Friday, September 26, 2008

Running is for the Birds

I was leaving the track workout Wednesday night, riding my mountain bike through Mine Falls as it was getting dark and crossing over one of the small walking bridges, when I suddenly saw one of these blue herons perched on the side of the bridge at my eye level and just a couple of feet from my face. I was as startled as it and when it started to lift its big wings to fly I wondered if it would crash right into my head. He veered to the left however and back out of sight behind me.

I continue to do the resistance stretching before each run. I usually just use the Dara Torres 20 minute workout from the DVD and add a few other stretches. Tuesday I had too much energy to burn and then just a couple of minutes into my run I saw a guy on a mountain bike with a car riding the same speed behind him up ahead going up a small 200 yard incline. I decided to chase and see if I could catch the bike and car. Just at the crest of the hill I did and then they pulled away on the descent. I don't think they noticed me, but it has been awhile since I tried to race after a bike, so that was an interesting feeling. That set the tone for the workout and I kept trying to force myself to slow down (when was the last time I had to worry about that?) but still ran a fast workout. I was about 30 seconds off my best time on that route this year. Wednesday night my legs were not as fresh, but still OK. I ran 5 miles on the track in 31:45 which is 1:15 faster than the same workout just a month ago. Running that distance on the track is mind numbing, but afterwards it feels good to have done the workout. Our workouts come from the mind of coach Dave Dunham. I have never had a coach ask us to do that much distance for a track workout, but Dunham knows his stuff so if he is bold enough to have us try it, we can be bold enough to do it. Even though it was not a race it probably was a better run and time than any race I have done this year, but it has been a pretty bad racing year!

Yesterday I did my 8 miler again, but I needed more loosening up before the run. My left quad was really tight and it was jamming up my hip. I stumbled a few times when it caused my hip to give way. I kept it at a light pace but ran 13 minutes slower than Tuesday for one of my slowest times of the year! I expected to see some of these Turkey Buzzards that have been out and around recently taking an interest in my slow pace.

Next Saturday, I have the Applefest Half-Marathon in neighboring Hollis. The Applefest and the Falmouth Road Race are the two races I enjoy doing the most. Because I am not it the shape I expected to be in this year I am trying to tell myself not to start the race like I usually do. I like to start the race fast and go hard for the first half where it is mostly downhill and then try to hang on to my position once the race hits the hills. I have had some great races at Applefest with this strategy in the past, even though some teammates get on my case about it! Here is a picture of the start in 1999 (see I think I am running a 5k!). I am #519 next to eventual race winner Dave Parsel(in black). He runs the race every year and next year I am back in his age group which is not a good thing if you want to win the age group and get a big basket of fruit. If you don't mind finishing 2nd or 3rd in your age group you get a Mile High Apple Pie. I like the pies!

I basically treat the race as a 3 miler, then a 5 miler, then a 7 miler, then just try to hang on as best as I can. I don't think I am even in shape enough to try that tactic this year and may try an even paced race. But which pace to try? Up until recently I would have been happy to just break 1:30 for the race. Now, if I continue to feel good, I may be able to go faster than that. I wish I had a few more weeks to prepare, but at least I am more optimistic about the race than when I was completely dreading running it just a few weeks ago!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Partner Resistance Stretching

I found a series of 15 resistance stretches that Carole Childers has put online. As presented they can be used as both a strength exercise and a resistance stretch as you resist against your partner moving your muscle. These are not the stretches that Janet, the resistance trainer, used with me. Her stretches were more complicated and she had a good sense of what my muscles needed to do. These look pretty basic but they may make doing a resistance stretch easier if you have a partner to try them with. Here is the stretch for the hamstring:

Partner Resistance Exercises: Hamstring Stretch -- powered by

Here are some quadriceps resistance stretches:

Partner Resistance Exercises: Quadriceps Stretch -- powered by

Partner Resistance Exercises: Quadriceps Supine -- powered by

Here is the abductor stretch (the stretch is when your partner presses your leg down and you resist the stretch. You are strengthening when you press up as your partner provides resistance!)

