Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Flexible Shoes Prevent Arthritis Study

Yet more on the importance of our feet and the “less is more” trend in shoes my foot fitness friends! Sound familiar? It should by now.

Want less knee pain, less back pain, less everything pain? Fix your feet and ankles. Hmmm…”
Ground Forces Math” again…

ScienceDaily (Mar. 25, 2010) — Flip-flops and sneakers with flexible soles are easier on the knees than clogs or even special walking shoes, a study by Rush University Medical Center has found. And that's important, because loading on the knee joints is a key factor in the development of osteoarthritis.

In Foot Fitness! Coach RJ

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Z-Health Thought of the Day: How to find Healthy Shoes

We've been talking a lot lately about the importance of "foot fitness" and shoes. I'm learning more and more with Z-Health too about how important our feet are neurologically especially when you consider the Ground Forces Math involved with each foot strike.

On these notes, I found a great shoe review section. It's a "bare foot" website, but the point is to find shoes that you can wear that let your feet function more like they are bare foot i.e. less restriction.

The new trend in shoes is "less is more." You will see more and more shoes being built with less support and more flexibility, so the feet can do what they were designed to do in the first place--stabilize. All of our fancy running shoes to correct pronation, supination, poor stabilization basically got this result--more injuries! Want to fix all these problems the right way? Improve the fitness of your feet!!! Even work boots now are being made to flex properly so the feet can do what they need to do. I'll be developing this idea a lot in 2010, but for now, here is the review site and one very simple rule to find a "foot healthy" shoe!

To find a shoe that is foot healthy, simply pick it up, turn it over, and apply these two tests:
1. Break it in half at the arch
2. Twist it diagonally at the arch

Most shoes will only break at the toe box area, but the shoe needs to actually break in the middle section. If the shoe is too stiff to "twist" then the foot cannot function properly.

I bought one pair of Ecko shoes that my feet LOVE. I never understood why until taking the Z-Health training. When I got home, I tested the Eckos, and sure enough, they broke in the middle and twisted! That's why my feet love them--because my feet can function properly! The new Nike Free running shoes also do this well. Converse One Stars will also pass this test along with others--see review site for more specifics.

Here's the review section. Look for more and more major brands coming out with more healthy shoes, but if in doubt, just apply the rules above to any shoe you might want to purchase. True--not all of my shoes will break and flex in the middle, but more and more my feet know the difference and say NO when I put on the shoes that do not meet the criteria above. Think of Ground Forces Math--the better your feet hit the ground, the better you will walk, and the healthier you will be.
In Foot Fitness! Coach RJ

Z-Health Thought of the Day: Startle Reflex

One of the enemies of efficiency is the "Startle Reflex." The other is Sensory Motor Amnesia where people literally forget how to move. Let's address Startle Reflex.
Startle Reflex is hard wired into our brains for the purpose of survival. In certain situations, covering up the face and vital organs is of critical importance for SURVIVAL!!! However, far too many people are chronically in some degree of startle regarding their posture which makes it impossible to move with optimal efficiency. Here are some of the effects of startle by body region:
Head: Moves forward to cover up cervical spine.
Face: Tense jaw and squint eyes to protect mouth and face.
Shoulders: Elevates to shield throat and cervical spine.
Chest: Rounds forward to protect throat, heart, lungs, and other vital organs.
Ribs: The space in-between gets smaller to protect the lungs.
Abdomen: Flexes forward to guard organs and load for a more stable base of support in case we need to run.
Glutes: Contracts to tip pelvis forward and helps put torso in flexion for running away.
Legs: Adduct towards midline to protect groin, calves load to increase stability and balance.
All these are critically important for survival and will work INSTANTLY without any cognitive thought when your life is threatened, but over extended periods of time it is not healthy to be in such a state with such extreme postural deviations. Look around today--you'll see people everywhere exhibiting these sorts of postures and signs of "startle" because they are in some degree of threat. When you think about how the body senses lack of movement as threat, and how most people SIT all day and hardly move, it's no wonder so many of us now have "threat" postures related to the Startle Reflex. In nature, an animal that never moves gets eaten. This is how our brains are wired for survival. MOVE OR DIE!!!
With Z-Health, we facilitate removing threat, removing chronic startle reflex, and ultimately removing pain as well. Do all that and life will improve along with your movement too!
In MOVEment, Coach RJ

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Z-Health Thought of the Day: "Opposing Joints"

Our joints have a lot to do with proprioception. It’s a big word, but basically proprioception is our body’s ability to sense its position in space. Are you leaning forward, falling, slipping, spinning, tilting, speeding up, slowing down, etc.? We have receptors in our joints that sense all these and give IMMEDIATE feedback to the brain. Other ways to sense proprioception are vision and vestibular (ears).

The cool thing about proprioception is that it is all the body all the time. Our bodies are constantly re-evaluating our positions to make corrections and adjustments—millions and millions of times per year. The mechanoreceptors which are highly concentrated around our joints move at 300 MPH, so this happens really fast! Mechanoreceptors are all over the body—not just at joints—but they are more concentrated at the borders of joints, so working with the joints is a more efficient way to tap into this existing system. Ever felt a bug crawling on your skin? A really small bug or insect not even biting you? Thank the mechanoreceptors in your skin and hair follicles that sense movement!

