My holidays were, in short, Unbelievable! If you know me personally, you might recall that I like to use the word Unbelievable for very specific reason: positive ambiguity. The word can apply to almost any situation while implying something really good. Truthfully, something could be Unbelievably bad…but not in my world. I live where things are generally happy and where Unbelievable equates to good, really good or really, really good…and almost always with some sort of twist. And I like it that way!
For Christmas, I received the most Unbelievable gift. For the first time in nearly three years, I rode with no hands! If this sounds like a silly gift to be excited about, you’re busted for not reading my blog: THIS WAS THE FIRST GOAL! I’ve been so crooked for so long that I completely lost the ability to ride no-handed. If I let go, I felt like I would fall and I could not even begin to control my bike. I needed my hands on the bars to push myself straighter and to literally maintain my balance on the bike. Curtis and I had established that riding no-handed would be a sure-fire sign that I was making serious progress to being straight.
While riding on Christmas Eve, just like every other ride, I tried no-handed. With absolutely no expectations, I pushed myself up off the bars and let go. And I did it. I rode no-handed for about five seconds. It took my breath away and at this moment, time stopped, all sounds went silent, nothing moved but me. The sun stopped setting and the ocean was still-calm. I felt nothing, absolutely nothing, but me, my bike and my exhilarated soul exploding inside. Immediately, I tried again and this time I stayed up for closer to ten seconds. On the third successful attempt, I cried. My own voice rushed through mind: I am straight(er), I did it, Curtis and I did it! For the next hour, I kept trying with much continued success. Pure exhilaration flooded my body, my heart and my soul for the rest of the ride home. This is what Curtis does for you. He helps you believe and then he helps you make it happen. Merry Christmas to me from Curtis.
So in the days following the big no-handed breakthrough, I have continued to make progress and can ride longer and longer without my hands on the bars. It feels Unbelievable! Containing my excitement is difficult for me, though, so I’ve been telling everyone. Reaction to my big news has been a bit of a disappointment. Honestly, aside from a select few, most people aren’t as impressed with my new skill as I am. Most cyclists must take riding with no hands for granted and I suppose they assume that any pro cyclist can ride no handed; they all do on television, in the Tour. Everybody on the group ride can do it, what’s the big deal?
Ok, slight letdown but I’m still excited and so are those who know what it means to me. I’m still celebrating and I’ve consciously decided that I won’t ever stop feeling exhilarated by what excites me. This philosophy has led me to my resolution this year: I will not be stifled. I will live freely and madly and passionately and celebrate what makes me feel good. Those who are not sure what to do with me and my fire aren’t for me and I wish them well. Those who embrace my passion and join me in my mad life are coming along for an Unbelievable ride and will be relished by me throughout my life. Resolution 2012: I will not be stifled. Bring it on, 2012, I feel good!
Here is how Curtis made it all happen for me this week, physiologically speaking anyway:
Curtis’ Quick Summary
Kristin has the common presentation of a cyclist who has hit the ground. Most cyclists will lose one or two components of the pedal stroke, most lose more than one. These components are:
1.) The ability to hinge at the hip over the top of the pedal stroke and
2.) To ride without significant deviation or twisting and
3.) To be able to push down on a pedal without a significant rotation and appropriate efficient engagement of the muscles that push.
These inabilities need to be rectified thru three components:
1.) Mechanically untying the stiffnesses and tightnesses that are literal brick walls, limiting her ability to appropriately lengthen and compress structures
2.) Once those structures have appropriate flexibility, the specific muscles in that same area need to be able to fire, or awaken, again. These muscles frequently become “asleep” because of their poor use or their inactivity over a period of time; stiffness in the area will decrease their ability to function, either completely, or at least with appropriate coordination and firing patterns.
3.) When Kristin’s brain has remembered how to engage these muscles on a local level, these muscles then need integration back into whole body. In Kristin’s case, she needs the ability to push down on the pedal. This will be achieved through a more efficient and balanced position and basic coordination, back into a whole body of efficient movement and then, finally at 90 to 110 pedal strokes.
Research has recently shown that our brain starts to lose “muscle memory,” or the neuromuscular coordination, quite quickly. Researchers have looked at the brain’s map of two individual fingers with a functional MRI. A person will wiggle one finger and then wiggle the next finger while the MRI watches the brain activity live. The movement of these two finders can be seen on the MRI map of the brain. After twenty minutes of movement where the two fingers are tied together, the brain looses the ability to differentiate the two actual and different fingers. The effect on the MRI is similar to what you might see on an actual paper map that has started to fade, loosing the distinction between 2 states, separated by a state line. These two fingers, according to the brain’s distinction, start to be blurred together as one after just twenty minutes of being tied together. The brain will start to lose that muscle memory of how to individually control each individual finger in those twenty minutes and, maybe more importantly, it can take up to two hours for that brain change to revert back to the original and correct individual moment skill.
Our brains make up only 2% of our body weight, however, use 20% of the bodies glucose. This is important because the real estate of the brain is proven and clearly quite valuable and, to the same end, can be quite costly if not properly cared for. If the brain can save energy by seeing two fingers as one, or in a cyclist’s case, by not using a particular muscle or a particular joint then it will quickly adapt and quickly lose or change that movement pattern or that muscle memory. This is a very common occurrence with injury and has been frequently shown with low back patients in the way they engage their core 5, 10, 20 years after they have had an injury; the pain has gone away yet they are still not activating local muscles (hodges and hides).
Please remember that outside of going to see a local therapist for mobilization or manipulation of a joint, one must also undertake very, very specific neuromuscular nerve muscle re-education. The process I use, muscular re-education, gets local muscles, and the surrounding muscular system, functioning again. I use techniques that were originally developed for the purpose of treating patients with strokes and spinal cord injuries over 50 years ago by Dr. Herman Kabat, MD and Maggie Knott PT. These techniques are encompassed in techniques called PNF and are incredibly powerful for patients and clients with diagnosis of everything from spinal cord injury or traumatic brain injury to amazing athletes like Kristin.