A Year of Moving Better

This is a guest post from Kimberly Culbertson, who just celebrated her one year moving better anniversary with The Art of Fitness!! 


Just a little red in the face after our moving better workout this morning!
Just a little red in the face after our workout this morning!

Today marks a full year of movement therapy with Jesse! I wasn’t sure what I was getting into when I began the journey, but I’m glad I did 🙂

I wasn’t exactly in the market for a new movement paradigm, but I overheard Jesse talking with a colleague at Orange Coworking, and I was curious enough to brave a conversation with a scary personal trainer. (Okay it turns out he’s not really scary at all. Quirky, maybe.)

The truth is that I’m not “the athletic type,” although, as I type that, I can almost hear Jesse sternly begin a little speech about how every human is meant for movement. After surviving middle school gym class, I had mostly kept my distance from fit people, and to a certain degree, from movement in general. I’ve been gifted in more intellectual pursuits, and movement in the physical world has always been a secondary activity, a necessary evil.

My whole life is marked by seasons of dieting and various spurts of exercise, but it wasn’t until my late 20’s that I started to see fitness and strength as markers of self-care and even self-love. Despite genuine effort though, I consistently began some workout program, injured myself within a couple of months, and then had long seasons of pain and recovery. I had bad knees, a reverse curve in my neck, foot pain, messed up shoulders, and a long line of people ready to tell me that losing weight was the only real solution. But losing weight requires exercise and exercise causes injury, so pursuing weight loss turned me into a depressed, she’s-a-little-bit-crazy person. And that person was in pain.

To make matters worse, about two years ago I injured my shoulder. It was some kind of swollen, tight, pinched nerve mess in my right shoulder blade, and it didn’t go away after a couple of weeks. The pain was severe and made it nearly impossible to lift my arms while seated. I know that’s very specific, but this was a big problem for driving and typing (and since I was working as a freelance writer, typing was pretty important). With pain meds and chiropractic and electro stim therapy andrest and ice, the pain lessened to about a 4 on a ten-point scale, a big improvement from the original 9-intensity, but still noticeable, chronic pain. After a year, I figured this pain was probably mine to keep.

Enter Jesse, The “Movement Therapy” Coach.

Jesse is actually part monkey. He gives occasional speeches about why you too should be able to climb a tree :)
Jesse is actually part monkey. He gives occasional speeches about why you too should be able to climb a tree 🙂

When I sat down with Jesse, my defenses were high. I had a speech ready, and it went something like this: “Look, I know I’m not thin, but I’m not trying to lose weight right now because I like my sanity. I don’t hate who I am, and I’m not trying to earn my right to exist by changing my shape. I do have a 4-year-old, though, and I want to be just as active as he wants to be. And I want to feel healthy. In the past, I’ve genuinely enjoyed working out, but I have an injury that causes me chronic pain, and at this point I’m a little bit afraid to move.”  

I didn’t know it yet, but Jesse’s movement therapy approach was exactly what I needed. His philosophy is that fitness should help a person increase function and enjoy movement, and that any external changes are a side effect. Extra pounds don’t disqualify someone from movement in his book, and really shouldn’t be the focus. This was a relief, since my first experience with a personal trainer was a free session with “Tank” (no, really) during which he told me to ride the seated bike until I lost 25 lbs, at which time he might consider working with me more. Jesse, on the other hand, rails against a fitness industry that is primarily “designed to get you laid as quick as possible” and that often results in injury.

Jesse looks at how you’re moving and assesses where your body has “lost” movement. For me, he immediately focused into how little mobility I had in my lower back, and hypothesized that my neck and shoulder pain were related to this lack of mobility. I was skeptical. But I had been focusing on my shoulder for a year with minimal results, so I decided to play along anyway and see where this went.

At first the movements seemed silly to me, and I told him a couple of times, “This does not really seem like a workout.” He explained, and then explained again, that we are starting with movement restoration, and once we get there, we’ll add in skill and conditioning. In spite of my impatience, I did the silly things, and in about a month I realized I HAD NO PAIN IN MY SHOULDER. What was even happening?! Beyond that, my balance had improved, I had less neck pain, and, oh, turns out I actually could do squats! I was sold on this “movement therapy” stuff.