While all the joints are connected at some level, certain joint areas have a more direct connection to other joint sites—these are called “opposing joints.” It’s really pretty fascinating how “everything is connected” and how we have these diagonal and spiral relationships in the body.

Here’s a short list of opposing joints. One is very connected to the other. If you have pain in one—you are likely to also have pain in the other. If one area is too painful for me to work on with you, I can use the opposing joint relationship to go to a “different” part of your body which can then reduce pain and increase mobility in the opposing joint that was originally hurting more. That is cool. I’ve already used this method to help people with Z-Health. One lady had really bad right hip pain, so I went to her left shoulder—then her right hip got better within minutes!!!

Here’s the short list of “Opposing Joints”

Low Back-Mid Back

*Example? Got a shoulder problem? It can likely be caused by an immobile hip that forces you to compensate all the time with your shoulder—often the “opposing” shoulder! Remember—where mobility is lost it will be gained at another joint as a compensation. Lose hip mobility—the shoulder might be forced into hyper mobility to compensate which puts the shoulder at risk for injury.

Think about where you might have pain, but don’t stop “where it hurts” because the root cause is likely somewhere else. This is a big lesson of Z-Health for me. Keep looking beyond where it hurts to find where the problem actually started. Sort of like root cause analysis but for our health and movement instead of a mechanical or factory processes at work. Traditional methods often miss this important point. Yes—the shoulder rotator cuff can be repaired, but what caused the tear? Where is the root cause? If we don’t find it, we might be looking at another shoulder repair! This exact scenario has presented to me quite often the last ten years. The real problem never got fixed by the surgery…back to square #1…how do you move?!!!

In Healthy MOVEment!
Coach RJ

Monday, March 8, 2010

Z-Health Thought of the Day: Enemies of Efficiency

There are two enemies of efficiency regarding human movement:

1. Startle Reflex
2. Sensory Motor Amnesia (SMA)

Startle Reflex: Startle is hard wired into our bodies for survival. In extreme situations, startle reflex is a good thing to help us survive. Startle is “precognitive” meaning we can’t control it with active thought. If someone jumps at you in the darkness with a baseball bat—certain actions are going to take place in your body to protect your vital organs from damage for purposes of survival whether you think about them or not. Basically, you do two observable body actions when in startle—you flex and adduct. Flexion means you’ll draw arms up and legs up, etc. Adduction means you bring your arms and legs closer to your center or midline. Think of the “Startle Reflex” as being in the fetal position--or at least moving closer to the fetal position. Great for short term survival at times—but BAD for the long term movements when going about your daily business. It’s impossible to move well while in startle, yet millions of Americans are in chronic startle postures today; hence; they are very inefficient with their daily movements.

Sensory Motor Amnesia: The best way to describe SMA is that the body “has forgotten how to move.” One of the hardest parts of my job is working with people that basically have no clue about what is moving or how to move it. I literally have to place a person’s foot or hand or arm sometimes into a certain position. They have no sense of “kinesthetic awareness” regarding how to move—basically SMA. I have also found that a person can have SMA in one part of their body but not another. For example, a quarterback might have great ability to throw a ball with the upper body but might have poor control at the foot and ankle. Think of it this way though--if he had better control at the foot and ankle he would definately have better control with the upper body throwing as well. Alas, it can be frustrating for the person and the movement coach, but the body has amazing ability to re-learn and improve how it moves with the correct input and movement drills. It can be done!!!

The Z-Health system is built on correcting these two enemies of efficiency. We work to eliminate startle reflex and bring a person back into a neutral posture which is the best position from which to generally move while using the initial drills. How do we remove threat with Z? By doing the Z-Health dynamic joint mobility drills with NO PAIN-NO THREAT. It’s not how fast or how big the movements are—but how quality while pain free—a vastly different approach than traditional gym workouts, but one that is mandatory for optimizing your central nervous system.

To restore your sensory motor awareness, we perform very small and precise joint movements to re-educate the central nervous system so it can you move better. A person can quickly feel where they are and how to move if the correct dynamic joint mobility exercises are performed with high quality and at the correct speeds. Remember—it’s not a “workout” or about going hard and fast. Z-Health is about letting your brain know it’s okay to move because it’s pain free without threat.

Trust me—it works. However, you will never “get it” by reading about Z-Health—you must “learn by wholistic experience” which is also referred as “somatic learning.”

More on specifics of “Threat Response” to posture and bodily functions in future posts!
In MOVEment, Coach RJ

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Z-Health Thought of the Day: Is Running Healthy or High-Risk?

On my way to work in Paso Robles the other day, I saw a man running with very awkward and inefficient form and started thinking about the “Ground Forces Math” note I sent out earlier. Then the big picture became much more clear in my own mind regarding all kinds of movement—not just running.

