Learning How to Run Again with Neurokinetic Therapy

Part of my professional development  is attending several continuing education sessions each year. Both the National Strength and Conditioning Association’s  (NSCA) Provincial Clinic and Neurokinetic Therapy (NKT) Level 1 were recently held in Metro Vancouver.  My mind tends to run into overdrive after these workshops trying to figure out how to improve my client’s performance as well as my own.

In the last the 30 years I have participated in several sports including biathlon and cross country skiing, which I excelled at.  I have also completed a couple of half-marathons, one full-marathon and three distance mountain running courses. During that time I had a few injuries and previous to that two fairly serious surgeries; most recently an odd ankle left sprain. At the NKT Level 1 course I discovered how these injuries affect how I move as well as how my body has probably compensated all these years. Having other practitioners do a full-body muscle testing and resetting using Neurokinetic Therapy lead to several revelations.

Injury and Surgery History

  • 1976 and  ~1980 right abdominal surgery
  • ~1982  head injury – not sure about concussion
  • 1990 – 1999 right patella femoral syndrome
  • 1992  – right tibial fracture from cross country skiing
  • 1998 – right hamstring strain
  • 2002 – possible concussion
  • 2005 – right hip pain prevented me from running for several months
  • 2012 – left inversion ankle sprain, minor mva as driver, left dorsi flexion sprain

Neurokinetic Therapy Discoveries

  • 10 different muscles compensating for left psoas (important  for creating stability during walking and running; attached to the diaphragm which is used for stability and breathing)
  • weak distal fibers of left and right hamstrings
  • left and right quadratus lumborum inhibited – right was due to scars (important for side to side stability during single leg stance)
  • right psoas inhibited by right quadratus lumborum which tilted my right pelvis forward
  • right tibia lateral rotation – foot turned out due to facilitated lateral gastrocs (calf) and inhibited medial hamstrings
  • obturators facilitated (creating a hip jam) and inhibiting rectus femoris (quadriceps that crosses the hip and knee)
  • occipitals facilitated and inhibiting deep neck flexors
  • pectoralis minor both sides – doing a lot of work, including preventing same side rotation (spring energy storage and release during running)

The nice thing is that the human brain and nervous system are very plastic, which means they can change and mold easily to new inputs. These systems change faster than ligament, muscle and tendon, however propioceptive nerves run through all of the above including scars.

Our bodies adapt to get the job done. The motor control center governs how we move. Trauma to the body such as surgeries and injuries change our movement patterns on subtle levels that to most people are imperceptible unless we are highly in tune.

During the last two weeks my only training has been specific self-myofascial releases and immediate strengthening exercises related to retraining my body to use specific muscles as they should be along with relatively easy 30 min runs at zero percent grade on a treadmill.

Missing the opening of the Grouse Grind a week ago because I was out of town made me very eager to try the Grouse Grind on Friday.

Learning to Run By Feeling

Although the motor control center is adaptable it needs a lot of  repeated input to create ingrain a pattern so that it feels normal and become subconscious. Have you watched a child learn to walk? How many trials does it take? Do you still think before you start to walk? The pattern is now subconscious.

Focus was placed mainly on my right side because it seemed to have the most challenges. By opening up the joint capsule  I feel  there is significantly more mobility in my hips than before.   At the NSCA clinic Dr. Mike Young, CSCS, PhD, Fitness Coach of the MLS Vancouver Whitecaps delineated that speed and power is a function of intramuscular co-ordination while Dr. Keith Loshe of UBC pointed out that for learning to happen performance will initially decrease.

Each spring I look forward to trail running on the North Shore and challenging myself with the Grouse Grind – nature’s stair climber of 2.9 km with 2800 feet elevation gain. Average time to complete is  an hour and half and recommendation is two hours for a very novice hiker; my best last year was 35:32 minutes.

 Learning how to move my body differently meant I anticipated an initial decrease in performance even though the Grouse Grind and I have met 150 times due to reduced intramuscular co-ordination. The first few steps were a bit hesitant because I wasn’t sure how to  move my new body uphill fast.

The terrain starts out on a gradual incline during which it is possible to jog or run, however it quickly becomes steeper with larger steps and rocky terrain to overcome. Movement should feel light, effortless and joyful; this how my hips now feel. I could easily bound up a two to three stairs at a time, however my cardiovascular system just wasn’t able to keep-up.

As the climb continued I was concerned about more extreme ranges of dorsiflexion and how my left ankle would hold up.  It wasn’t until after the 3/4 mark that I dropped my heel and felt a bit of twinge. The only thing to do is continue on and make sure to always keep on the balls of my feet. There were two other times when I went into full dorsiflexion; one of those times  took my breath away – ouch!

Near the top my left ankle felt like it could go into spasm if I went any faster. Calf spasms are very painful and debilitating, something I really didn’t want. The opening Grind of the season is always completed by feel and meant to set a baseline for the rest of the season, so time was not a factor, only feeling.

