Thursday, January 16, 2014

Thoughts on the pelvis...

Since I have promised to write more, here are some notes from today's rehearsal.

So much focus is put onto the stabilizing ability of the pelvis, no matter what it is that we do - running, dancing (especially ballet!), normal walking gait - that I often forget that the pelvis is, like the rest of the body, a center of movement. 

As a ballet dancer trying new ways of moving and recovering from injuries in my 20s, this way of thinking was such a habit that I couldn't even begin to fathom the idea of movement in the pelvis. As a result it took more than 10 years and lots of happy accidents to heal my injuries.

How many years is this later? 20? Really? I am just waking up to the possibilities for healthy movement AND stabilization in the hips. For instance, the best no-contest workout for all the glutes, especially the meds is belly dancing. No joke. Not to mention the obliques...and it's great for both eccentric and concentric work of the pelvic floor. Ever watch an expert belly dancer's gait? (I say "expert" since it's perfectly possible to perform the movements incorrectly without organizing the gluteals.) Magnificent! 

The pelvis is not only a stabilizer - it's a major source of energy, like the heaviest ball on a chain, the pelvis can either drag the body around or be an interesting fulcrum from which to swing. Of course, when that same fulcrum is in motion, that's where the body then requires excellent neutral alignment and strength to hold together. 

I'd also be curious to see the results of a study of the total number of dancers from different styles of dance who have needed hip replacements by the age of 60, including belly dancing. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

It's official! New class at Presidio Sport & Medicine starting 1/22!

It is a done thing.

Starting on 1/22, I will be teaching every Wednesday evening from 7-8pm at PSM, a great fitness center/physical therapy center in the Presidio on Gorgas, down the street from the YMCA and next door to SenSpa. Here's the details:

Pilates with Jen
7-8pm Wednesdays
Presidio Sport & Medicine
1162B Gorgas Ave
San Francisco, CA 94129

The class runs in 6-week cycles. The first will be from January 22 until February 26 and is open to the public. There are plenty of parking spots both on the side of the building and the lot across the street. (There are reasonably priced payment machines that take credit and debit cards to pay per hour.)

The style of the class will be a Pilates Fusion style mix of the classic West Coast style of Pilates with other modalities added, including Aston Kinetics and Foot-To-Core. 


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Time machines, classes and thoughts about ankles and how they rock.

Hello everyone,

Guilty as charged. Life is busy, and if someone would ask me what I'd prefer to do, go for a run or type my blog, well, generally I go for a run. Also, I get my best thoughts while running, and usually I come off of a run with no time to spare between cooling off, washing up, and picking my daughter up from school...So the thoughts drift away and the blog lays fallow.

But now I'm back a full year later. One of my resolutions? (Maybe my only one since, as a rule I don't tend to make them!) That I will blog more often. I will do my best.

I have just updated by web site after a long period of inactivity since it is the turning of the year and new things are happening again. I have some great new testimonials. Both of these ladies are terrific students and a joy to work with.

Firstly, the current classes happening this year are Pilates Fusion on Mondays and Wednesdays at 10am at The Bridgeway Gym in Sausalito. It's a great class and I often incorporate foot-to-core exercises as part of the warm-up. There has been great feedback from many of the folks who take the class about improvements in balance and in their ability to access their abdominals later in the class.

Secondly, there is a new Pilates Fusion class opening up at Presidio Sport And Medicine in the Presidio on Wednesday nights. Right now it looks like 7pm, although it might wind up being at 6:30. The class starts on 1/15. Stay tuned for confirmation.

Finally, the Sunday Gyro/Pilates-inspired class is on hiatus for now. I will be getting my Foundation Certification in Gyrokinesis in a month, and so it will then be back on officially as a Gyrokinesis class. More on that as it happens.

Enough of the scheduling...

So, ankles. Interesting things. I've been thinking a lot about ankles over the last year. So much depends on the balance of the talus as it glides in its groove under the tibia. If anything throws it off it simply doesn't work. Since the ankle is the body's foundational pivot joint, (something from Judith Aston's work) when an ankle doesn't work right, the dysfunction echoes throughout the body like ripples on water.

