diet" but to eat better. That is what this program seems to stress. Sarah cooked a few of the recipes and they were very good. I noticed the diffence in taste from eating more quality foods with spices, fruits, and veggies that I have been ignoring. Two thumbs up so far!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

If the Foundation is Off?

The Leaning Tower of Pisa is unstable and tilted. Why? It's foundation wasn't solid. Engineers have put in all sorts of support so it won't tip over and can remain standing for many more years. What happens to a runner when his foundation is unstable? I am looking again at my feet. My left foot does not function correctly, so as I run, walk, and even stand it pronates and seems to push my foot over on the arch side, then the ankle rolls in as the foot twists out, then knee goes knock-kneed, and so the leg is unstable causing the hip to not support and drive the leg correctly. I get hip and back problems and things have been this way for years!

I can't tell if it is a hip problem forcing the chain of events down the leg, or a foot problem forcing the imbalances up the leg. No doctor or specialist has ever given me a solution or even addressed my questions.

Last year I attempted to do something about it and today I decided to go back and try it again. I started playing around with old insoles from all the retired running shoes I had lying around. I cut sections off under the left foot's little toe's metatarsal bone. There is a point there that stays grounded on the ground and doesn't flex or roll the foot like the bone on my right foot. In fact as I walk or run and start rolling forward on the foot it pushes my foot over to the arch and does not allow a proper foot function. I am unstable even as I stand and walk. My wife tells me often to stop bumping into her as we walk as I tend to walk over to my right side or self correct and bump over to the other side.

I cut the insole under that bone last year so that it did not come into contact with the shoe. I then had one of my best track workouts of the year. It was a very hot humid night and I did 3 X 2 miles all at 12:00 flat. My teammate Jerry and I just ran shoulder to shoulder for each of them. Battling the heat, the elevated heart rate and pure "give it your all" on each interval made for a very satisfying workout. The best part was the "cut out" insoles let me feet roll so much better than normal. My hips and stride felt great and I remember feeling that I had solved the "problem". I was seeing a physical therapist for my hip problems and I showed her what I did and how I felt good for a few days (my hips no longer were hurting like they had) that she marveled a bit and sent me on my way canceling the rest of my appointments.

I remember training runs feeling better and having a better stride, but I could never get the cutout just right. I went through all my old insoles. Some the cutout was too big, some too small. The right foot didn't feel correct so I cut out a small piece on those insoles too. Somewhere down the line, I can't remember when and why, I stopped using them. Did I run out of insoles? Was my foot working a little better without them? Was a knee or something starting to hurt? I can't remember exactly why but I went back to running without them and forgot about the experiment.

Today I went back to a box of old insoles and found one pair. It must have been my best cut outs because they were the only ones left and so I wore them on my run. I felt the return of a more stable run and stide. The left leg and hip seemed to be working better. My left hip wasn't jamming up and instead I could feel the muscle under the sit-bone working. It was a good (and hot humid run). I also felt, like I remembered last fall how the bottom of the left foot was rolling forward. Without that bone, sticking and pushing my foot off to the side, I could feel the foot land properly but then it rolled forward to the big toe side and I could push off at the toe (instead of from the side of my foot). I think I will keep up with the experiment and with all the flexibility and mobility work I am doing maybe the transition will be smoother.

Here are some really unglamorous photos of my feet to try to explain their function. The first photo shows me trying to hold my knee and leg straight. All my weight is on the outside of my left foot and the inside of that foot is rotated up and off the ground.

The next photo tries to show how that looks closer up. Not a comfortable way to stand and I definitely can't run on the foot like that!

The next photo shows what happens when I put the left foot flat down on the ground. The left knee then rotates in (creating instability throughout that leg, hip, and back). This is how my knee tends to turn as I run, but the foot does not stay straight like this!

The last photo (haven't you seen enough!) shows what the leg and foot tends to do as I run. The knee goes in a bit but I try to keep it straight so the foot rolls in on the arch and everts out to the side, putting my foot, leg, knee, hip, and back through all sorts of rotations and compensations so that I get into the mess that I am always in as a runner but also in my daily life.

I will say that with all the work I have been trying that I am doing so much better in my daily life then I was 20 years ago or even five years ago. I was so tight and twisted that I found it hard to sit and move throughout the day. I have learned to strengthen and relax the right muscles so that I can sit and move more freely. However the running part continues to fall apart (aging, habits, or years of misalignments?).

Maybe someone reading this has more experience and can comment on this. I have yet to find a doctor or therapist who can give me the information to figure out the root cause of my alignment issues, but I am sure there is someone out there who can. Are there chiropractors for the feet?

