Why Walking is the Best Postpartum Exercise

iStock_000016288424SmallWhen did walking get such a bad rap? I have clients tell me all the time that they need to "exercise" but can't due to whatever the issue is that brought them into my office. Then they sneer and say, "I can only manage to go on [deep depressed sigh] walks." We've been sold such a story that we need to only bow down to the holy grail of sweaty, heart-thumping, intense cardiovascular exercise in order to have any health benefits. When in truth, regular, non-sped up, walking is a primary ingredient of what our species needs to thrive. It's not that getting sweaty doesn't have it's place of course, but we can drop the sneer about walking being so sub-par... It's actually what should be prioritized for our best health, especially in a world where we walk less and less. All that said, this post could easily be titled Why Walking is the Best Exercise. Period. But Wendy Powell of MuTu Mamas happens to be an expert in postpartum health, so this is written through that (very needed) lens. MuTu System programs are clear about the walking part. It’s not negotiable. Right from Day 1, you go for a daily walk, and that remains a constant throughout the program and beyond. But whether you are a mama or not, this is a great read. Read it, and then go take a walk! Daily walks are for everyone!

Enter Wendy: 

Whether you are 1-week postpartum or 5 years, walking is an essential part of your recovery and healthy lifestyle.

Short bursts of sweaty, intensive exercise a few times a week are great for fat burning, raising the heart rate, improving endurance and making you feel great.

But a ‘workout’ isn’t a substitute for walking.

If a session of frantic exercise is the only movement you get in a day, it’s not going to get your body or your health where you want it. Walking should always come first – every day – wherever you can manage it. Just 20-30 minutes is enough… (but more is awesome).

Walking is a Health-Saver. Period.

Walking in optimal, whole-body alignment benefits your joints, muscles and connective tissues, encouraging them to do their job: muscles stretching, lengthening and contracting like well-oiled machinery.

Walking is a must for Moms.

For moms, there’s another USP of walking. Childbirth compromises your core and pelvic floor -- and standing, walking and squatting in correct alignment is super effective at restoring function to these muscles.

Your core muscles are responsible for stabilising your pelvis as you walk, so walking in good form conditions your mid-section with every step you take.

As well as helping you to work and tone your core muscles naturally, walking in proper alignment helps to reduce pressure in the abdominal cavity. This has four brilliant side effects for Moms:

1) It Helps Close The Gap in Your Core

Diastasis recti –abdominal separation –is characterised by a weakness of the midline of the rectus abdominis muscle. The muscle has a stretched weakened area of connective tissue at the centre (the line alba), causing instability, possibly back pain, and a pooched ‘mummy tummy’appearance.

Diastasis recti is caused by excessive intra-abdominal pressure exerting an outward force. Your core can begin to firm up only when intra abdominal pressure is reduced. Correcting your alignment and walking will help with this!

2) It Helps You Get a Flatter Tummy

No amount of abdominal exercise will help a tummy lie flat if you have significant diastasis recti. By helping mums to narrow their diastasis and firm up their midline, walking with proper alignment helps to build the foundations for a flatter tummy.

3) It Helps Restore Pelvic Floor ‘Bounce’

Intra abdominal pressure exerts outwards and downwards, also weakening the pelvic floor muscle.

Pelvic floor weakness is a problem for many moms and can result in incontinence, pelvic pain and even pelvic organ prolapse.

Walking and moving naturally reduces the pressure, enabling you to regain pelvic floor strength. Walking, twisting, squatting and lunging are also really important to get the pelvic floor muscle to do its job effectively –lengthening, contracting and relaxing with ease –supporting the internal organs, preventing leakage and enabling more sexual pleasure. Whats not to like?

4) It Helps You Kiss Goodbye to Aches + Pains

Core instability arises from any one part of the core not working properly. So, if you have diastasis recti, core weakness or pelvic floor dysfunction (leakage, pain or prolapse), you have an unstable core. The effect of the instability can ricochet throughout your body, causing backache and other muscular aches and pains.

Walking and moving in a natural way helps you to build a strong, well-functioning core –and so helps you to reduce pain and injury.

How To Walk!

It might sound crazy to think about how you walk, but bodies that spend too much time slumped in seats, cocooned in squishy beds, or tottering in high heels have long forgotten how to walk as we were built to do.

How you walk directly affects the benefits you experience from it – walk right and you will tone your butt, leg and pelvic floor muscles, get it wrong and you will do little for your body except knackering your joints!

Your whole body participates in walking, from head to toe, in perfect mechanical alignment, so it’s important to give some thought to how you hold yourself and how your feet interact with the ground.

7 golden rules of ‘natural’ walking:

  1. Your feet should point straight ahead as you walk
  2. Your torso should be straight, don’t lean forward, look straight ahead
  3. Ditch heeled shoes which disrupt your alignment - choose minimalist or barefoot shoes where possible
  4. Don’t thrust your chest out or tuck your butt under
  5. Keep your legs straight. Rather than bending your knee out in front to gain ground, push away from the ground with the toes and ball of your back foot with straight legs to move your body forward.
  6. Stretch your hamstrings and calves daily. These muscles are very often tight, causing your butt to tuck underneath and preventing correct walking alignment
  7. Check your feet: Correct walking gait moves your foot through four phases: heel strike, foot flat, heel off, toes off.

If that’s all too much to think about at first (I mean, how hard should walking be?), just get out and take a walk. Hold your head up, stride purposefully and swing your arms. Try to relax and enjoy walking as a sanctuary of calm in your hectic world.

Little by little, one change at a time, begin to check the way you’re walking and establish better alignment habits. Your shoes are the best place to start. Walking regularly will have a bigger impact on your postpartum recovery and whole body health than any workout - so make a daily walk your daily activity priority!

                                                                                                                                          

About the Author

Wendy Powell

Mom of 2 Wendy Powell is founder of the internationally recognized and sought after MuTu® System program. She has over 12 years experience, proven record and study in the pre and postpartum fitness industry.

MuTu System includes online coaching, DVD’s, online support and community, fully endorsed by Specialist Women’s Health Physiotherapists and Industry Experts worldwide. It is fresh, personal, progressive and motivational, and it gives Moms the answers, guidance and support they need to restore body confidence inside and out. Wendy has an established international social media following and industry reputation.

MuTu System covers fitness, fat loss, nutrition, hormone balancing and motivational strategies for busy Mums.

Wendy’s specialist area of expertise is pelvic and abdominal reconnection and restoration after childbirth: functional core strength, diastasis recti, pelvic floor and related alignment issues.

Wendy writes for the Huffington Post and has appeared in numerous magazine features, including Red magazine, Health and Fitness and Zest. Health and Fitness magazine UK also commissioned Wendy to write their Get Your Body Back book, published September 2013.