So imagine, now, that a person's talus no longer glides well and they lose their range of motion - that's most of us by the way, thanks to the 90 degree sitting position and our wacky love of tipped-up heels - then they can't clear the foot as they swing the leg through. So the knee has to be higher during the swing phase, right? That means that somehow, the body has to haul the leg through swing phase with a foot that can't get out of the way. How does their body accomplish that? Here are a few possibilities.
  1. A more bent knee (to lift the foot off the ground) which means
  2. More work for the quads and hip flexors and possibly
  3. More work for the abdominals (except that when the hip flexors are overworking then it's likely that the abs are unaccessible) which also means that
  4. There is more likelihood of an injury due to impact without abdominal support and
  5. More likely to see a hard heel-strike (which, in turn, encourages a less mobile ankle, more work from the hip flexors, and more injuries, depending on other factors, of course)
This is something that was sliding around my brain during my last run. One of the enjoyable parts of minimal running to me is the accordion-pleating of the body into and out of the ground. This creates resilience and encourages a full range of motion in the joints without excess impact. I am not the most resilient person in the world thanks to hypermobility issues, so these things make a huge difference to me when I run. If my ankles freeze up I feel it immediately. My stride shortens, I have pain and I feel every impact, even with pretty good form.

When the ankle folds at the joint during a mid-foot strike the dome of the talus actually glides both inwards and around its axis, which doesn't go forward to back - it's actually at an odd and interesting angle that, if you look closely at it, makes perfect sense as the bottom joint of an accordion pleat with the very complex joints of knee and hip as part of the system (hooray Angle of Henke (don't forget to scroll around a bit to see other planes)!!!). So when a person reaches forward with their toe pulled straight up and slams the heel down, they are actually throwing the talus out of its orbit, so to speak, making it less likely to see natural joint movement there later. They are also pushing the calcaneus up into the ankle, and forcing extra length into the sole of the foot along the plantar fascia...sounds like the potential for some serious pain!

So, that's the thought for today on ankles and theories about how they work.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

New year, new developments

I am teaching all kinds of fun classes this year!

I am currently teaching a Pilates/Gyro-inspired class Sundays 10:00-11:30am at Synergy Fitness at 3556 Sacramento St. In San Francisco.

I co-teach another one at A Body Of Work in the Presidio Thursdays 12-1 with Cathy Berman and Michelle Wing.

These classes are sliding scale $12-$20.

Starting the 18th I will be teaching 10:45 Pilates mat at The Bridgeway Gym in Sausalito, and the following week I will be teaching the Wednesday 10am class, as well.

I currently warm up and run after the Sunday class around 1pm and have been inspired by some colleagues to open that to others as a group meditative barefoot or minimalist footwear walk (at some point to evolve into a run) in Presidio Heights. Anyone up for that can email me! Seriously, these are the ideal super-clean, sunny-warm sidewalks for training outdoor feet...a rare and wonderful treat for San Franciscans!

For those of you interested in what our performers do to train for our shows, you are welcome to take company class with us Saturdays 1:30-2:30 at DanceGround Keriac at 1805 Divisadero at Bush, San Francisco. These classes are appropriate for all levels, both dancers and non-dancers. We use methods from Pilates, Gyrokinesis, Butoh, contemporary dance, improvisation, classical vocal training and our own special blend of voice, movement, and fun right-meets-left-brain work generation games. The fee for each class is sliding scale $10-$20.

Please feel free to email for reservations or questions!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Night time run images

Sometimes it seems like I only get to run after 8:30 at night. On the other hand, I love that time and am so inspired by the darkened landscapes. Here are some shots from the last two runs I've taken:

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

News and events

It has been a while again since I've added any entries here, partly because I ran and trained more than I was writing about running, and partly because my other lives took precedence for a while.

Firstly, I am teaching a workshop called "From Distal To Proximal" for Pilates trainers at A Body Of Work Studios on Ruger St. in the Presidio in San Francisco on November 4 from 1-4. The workshop is all about understanding how the feet and the core interact. We will be having some fun with the equipment and will get to know our feet through manual work and anatomy. It should be a blast. Contact A Body Of Work to enroll. Here's the official page.

Secondly, here is a great article which pretty much ties up the hype around barefoot running vs. shod.

"The truth about barefoot running: It’s complicated" by Cary Groner

What he says is that people who wear shoes have certain kinds of injuries. Barefoot runners have others. Training is important. Don't overdo it. Many barefoot runners wear shoes when they run, too. Many runners who swear by their shoes take them off to train.

He talks to Dr. Daniel Lieberman, (known as The Barefoot Professor,) who, while not happy about the hype that has developed around barefoot running, stands by the opinion that soft-soled running shoes that raise the heel are still terrible for human bodies.

I'd agree. On one hand, I have seen more and more people in our neighborhood with decent looking midfoot form in running shoes, and very few people actually running without shoes at all or in very minimal shoes like the FiveFingers or sandals. On the other hand, I still haven't found a minimal shoe (other than the FiveFingers) that I can run in comfortably. That includes huaraches! On the last hand, assuming that I can have three or more hands for the purpose of this paragraph, I absolutely refuse to spend more than $100.00 on running shoes, and continue to feel that the running shoe industry is a series of snake-oil scams.

