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.