Bands, an iPhone + a Book

It started because the hip/back thing wasn’t leaving so I took 2 weeks off with the intent to work on my hips and glutes, which have always been weak, as evidenced by a lifelong sad, flat ass.  I suspected a lack of hip stability was at the heart of it and if nothing else, it would be great injury prevention for the future, so I was motivated to get crackin’.

In a magical turn of events, the day after deciding to take off, a friend posted on Facebook that he’d just been diagnosed with SI Joint Dysfunction.  It took me a week to finally concede that this was my problem as well.  Though the symptoms certainly fit, it seemed too convenient to jump on someone else’s injury bandwagon, but that’s what it was, confirmed when I did a couple corrective SIJD exercises that brought immediate (albeit temporary) relief.

After 2 weeks, I was much better and while it wasn’t completely gone, it was gone enough to run again knowing I wouldn’t be making myself worse.  Meanwhile, the hip work was already making a big difference in my day-to-day life.  From walking to going up stairs or even standing up from a seated position, these simple daily actions felt genuinely different. Now, instead of being pulled by my head, I was now being pushed forward by my hips.  I was literally changing my center of gravity.

My first run back after the 2 weeks off was wild.  My ass and hips were engaged and even my knees felt higher!  No more scuffling foot for me, it was if I had oil in my hip flexors.  I was on to something big.

Close to week 3, motivated by the changes and realizing that an even larger transformation was possible, I began to tackle a beast that has plagued me my entire life: my crappy posture.  Posture is often a major player in SI joint dysfunction anyway, so it made sense to work on it all together.

I spent a ton of time going through old photos, both running and regular, deconstructing my physical “quirks” and how it related to my gait and breathing, etc.   Thanks to a plethora of info on chiropractic and PT sites, it was very clear how my particular posture (forward head, rounded shoulders and swayback) was negatively affecting me.  Plus, it’s downright fugly.

Bands, iPhone and the Book
In the past 5½ weeks, me and my resistance bands have become One.  I even had a little arts and crafts project where I made handles and a door mount for them, which opened up a ton more available exercises I could do.  I love those suckers and the great thing is that since I do most of my work at home, I can get up and do some upright rows or Romanian deadlifts whenever the mood takes me.  It’s casual, varied and dare I say…fun.

My iPhone has also played a huge role in all this, but not due to any app (though an interval timer app is fabulous for stretching). What has made my phone turn into a mini Physical Therapist, a.k.a. The Tool Of Truth, is the video feature.  Taking video of myself exercising or even just moving around the apartment has been invaluable.  I also put a mirror next to my monitor with the most horrible running photo taped to it.  One glance at that pic is an exceptionally effective scare tactic, I straighten up in a jiffy, and the mirror keeps me honest through the day.

The book…this is funny.  It’s not a particular book, it could be any book, but the one I’m using is, ironically, from the 50’s called “How You Look & Dress”.  I had been doing all these exercises to improve my posture (lots of upper back work and chin tucks, etc) but it wasn’t till I balanced a book on my head on a total whim, just to see how I’d do, that I discovered it was the missing link.  It showed me in a millisecond that I hadn’t been holding my head up high enough. A slight swivel upwards and voila: perfect.  I can walk around with that thing all day now.

There is an element that I want to mention from all this, that I think my posture had a psychological basis behind it. I mean, of course decades of habit and laziness created the actual shape, but I also think that my rounded shoulders, holding my head low – in essence, being small – was a form of hiding, a self-made protective shield.  Because it’s very “out there” to open your chest to the world and hold your head high. This whole experience is changing me on a deeper level, I’m thinking of places I could move to and getting out in the world more, maybe take some chances again.  Big stuff.

I’ve been taking a lot of days off because I don’t want to push it so I’m still fresh with it all, but the difference of before/after continues to amaze me.  Uphills?  No comparison, power from the back.  Running faster?  Highlights the folded troll ball I used to be when speeding up.  Now when I speed up, it’s startling to feel my torso remaining erect, strong and unchanged, it’s the hips that do the work.

But it’s not a click of the fingers and voila, everything’s done!  I am basically having to relearn how to run.  I had a period where I was getting it wrong, trying to replicate my new walking feeling which was keeping me rather small and then before I figured out the head placement thing I was basically running with a double-chin on purpose which wasn’t helping my breathing any.  Idiot.

So that’s the latest.  I think this marks the last of the things I can do to myself, so hopefully this is the final fix.  It better be, I typed this whole thing with a book on my head. I can’t imagine how I’ll ever top that.

