"There's only one hard and fast rule in running: sometimes you have to run one hard and fast."

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Eccentric at the core

Two posts back, I stated that flexibility tests for injury and last post stated that pressure breaks up the scarring that comes with injury. One has to exercise the muscle that's been damaged, or the gains in mobility are lost quickly; you'd think that running would be the way to do that, but it's the extreme ends of muscles that one has to work and we (almost) never do that when running.

That's where all the weird exercises that seem to have nothing to do with running come into play.

As I've been using hamstrings for examples in these posts, I'll continue with that. A year ago in January, I pulled my right hamstring in the last of eight sprints I did (well, obviously, I wouldn't keep doing them at that point, but I scheduled eight). I didn't drop to the ground like everyone else I've seen who pulled a hammy, so I figured it wasn't serious. That led to what's called upper hamstring tendinopathy, a chronic problem, that's treated the same way as a hamstring pull. After deep tissue work on the upper attachment of the hamstrings, I needed to do strengthening exercises. The one I could do was the standard supline plank, but I couldn't raise my right leg from that position (left was no problem):

If you don't move, it's a static/isometric exercise. If you slowly lower the raised leg, it's stretching under eccentric load (sometimes called dynamic stretching; bodybuilders know it as negative reps). It's strengthening while stretched beyond what you'd do when running and that seems to be key to recovery. The next step is, from the same position, place the raised leg on a ball and use the heel to pull the ball toward your hands (directions are a little difficult to describe... toward your body, rather than away). The final step for me was Nordic (or Russian or Norwegian)  curls:

Here, you use your hamstrings to overcome gravity and try to avoid falling. It's actually kind of fun.

Those exercises don't look anything like normal running motions, so they don't seem specific, but it's a matter of gravity, center of mass and how muscles work.

The next piece of the puzzle is plyometrics, because the actions are similar to running and involve explosive motion under full stretch (and this is starting to smell of cr0$$-fi+, which is becoming increasingly hard to disguise from search bots). Box jumps are only one step away from real running:

If you can do this, you don't need my help!

The last step are the dreaded running drills, which is the next post.

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