One Year Later

Jesse and I have been working together for a year now. Today is our training-iversary. It sounds a bit melodramatic to say that Jesse has changed my life, but it’s true anyway.

I’m not thinner, exactly, but my body’s shape has changed. Not only have I NOT injured myself in the process, but I have far less pain, and tools to address any pain that I encounter. I do squats like a boss. I climb things on playgrounds with my 5-year-old. I know how to move after I’ve been typing for a while, and since I actually do the movements(!), I don’t get headaches and lose neck mobility during high-stress times. I cannot even believe how strong my legs are. I don’t look at stairs with dread, because stairs are no big deal now. I can do an hour of heated yoga and not die. This is what it is like to feel strong.

But the way that working with Jesse has bled into my life outside the gym is perhaps even more interesting. At this time last year, there were so many things (in working out and in all aspects of life) that I assumed I could not do, and wouldn’t even try. My inner critic was loudest in the gym, but she was seldom quiet anywhere. My fear of failure kept me on the sidelines more than I’d like to admit. Jesse and I have had sessions where the coaching has centered more around my mindset than my muscles, and I am a braver person for it. Over the course of this year, it has become very clear to me that I actually can do a lot of “scary” things, even when I am sure I can’t. Not everything comes easily, but it’s a process, and it turns out that’s actually fine. Normal, even. Just when I am certain that Jesse will give up on me and that I am clearly a giant disappointment, he pulls out his seldom-utilized stern voice and lectures me about self-care, and listening to my body, and being patient with myself.

So I’m a work-in-progress. And I’m actually really enjoying the progress, for once. I’m focusing on becoming strong to be helpful. And to be playful. Because I want my kiddo to remember me in the fray with him and not on the sidelines. He deserves that. And you know what? So do I.


KimberlyHeadshot_9.9.15Kimberly Culbertson is a Team Dynamics and Leadership Coach and Speaker, and she co-hosts the Creation Curve Leadership podcast. She is a recovering approval addict, a paint brush loving workaholic, and a walking billboard for hope in all its many manifestations. She is not afraid to admit that latte art lifts her spirits, and she gets a little melancholy when she doesn’t make it into a coffee shop for a few days.

Please follow and like us:

It Hurts When I Run

It hurts when I run

This past week on The Injury Corner — a Facebook group I created to offer guidance and support for people dealing with chronic pain and injury — there was a great discussion with some helpful nuggets I wanted to share.

We talked about whether barefoot running can help heal low back pain and instability to the sacroiliac (SI) joint, and the difficulty of being told the activity you love may be hurting you.

I find these two subjects to be especially valuable and important both professionally and personally. As a movement specialist, I see many people struggling with the issues of pain while performing the activities they’re passionate about. As an active former athlete, I’ve struggled with the exact same issues myself.

anatomy pics of pelvis and sacroiliac joint. It hurts when I run.
It hurts when I run. Does barefoot running help heal low back pain and potential instability to the sacroiliac (SI) joint?

I have lived a barefoot/minimalist lifestyle for over five years. However, I have been unable to run consistently for the past three. I have gait dysfunction connected to 5 knee surgeries, and a long list of other injuries associated with sports, stubbornness, and my reckless youth. The gait dysfunction shows in my body’s ability to absorb the impact energy of footfall as it transfers up the kinetic chain through my ankles, knees, hips, spine, and shoulders.

leaf springs of a large truck. It hurts when I runSpring mechanism of the arch of the foot. It hurts when I run

Some quick anatomical mechanics: As you can see in the pictures above, the arches of the foot create a spring leaf suspension system similar to that of a truck. This system absorbs the energy of each step, distributes this energy equally throughout your fascial system, and re-releases the energy through the propulsion phase of your gait.