 

Exercise = Moving Less? Part 2

4746815579_c5bb26afaa_zLast week in part 1 of this post we took a look at The Licensing Effect- research which has demonstrated that people who take a multivitamin then behave in less healthy ways throughout the day because they believe, subconsciously, that their dietary supplementation gives them license to do so- and applied it to exercise and movement. As in, if one works out regularly via some fitness regimen, do they then subconsciously move less throughout their day? (We did  a whole lot of looking at the difference between exercise and movement in the last post, so if you're stumped you can give that a read.) But I believe we left off somewhere around here: “Well my life depends on sitting most of the day, so I guess I’m hopeless. I will have terrible chronic pain, joint dysfunction, and die from this ‘lethal activity’ [sitting] that is required by my job.” In other words, destination: Bummersville.

To avoid abandoning all hope let's dive in and take a look at my low impact, not hard, fairly movement-rich day looked like yesterday:

Yesterday I had set aside a blissful 12 hours to work on current and upcoming projects. Which means I wasn't seeing clients. Which means it was me and the screen, mano-a-mano, all day.  

  • I woke up and worked out at the place that I train 1 or 2 times a week, Tuff Girl Fitness, which is a high intensity interval training (HIIT) gym for, you guessed it, badass ladies. Here I spent maybe 30 to 40 minutes jumping around on one leg in staggered patterns, doing pullups, pushing heavy sleds, climbing ropes, and getting up and down while holding heavy weights- to name but a few of the movements that the trainers devise for us. My heart rate was up, I was a sweaty mess, and I do this because it is fun for me. Not because I believe it gives me permission to sit still for the rest of the day.
  • Then I came home, giddy with excitement to have a whole day of writing and creating ahead of me. Hooray! Oh, but wait, there is the screen...
  • So I grabbed my yoga block and my laptop and set up at my coffee table, sitting on the block on the floor. This is one of my favorite configurations lately, as sitting on the block on the floor causes me to shift and move around a lot naturally. I got a lot of writing done (as I am now) sitting on bent knees, sitting with one knee up and one on the floor, and sitting with both legs extended out in a wide angle in front of me.
  • Then I had a lot of videos I needed to catch up on watching/listening to, which I did in a squat for a while, then standing working with a therapy ball under one foot (and alternating), then listening while rolling around on the floor with the therapy balls.
  • I did some more writing standing (now the laptop goes on the low bookshelf that divides my living room from my dining room), and even did a tad of sitting with a rolled up towel under my ischial tuberosities to avoid the C-curve schlump. I timed it for you guys: I sat in an actual chair during my 12 hour writing/creating project day for 23 minutes.
  • I also took 2 breaks (I should have taken more, yes) to walk around my chilly but beautiful winter wonderland of a neighborhood for about 15 minutes each time. (Often on project days I will set a timer on my phone for either 30 or 40 minute intervals during which I will then go outside and move for 15 minutes before resuming work, but on this day, well, I didn't, so I wanted to give you a realistic picture of what this particular screen day looked like.)

It made for a diverse day of movement, and I have gotten here gradually from someone who used to segregate her work days into "standing/moving client days" and "sitting writing/project days". What I've noticed as I've gradually transitioned to more movement on my screen-heavy days is that the more I do this, I am now very uncomfortable in a chair. You'd think the 23 minutes I spent sitting in a chair was me virtuously prying myself out of the chair and back to standing, but really I got up because it felt icky for my spine.

You can get creative with your work set up- I like to call the myriad of places my laptop winds up through a day my roaming work station- and you can also set a timer or just plain take breaks for movement.

And this is all well and good for those of us who work from home or who have an awesome employer who gets it. But what about those of you who are working for The Man? You know, the one whose capacity for understanding productivity is reduced to quantifying how many hours you work statically in your cubicle. That one. The one who gets a capital T and a capital M.

You're going to have to fight the power. Gradually and incrementally. Here are a few helpers to nudge your work environment into being more movement friendly:

  • Get yourself a better desk set-up. Standing desks are trendy enough that even if your employer is the crustiest of capitalists he or she should have heard about them and understand that they are a part of many conventional workplaces. And there are standing desk options that adjust so that you can stand for part of the day and sit for part of the day (which you will likely want to do as you adapt, and getting up and down counts as at least some movement). If you have a laptop, your "standing desk" can be any old box you have lying around that will prop it to the right height for you. Toss it on the desk, put your laptop on top of it, and voila: standing desk. If you have a desktop, you will need a little more equipment, but I like this easy version which means an employer wouldn't have to suddenly invest in a brand new desk for you. 
  • Walking is your friend. Come up with reasons why you need to be on the move. Lie and say you have a bladder infection and make a million trips to the bathroom. Or something less humiliating. But figure out the walking routes of your office building and find some reason why you need to be the one putting them to use regularly. Walking is powerful medicine.
  • Pitch the idea of holding walking meetings. Hey, there's even a TED talk you can show your boss about it. It's about 4 minutes long and she's a big Silicon Valley hotshot who has launched 18 billion dollars in products! So how could they argue with that...
  • Knowledge is power. If you want to start a movement (pun intended?) at work towards more, well, movement, it might be best to get your fellow employees on board first. Start from the ground up and send around posts like this one/two part-er (hey now!). Or the great one Katy Bowman did on Breaking Muscle. Or, wait, look! Even Outside Magazine is talking movement not exercise! Show them the research on inactivity, and then watch the break room grumbles turn into a bottom up revolution.
  • Get help. There are actually organizations that can help your employer to see with a broader vision. As one example, Partnership for Prevention is working to make evidence based disease prevention and health promotion a national priority. At this link they have some resources you can download. I'm sure there are other great organizations out there who are helping businesses to implement more wellness initiatives, so if you know of one local to you, get in touch with them! Just be sure to vet them that they are not pushing the same old status quo idea that people need to get more exercise. They do, but they also need to work in an environment where they aren't considered a weirdo for sitting on the floor and frequently walking around. 

If you're taking this on in your workplace, whether that's a larger corporate environment or your very own living room, let me know how it goes! I'm going to sprint around my house now. Bye!

Is Exercise Causing You to Move Less? Part 1

4341141005_78a2ff8524_zWen-Bin Chou, a psychologist and researcher at National Sun Yat-Sen University in Taiwan has demonstrated that taking multivitamins causes people to be less healthy due to an ironic effect of dietary supplementation. It turns out that people who believe they are taking a multivitamin subconsciously believe that it gives them some degree of invulnerability, which leads them to make less healthy choices throughout the day. So if they took a multivitamin in the morning, and at lunch are faced with the choice between two trips to the all-you-can-eat burrito buffet vs. a salad and some wild salmon, they'll go for the buffet due to an unconscious belief that they've covered their bases with the multivitamin. Of course we all know a multivitamin is not the same as eating real, whole food- and a recent article in Outside Magazine questions whether they are at all helpful or even harmful- yet the subconscious belief in being bulletproof seems to clearly exist anyway.

