Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Stretch To Win


We all know we should do it, and we all know it feels good when we do. But how often do you stretch? And do you really know if you are doing it correctly?

Some say I am an exhibitionist, well I think that's all their own perception, but if they think that, then I am a voyeur too….I love to watch people in the gym.  I tend to linger longer on the bodies that are pleasing; I find that I watch some of the same men every day, they look good. Those who do not, I give a bit of a shudder and wonder how they can live with themselves, then move along. 

I watch people stretch and warm up. There are three groups. Those who stretch because something is sore and it just makes it feel better; they tend to do this only on occasion, when they must. They are the same people who only floss their teeth right before going to the dentist.  Then there are those who “know” they are supposed to stretch but have no concept behind the science of it all.  They incorporate a haphazard routine quickly into their workout, and actually these are people who really don’t know how to lift well either. They are the people who floss only when they have "guests". Then there is the group of people who know they need to stretch to prepare their bodies for the lifting session ahead. These are people who will also perform several sets of warm up lifts too; they don’t just walk in and lift up something heavy (and end up hurting themselves in the process). These folks floss everyday, regardless of who is or is not watching, they do it for themselves.

Stretching too long before lifting will cause problems just as not stretching at all may. 

You need to read about it and educate yourself just as you should with any other physical endeavor you undertake.

Anyone who has been following my blog knows I had been having issues with my glute, hamstring and hip flexors for months now. I saw chiropractors, massage therapists, physicians and physical therapists. My contracted glute muscle was released (but it still seems to get in a knot occasionally, but I am now the master and know just how to tame the beast); my hamstring was healed, just Thursday (on my own) I did 5 sets of RDL’s at 185 pounds…as my starting exercise; but the hip flexors…they have continued to bother me. 

A long time ago Roy had told me about a program called Stretch To Win, a proprietary Fascial Stretch Therapy™ (FST™) technique—a unique, complete and complementary system of table-based, assisted stretching, focusing on the fascia as the key element in achieving optimal flexibility, strength, performance and pain relief.

So I bought the book and started reading it, I liked what I read. I needed to look into this further.

After going through all of my injuries and issues for almost 6 months now, I decided it was time to start devoting more time to stretching. My biggest issue is time, I am up very early every day to lift and then work all day and often train at night too, then it's eating, food prep and to bed. Not a super exciting life but I wake up everyday feeling energetic and full of life and ready to attack the day, I am happy with it. 

I figured I could actually get more stretching in if I stretched at 4:30 am just before heading out the door to the gym and at night just before bed.

But first I needed to learn some of the proper stretching techniques and I wanted to experience the actual assisted stretching myself.

I looked for a certified practitioner in my area and there are several- so how to choose? I didn't want a  Chiropractor, nothing wrong with them, but they tend to treat injured people, people with problems and complaints. How many people go to their Chiropractor when they feel good? I never do. 

I found one on the site, Stephen DiLustro, a Fascial Stretch Therapist-Level 1, Sports Performance Coordinator at Stanford University. Stanford is not far from my home, so I went to their website to look, and indeed, he worked there on the athletes. Just the guy I want, he works on athletes!

I emailed him and we had a few conversations back and forth, luckily I didn't scare him away. I am pretty straightforward about what I need and want, and I have some high expectations. I tend to share just a little more information about myself than people are used to and that often puts people off. I have an odd sense of humor that puzzles people. I also had a crazy schedule the last several weeks and had to keep putting things off, so I think he started to think I was a flake, but things finally settled down and we set a date to stretch.

David says "So where did you meet this guy?" and I told him I have never met him. He shakes his head in disbelief, but he's used to me doing things like this. I go meet people, ask them here, whatever it takes to learn and experience what I am looking for, it has always, always been a positive experience for me. 

Steve came to my home on a Tuesday evening, after we both got off work. David had bronchitis so off he went to bed and Steve set up his table in the middle of the living room. He was a lot bigger than his picture, in fact he looked like SC, a big, strong guy who could stretch me like a rubber band with no problem. 

