I recently had the opportunity to unlock a movement pattern at the same time as a dear friend and colleague. SUPER COOL TIMES! For me, it had been years since I felt my upper thoracic spine move during activities. I also struggled to engage my core, especially with running. Running is what I absolutely adore to do and so I was willing to work at it, refusing to believe my running days were behind me.
So I took it on. Over the past 5 years I have done a variety of things – Pilates, physio foot and movement retraining exercises, acupuncture, rehabilitation orthotics, gluteal strengthening, tension stress and trauma releasing exercises (TRE), general movement retraining, various types of yoga practices. You get the idea. Each helped a little bit and progressed me on to the next thing.. Which turned out to be a trip to Nepal! I trekked on and off for 9 weeks with a pack on my back and released a bunch of stress, rekindled passion for my contribution in the world while getting much stronger physically and mentally.
While I was stronger, my running still felt… Difficult. Running always felt harder than I knew it should and always just a little too rigid. My last memory of feeling fluid while running was at the age of 12. Every time I felt hopeless or despairing I would do back to when I was 12 and fell in love with running. I would remember that feeling and remind myself, even though it had been a very long time and I was disconnected from that feeling of freedom and ease in my body, I could get that feeling again.
Then on the other hand, there is my colleague – she was an incredible mover and had been for years. Through her work as a physiotherapist, supplemented with a yoga teacher training and clinical Pilates, among other certifications, she was well connected to her core and breath. She was also curious and intelligent which helped her stay strong and move well. With all of this, she knew exactly what it was like to feel her obliques! Then came the birth of a beautiful child via c-section. One physical outcome for her was losing the meaningful connection she had to the inner core of her pelvic floor, diaphragm, transverse abdomenus and multifidus as well as her outer core; internal and external obliques, lats and gluts.
So we were both in the discovery of the same thing but coming at it from different view points in life with very different experiences. It’s clear to me, with what I have seen in clinical practice, the process and timeline of discovering how to move again after injury varies significantly from person to person.
8 months after her c-section and a lot of breath practice, scar massage, walking, reflecting she started to go to yoga more continuously. She was frustrated, not feeling her strength the way she was used to but persisted, knowing she would get the connection to her body eventually if she just slowed down, respected where her body was at and listened. In the end, she wrote me this reflection.
“After a week of awesome yoga I had the first experience of feeling my obliques!!!! I can remember the moment they connected: was in revolved side angle pose. I grounded into my back big toe, lengthened that heel, while oppositely lenghtening out my crown. I added the twist and BOOM. Obliques. It was glorious.
The big toe was key, which in hindsight I remember that Perry Nickelston from Stop Chasing Pain had said but I had never really understood and felt it. Its the countering thorax rotation it initiates on the push off… Awesome!”
At the same time I had my own discovery. In Nepal I struggled with the steep inclines. My strength was missing something and I continued to feel inhibited upon returning home. When Logan (my husband of all people) said “Your running form still just doesn’t look right…” I had to bite my tongue and silence the voice that wanted to reply “What do you know about running?! I’m the Physio! My form is GREAT!” I knew it wasn’t great and I could feel there was still something missing. I swallowed my pride and listened to his feedback “You are still holding yourself very rigid in your mid back. Try swinging your arms.”
It felt impossible and so unbelievably unnatural. I can’t find a metaphor or an accurate descriptor. It was exhausting and I wanted to resist it. My whole body felt like it was working but in a deeply fatiguing that demanded intense focus and practice. That’s how I knew I was on the right track.
I started to use my arms, focusing on my breathing and moving my thorax as often as I could; when I was walking, hiking, running, unloading the dishwasher. Then it happened and suddenly the years of athletic therapy, chiropractors, physiotherapy, athletic therapy, TRE, crossfit, mobility work, IdoPortal… They all became worth it and it was magical. I’m sure my running form may not be perfect but in the end, what really is perfection? Perfection is nothing but approval and I had to get clear, it’s not approval I was looking for. I was looking to run with freedom and ease. I would know when I found it and I did.
So a reminder today, whatever movement or physical restriction you are dealing with, don’t give up. I hear stories of successes like this everyday and I know, change is possible! It just looks different for everyone so just don’t be afraid to try 🙂