Here's how it went down: In two experiments all the participants were given a placebo pill, some were told it was a multivitamin. Those who believed they had taken the multivitamin engaged in less healthful and more hedonistic activities on a regular basis like eating larger quantities of less nutritional food. It's called The Licensing Effect. As in, they believe that their positive choice or behavior (taking the multivitamin) gives them license to then engage in less healthy behaviors ongoing.

So why am I writing about this when I've never written about dietary supplementation in my life? Because I believe it applies to movement as well. So let's substitute "multivitamin" with "trip to the gym" and "eating less nutritional food" with "moving less".

Re-written the licensing effect applied to movement would then read something like: "Those who had gone to the gym engaged in less healthful and more sedentary activities on a regular basis."

We spend our days sitting our butts in chairs, staring at screens and moving in extremely small ranges of motion. I believe this happens for three reasons:

  1. We don't distinguish between movement and exercise.
  2. We don't understand the benefit of movement (not exercise).
  3. We believe that exercise absolves us of not moving for most of our lives.

So let's talk about it:

We don't distinguish between movement and exercise:

  • In a culture that so values stasis (my son goes to public school and even though I adore his teacher, school in this country is basically one big "sit still" training ground) we have handily earmarked "exercise" as "the time we have allotted to move".
  • This stems from what I think is a subconscious belief that there is an "on" and "off" switch to our bodies receiving input from movement. For example: "I'm out for a run! You can pay attention now body..." and then, "I'm sitting in my office chair for 8 hours, you are in the off position now body, no need to pay attention to this..."
  • As I alluded to in that last point, while exercise is one kind of movement, movement is a much broader category which includes standing, walking, breathing, chewing, reaching, shifting, etc. All the movements- large and micro- that you make moment to moment. I thought Katy Bowman (goddess of educating what movement actually is...) did a great job differentiating between movement and exercise in the interview I did with her when she pointed out a baby breastfeeding as movement- and how we would never describe that as a baby "getting his exercise".

We don't understand the benefit of movement (not exercise)

  • I wrote "not exercise" in parentheses because I think we have all been thoroughly indoctrinated into the benefits of exercise. So we'll just leave that as is.
  • Then the question is, if one is exercising, why does movement throughout the day matter too? And the answer is: because we are alive. This means that everything you are doing (or not doing) movement-wise is being registered by your body as input. It doesn't discriminate via the magical on/off switch of paying attention. And that input is what is being put to use on a cellular level to build you up or tear you down.
  • An example: if you, like most, sit for somewhere in the range of 10 hours a day (that's conservative), your body registers a number of things from that and then does its best to help you make that shape more. So your body is thinking, "Okey doke, hamstrings always contracted, check, we'll keep those short. Sitting on sacrum, check, let's smoosh out those vertebral discs to make that shape, compress the respiratory diaphragm, slacken the pelvic floor, and basically create thickenings throughout the spine and thorax which holds you in a C-curve..." This is an extremely tiny slice of what is going on when you hold one shape for a long time.
  • The example above is of what happens structurally; As in, you become the shapes you make most of the time. However, there are also other significant health risks to stasis. Recent data shows that it contributes to mortality from all causes. Yep, heart disease, stroke, cancer, etc. One study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine showed that every hour spent sitting shortens lifespan more significantly than every cigarette smoked. And Dr. Levine, an inactivity researcher at the Mayo Clinic, describes sitting as "a lethal activity".

We believe that exercising absolves us of not moving for most of our lives:

  • Unfortunately, even if you workout almost daily and are therefore considered "fit", a workout amounts to a grand total, usually, of somewhere between 30 and 60 minutes of exercising in any given 24 hour period, best case scenario.
  • And since we have discussed that our bodies don't have an off switch which causes them to not pay attention while we are inactive, hopefully it is clear that this is a game of frequency. Not of intensity. I don't care how hard you rock it at the gym at the end of the day. Work out til you puke and blackout (no, really, don't) but it won't erase all the static activity of the day. In fact, going from long periods of stasis to incredibly demanding workouts is a risk for a multitude of injuries, but that's fodder for another post.
  • Our bodies want us to still be hunter gatherers. Oh our physiology longs for the days when a wide variety of movements were required of our bodies all day long as we hunted and gathered for our food! But today we put food on the table- for the most part- by typing away at these computers all day long. And our bodies are confused. Where are the missing movement ranges? Where did the frequency go? While you don't need to abandon contemporary culture and go live in a tree, it helps to acknowledge that you are still wired to thrive with the demands that a hunter gatherer would have had.

Depressed? Oof when I mention this stuff in my classes or in my practice I kind of see the light go out of people's eyes. Which sucks. I believe the thought cycle goes something like, "Well my life depends on sitting most of the day, so I guess I'm hopeless. I will have terrible chronic pain, joint dysfunction, and die from this 'lethal activity' that is required by my job."

Ready? Deeeeeeep breath. There is hope.

The movement part is easy, albeit with a small adaptation period, and you may have to occasionally fight (or even just nudge) The Man. That's it. And we'll get into how to do both in part 2 of this post. Stay tuned!

photo by skittledog

Why Astronauts Get Osteoporosis (And What it Means to Us On Earth)

4611583232_0484ea0d52_zSometimes there are things that are such assumed constants that we totally forget about them and the fact that they have an impact on us.

Did you hear the joke that started off David Foster Wallace’s brilliant commencement speech at Kenyon College- This is Water? It goes like this, “There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming by. He nods at them as he swims past and says, ‘Morning boys! How’s the water?’. And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and eventually one of them looks over at the other and says, ‘What the hell is water?’” David Foster Wallace goes on to say, “The point of the fish story is merely that the most obvious and important realities are often the ones that are the hardest to see and to talk about.” He then gives a gorgeous talk on living a compassionate life. But I am going to hijack the beginning of his talk to point out one crucial form of of “water”,  or “obvious and important reality", related to our bodies:

Gravity is always present.

Unless we leave this planet, or go to some awesome space camp where we get to play with NASA’s equipment or something, gravity is constantly exerting its force on us.

The way that I will usually illustrate (or rather exaggerate) this with my clients is to have them stand in whatever way feels normal to them, and then gently press down on their shoulders. With this exaggerated form of gravity, they will often notice things like all the force being transmitted to their low back or their knees. I will then help them to find proper alignment, and again mimic exaggerated gravity by gently pressing on their shoulders. Once they have found proper alignment, they now feel the force of gravity transmitted evenly through their joints and traveling directly down into the ground through their feet.

But let’s imagine you do opt out of this whole gravity thing. You’ve just decided to pay Richard Branson a whole lot of money to go into outer space. What might that look like? Oh wait, plenty of people have already gone there, we call them astronauts. Let’s take a look at what astronauts have taught us about gravity. Did you know there is something called The Bone Research in Space Symposium? Am I the only one that thinks that sounds like an awesome conference to attend!? It’s brought to you by the good people at The International Space Life Sciences Working Group who go by the charming and impossible to pronounce acronym ISPLSWG! I digress...