As for injuries, it is true that each form has its own related set of problems. While I do occasionally get a foot injury from running barefoot and minimal, when I wore shoes I had debilitating pain in my neck, back, hips, knees and ankles. I gladly traded the second for the first!

If I had not had pain from running shod, then the tradeoff might not have been quite as attractive. I have to train my feet and the rest of me about five days a week to stay strong enough to run in the city. Which leads me to the next point.

What about running on hard, man-made surfaces? Is it good for us or not? It's certainly easier when running shoeless. I've heard many times that in order to learn how to run barefoot that the smooth sidewalk or pavement is what you want to start on, but there is a case to be made that a large, heavy person who tends to have lower muscle tone would not want to expose their bones to hard pavement as an introductory surface. If you are slight and strong, though, it may be fine. I do notice that when I run on pavement that my feet tend to be more sore afterwards and need to recover for a longer time than when I hike a trail or run on the track. For the record, I am 5' tall and about 112 lbs.

Lieberman briefly talks about the idea of a hard, smooth surface being unnatural in some ways, and that the consistency of the surface encourages repetitive stress. That takes me back to where I started a while back in this blog - that we are an all-or-nothing culture that loves to generalize without simplifying. We are fascinated with being the fastest, or going the farthest, doing the same thing over and over until we achieve some goal that we don't even realize is completely arbitrary. We forget that exercise isn't simply the repetition of this movement with this amount of weight then another movement with that amount of weight. While we like to create artificially symmetrical, repetitive systems for training our bodies (and everything else, really,) that's not how our bodies work.

If you watch a child outdoors, they don't just run. They run, stop, pick a flower, sprint to a tree, climb it, hang out there for a while and chirp at a bird, then they might stand up, balance and leap to the ground where they will gleefully roll around in the wet mud for a while before getting up and doing something completely different.

Varying activities truly strengthens the body, builds range of motion and balance. Most of all, though, it's FUN! I have learned when running that if I start feeling bored, or that panic when I start to dislike what I'm doing or that edge of fatigue before an injury that it's time to change it up.

Recently I started to use one of those phone applications that uses GPS to chart a run, has a timer and a way to measure how fast you're going. My tendency when I am using that program is to just run, and keep on running exactly the same way for as long as I can, to try to go faster, farther and increase the length and speed each time I run. While I didn't get injured from it, I also wasn't getting the kind of joy I got from simply moving until I felt like stopping, then moving again. Sometimes I go very slowly, sometimes faster. Sometimes I stop and take pictures. To me, a run is somewhere between a prayer and a meditation, and that's where it's at for me.

Finally, here are some pictures from my recent hikes/runs...

Land's End 10/24

Land's End 10/24

Sausalito 10/16

Tennessee Valley 9/2 (more of a hike)

Saturday, July 21, 2012

A Collection Of Runs

It's been a while for various reasons, including recovery from an injury that I sustained from a dance exercise in a class that I took. (Who knew that one supine twist that was held too long would have repercussions that lasted from March to July, and that it would affect my foot, of all things?) Then our performance company took over my life. There were three big deadlines in succession, then two performances, then we traveled back east, and now we're back. We have a show at the end of August (stay tuned to the Right Brain Performancelab site for that information!), then we're quiet until October, although I have plenty of deadlines throughout the next few months. Sigh.

Either way, I'm back, running about a mile and a half at a time, or so. I finally stretched my legs today somewhat.

The first pics are from our visit to the Philadelphia suburbs where I grew up. I took a run in the rain one warm, drippy morning. The next are from some recent nighttime runs - my most comfortable free time is after 8:30 or 9 when our daughter is soundly asleep.

Someone planted corn on their front lawn (!!!)

An especially pretty house with a nice garden - kind of a luxury to this San Franciscan.

One of the spots where I occasionally played as a kid.

Here I am, at Anthony Wayne Park!
At home I tend to run at night. I love the quality of light around 9-9:30pm. As time has gone by I progressed from running a few blocks to running for about 20-25 minutes and about 2 miles. That's pretty slow, I think, but I'm mostly paying attention to how my body feels and feeling the ground clearly.

On July 5

On July 21 - the first day I really felt my legs start to stretch and to move more. I think I went faster, overall, but I took more breaks, too.
I'm taller in shadow, but my sweatshirt makes me look like I have a tiny head. :)