Cresting the top my lungs were burning and left calf and ankle were aching. For those unfamiliar the Grind participants can purchase a Grind Timer card to swipe at the top of the bottom to record their times. The clock stopped at 45:24 with an average heart rate of 179 bpm.

Lessons From the First Grind

This was a good season opening time for me which I am happy with.  There were several key learning opportunities for me:

  1. Left calf and ankle to need more mobility and conditioning
  2. Need greater lateral stability
  3. Need to improve power-endurance at anaerobic threshold

For learning to occur a skill has to be repeated fairly soon after. The second Grind two days later was a little different. I incorporated more lateral line stability by releasing upper upper trapezius, scalenes and sternocleidomastoid (side of the neck to shoulder responsible for left to right rotation) and doing some side-bends to strength quadratus lumborum for side to side stability. Just before starting the Grind I released my left lower leg to reduce the chances of a cramp and provide me with more dorsiflexion capability.

There were no problems with dorsiflexion on the way up, though I was still cautious and aware of making sure to step properly. During the last quarter there was slight feeling of possible left calfcramping. During the way up I even tried to keep my heart rate down, but it did creep up to 184 bmp to pass the long-weekend.

With a time of 43:53 I am definitely on track to my goal of a sub 35 min this year. However, I am still trying to figure out why my left calf is taking most of the load. Perhaps it is weakness in the hamstrings?

Now it is time to add more specific strength training two days a week to support my efforts on the Grind. I am even considering  entering Seek Peak trail run again – 16 km from Ambleside Beach up to the top of Grouse Mountain.

Read more about the Grouse Grind

Read more about Neurokinetic Therapy

7 Ways to Choose Continuing Education

To become and stay a leader in your profession you need to continue to learn. With all the continue education opportunities available how do you choose?   Roger Takashashi, Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Vancouver Canucks and fellow Kinesiologist spoke at the 20th Anniversary of the British Columbia Association of Kinesiologists in November.  The crowd was mainly undergraduate Kinesiology students, though there were a few veterans who came to hear him speak.  His session was a question and answer format.  A key point he made was that his degree in Kinesiology at Simon Fraser University was the foundation to his current career, knowledge and experience. 
A university degree is not the end of professional training. If we stick to one field we have about 30-40 years of work to accomplish before we retire. The world is changing fast and so is the  body of knowledge. Takahashi explained that he is able to connect what he learned in his course work to what he does on a daily basis with NHL players. It helps him fundamentally understand how each each exercise affects his clients physiology, state of recovery and biomechanics.  I can relate to this. He emphasized that to stay sharp, competitive and prepared we need to be continually be learning. 
The average amount per employee that is provided in Canada for education and training is around $650 and great companies spend about 3% of their budget on training.  I often hear that continuing education is an expense; instead think of it as an investment towards future earnings growth. Investing in continuing education over the last ten years has made a significant impact on my income and success of my business. Many professions also have a minimum number of continuing education credits needed per year to maintain their designation.

How to Choose Appropriate Continuing Education

There is a plethora of continuing education courses now for Kinesiology, rehabilitation and fitness and I am certain the same is true for other industries. How do we choose, especially when our budget can at times be small.

1. Make a Someday/Maybe List and a Must Take List

Remember many courses and conferences are offered annually or semi-annually.  What are some courses that would be nice to take and what courses are must takes?

2. Follow Your Passion

 Is there a stream or specialty of your profession that you are passionate about? Make courses in that stream the priority. For me it is musculoskeletal, orthopaedic and neuromuscular disorders.

3. Figure Out What is Missing

Is there a piece of knowledge that you are missing that would add value to your client interactions? Take those. I found a solution to unlocking clients lack of mobility in 2007.I  found Fascial Stretch Therapy.  A friend and excellent Kinesiologist, Paul Turner of Three Peaks Kinesiology and I looked at each other and said “we have to take this.” Three months later we were in Arizona for Level I.

4. Figure Out How You Learn

Kinesiology education has a hands and experiential quotient, however there are plenty of other ways to learn some of the theory.  Are you a visual, kinesthetic or auditory learner? Most people are predominantly one, however they are also a mix.

5. Set an Education Budget, But Learn to Stretch It

If there is something you really want to attend figure out a legal and ethical way to make the additional cash to attend.

6. Will It Make an Impact? 

Will this new knowledge make an immediate impact on the way practice, run your business or add more value to client interactions? Pick the courses that you can experience immediate improvement in your practice. Sometimes the return takes a little bit of time. People will pay more when you add more value.

7. Find Free Stuff and Share with Others

 You don’t need to spend big bucks or travel the world. Though, travelling to out of town places is a great way to learn from some of the best directly and network with others. It easier to learn from your peers by connecting through Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Also, you can easily learn by sharing blog articles, researching online, listening to free podcasts and attending webinars all on your own schedule.
Oh, there is also the library (physical and electronic). You can now download pretty much most things to a mobile device, laptop or table to take anywhere you are. Industry journals will also have CECs quizzes for you to complete. When you find something really neat, share with your colleagues.