Research like this, on astronauts and what happens to their bones, exists because when you take a human out of the gravitational field they rapidly develop osteoporosis. I’m talking a pretty lightening fast bone to cotton candy switcheroo. Ok that is a tad of an exaggeration, but it is pretty shocking how rapidly density is lost.

From speaker Rene Rizzoli at the symposium: “"Bone is a living tissue, and must be 'stressed' [via gravity] to maintain strength. If bones are immobile for long periods, as occurs in space but also in bedridden patients, the individual will lose a substantial amount of muscle and bone mass, which may have serious repercussions,"

I would like to amend this a bit to read, “As occurs in space, bedridden patients, and also in a more subtle and gradual way to misaligned and undermoved tissues in normal healthy populations.”

So we can clearly see it’s not so sunny when we opt out of gravitational forces because we are designed to thrive here on Earth, where there is gravity. Which means we have to find the most optimal way to live in gravity (i.e participate for most of the day in natural human movements like walking, lifting, and not sitting still) so that the signals to our cells create a nourishing effect, instead of a degrading effect. In the words of my favorite biomechanist Katy Bowman, “Alignment matters!” It matters kind of a lot actually!

And because I couldn’t have said it better myself, here is Erik Dalton:

I often scratch my head in wonder when reading research that dismisses the effects of gravitational exposure on human viscoelastic tissues. It’s even more frustrating when scientists and clinicians discount the role distorted postural faults such as pronated feet, crooked SI joints, and forward heads play in commonly seen pain syndromes. Each-and-every day, the weight of gravity (14.7 pounds per square inch) pushes straight down on our bodies. These compressive forces should be equally distributed throughout the neuro-myo-skeletal system…but are they? Prolonged one legged standing (excessive weight bearing on one limb) is an oft-overlooked culprit creating ligamentous creep that may be a precursor to more serious conditions like joint laxity, lumbopelvic instability, sprains, and osteoarthritis.”

But hey, if you want to find out what it feels like for yourself to be totally out of gravity, NASA will pay you for the opportunity! However, as a woman who spent a a portion of her pregnancy on bed rest, I'm here to tell you no amount of money is worth it. So you may prefer to get upright and delight in the gravitational field that we all take for granted.

*P.S. This is an excerpt from a short book that I'm currently working on, which is why the blog is about to go silent for a few weeks. I'm behind on my deadline! But I'll be back soon.

photo by Scorpions and Centaurs

 

Katy Bowman Interview

interviews-small

Katy_BowmanIt never fails. Every time I interact with Katy Bowman and her work there is always a moment where my jaw hits the floor. This interview is no exception (it happens around minute 31...)! I think Katy Bowman is one of the single most important voices not just on alignment and on movement, but on being human. Which naturally meant I had to interview her for FFF! Katy Bowman is a biomechanist who is the founder of the Restorative Exercise Institute, the author of Every Woman's Guide to Foot Pain Relief and Alignment Matters and an avid, and hilarious, blogger at www.katysays.com. In this interview we cover so many poorly understood yet crucial issues relate to the health of our species. Prepare to be gobsmacked. You can view it in its entirety below or scroll down to skim via the transcript.

1:28 I bring up Katy’s quote “We don’t have an inactivity problem, we have a geometry problem” and ask her to expound...

1:50 [Katy from here forward unless specified] It’s not that it’s not an inactivity problem. We are absolutely suffering from that. We have 3 groups- exercisers, professional laborers, and then you have a sedentary population. The interesting thing about all of those populations is that they are all getting different amounts and kinds of movements, but they all have the same problems. We are sold that if we exercise we will be outside certain health issues.

3:49 When you look at it from a geometrical perspective- just because someone is moving doesn't mean all of them is moving. Someone can be exercising, but not moving that much. When we quantify movement on a more thorough scale than just “is your movement on or off?” and look at it on a more cellular level, we see we are suffering from a geometrical problem. Because when we look at those 3 groups, the difference between their geometry is very little.

5:05 You can be moving a lot but in such a small or narrow range of motion at the joint axes  that movement is not doing what it is supposed to be doing for you- which is delivering nutrients ,moving waste products out, etc... But more on a cellular level it is the mechanical stimulation that gives the cell context on how to rearrange its DNA within the nucleus that creates the body that we have.

5:32 So even if the frequency of the movements is there- someone who moves 75 minutes a day without fail, or moving all day long- if you're in that small range of movement your body adapts to that shape. You basically become that position or small range of motion. And that’s what all the Fascia Freedom Fighters are really talking about- we’re all trying to help mobilize areas and everyone has a different piece of that puzzle.

7:03 [me] People think they can repent their [workday] sins of sitting all day by going to the gym. Can you talk a little bit more about how you mean this with people who exercise? Because I think there’s a disrupt with people who exercise- they think if they are exercising that they are in the clear.

7:26 [Katy] What was so important about that sitting research was that the risk held true whether you were an exerciser or not. Meaning you can’t undo sitting all day by doing something else more vigorously for an hour. You get quarters in your cellular bucket for frequency, but not for intensity. Adaptation simply means that you have altered your structure, not necessarily made it "better".

8:30 If you have your knee in one position for 10 hours, that's a lot of “quarters” for that joint to become morphed. Adaptation does not mean improvement. Adaptation means you have altered your structure to make what you do easier on you.

9:20 If you sit 10 hours a day, or 15 hours a day, which most people do- even your super duper exercisers. The frequency of movement is very small. You’re not undoing what you think you’re doing. It’s like the mentality of, “if I smoke, I’ll just run. Because smoking is bad for my lungs, but running is good for my lungs.” But the opposite of smoking is not running, it’s not smoking.

10:35 We’re confusing what we call things with what the actual thing is. But it’s not really how it works, when you apply math to biology.

10:59 [Me- I admire the monkey bars in Katy’s living room, and mention the fact that there is very little furniture. She lives in a mostly furniture free home. I also ask about what it means to raise children in a mostly furniture free home vs. molding their butts to chairs.]

11:39 [Katy] This next population coming up, the generation underneath our generation, is in worse health. It is in decline. But yet no one wants to address the huge elephant in the room which is that we are training our children to be still. Because we don’t delineate the difference between exercise and movement. We have decided that if we exercise for that one hour a day then that is enough.

12:35 And then we just decide that there are all these diseases are genetic. We don’t look at the fact that we're being sedentary. Even more than being sedentary- our periods of being sedentary in the exact same geometrical configuration to the point that you have now created thickening in your arteries at the bends of your joints, and they don’t go away when you stand up. We’ve lost our mobility in our muscles and joints, but it trickles down to mobility on a cellular level. It’s the turbulent flow that wounds the arteries. When you have supple walls, it’s a lot easier for the arteries to change their diameter which can mitigate or reduce the effect of those surges in heart rate. That’s the natural mechanism we have for our heart to be moving at different rates. But we have these hardenings in our arteries, and then we take this body with this problem out to exercise and we increase surges, but there’s nothing we can do about the suppleness.

14:34. Going back to with kids- we are so culturally trained. [In our culture we wonder] "Don't we need a playpen and a stroller and a crib, etc.?" These things are the beginnings of making a child still. We’ve ingrained immobility into our culture so much that our culture kind of depends on it.

15:30 That all being said, I live in this culture too. I like to present the whole thing because we are moving away from talking about the actual problem because we don't see it as something that can change. So we keep talking about childhood obesity and juvenile osteoporosis and the fact that kids are already having back and knee pain and wearing orthotics and we kind of act like, “What’s happening?” Because we're not talking about the fact that this is our choice. But I’m a parent and a realist. I don’t like to tell people what to do, I like to tell people the truth and let them decide what to do for themselves because this [gesturing to the monkey bars behind her] is not for everyone. But it’s the mind part- every single minute of every single day your thoughts are shaped by the culture you are in.

17:11 [me] For those who are dealing with the issue of kids sitting all day long at school, what are your thoughts on options there. [Katy] I would like to see more parents getting involved in changing that. It’s about breaking down inactivity via geometry. It’s not about “we get recess!” and I totally get that it does not work in a classroom with the number of students that teachers have without butts in chairs. So as a parent I would say to offer an environment the rest of the time that is conducive to movement.

18:38 The reason I don't have much furniture or make my home more comfortable is because we will use it. It’s the same reason I don’t keep junk food on hand or ice cream in the freezer. it’s inconvenient for the people coming over at first. When iIm at my mom’s house I’m on her couch the whole time! So I just don’t have it, it’s not an option. And it took a lot of years. We slowly transitioned. If parents could see movement in the same context that they see food. They get more nutritious food vs. less nutritious food.

20:53 It’s such a long period of time [sitting in the classroom] so you can offer non sitting time, but also more movement time. And specifically more natural movement time. Parents have their kids in all these movement classes like tumbling, etc., and those are good and necessary, but what kids are not doing anymore is walking. And that is a huge critical piece of development in every type of tissue.

22:13 I used to go to the park early in the morning and I would see this mom every morning at like 6:15 in the morning and she had her 5 or 6 year old and they were walking and running and playing and moving. I asked her about it and she said she did it for him before he goes to school because without it he couldn’t concentrate and couldn't’ sit still. Imagine taking a wild animal and getting it to sit still. There are some kids who have a harder time sitting still and they get labeled problematic- but if they’ve been sitting for 8 hours every proprioceptive and neurological impulse is shouting at them “MOVE!”. Sorry your biology works perfectly! So just doing that [movement time] is so helpful. And it’s more time out of your schedule, but you need that movement too.

23:57 Also we don’t have a TV. Screen time is a new risk factor for bone density as adults. Screen time as kids. Your bone density is less optimal as an adult even if they exercise. We are so missing that quantity and frequency of loads that is needed to build bones.

25:06 [me] You presented at the Ancestral Health Symposium and I know you presented on something related to children and parenting. [Katy] My talk was called Paleo Parenting [her talk is not up yet on the site, but the abstracts for all 2013 talks are here]. It was not a parenting how-to. I don’t like to give how-to advice. For AHS I gave a presentation on a process that we are not familiar with called mechanotransduction. When we look at disease we are looking at what are the chemical precursors within a cellular  environment that lead to a certain biological outcome- i.e. the shape of a body or a disease the body would experience. There is the gene, but there is a whole set of equipment that every cell has. The mechanical under-workings of that cell. There is actual movement within the cell. We think of movement as something happening with these levers, but our cells are sensing loads and location and constantly collecting data about how to respond to that situation. You can look at femurs of people who have done different things in their lives and it’s a different mass and shape- bone robusticity. We all have bones that are not shaped just by our genes,but also by the loads you experience. A load is about frequency, duration, magnitude, all of those things affect what you get.

28:59 So at AHS I talked specifically about breastfeeding. Movement creates forces. This is another reason I like to separate movement and exercise. We don’t think of an infant breastfeeding as getting exercise. We can see a decrease in the shape of the formation of the palette. The teeth don’t fit and are coming out of a bone that should have been shaped by 4 or 5 years of breast feeding. And not just breast feeding, but the frequency of breastfeeding.

30:00 The cool thing about mechanosensors is that they need to be refreshed. It’s like a sponge, if I smoosh it that’s one load, but then it sits there and gets stale. The repetitious load and unload is what refreshes the cell. So frequency is a huge variable.

31:11 In the AHS talk I talked about breastfeeding, also babywearing vs. baby holding vs. strollering. What are the differences mechanically between the 3.

31:31 And as modern humans we talk about why is a baby crying with “it’s tired, it’s hungry, it has a dirty diaper, etc” Modern hunter gatherer populations see a baby as under-moved. That’s the first thing they go to. They need to move for circulation, to keep mobile. They have a whole routine of movement that they put their newborns through and it’s done by the grandmothers and passed down that way. And it can be kind of scary! But it just shows the wide difference in human beliefs about what movement is.

33:45 I ended AHS with - I would like people to recognize that a lack of movement is part of what  child is giving off at all times. I am under-moved and my crying is my way of telling you that my body is missing something crucial. And it’s not exercise. It’s movement. Natural human movement that is at a frequency that optimizes the development that is in progress.

34:50 You can find the majority of Katy’s work at www.katysays.com and her recent book is Alignment Matters [which I will be reviewing soon!]

 

A Fascia Primer for Athletes

  Loose Connective Tissue

Since fascia is such a hot topic right now, and, er, I have a site with this tissue system in its title, I wrote a "Fascia 101" of sorts for athletes in my monthly column on Breaking MuscleBut since it is also just plain old a fascia primer for anyone, you might want to check it out. If you're curious about why fascia is getting so much attention these days, and how it relates to living well (pain free!) in your body, you can give it a read. Here is the beginning of the article:

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You may be noticing the word “fascia” (aka connective tissue) is a hot topic right now in all body related fields. But before we get to why fascia matters to athletes, here is a brief primer about why it’s getting so much attention these days.

First, many think of fascia as a glorified body stocking - a seamless piece of tissue that Saran wraps you just underneath the skin. While this is true of the superficial fascia, it’s important to understand it is a richly multi-dimensional tissue that forms your internal soft tissue architecture.

From the superficial (“body stocking”) fascia, it dives deep and forms the pods (called fascicles) that actually create your musculature like a honeycomb from the inside out. Imagine what it looks like when you bite into a wedge of orange and then look at those individually wrapped pods of juice. We’re like that too! Fascia also connects muscle to bone (tendons are considered a part of the fascial system), and bone to bone (ligaments are also considered a part of the fascial system), slings your organ structures, cushions your vertebrae (yep, your discs are considered a part of this system, too), and wraps your bones.

So imagine for a moment you could remove every part of you that is not fascia. You would have a perfect 3D model of exactly what you look like. Not just in recognizable ways like your posture or facial features, but also the position of your liver, and the zig-zig your clavicle takes from that break you had as a kid, and how your colon wraps. To say it’s everywhere is far from over-stating things.