Let’s go back to ground forces math for a moment. A 200 pound man “running” with poor form will multiply his body weight about nine times for each heel strike. That would be 1800 pounds each stride. Using Newton’s Laws of Motion, we know that the force will follow a “line” into the ground and coming back up. If your ankles do not work correctly, it will change the “line of force” at your knees or hips (other joints as well) causing “force leaks.” Now think about 1800 pounds sheering at your knees and hips every single foot strike—NOT good!

So, the question I constantly get is this… "Is running bad for your knees?” Based on what I know and have been reading, it’s not running in general that is bad—it’s “HOW” people run! If your knees and joints are lined up properly, the biomechanics will work correctly to take you where you want to go. If not, you will probably still get there but with the “emergency brakes” on your movement—and possibly even a catastrophic failure or at least pain. Evidence? Look at all the joint replacement surgeries today versus 30 years ago. What has changed? Sure—more technology has made these surgeries an option today, but years ago we didn’t really need them for the most part. So what has changed? We sit and don’t move much. The body senses lack of movement in joints as a THREAT and will lock up joint surfaces to keep the problem joints out of the equation…trust me…this is a BIG problem we need to solve at the root cause failure level.

Once again, we need to start moving and moving well—then walking, running, sprinting, and basically all movement will be optimized. Where do we start? From the ground up is a good place to begin. Every single person I have worked on so far with Z-Health has had neurological inefficiency in their feet and ankles—including myself and my wife! Think about that and about how important it is to address these issues for injury prevention and quality of life…then let’s get busy correcting them!

In Movement,
Coach RJ

Z-Health Thought of the Day: Ground Forces Math

I'm not a math guy; I always did much better in English and art...and health of course. However, when I saw the math regarding ground forces with each walking stride, even I was impressed! What I have learned is that the fastest way to make a change in a person systemically is to work with their feet and ankles. Why? So I can improve their walking gait. Do the math. It's obvious. As I roll Z-Health into my daily business, the primary objective is to get people to walk better. Do the math-you'll see why. For people disabled in wheelchairs or walkers, I will shift up into the hands and wrists.

It all changes when the feet (or hands if using wheelchair) hit the ground!

A male weighing 200 pounds that doesn't have coordinated walking gait (most people in America basically), will triple their body weight per heel strike (Quality gait is 2x body weight per heel strike. Running=6-9x body weight. Sprinting=10-12x body weight).
*Ever wonder why "sprinters" are so muscular? It's largely because of the sprint gait itself remodeling their bodies due to the incredible ground forces math! 200x10=2000 pounds per foot strike!!! That's a lot of force and load which then causes the body to add muscle and bone density to handle these loads safely. Fascinating!

200 pounds x 3=600 pounds per heel strike during walking gait.

5,000 steps per day (somewhat sedentary or mildly active person)

600x5,000=3,000,000 (3 million) pounds per day

21,000,000 (21 million) pounds per week

84,000,000 (84 million) pounds per month

1,000,000,000 (1 BILLION) pounds+ per year!!!

Sorry-I don't have enough time to put 1 billion pounds of load on you in the gym even if I use all my kettlebells! But check this out...if I can improve how you walk, this becomes an exponential number even when I am not around to help you. Can you see how important this is to just improve walking gait? It's huge!

What I have learned is that by improving gait, most, if not all the problems all the way up the kinetic chain of movement can be improved or fixed. Got a neck problem? Fix how you walk. Got a shoulder problem? Hip? Knee? Many times it relates back into how the feet hit the ground and what happens from there up. Sometimes there can be an upper body problem that travels back down into the feet too-but more often than not, the feet and ankles are a great place to begin.

I expect many of you to walk better in 2010-it's that simple. Do the math. If we walk better, we do everything better whether it be running, kettlebells, hiking, swimming, or virtually ANY ACTIVITY. Quality gait means efficiency, and efficiency means optimized performance and safety. Want to come home Alive and Well Every Day? Walking better would be a great start! If you don't believe walking gait is a major safety and injury issue, check this out...

I began teaching people years ago about "force leaks" and Newton's Laws of Motion. Push force into the ground-this force comes right back up. If the "line" is crooked (joints are not lining up properly), the force line is altered. When you have 600 pounds of force pushing back up off the ground traveling up your body, and joints not working properly or aligned correctly, you not only lose performance in terms of strength and speed as the force "leaks" off the optimal line of strength and locomotion, but can add SHEER FORCE to your joint surfaces! Sheer force is one of the absolute worst things you can do to damage a joint surface. The alignment and function of your joints is absolutely critical to how safely you move and how well you move. When we talk about dynamic warm-ups and joint mobility with proper neurological function and biomechanical alignment-it's important!

For those with disabilities, we can do a lot with the hands and wrists to minimize shoulder, back, and neck issues. Your hands function as your feet, so if there are problems with how your hands roll on the wheels, or how your wrists articulate through the rolling pattern, we can have problems further up in the elbows, shoulders, etc.

So this is another sneak peek into my amazing transformation through Z-Health and neuroscience the last couple of months...and we are just getting started...I'm so excited because I have so many new tools and another great system for helping and healing people. It's getting to the point that if people around me want to move better with less or no pain-they will. It's that simple. Take the first step. I'll meet you half way. :)

Let's roll...and walk BETTER! Coach RJ