Partner Resistance Exercises: Abductors -- powered by

Here is an adductor stretch:

Partner Resistance Exercises: Adductors -- powered by

You can see all 15 videos including the upper body videos on the expert village website.

If you like the idea of resistance stretching (and it is working wonderfully for me) you should visit Innovative Body Solutions to learn more and order the DVD with Dara Torres. It is a bargain at the price they sell it for. You will easily learn how to do resistance self-stretching and strengthen. You can also go to Meridian Stretching and order Bob Cooley's DVD. The DVD is the same price and it has some similar self-stretches, but some that are different from the other DVD. Both will teach you how to self-stretch with resistance stretching.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Maybe a Marathon?

Today I went out for a longer run, just to see how things were and because it was a lovely day. I had no real goal of distance in mind but figured I would go at least 11 miles and if I felt good I would go more. I Saran Wrapped a $5 bill and stuck it in my shorts pocket and headed out the door. My leg muscles continue to feel looser every day with the resistance stretching and I keep waiting for them to fall apart. I ran pretty much effortlessly. My hips and glutes still are not perfect and so as I run they shift in how they work, but they are not as stiff and tight like before. I kept running and stopped after an hour and 1/2 to buy a bottle of Gatorade even though I wasn't thirsty. I wasn't tiring or slowing so I kept adding mileage. I was ready to go more but it quickly got dark so I stopped at 18 miles pretty much still feeling fresh. I could easily have gone another 8 miles at the pace I was going and would have had a time under a Boston qualifying time. I think that was my longest training run in a few years. Usually my hips hurt and I don't feel like going further

Two years ago I ran a 3:09 marathon with the longest run only a 16 miler and that was run the week before (although my racing times and weekly mileage- many 70 mile weeks- were much better than this years). That race did not even leave me tired and I was back to regular training the next day with an 8 miler and another 3:09 marathon 2 weeks later. I figure if I keep feeling this good I can throw in some more longer runs and get my fitness level increased and run a Boston qualifier. The way the year has been going I didn't think I would want to do one, but things are on the upturn. If I do run one it could be the Cape Cod Marathon in Falmouth. I have done this race numerous times starting in 1979 when it was held at Otis Air Force Base. My parents, who live near the 16 mile mark may move from Falmouth soon and so it would not be as easy to do the race in the future. I could also try the Manchester Marathon. It is a short distance away and I have never done the race. My street could have a formidable team as I believe Shane who lives across the street and one house down and Karen who is also across the street and two houses down in the other direction are both still planning to run the race.

After almost giving up on my running this year about a month ago it is good to be building up and feeling good enough with the running to start thinking about running a marathon again. Today was just a beautiful day for running and I am glad I was able to take advantage of it!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Getting Back in the Saddle Again with Something New to Read

Matt Metzgar has a blog called "Musings on Big Ideas, Health, and Other Topics." He has visited this blog before and sent me an e-mail of a book that he has been reading and blogging about. The book is called "8 Steps to a Pain Free Back" and was written by Esther Gokhale. I looked at what Matt wrote on his blog and checked out the official site for the book and also the reviews on . I also watched a video that Matt had on his site. The video is long so I didn't know if I would watch it all but I sat through the whole thing and tried some of her exercises. It was definitely worth my time to view this video and learn where her ideas come from and how people can simply implement them. Here is the video:

The book has wonderful reviews and seems to be not just a book about back problems and posture, but a book that looks at the way that Americans have changed the ideal posture to something that is less than ideal. The posture that is emphasized today is not correct according to this book. Esther has studied other countries, cultures, and civilizations from the past to the present and noticed that many Americans no longer how to stand, sit, and move correctly. Young children, some people in other cultures, and our own ancestors move or moved in a different way than most of us do today. She reteaches us how to stand, move, and to achieve a pain-free posture. Since her methods apply to movements like running, I think this book will be interesting to read.

I like when someone goes against the grain of popular wisdom to figure out how to solve a problem and then teach a new approach in a completely different way then all the "experts" offer. Bob Cooley did this with resistance stretching and this author seems to have her own method to teach us how to be pain free. I ordered a copy of the book and look forward to reading it. You can download a chapter of the book at her site too.

So thanks for the tip, Matt! I am always open to suggestions about what might work for me and what others find works for them.

After getting stretched by a resistance trainer on Saturday my running has felt really good. I was feeling light and free as I ran (not perfect) but a lot better than I have been all year. I ran 10 miles on Saturday, 10 more on Sunday and was feeling very good at the end of both runs, Monday I had limited time and managed to speed through an 8 miler, but Tuesday I had appointments all day and did not run. That night I had a little tightness in my hip and because I couldn't sleep I kept getting up to stretch. I think I pulled too hard or did too much but I had a lousy sleep and woke up in the morning with a tightness in my left sacrum or sacroilliac joint. Anyhow it is the same spot that often gets "stuck" and it has been doing this for years. It is the same spot where I kept pressing on my back to get a "crack" back in the 1980's when I was doing triathlons. It got me to the point where I had to do this every 15-20 minutes to feel good and of course messed things up for years! Anyhow it was stuck again all day Wednesday and I wondered if this is where the resistance stretching work would start falling apart.

I had a track workout at night so I did both resistance stretching DVDs before riding my bike to the track. The hip was still sore and tight but the workout went fine and was one of my best of the year. The workout was 8 X 800 meters at 5k pace. I did them all between 2:51 and 2:56 except for the first one in 3:01 and the 7th in 3:04. We had a good group and I hope my teammates don't mind but I like leading the pace in workouts at least until some of the guys would go by me on the 2nd laps and then I would have to work hard to hang on. I feel better and more determined in the front. The 7th one was started haphazardly so I decided not to lead to see if I would do better. Of course I drifted off the back and never caught up so I returned to my front running ways on the last one. I have to go with what works!

Even though my hip was off a bit my muscles were much looser and I was told my stride looked better than it had previously. After that hard track workout I didn't know what would happen today. I did the back exercises last night on the video above and by the end of the video the hip and back tightness was leaving my body. Today it is about 90% better as there is just a little niggle in the hip. I ran 8 miles today with no muscle soreness from the track workout at all. My legs were again loose and free. The hamstrings are really feeling much smoother and my legs seem to extend more as I run. The quads still have tightnesses, but I don't stretch them enough yet. The left one is still tight from where I had that "snap" last week. I still don't know exactly what happened except I really pushed the stretch to an extreme and I think some nerves must have rioted against the stretch. I am being gentle with the stretches to that area.

I am really pleased with how the resistance stretching is turning things around for me and giving me back control over my body. I notice that my legs are straightening out and rotating around the joints in ways that they were too tight to do before. My left femur does not feel jammed into my pelvis and so my hip rotates and works so much more easily. Sometimes I feel like a normal runner and not someone lumbering around trying to push my body in any way in can in order to move through a workout. My hips seem more even now and and although my right and left side do not yet work in symmetry they are a whole lot closer to that ideal than they have been.

Remarkably I also noticed something when I rode my bike yesterday and today. I have never been able to be comfortable sitting on a bike saddle. It has seemed for years that my left hip is pulled in tighter to the saddle than the right one and so I am aways shifting trying to get comfortable on a saddle because of the tighness and the fact that that hip doesn't drop down through the pedal stroke. I was sitting in the saddle so much better on these two rides. The only other time I have felt like that was when I rode my bike a few times in the midst of going through rolfing a couple of years ago. When I sit like this without the tight hip, my left leg is able to press down on the peddle with strong force. When I usually ride a bike (and this goes back to my triathlon days- I would angle my left foot out and leave that peddle loose to try to feel comfortable. I would also keep changing the nose position of the saddle right and left an awful lot-often a couple times a ride trying to get positioned correctly). So maybe these stretches are starting to change the tightnesses and imbalances that have bothered me for years. I hope this positive progression keeps up because I am thrilled to be able to move and run much more easily than I have in a long time.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Hold Steady and Stay Positive

I have lots of cool things happening and a lot to digest and put together. The last two days have been very busy. Today I had my first resistance stretching session with a trainer. Yesterday the new DVD on resistance stretching arrived in my mailbox as well as another running DVD, so there is a lot to be excited about and loads of new information.

I received the DVD from Innovative Body Solutions. I haven't watched the whole thing yet but I started watching it yesterday and got through the first bit and I am very impressed. The founders of Innovative Body Solutions, Steven Sierra and Anne Tierney (who visited this blog and offered some good advice), are very good teachers and I was learning a lot more than the little I had already found on resistance stretching. I will fully review the DVD later when I have viewed and watched it a bit, but the biggest thing I learned was how to not only stretch but to strengthen the muscles using resistance stretching. I know this was in Bob Cooley's Book, but seeing and being shown how this works made it very easy to understand and implement. I also liked how the training taught first how to strengthen a muscle, then to stretch it, and finally to put the two together and do both stretches continuously. I only got up the the calf stretch on the DVD. I mentioned before that I hadn't found a resistance stretch for the calf and here was one right on the DVD. I also liked how they reference the names of the muscles being stretched. As an athlete I like to know the names of the muscles (my wife says I just like to say the big fancy names) but I know runners talk about certain muscles and we expect a stretching program to talk our language. I look forward to viewing and using the rest of the DVD. I enjoyed the Bob Cooley "Genius of Flexibility" DVD and found it well worth the price paid. This is the same price and already it is quite the bargain. I know how much other DVDs are sold for from other programs I have tried and this is well worth the cost.

Having seen a bit of this DVD yesterday, today I went down to Massachusetts to meet a stretcher named Janet and to be stretched out and learn more about how this all works. Janet did a lot of stretches with me and just like on the DVD there were both the strength and stretch portions. I learned I was doing it too hard on my own. She evaluated and worked on different meridian groups (I have got a lot of work to do to figure this out!) to find out which needed the most work. She was explaining the stretches as she went along, which I really like as I am very curious and want to know what is happening. She pegged the muscles groups that were really tight or weak. She moved my muscles through the stretches as I resisted and they did not hurt or really stress anything, but I could feel the right places stretch that needed to be stretched in some very new and different ways and directions. Things (fascia or scar tissue?) were giving way and making little pops as the stretching continued. I had much more mobility after each leg was stretched. She was packing a lot in, and at the end did some stretches on my lats and shoulders. She really noticed that they needed the stretching. She gave me lots of notes and it was a really positive experience. I do think that that this resistance stretching is on to something. It is very different from tradional static stretching and seems to have an immediate impact. I like it!

Last night I watched an pre-release of an update of the Building a Better Runner: Building from the Ground Up. The first edition and this was put out together by Jay Johnson, who is the middle distance coach at the University of Colorado, and Mike Smith, who is the head cross country coach and middle distance coach at Kansas State University. Jay sent a pre-release copy of the DVD and I thought it was very fascinating. I watched the whole thing last night, taking all sorts of notes. What I found interesting is that most of what is on this DVD is covered in many of the pages on this blog. I have been searching out all kinds of routines and therapies and here they were in a completely different form on one DVD and it is put together for runners. I saw how many of the drills were similar to the joint mobility work I have been playing around with. Some of the sand drills and other drills reminded me of Z-Health. Other information like implementing movement through all 3 different planes of motion reminded me of Scott Sonnon's DVDs like "Ageless Mobility", "Intu-Flow", and "Flow-Fit". A lot of the drills reminded me of Eric Cressey's "Magnificent Mobility" and even the dynamic flexibility drills in Matt Fitzgerald's book "Brain Training for Runners". I even saw some resistance stretching particularly of the lower legs for runners. As Jay and Mike say in the DVD they didn't invent all this stuff but they put things together in a unique way. I am not saying they even got their ideas from the other DVDs and books I mentioned. In fact they do things in very different ways. I just noticed the connection to so many of the things I have been finding and trying and it looks like they are arriving at a similar solution even if they went a different direction to get there. What I like is that these drills are particularly directed at runners. I just wish I had found this DVD earlier as I think their emphasis on preventive work and routines is so important. We didn't do these things when I was running in high school and college. This is a treasure trove of knowledge and exercises that should be a welcome addition to the collection of any serious runner, injured or healthy.

All the drills, however, are not for all runners and this is mentioned. There are over 100 drills and many would not be good for someone starting out or probably with an older body. But there are so many very useful drills and routines that would benefit the smart runner. I can't wait to try some of them. The athletes doing the drills are young, strong, athletic, and elite runners. Yes, that is Christian Smith doing many of the exercises. He finished third in the 800 meters in the 2008 Olympic Trials and earned a trip to Beijing with his last second and truly exciting dive to the finish line. I wonder if he practiced a diving drill. The 800 meters was the most exciting race of the Olympic Trials this summer as the first three finishers raced for Oregon teams and the trials were in Eugene. The stadium was rocking at the dramatic finish!'

Here is a video of the race from a fan inside the stadium. Listen to the noise!

Here is the televised video (very inspiring!):

So there is a lot of exciting things going on. As I was riding to my stretching session today I plopped a new Cd I had heard about into the the Cd player. I enjoyed listening to "The Hold Steacy- Stay Positive" on the trip down and back and now I will equate those songs with resistance stretching. This is not a music blog (maybe I need to start one) but I have to like a group that plays with the sonic blast of Bruce Springsteen and with his storytelling power as well as reminding me of the spirit of Mike Peters and The Alarm as well as the Alarmish "Whoahs" throughout the title song. You have to like lyrics that look into all sorts of dark corners and then hint at some redemption...

..."there's gonna come a time when the true scene leaders
forget where they differ and get the big picture
cause the kids at their shows, they'll have kids of their own
the sing-a-long songs'll be our scriptures,
we gotta stay positive ..."

or in another song,

..."we gonna build something this summer
we're getting back together
raise up a giant ladder
with love & trust and friends that hammer...
...Let this be my annual reminder
That we can all be something bigger""

Anyhow good music from a singer that looks like Elvis Costello. I also listened on my mp3 player as I had a very loose and enjoyable run this afternoon after today's stretching. Things had really loosened up in my hips quite a bit and I had a rare bouncy feeling as I ran. I felt like things were lined up so much better and my run was so fun I extended it a couple of miles to do 10 miles. If resistance stretching can leave me feeling this loose as I run I will be very happy.

One last thing for Chris B. when he reads this- that was a really good track workout on Wednesday. Thanks for pushing me throughout the set of intervals. It was tough and enjoyable Most of the guys were not running due to the Reach the Beach Relay this weekend. The workout was 5 X 1 mile with a lap rest between each. It was supposed to be at 1/2 marathon pace. We decided 6:30 pace would be our goal. I like being a front running "Kenyan" when I run. Some runners like following such as the "Ethiopian" runners and finishing strong at the end. Chris and I worked well together as Kenyan and Ethiopian. He ran off my shoulder and that kept me on an ever increasing pace. We did the first mile in 6:27, then progressed to a 6:21, a 6:17. the 6:11, and finally on the last one the Ethiopian runner took off. I told Chris not to worry about staying with me if he wanted to go faster. Chris broke 6 minutes and I did 6:02. It was a really good workout and with only each other running a similar pace we ran the workout to perfection.

Here you go, "Stay Positive"!

Monday, September 8, 2008

SNAP!!! What in the World was That?

I have been laying low, running as I feel and getting a sense of resistance stretching and trying out different stretches with it. I was feeling good and having some nice runs and felt like the track workout last Wednesday would be great. I felt good and did some stretching before the workout-maybe I stretched too hard. I didn't get into a rhythm while doing 5 X 1000m and didn't keep up with the people I wanted to keep up with. I was a bit disappointed and my hips were a bit off and sore again. I saw a friend the next day and he said my stride has been looking better the past couple of track workouts. That made me feel a bit better.

I biked then ran the next two days but felt out of balance again. I stretched. Was I stretching too much? too little? the wrong muscles? the right muscles? I did my longest run in a few weeks two days ago. I went 11 miles but still was imbalanced. Then yesterday the hips were sore, but I ran anyhow and did my fastest 8 mile loop of the year (in the low 55 minutes range).

Today my hips were still off so I tried to focus stretching on the quads and the psoas muscle. I did the quadriceps resistance stretch where your push your back leg against the wall as you lunge forward on your front leg. Then I moved up a level in the "Genius of Flexibility" book. At this level you hold your back foot in a lunge position. You resist against your hand as you pull the foot towards you and you lunge forward. You also (I think-if I read it right) tighten up the front quad and hip of the backwards leg. I did this and it created a powerful stretch with a LOT of force. Maybe too much force! This is somewhat the way it looks.

As I resisted into the stretch I felt my quadriceps pull and tighten. AND THEN. SNAP! What was that? In what seemed like a thousandth of a second. I had the distinct feeling that something broke in my leg. I even think I heard a snap. My daughter who was in the room later said she heard nothing. Instantaneously I had a picture in my head and the strange and powerful feeling in my back leg's quad. Something quickly moved and shook that muscles in my quadricep from the front of the hip halfway down the quad. An immediate picture formed in my mind as I had this strange jolting feeling. I "saw" the muscle at the top of my quad detatch like it was a thick rubber band that had been stretched too far and broke and then it curled and snapped back and forth inside my leg. My quad seem to shake with that feeling like a slinky had been snapped in there. Now I know this isn't what really happened but I am amazed at how my mind tried to make sense of this sudden snap before I could even look down.

I was shocked and jolted and I think I was off the floor and in midair to a standing pose quicker than I had ever moved before. What was that? I have never felt a muscle inside my body move and jolt me like that in my life. I still was clueless and startled my daughter who was sitting on the couch as I burst up into the air and probably blurted out something in shock. I wasn't even sure what happened. I yelled out to her, questioning, "What was that?" I felt my leg. It was there. I put pressure on it. No problem! I looked around. I saw her field hockey stick on the ground. Had it fallen from somewhere and whacked me? In truth it felt like someone had belted me with the stick. No, the stick had not moved. I walked around, but I was still unnerved by whatever had happened to my leg. I couldn't figure it out. I had a hard time explaining the sudden and large jolt within my leg. My wife said I was disoriented for many minutes after.

Nothing, however, seemed to be wrong in the leg. I decided to go on with my planned run. I didn't know if this was smart, but I took off. The muscles around that hip joint felt looser and not as cramped but they felt a bit warm. That leg even felt better than the right one as I ran. I did my workout still unsure of what had happened. There was no pain and there was no movement that I couldn't do as I ran.

After I was done and I sat done. I felt a light tingling pain in the front quad near the outside insertion point. It got more tender as the evening wore on. Who knows how it might feel tomorrow.

I am still not sure what happened. I have never pulled a muscle like that. Maybe just a few muscle fibers pulled and it just feels huge when that happens? Maye something happened to a nerve? Did some muscles or scar tissue suddenly become unstuck? Did a muscle that was tight or stuck suddenly move position? I have no clue. That was the strangest thing! Hopefully that is the end of it. I don't think I will be revisiting that stretch anytime soon.

I am in contact with a resistance stretcher in Massachusetts and am trying to find a place and time when an expert can stretch me out and teach more about what muscles need stretching and how to do it properly (before I pull my leg apart!).