In fact, it turns out fascia’s everywhere-ness is one of the reasons it was overlooked for so long. Until recently it was viewed as the packing peanuts of soft tissue. Therefore, in dissections for study and for research, most of it was cleanly scraped away and thrown in a bucket so the cadavers could be tidily made to resemble the anatomical texts from which people were studying. Poor, misunderstood, and underrated fascia. Sigh.

Fortunately research is catching up to what turns out to be a remarkably communicative sensory and proprioceptive tissue. What fascia researchers are discovering is pretty amazing not just for fascia nerds like me, but for anyone who wants to put their body to good, healthy use. (Like, for example, all of us at Breaking Muscle!) So without further ado, here is some of the newly emerging information about fascia and how you can use it to maximize not just your athletic performance, but also just your plain old ability to feel good in your body.

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And you can read the rest of the juicy (pun intended) information if you head on over to Breaking Muscle!

Jill Miller Interview

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JM_Headshot_Seated_Crop1_largerI am thoroughly delighted and honored to introduce you all to one of my teachers, Jill Miller. Jill is the creator of Yoga Tune Up® and the co-founder (with her husband) of Tune Up Fitness Worldwide®. In our interview we talk about the origins of her work, her brilliant case study for The Fascia Research Congress, why she retires yoga poses, and much more.

I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to all the good that her work has brought to my body and my life, and so naturally I highly recommend that you check it out for yourself. That said, no one talks about it better than Jill, so you can check out her interview below (with the transcript for skimming below that). And if you're curious what my favorite Yoga Tune Up goodies are, I covered that in last week's DIY Friday Ode to Yoga Tune Up. 

 

1:14 In her own words Jill describes Yoga Tune Up. It works to address the 3 P’s: pain, posture, and performance. No matter what your “thing” is it helps you to live better in your body.

2:12 A combination of conscious corrective exercise and self care tools (the therapy balls) help people to find and heal their body blind spots, which are the catalysts for injuries.

4:38 You have to disassemble your movement to see where you’re broken. It’s amazing to find out where you’ve gone blind, deaf, or dumb to yourself. It’s a wonderful journey. I [Jill] work with a lot of people who are in deep pain conditions.

5:45 Thank God for Western medicine, I [Jill] don’t hate doctors, but movement medicine is very potent and it works. More often than not people get the runaround and are not given the opportunity to first fix how they’re moving before they are putting bandaids on it with medications or with surgery.

6:10 Jill tells the story of her mother who spent 5 months being given the runaround. When she had nerve pain down her arm, she was first put on a cancer medication for a skin condition, and it took that long (5 months) for them to give her an MRI to find stenosis in her neck. In her first session of physical therapy she felt better

8:18 We can interrupt the movement patterns that lead to that kind of pain by making a better choice now in how we’re moving.

8:54 Jill tells the story of how and why she began practicing yoga at age 11 to cope with a very stressful childhood

9:58 How the Jane Fonda workout and the Raquel Welch yoga video were her way in to falling in love with movement, since she began as a very sedentary kid who was really out of touch with her body.

10:46 Fast forward to college where Jill was studying dance and movement and studying shiatsu on the side. She found her way to the Omega Institute and her teacher and mentor, Glenn Black at age 19.

11:31 Glenn Black specializes in human movement and does a hands on therapeutic modality called Body Tuning, which is a physical therapy approach created by Shmuel Tatz who is based in NYC.

12:08 Her early yoga training with Glenn Black involved a lot of hands on bodywork from him, to manipulate the tissues manually so that people’s movement could change.

13:00 Seeing how soft tissue work was intertwined with your physical practice from this early age influenced her development of Yoga Tune Up therapy balls and their various derivatives

14:11 Equinox fitness clubs is now rolling out her therapy ball program (heh heh pun intended) which she has created for them

14:40 I mention that I don’t know if I would be able to continue practicing at the volume that I do as a Rolfing practitioner without YTU and the therapy balls in my life.

16:03 There are techniques that change you neurologically. There are techniques that decohere soft tissues. This doesn’t have to be the domain just behind a clinicians door. These are things anyone can do for themselves to help themselves heal.

16:53 You are not off limits to yourself. It’s not their [the clinicians] right to touch you exclusively. This is true empowerment

17:44 Jill was the only yoga teacher ever to present at the http://www.fasciacongress.org/ Fascia Research Congress, which she did in 2012.

18:17 Jill tells the story of her amazing case study for the Fascia Research Congress. It detailed her work with a client who has Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease which is a nerve wasting disease in which one loses function in the hands, forearms, lower legs, feet, etc. Many people with this disease have multiple surgeries.

19:12 When he began working with Jill he came to her in deep emotional duress, and was on the highest doses of narcotic painkillers, sleep medication, anti-anxiety medication, and urinary control medication, and was in absolute agony at age 40. Over the course of the next 4 years he decided to stop wearing his leg braces. He can now lace up his own shoes. He was told he would never be able to use his opposable thumb, but he can pick up pennies now, he can button up his shirt. And perhaps most astonishingly, he is off the narcotic painkillers.

22:08 This gentleman, the subject of her case study, now knows that he can help himself instead of having to take more medication. He knows how to quell his nervous system and to help his physical state so that he is no longer dependant on medication.

22:53 Movement medicine is free socialized medicine. It’s so easy to make change in your body! Jill gives her universal cues for everyone, in 4 seconds, no equipment required, to have a “quick fix” for themselves.

23:36 If my [Jill’s] clients, who are “crippled” for lack of a better word can get better, than Joe Schmoe and Jane Schmoe can do it. It’s never too late to regenerate your body, it’s built for change. You just have to give it some discipline and apply our best conscious will.

25:15 Jill discusses her practice of retiring yoga poses

25:42 I [Jill] used to think I was hypermobile. I was always the demo girl in classes showing how people could get their foot all the way up to their forehead. I am a fanatic and I am obsessive, and that is a deadly combo when you focus on improving joint range of motion, because I had blown past my sense mechanism, and that’s one of the reasons why I focus so much on proprioception. Because I had blown myself so wide open to the degree that I couldn’t sense myself. I couldn’t straighten my knees, I couldn’t get out of bed without extreme amounts of pain, and I had done it to myself. I didn’t realize the practice was hurting me.

27:51 There are many yoga poses I [Jill] simply don’t do anymore because I feel that they are full of jeopardy for the body. I also want to be an example to my students. There are a lot of poses that are creating massive structural damage, and I think that there is a cover up going on, because there are many teachers of a certain age, over age 50 or 60 or so, who are having many surgeries, hip replacements, spinal surgeries, and neck surgeries.

28:29 The myth is that if you are watching yourself breathe, you can’t possibly get hurt. Which is not true. Your ability to breathe in and out is not the only measurement of if you are doing damage to yourself. It’s a great concentration tool, but we need to help our students understand how they’re holding themselves all the time, to be able to better assess what is healthy for them.

29:13 Many poses blow past the safety zone without people realizing it. And whether you can take deep ujjayi breaths there is not going to tell you if that pose is precipitating thinning of the tissue in your joints which  5 years or 10 years down the road is going to cause trouble.

30:06 Doing these extreme poses doesn’t give me pleasure anymore. What gives me pleasure is to have my head over my rib cage and my rib cage over my pelvis and to be able to respect my body and how I respond. Give that a chance, to be as impeccable as possible, and see how that follows you into the rest of your movement.

 

DIY Friday: Ode to Yoga Tune Up

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*Do it yourself! Every Friday we do a roundup of great posts, videos, or other resources around a theme that help people to turn their bodies from cranky to happy.*

logo YTUNext week my interview with Jill Miller, creator of Yoga Tune Up® and co-founder of Tune Up Fitness Worldwide® will be up on the site. Since I happen to be one of her students- and am therefore a teacher of Yoga Tune Up-  I am clearly a big advocate for her brilliant self care work. That said, I thought I'd dedicate this DIY Friday to reviewing my personal favorite* Yoga Tune Up products that help you to heal yourself and to live better in your body. Yoga Tune Up is a treasure trove for magnifying your ability to repair and restore your body, so what better topic when we're talking do-it-yourself!?

First off, no conversation about Yoga Tune Up (YTU) would be complete without talking balls. So let's start there, shall we? You've seen several of my posts here that utilize the YTU therapy balls (like this one on the upper back and shoulders, and this one on lengthening the hamstrings), and that's because they can be pretty magical. I personally favor the original therapy balls, and the alpha ball, and Jill has recently come out with a 2 disc DVD set, the Massage Therapy Full Body Kit that will take you through working out all the issues in your tissues. For a long time only audio CD's of this work were available, so this is pretty exciting. Trust me, it's like hiring a live-in massage therapist, but without the billionaire salary. It's powerful stuff.

As for the DVD's, my absolute favorite is Coregeous. "Core" must be one of the most overused and misunderstood terms in the fitness world right now. Most often it translates to "look hot in a bikini". Sigh. These programs are often not only boring but are also poorly informed movement that can lead to more trouble than the promise of a hot bikini bod is worth. Coregeous is multiple bite sized programs for deeply and intricately working on restoring your core (which means all the layers of your abdomen and also your spine). My secret admission here (sorry Jill) is that I call the cover image of the DVD "Jill Kardashian" due to her bare midriff and tousled hair... in a nutshell the cover of the DVD looks exactly like "look hot" marketing. But the contents are so exquisitely useful for everything from back pain, sacral issues, sciatica, groin pain, posture, and more that I send clients home with it frequently telling them to ignore the Jill Kardashian image and just watch it to see how brilliant it is. In fact I very commonly give this to my male athlete clients as so many of them hold a ton of tension in their hip flexors and/or suffer from low back pain. They have all fallen in love with the DVD and proclaim that it's saved their bodies and made a dramatic impact on their training. You will feel the same. Oh and the Coregeous ball that goes with it is a must.

Lastly, you can scope out all the free resources that live at the Yoga Tune Up You Tube channel. Or find a teacher in your area!

*Footnote: Yep, as stated these just happen to be my personal favorite things, which means that I have found them applicable to my own body. So if you happen to have knee stuff, for example, you'll probably adore the Knee Hab DVD, but I just happen to not have used it since I have happy knees, and so did not review it here. To see what other YTU goodies might call to you more precisely, you can scope everything out here

The Ubiquitous Keyboard and How It's Setting You Up for a Shoulder Injury

This is a new article of mine that came out on Breaking Muscle today on how the things we do when we're not training, specifically the things that involve screens and keyboards, set us up for shoulder injuries. Here's an outtake of the article, but if you want to read the whole thing and view the 2 corrective videos I made to address the issue, you can do that here. 

keyboard typing

"We are how we move. Our soft tissue is always responding to the demands we put on it, willingly complying by creating tissue patterning that makes it easier for us to do what we do more, well, more. This means our tissue is staying hydrated and gliding where we keep moving, and gluing us up in the ranges that we avoid.

Fascia (your connective tissue) can be your friend when it is adapting to support you in healthy ways, and it can be not so friendly when it starts to put the blinders on and gum up the works. It’s a basic use it or lose it set up. This is excellent news when what we’re doing with our bodies is perfecting the form of our deadlift. As we get more sophisticated in our movement, our tissue patterning allows for and adapts to this sophistication. However, this is not such great news when it comes to the sheer quantity of time we spend doing other less than helpful things.

Enter the ubiquitous keyboard. Whether it’s on a desktop, a laptop, or your phone, the odds are if you are reading this article you log more hours as a typing slave than you would like. Hey, look! I’m doing it right now! And while I love the fact that my keyboard means we all get to have this nice chat here at Breaking Muscle, it costs me. Specifically, it contributes to the plague of internal rotation that we are all living with these days. YOU CAN READ THE REST AND WATCH THE 2 CORRECTIVE VIDEOS ON BREAKING MUSCLE

 

DIY Friday: From Boring to Badass

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*Do it yourself! Every Friday we do a roundup of great posts, videos, or other resources around a theme that help people to turn their bodies from cranky to happy.*

We are a culture of doers. We love to do the hell out of stuff. I myself have been doing the hell out of things this summer, traveling, so far, to Munich, Seattle, Portland, and Boulder. By this time next week Saratoga Springs, NY and Ojai, CA will be added to the list. And while I have thouroughly delighted in such a spectacularly full summer and all the places it has taken me, it also has me thinking a lot about over-doing in my own life, and, since this is how I roll, what happens when we overdo it with our bodies. Or more to the point when we decide to value living at the brink of collapse personally or physically. This train of thought has led me (Buddhists, prepare to not be surprised) to thinking about all of the "boring" stuff and how, with a whiff of irony, when we engage in the "boring" things everything actually seems to get more badass. In my personal life I am now setting aside 10 minutes a day to meditate. My mind makes all kinds of excuses to avoid it, but when I set the actual timer on my phone for 10 minutes it's hard to argue with what a small thing that is. And when I start my day with a clear mind, I am light years more fruitful throughout the day.

1034410859_a9ca87bf88_bBodies are similar. Endlessly squeeze every last scrap of energy out of them and they start to suck. But try out some of the boring stuff and hey now! Suddenly you're a superhero. So in the spirit of reclaiming yourself, here are a few of my favorite resources about how doing less can reap more rewards:

  • First up, Justin Archer, aka The Posture Guy, has put up a great video resource on some Egoscue postural realignment tricks in his post here. I've mentioned my video on constructive rest before, and for those of you who are fans, this is a great way to try out new forms of resting constructively. The video is long-ish (Ha! 11 minutes! But we live in a world where 11 minutes is now a "long" video), but particularly for those of you who are dealing with back pain (especially low back pain), groin/inguinal ligament pain, and psoas strain or injuries, this is a gold mine. Boring, sure, but gold if you want to feel better. This is also some pretty magical stuff for those of you who just feel "off", like you are crooked, or slumping and always at war with your fascia. Oh, and Justin did tell me about the prism spectacles, which allow you to watch TV or read while laying down. My academic clients from Yale are going to love these things! And there are always books on tape... Here's the video: 

  • If you want more of these goodies, you can also check out Pete Egoscue's book, Pain Free
  • And of course no discussion about the boring stuff that actually makes you more badass would be complete without a chat about over training. Mark Sisson of Mark's Daily Apple does the best job of this that I've seen, so you can head over here to read his excellent article, 8 Signs You Are OvertrainingA great outtake: "No activity is worse than some, while too much may be worse than none at all." The only thing he doesn't cover very much is what a slog it is to recover from over training. It can require weeks, and frequently months, off, which is spent dealing with pain and a fatigue that makes you feel underwater most of the time. I have seen some pretty profound cases of this, particularly in the university athletes who have already been over trained by the time they arrive as Freshman, only to undergo the grueling regimen that competing at that level requires. Many have seen their athletic career end far too soon, and are left grappling with a host of injuries and punishing exhaustion. Things that, in my opinion, should be considered highly unusual in people in their late teens and early twenties. (But then again I think they should be considered highly unusual in most people).
  • And lastly, I'll leave you with my two favorite non-body related posts on the plague of overdoing (busyness) and what it is costing us, just in case you find them as delightful as I did: Busyness is Laziness by Dr. Reggie Ray- favorite outtake: "By being busy you are basically giving away your human existence."- and The Busy Trap  by Tim Kreider of the New York Times- favorite outtake: "Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets. The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration — it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done."

And with that, go forth, be boring, be lazy, be idle, and thrive. 

Photo by Jenny Potter

DIY Friday: Run Smarter

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*Do it yourself! Every Friday we do a roundup of great posts, videos, or other resources around a theme that help people to turn their bodies from cranky to happy.*

7951627190_9b75735982_cThis week I put my interview with Jae Gruenke of The Balanced Runner up as a delicious treat for all you runners out there. So I thought I'd follow it up by dedicating this DIY Friday to The Balanced Runner's Five Running Form Tips You've Never Heard Before. There is so much lousy information out there about how to be a better (faster, more efficiently, and injury free) runner, but this stuff is gold. Enter The Balanced Runner team:

 

 

Video #1- Dealing with Tight Shoulders: 

'Video #2: Dealing with Sore Knees:

 

Video #3: The Trouble with Being Too Upright, and How To Avoid It:

Video # 4: How to Avoid Working Too Hard:

'Video #5: How to Avoid Overstriding: 

 

photo by Matt Brock

Jae Gruenke Interview

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Jae_Gruenke_head_shotThe interview series keeps on rolling with Jae Gruenke of The Balanced Runner and Intelligent Exercise. Jae is a Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner and running form expert who has helped runners from beginner to Olympian to  relieve pain and improve their performance, and she specializes in helping runners whose problems have persisted despite medical treatment. Jae has a very unique (and very useful) lens on running form, performance, and injury recovery, so I was glad to have a chance to download her brain, so to speak, on this subject.

If you want to skim or to see a more detailed outline of our conversation, you can scroll below the video to find the timeline. Meet Jae:

1:32 Jae’s unique “hardware” vs. “software” approach to help people to learn how to move. In Balanced Runner (and Feldenkrais) they work with what you know about how to coordinate yourself in movement, or the “software” you are running; i.e. the movement habits that you bring to running.

3:38 We are evolved to do this movement [running].

5:00 The number of people who are coming back to running in general (and barefoot or minimalist running in particular) right now after having left it because they thought running was bad or their doctor told them not to run anymore.

6:26 Jae talks about how they find that it is not necessary for people to run in orthotics. They become unnecessary as people learn to run appropriately. “Maybe there are 1 in 1000 who have a real anatomical abnormality that make orthotics truly necessary, but I haven’t met that person yet.”

8:12 One of the big problems with orthotics is that your arch is one of your major springs; it absorbs impact and then returns it to you. That’s where a portion of your momentum comes from, and not just the arch but the whole spring system through the body’s the connective tissue [yay fascia!]. It is responsible for storing as much as 50% of the energy from each stride and generating the force that you need for the next stride. So if you’re running on a stiff support that prevents your arch from doing a normal natural pronation, all that free energy that you could have had from your feet you now have to generate from your muscles. And over the counter orthotics have been shown to create stress at the knee.

10:20 A medically responsible orthotic, for running especially, but even for everyday activity, should have some flex in it.

11:13 If your pelvis is moving properly, you will shift your weight to the weight bearing portions of your feet, and instead of overpronating, you will appropriately pronate. It is actually that easy.

12:16 Jae tackles the buzzword “pelvic stability”: it has been interpreted to mean that the pelvis does not move, or that the pelvis moving around must be unhealthy. Jae explains how if you succeeded at not moving your pelvis you wouldn’t be able to run. So all runners move it some, but if you don’t move it enough, it’s almost impossible to not overstride and so you end up with one of 2 versions of runner’s knee.

14:19 How iliotibial band syndrome happens, and how it makes people appear to be over-pronating and wind up with those orthotics, when really it’s about your pelvis not moving appropriately.

15:55 If you let your pelvis move properly, you are less likely to overstride, and the energetic cost of running goes down. People always PR after learning how to do this in addition to their pain going away.

17:15 what does the Balanced Runner approach look like?

19:31 The best defense against bad advice is the ability to feel what you’re doing and to trust your own sense of what you know to be most comfortable and right for you, regardless of what anyone tells you. And you can always improve the accuracy of your ability to feel yourself.

22:08 What does a Feldenkrais session a la Balanced Runner look like?

24:54 The key thing for people to know who want to transition to minimal footwear or to barefoot running should know is that stress is good for our bodies, it makes us rebuild stronger, but you have to have the stress applied at a rate from which you can recover. So take it slowly. If you want to be running fully barefoot skin adapts within a few weeks, soft tissues in a few months, and bones over a matter of years just as a result of cell turnover. So go slower in the transition than you think you need to.

25:45 Form-wise regarding barefoot running, people usually try to switch from a heel strike to a forefoot strike, which often results in a prancing action which is very stressful to the metatarsals, or they don’t change their heel strike overstriding and so they develop achilles tendinopathy. You have to change what your whole body does.

26:58 What Jae says is the worst advice for barefoot running.

27:15 The basic elements of healthy running form (a list for all you runners who want to know the basics).

28:00 If what’s happening from the hips up is working right, you pretty much won’t overstride. But if you try to fix your overstriding from the ips down you will be unsuccessful.

30:29 Jae’s personal story of how she went from hating running (it felt horrible to her body), to falling in love with it. How Feldenkrais lessons taught her to feel great as a runner, and how no one was talking about what she had found made people comfortable as runners, so she started Balanced Runner!