Steve started off by rolling a golf ball in my direction and told me to start with my feet and we chatted, but I think he was sizing up my posture, my movements, the general state of my health. He spied my Footsie Roller under my desk and said it was a great little tool. I am using it now as I type!

I explained to Steve about the issues I had been having and he listened, then had me lay on the table and started to move my legs around, "get the synovial fluids flowing", it felt good, we talked and he explained everything he was doing. He asked me if he should tell me everything and walk me thorough it or just be quiet and work. I wanted to know, I said "talk away!"

The table had straps, or more like elastic bands that certain body parts would be held down with, to immobilize that part of the body while the other part was being stretched.  

He took me through many different stretches, they ranged from stretches where he did all the work, to stretches where we worked together. Breathing was a big part of the process. It felt great, sometimes it was almost painful, but the relief after was fantastic. Every once in a while he would walk over to my feet as I lay on my back and jiggle one of my legs, to test the mobility and to "get that synovial fluid flowing", I started looking forward to this.....

He put his entire body into the work, at times my leg was wrapped around his waist and he leaned into it, I was breathing in and pushing against him, it was almost a well choreographed dance.

Below is a short video where one of the founders, Ann Frederick stretches Charles Barkley, it gives you an idea of some of the movements.

I liked Steve, that is important to me. I have gone to many massage therapists, manicurist, hairstylist, trainers, you name it, if I don't mesh with them I won't go back, it doesn't matter how good they are.  They need to like me as much as I need to like them, I am quite an interesting person to work with. I am very open about what's going on, I am not shy and I also have a lot of fun in the process. Steve and I laughed quite a bit as he turned me into a pretzel, wrapped his arms around a body part, told me to breathe in then asked me a question all at once.....I also appreciated his intensity and love of his work. He did not hesitate for one moment when going through any of the stretches. I have been to massage therapists who won't massage my stomach, glutes or adductors, I don't go back to them, those are parts of my body that take a beating, they need the work.

Every once in a while he told me to hop off the table and see how I felt. Hopping was out of the question, I felt drunk, I felt good, I felt happy. Endorphins...my friends.

Near the end he said he had to stretch my lats, he could tell they were tight just by watching me stand. It felt great, they were super tight and I hadn't realized it.

We were supposed to go for an hour and ended up stretching for 90 minutes, I could have gone on for longer, I am not sure whats better- massage or stretching. They are two totally different modalities, but the effect of both on the mind and body is amazing.

Steve finished by explaining some things I wanted to be conscious of, he had me stand in front of him, reviewing my posture, pelvic tilt, my body in general "looks really good" he said.

That night my body ached, I was a little apprehensive, my hamstring hurt and it hadn't hurt in a while, I was afraid we went too far. The following day was my two a day weight training days - arms in the a.m. and quads after work with Roy, this would be a good test.

I felt fine when I got out of bed, my hip flexors still had some tightness. Lifting went fine, then after work when I met Roy I told him all about the evening and how much I enjoyed it. We launched into squats.

I am working on Front Squats, 130 pounds (that's more than my body weight by the way), and I go below parallel, all the way down.

The first set I knocked out 10. Then another 10, 10, 10, and 12. Roy was blown away. He quickly said it was a 20% improvement over last squat session (3 days earlier). It's easy to squat when you aren't in pain. 

Two days later was hams on my own, I did RDL's at 185 pounds, 5 sets of 10. Again, a 20% improvement. I was on fire.

I emailed Steve and told him the exciting news, things were looking up, I was feeling much better (although not necessarily completely healed), I was on my way. We would be meeting again in four weeks so he can stretch me again and review my progress on the exercises he gave me to do, and I plan to stretch with him regularly. Once I am all healed, it will become a regular part of my life.

At work I made this sign that is posted above my standing work station, it helps me remember the things Steve told me.

Email Steve at sdilustro@gmail.com if you are interested, I cannot express how much I enjoyed it and it helped my entire body. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed lifting because the last several months I have been experiencing quite a bit of discomfort, it's great to feel whole again.