With this dysfunction in my suspension system, the arch is unable to act like a nice shock absorbing spring, and my foot lands stiff and solid. Instead of spreading the energy load throughout my fascia, the impact goes directly into the harder tissues of bone and joint structures, which don’t have the ability to absorb impact as well.

Based on my personal and professional experience, both as a barefoot runner and through helping other runners transition into a barefoot lifestyle, I don’t believe that barefoot running will help heal your SI joint. If anything, there is a really good chance that in the short term it will make things worse. SI joint instability is a mechanical-structural issue, which means the relationship between how you move (mechanical) and how your structure is able to mobilize and stabilize through movement (structural) isn’t functioning in its most efficient state. The problem has little to nothing to do with what is on your feet, whether you are running barefoot or shod. It is a problem with the mechanical-structural relationship of your running gait.

It is not an issue of whether you should run barefoot or shod, but rather should you be running at all? In my professional opinion, you should not.

Now I want to take a moment after that last statement. If you’re a runner currently running through pain, did being told you should not be running kick up an emotional response? Tune in; do you feel anger, fear, judgement, dread? If you feel any kind of emotional process, please take a deep breath and let that move through you before continuing on.

Being told a certain movement isn’t best for your body is a hard pill to swallow.
Believe me, I know how hard a pill it is to swallow. Over the past three years, I’ve repeatedly attempted to get back into running. Each time, three or four weeks in I would get painful calf spasms and I’d be out for weeks again. It has taken me years to change my mindset around exercise. I had to let go of the ego drive to do what I wanted to do (run), and instead focus on the quality movements that my body needs and desires to allow it to heal.

The path to quality, pain-free movement begins by changing your mindset around your fitness, health, exercise, nutrition, and so much more. It begins with a simple understanding:

If I am in pain, then the way I have been moving is hurting me. If I want to feel better, I must change the way that I move. To do this, I must change.

Change is a scary thing. It is a hard pill to swallow indeed. It often brings with it some big fat emotional processes such as noted above. However, If you find the deep desire to change, you have made the first step toward fundamentally changing your life.

With a desire for change, the next step is to begin checking in with your body and asking yourself some important questions about exercise and movement. When you hear yourself saying “It hurts when I run!” Here are a few questions you can ask:

Is this movement safe?
Is this movement healthy?
What is my motivation to continue to perform a movement that hurts me?
What can I let go of from my old paradigm of movement?
What movement is safe, healthy, and loving to my body?

These are questions that must be asked every day and for each exercise based movement you feel a desire to engage in, whether it is yoga, running, resistance training, swimming, cycling, etc. One day a movement may be healthy for your body, and the next day it may be unsafe or unwise to do. Even exercises which you would consider “gentle” can be too much, and yes, this can change from day to day. By getting in the habit of asking these questions each day you will learn how your body communicates with you through pain, and you will develop a new relationship and understanding with your body. This is a beautiful thing that will then shift to other areas of your life.

Pain-free running and beyond
I hope to be able run regularly again. But only when running is a healthy movement choice supported by my body. Only then will I even consider the question of whether to go barefoot or shod. To help me achieve this long-term goal to run again, I am receiving regular assessment and treatment from one of the top movement specialists around.

As long as you are saying “It hurts when I run”, running is not a healthy movement choice. At least not until the inefficiency of movement in your running gait has been fully assessed and corrected. To do this I highly recommend finding a highly skilled movement professional who specializes in gait assessment. This would not be a shoe salesperson!

If you need help finding a movement professional in your area, please let me know. I will do my best to connect you to the best health care team available. If you are in Austin, Texas, contact The Art of Fitness for walking and running gait assessment so we can get you running pain free again.

Do you have a frustrating or inspiring injury related question or story? Please share in the comments below.

Tweet: It Hurts When I Run

Please follow and like us:

Falling Down Stairs

A couple of day’s ago, one of my mentors, Dr Kathy Dooley, posted this on her page. In it she writes:


“Your workout should never break you.

All of us need to sit down and assess what we want out of our workout.

If you want sore muscles, you can fall down the stairs. You’ll be sore and hurt. Is that a workout?