You can go to these entries to see how my leg looks as I run:
runner-heel-thyself-can-it-be-done and

Anyhow talking about the feet here are some drills I am going to try now that barefoot weather is here. They are explained a little more here. Finally, this one is called, Yoga for the Feet.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

On the SIde of the Road

During yesterday's run I saw a turtle that some car has run over while it was trying to cross a road. Sadly slow turtles don't have a chance when drivers aren't attentive. This turtle was about 50 yards from where my daughter and I watched a mother turtle lay some eggs in the dirt a few years back. I wonder if they were related? A couple of years ago on another run I came upon a stopped car. The driver was a running friend who saw a turtle crossing the road and so had stopped to make sure the turtle was safely across. Aren't runner great?

A few miles later during yesterday's run I came across a baby fawn (well parts of it) that had been hit by a car or killed by a predator. I didn't really want to look that close. It was much tinier that I thought a fawn could be. It must have been recently born. Last year I saw two fawns in a little marshy area off the side of route 111A getting drinks of water. That was worth stopping my run and watching until they left.

At a preseason college cross-country camp in Wisconsin many years ago I was off running through some paths deep in the woods. I heard a crashing and all of a sudden a deer ran towards me, then he ran alongside me for about 25 yards before running back into the woods. I do not know who was more shocked the deer or I. Another year at the same camp with my teammates, we went out for an evening shakedown run. One coach had his dog with him. Running ahead of us the dog yelped and then we felt a light mist. Then there was a horrible smell. The dog had been sprayed. He was nicknamed "Skunkface" after that. Since he saved all of us from a possible spraying he was allowed to continue sleeping in the cabin with us!

This message is brought to you with the advice to be careful as you run the roads. The high schoolers are out there in their cars. They have started yelling stupid things out of their rolled down windows. I can never hear what they are yelling but they must think it is funny. Nothing has been thrown at me yet this year, but that has happened in the past. One year I was riding my bike up a hill in Hollis and a car was getting closer and closer so that is was almost pushing me off the road. Then all of a sudden a girl in the car reached out and pinched my butt. OK that was the strangest thing that happened to me on the roads!

The best thing that ever happened was at the Lake Winnipesaukee Relay a few years back. I was on a team of Gate City Striders that was in third place overall when I was handed the baton. Less than a mile into my 11 mile leg I thought I saw something green on the side of the road. I ran past, did a double take, and reversed direction. It is not that often that you find $20 on the side of the road. I went back and picked it up. Fortunately whatever time I lost making some cash did not result in any lost places in the race!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Trying to Move Forward rather than Chasing my Tail

There are a few new things I have discovered or am trying this weekend which is really good after the frustration of my last post. I am thankful for the great comments from Paul that you can find under the post. He has a lot of great advice and new things to consider. They are well worth reading through.

I tried a new DVD related to Joint Mobility. It is called Magnificent Mobility. I liked the instruction and the movement related exercises. I felt real good after doing some of them before yesterday's run. The teaching and demonstrations were clear and I learned how to better do some moves like the "hip hiker" which I now get how to do by isolating the gluteus medius rather then the quadratus lumboron or other hip-back muscles. I will report more on this when I have more experience with it.

I saw a Running Cd-Rom on the internet a week ago. It is from HumanLab Sports in England. It promised a lot but I couldn't find many reviews from people who used it. I splurged and it came quickly (a week) from England. You plop it in a computer and it has you do some tests to discover biomechanical weaknesses (what I was really interested in). I did them but wasn't sure on some questions if I answered them correctly. It then provided me with only 3 exercises to do to help get me back in balance. (I may try the tests again with different answers to see if other options are given). Anyhow the exercises seem solid.

The first is similar to a joint mobility exercise I can never get right. It is where you hold your arms straight out to your side and move laterally back and forth. It is a Z-health and a Scott Sonnen drill. However in this case you are told to be seated rather than standing. The next exercise had me sit down and raise one leg 60 degrees and then hold the leg behind the knee and press down for 20 seconds. The third exercise I really like as I feel a lot of tightness when I try it. I was told to sit down and hold my arms out to the side. Then flex the elbows and touch my hands to the shoulders. I was then to rotate back and forth keeping my hips still. You can see a picture from the Cd-Rom above of how to hold your arms-unlike the CD-Rom you can wear clothes while doing the exercise! It tells you to do these for a certain mumber of repetitions three times a day. They are simple and maybe that is good. I guess some ab exercises are added at another point in time on the CD-Rom. We'll see how well these work.

Paul mentioned doing some "cross-crawl" motions to help the nervous system which may even be confused from other activities I have done. I looked it up and saw the simple movements that I saw where very sensible. The video above shows a cross crawl with the hands extended above the head. Most versions do not have your hands so high. I did them before my run today. I did the "Run" Cd and the Magnificent Mobility DVD before my run yesterday and felt a lot more balanced and enjoyed the run. The hips where I little more solid then they have been lately. Today I had another decent run. I did the "Run" Cd Rom and some cross-crawl routines before the run. The hips where trying to be a bit more stable and another nice run. I was able to push the last three miles a bit more and get the breathing rate up a few notches.