Saturday, August 20, 2011

Podiatrist: 0 , Veterinarian + Awesome PT: 10

I'm running tomorrow. My podiatrist put a cm thick layer of tape on my foot and told me to come back when I was ready for a shot of cotisone. He told me my form wasn't really an issue and that I probably wasn't built for running. That didn’t help much. I’m going to run.

My awesome vet/distiller friend told me to take anti-inflammatories and use ice (and drink grappa). That was helping. I saw a Physical Therapist yesterday at a workshop that he generously held for free. He poked around, as PTs will, gave me some techniques with a rolling pin to help fix my problem, ground on my calves until I was practically crying, gave a group of us a thoroughly pleasant and helpful time...and I'm getting better faster. His name is Scott Hadley, he’s in Grand Rapids, he’s kind and really knowledgeable.

The causes of injuries can be difficult to track down. I’ll bet if you spend a few minutes online trying to figure out why people get IT band syndrome or plantar fasciitis, you’ll find 10 different explanations. When I was studying Kinesology the answers always had to do with vertical stacking of bones. They talked about hips that are too wide, leg bones being different lengths, foot arches collapsing, and everything had to do with bodies that weren’t put together correctly. Not helpful, bodies are generally put together quite well but we tend to misuse them.

In my experience most athletic injuries are caused by the way we use our bodies: things that are tight, things we aren’t aware of like posture, etc. When I first started running I had some problems that I tracked down to my gait, which was lopsided. Not lopsided like one of my bones was 2” longer than the other, lopsided like I grew up in Chicago and spent much of my youth cultivating a strut. I figured it out by walking toward myself in the mirror and thinking: “If I run the way I walk I’m going to need a hip replaced soon”.

My point is that sometimes habitual movement patterns are so ingrained that we don’t notice them enough to question them. Something as repetitive as running requires balance and fluidity or some muscle is going to get tired, cause some other muscle to take some of its stress, causing problems that radiate outward from the overused muscle or muscle group. Just because your lower back hurts doesn't mean your lower back is where the problem started. I had many a conversation as a trainer about computer posture and how quickly it can lead to injury in the gym. Lift with your legs is just not possible when your head is sticking 3” out in front of you.

Things that have helped me with posture and balance:

1. Tai Chi is one of the best ways I’ve ever found to develop balanced posture. It will get your head floating on the end of your spine like a balloon on a string. What’s more, all you have to do is find a group in a park somewhere. They’re always happy to have you.

2. Alexander Technique was developed to relieve stress on the vocal cords of actors and singers by promoting good posture and fluid movement. It is one of the strangest styles of body work I’ve ever tried but really amazing and effective.

3. My own trick: Face the mirror. Put your middle and index fingers on the boney bumps that stick out right behind your ears (mastoid process). Put your thumbs under your cheek bones. Make sure that the bottoms of those two boney processes are level with the floor. Take some deep breaths and gently push up toward the ceiling focusing on lengthening the back of your neck, and your entire spine. Do this for a few minutes then go about your life, trying to maintain that vertical sensation.

Good Running!

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