You completed the 15 mile run, but you hobbled out of bed the next day. Did you build fitness on a dysfunctional platform?

I assumed the workout was in place to make one healthier. There is nothing healthy about beating oneself up.

Eustress – positive micro stresses – can have huge medicinal benefits. We are adaptive beings. But the workout making us hobble is not eustress.

If your goal is to deadlift 500 pounds, then earn it – safely. Put the time in. Get a good coach. Or get a new goal.

If your goal is to be “healthy,” I’m here to tell you that no one knows what that means but you. What does health mean to YOU?

Seriously, sit down and contemplate what you want from your workout.

Time is valuable. You can spend it beating yourself up, or you can spend it BUILDING yourself up.

As always, it’s your call.”

drawing of someone falling down stairs.

 

Falling Down Stairs

I reposted it onto my facebook page and it garnered some great discussion. There is one line in this post that has really resonated with me.

“If you want sore muscles, falling down the stairs will work. You’ll be sore and hurt. Is that a workout?”

This quote sums up really well why so many people get caught up in the cycle of injury. They are essentially throwing their bodies down the stairs through every set and repetition of their workouts, whether it’s running, weight training, sports, or even Yoga.

Running, squatting, and lunging are controlled falls. If you lack the ability to stabilize your feet, hips, low back, and/or core, then you have movement dysfunction. Your body lacks the ability to absorb, stabilize, and respond safely to your environment. In this circumstance, every step is the equivalent of falling down stairs. Your joints, connective tissue, and other supportive structures do not know the difference. How many flights of stairs can you fall down before something breaks down?

Warning sign of the danger of falling down stairs.Rest and recovery are important for your tissues to heal. But once they are healed, if you return to an exercise program without addressing an underlying movement dysfunction, you will be once again throwing your body down the stairs.

This is where you may need help. If you cannot fix these things alone, you need the help of a movement therapist who can assess and treat the root causes of movement dysfunction. I recommend finding a movement therapist who practices NeuroKinetic Therapy™ (NKT). This is the work that I do.

When your workouts hurt you, it’s time to take a hard look inside at how you value yourself, your body; and your life. It is not fitness or a workout when it hurts you. It is self destruction. As Dr. Dooley said, “Time is valuable. You can spend it beating yourself up, or you can spend it BUILDING yourself up.”

If you are tired of falling down stairs and are ready to break the injury cycle I strongly encourage you to reach out to an experienced Movement Therapist in your area. I highly recommend someone certified in NeuroKinetic Therapy™, gait assessment, and natural movement. If you’re in the Austin, TX area, then click here to schedule a free consultation.

Tweet: Falling Down Stairs

Please follow and like us:

Plantar Fasciitis – What is it and Finding Relief

I frequently get questions about specific injuries. Many of these are about plantar fasciitis. Here is a breakdown of one of the more common causes of plantar fasciitis.

Picture of the achilles tendon wrapping around the calcaneus and blending into the plantar fascia. Plantar fasciitis.Plantar fasciitis is a pain symptom located at the heel or plantar fascia of the foot–the thick connective tissue which supports the arch of the foot. It is often most painful in the morning with the first steps out of bed, and may be aggravated by standing, walking, or running.

Here’s the deal about plantar fasciitis

It is the diagnosis of symptoms. It is not the diagnosis of the problem. The pain may be in your foot–but the problem is not. What you will not often find in definitions or explanations of plantar fasciitis on the web is that there is a deeper issue at play. The pain in your foot diagnosed as plantar fasciitis can often be traced back up to your gluteus maximus–your butt. These days, we sit too much and our butts muscles wind up not doing much. So they basically shut down or go to sleep–they become inhibited. This is not a good thing.

Your gluteal muscles have some very important functions. They are some of the most powerful muscles in the body and are the primary reason we stand upright. The gluteus maximus is a pelvic stabilizer and powerful hip extensor. The gluteus maximus provides power when we are going upstairs, rising from a sitting position, and climbing or running.

