Thursday, December 14, 2006

My Hips Don’t Lie

One of the things last Saturday’s stroke clinic addressed was my breaststroke kick, something I’ve always had problems with. Seems I’m doing everything wrong; from foot position, leg movement, to the way I use my core Suzanne had recommendations for changing every facet of my existing kick. Of course my breast pull also needs significant change; I need to work on the timing of my breath, change how I hold my arms during both pull and recovery phases, and better coordinate my kick and pull. In the later stages of the clinic I had to beg for mercy and request a breather, and while I was resting Suzanne and Norman discussed the different breaststroke kick styles which are acceptable and why they come about. “A lot of it will depend on hip flexibility”, explained Suzanne to Norman, “and you’ll find they can’t do this (and here she demonstrated a kick) because they don’t have enough flexibility in the hips anymore.” Yes, I’m one of the “they”, someone watching his body deteriorate right before his eyes, but hey, I’m right here guys! Besides, if you think I’m bad now you should have seen me two years ago! Indignity aside all these changes have meant a radically different kick and consequently my hips and inner thighs are killing me. I swam quite a bit at the clinic because Norman and Suzanne used a tag team approach: Norman analyzed my fly and Suzanne my breaststroke, and in my next practice I included some breaststroke to reinforce the clinic lessons. Unfortunately the following day Brad perversely included a fair amount of breaststroke in his workout for the first time, and had still more in last night’s workout as well. All that mileage on a completely revamped stroke has my hips feeling as if somebody tried to split me in two with a couple of horses!

Luckily I had a massage session scheduled only a couple of days after my clinic. When I came in we exchanged the usual pleasantries and I told her about some minor soreness in my neck and shoulders but especially about my hips. A new complaint about something other than my back! After sizing me up on the table she dealt with my neck for a few minutes, and then ignoring my shoulders went straight to my hips. To assess them Carolyn “rolled” me at the pelvis, in a motion very similar to kneading bread, first one side and then the other. Once she had a gauge of my hip flexibility she decided my problem was best addressed by going to, where else, my lower back.
Her targets were my two quadratus lumborum muscles, flat sheet muscles anchored by the pelvis and the twelfth rib and extending like four fingers (quad meaning four) to the L1 through L4 transverse processes on each side of the spine. It’s a remarkably versatile muscle, as it acts as a prime mover (hips), a postural muscle (spine), and a respiratory muscle (lower rib for exhalation). If somebody before this had told me flexible hips mean better breathing I wouldn’t have believed them. My hips felt much more relaxed and the soreness was clearly reduced when I got off the table. It’s becoming an adventure to see where Carolyn will go to next – so many muscles needing work, so little time.

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