20 thoughts on “Bands, an iPhone + a Book

  1. Kelly

    OMG FLO!! Glad to hear you are finding some answers. I have lower ab pain after 3 miles into a run also my hips and lower back were soo tight! I when to a Chiro/Muscle guru, he thinks that after the 3 miles, my muscles around my pelvis are week and my pelvis tips back and then strains the ab muscles. Thru resistance testing, in his words “No wonder your lower back is tight, your butt don’t work.” I guess we runners just have dumb asses-LOL

    So I have exercises to do. After just a couple of days, I can feel the difference from lying in bed to sitting in a chair. So I know what you are talking about! And my posture, like yours, has always been major suck.

    So I am looking forward to running without the ab pain and feeling power from my hips!

    So glad you are up and kicking, I stalk your blog almost dailey looking for updates.

    Here’s to many more years of good running!

    1. Flo Post author

      You sweetie, thanks for stalking and while I’m sorry to hear about your injury stuff, it’s cool that you’re already feeling the benefits of strengthening. Yep, our butts seem to be the most commonly neglected thing for runners so at least we’re all in good company. :)

  2. gusgordon

    This is making me think that my transition to a forefoot strike is what triggered all of this. Indeed I never had any symptoms before I did this, even when running more miles. And I definitely made a conscious effort to lean forward a bit when running to promote the forefoot strike.

    1. Flo Post author

      First off, thanks for supplying that link so many weeks ago. Second, yes, it could have been that change in gait. Posture is such a strong component and of course, changing the load in one area will affect another. I hope you get it all sorted out soon, it’s been too long for you!

  3. Paul Berg

    Your problems are addressed in the new book “Anatomy for Runners” by Jay Decherry (sp?) My 22-yr old collegiate runner daughter worked with him and was a great help. Buy the book.

    1. Flo Post author

      Thanks for the recommend, Paul. I’ve got the problem all sorted now and then some but I’ll keep it on the list for future.

  4. Greenlee

    I really love how you are so proactive about managing your health and not just accepting a situation without exploring all options. I want so badly to see you running healthy and happy!

    1. Flo Post author

      Thanks honey! I’ve always been a DIY-er so I guess for health, it’s no different. Plus, it’s been really fun to learn about all this stuff. So win-win. :)

  5. Kevin

    Cool. Posture is such a huge part of us. Interestingly for the last couple of months I have been virtually military marching on my wall to and home from work. Head up, chest out, shoulders in place, arm swing through front to rear. That with the AUS has made walking become burden less again and I feel like the king.

  6. Zab

    Attempt #2 at this comment. Surely less funny than the first one. It was something about trying to balance a beer on your head next. Then it commended you on the incredible determination you have shown over the last year plus. Most people would have quit by now. Then, it said something like you will be a unstoppable running machine once your Newly activated muscles are fully strengthened and in full use, running 6-7 days a week. Shit, at that point, is going down. Hard and fast. Just like you like it. Huh?

    1. Flo Post author

      #2 was wonderful enough! You darling boy, I know your prediction will come true, it has to, because I’m due a few more races where I get to see your smiling mug again. More Zab for me, please!

  7. Ewen

    Thank goodness for books — how would posture challenged Gen-Y runners go balancing a kindle on their heads? Exciting stuff Flo. Really happy for you. By the way, do you have a link to the ‘resistanace bands’?

    1. Flo Post author

      Lol on the Kindle. I’m using Therabands, but if I was to buy a full set of something, I’d probably get this one from Bodylastics (the price is good and they have a nylon core so they can’t snap in your face). As for exercises, Theraband Academy has a ton on their website (in the Product drop-down, choose “Thera-band Elastic Resistance” then Enter) and if you go to YouTube and enter “resistance bands” you’ll see a ton of videos as well. Just about any exercise you can do with weights has an adaption for bands.

    1. Flo Post author

      Not for a while yet! Maybe in the next 2-3 years. Not much keeping me here in Philly and it’d be nice to go somewhere with a better climate and a more active, year-round running community. But it’s just a fluffy thought at the moment. It’d require being able to make all my income off the design stuff since voiceovers would be harder to come by…but I’m working on it. :)

  8. Vern

    Hi Flo:

    Like you, I’ve also learned how important it is to strengthen the butt muscles. After living with butt pain for several years, I finally went to the doc and found out I had chronic hamstring tendonosis at the point where the hamstring attaches to the ischial tuberosity. In addition to doing a bunch of eccentric strengthening exercises for the hamstring, I also do abdominal bridges while lying on my back with a 25 pound weight on my stomach. My ass went south 25 years ago and I’m hoping this will call it home.

  9. Michaela

    I have not checked in here for a few months. I am very relieved that you are on the mend. I have been diagnosed with osteitis pubis Oct 2010 which is closely related to SI joint dysfunction. In fact, during my second pregnancy my SI joints popped out a couple of times and thanks to a physical therapist I learned how to get them back in. Shortly after baby two was born I started physical therapy and was able to start running again. I am at a solid mileage now with 4 runs a week. I continued the PT exercises for many months but have stopped a months or so ago. I should probably go back and also look at posture, since my problem is not 100% fixed.

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