When gluteus maximus isn't functioning well, it get's very angry like the Hulk. This can lead to plantar fasciitis pain.Hip extension is your ability to stand upright. If you look at our primate cousins who still use their hands to walk, you’ll notice they have tiny butts. They also lack the ability to extend their hips into a fully upright standing position. Pelvic stability is hugely important. It provides the ability to stabilize the pelvis to our upper body, support the low back, and provide a solid powerful core. This point where your pelvis stabilizes with your upper body is where most coordinated movement is generated. If you lack pelvic stability, your entire movement system will be negatively affected. Your body demands stability. Without it, your body will find compensation elsewhere, by utilizing other muscles to do the job of those that are “sleeping,” i.e. inhibited. With plantar fasciitis, the calves are recruited to help stabilize the pelvis. This is not the work the calves are functioned to do. They don’t like it. Move like this long enough, and your calves will turn into The Incredible Hulk–they will get very angry and start to smash, i.e. tighten up and cause big hurt.

How this translates into pain in the foot

The two muscles that we call the calves (Gastrocnemius and Soleus) attach to the heel via the Achilles Tendon. The Achilles Tendon wraps over the heel bone where it then becomes the Plantar Fascia. The Plantar fascia stretches across the bottom of the foot to the base of your toes. While we may think of these muscles and tendons as separate plantar fasciitis is pain on the heel or plantar fascia of the foottissue structures, you can see by the picture that these structures are not separate. They are one continuous fascial tissue structure. So you can imagine that tension in one will affect each of the others. If your calves are working overtime–doing not only their job but also the job of your glutes–they may get distressed. With this distress, inflammation and pain will eventually set in. That pain can then show up anywhere in this continuous tissue chain. When the pain appears at the heel or plantar fascia, we call it plantar fasciitis. If it happens above the heel, it is called Achilles Tendonitis or tendonosis. The irony of all this is that the calves are not the issue! If anything, they are the most functional muscle in the group–they’re working overtime, after all. It’s their relationship with the asleep at the wheel Gluteals which need to be addressed. This is where the pain in your foot is literally a pain in the butt.

Relieving plantar fasciitis pain

GRIDXside
The Grid Foam Roller by Trigger Point Therapy

When treating any kind of painful dysfunction, my first goal as a movement specialist is to help my clients find relief from the pain. The method I’ve found most beneficial for this is self massage using The Grid foam roller to release the tension built up in the calves. Here are some simple exercises to help relieve the discomfort in your foot by working with The Grid.

Now once the pain is gone, this does not mean you are fixed. Pain is a communicator–it alerts us to an underlying problem. But it is not the problem itself. This is why the “treatments” often found online (such as this one) will only provide temporary relief; they target the symptom (pain) rather than the core underlying issue.

There is still movement dysfunction that needs to be assessed and addressed, and as detailed above, it likely originates in the hips. Strengthening and balancing movement patterns associated with the glutes is the next step in treating plantar fasciitis, and can best be done by making an appointment with a qualified movement specialist. To ignore this step places you at risk of an even more painful and serious injury at some point in the future. Finding help is hugely important in the long run for continued recovery and pain free movement.

Here are some simple quick tips for quick temporary relief. Or check out this older article with more exercises to help with plantar fasciitis pain.

Place foam roller beneath calves. Slowly roll from the ankles to the knees. Plantar fasciitis
Place The Grid foam roller beneath calves. Slowly roll from the ankles to the knees.
Using a foam wedge, press heel into the ground and actively straighten your knee. Stretch to slight discomfort, NOT pain. Hold for 1-3 minutes each stretch for plantar fasciitis
Using a foam wedge, press heel into the ground and actively straighten your knee. Stretch to slight discomfort, NOT pain. Hold for 1-3 minutes each stretch
The Grid foam roller by Trigger Point Therapy. Self treatment for plantar fasciitis.
The Grid foam roller by Trigger Point Therapy.

 This is the foam roller I recommend: The Grid by Trigger Point Therapy

Please follow and like us: