Improve Your Breathing to Improve Your Running

 

– The MOVEMENT Movement with Steven Sashen Episode 080 Amy Novotny

 

Dr. Amy Novotny founded the PABR® Institute with the mission to provide pain, stress and anxiety relief to those who seek a naturalistic form of treatment when other treatment methods have fallen short. Her unique approach comes from her experience treating in a variety of settings and with a wide range of patient populations over the past 12 years. Her background in orthopedics, sports, geriatrics, balance disorders, nerve injuries, and most recently, chronic pain; and influences from coursework at the Postural Restoration Institute gave her the foundation to develop this treatment method to address a wide variety of painful and restrictive conditions.

 

Her methods have helped countless people reduce and eliminate pain, stress, anxiety, orthopedic surgeries, sleep issues and the need for medications. She co-authored two Amazon #1 Best-Selling books Don’t Quit: Stories of Persistence, Courage and Faith
and Success Habits of Super Achievers, which share her journey on how and why she developed the PABR® Method. Her ability to speak French and Spanish has allowed her to communicate with and help various clients from all around the world, including France, Mexico, Central America and South America. She has a variety of interests including running 40+ marathons, running 10 ultra marathons (including two 100 milers), completing an Ironman triathlon, photographing wildlife and landscapes all over the world that has led to several of her images being chosen as Photos of the Day, most notably National Geographic Your Shot World Top Photo of the Day. Visit her photography portfolio at www.amysimpressions.com!

 

Listen to this episode of The MOVEMENT Movement where Amy Novotny explains how improving your breathing improves your running.

 

Here are some of the beneficial topics covered on this week’s show:

  • How taking away the flight or fight sympathetic tone out of your muscles allows them to contract voluntarily without tension.
  • Why changing your breathing helps calm your nervous system down and improves your running.
  • Why your knees should be higher than your hips when you are in a seated position.
  • How it’s important to keep your ribs and shoulders down when you’re inhaling.
  • Why you need to work on relaxing your back muscles, so they aren’t in a flight or fight position.

 

Connect with Dr. Amy Novotny:

Guest Contact Info:
Twitter
@amynovotnyaz
Instagram
@anovtn

 

Connect with Steven:

Website

Xeroshoes.com

Jointhemovementmovement.com

Twitter
@XeroShoes

Instagram
@xeroshoes

Facebook
facebook.com/xeroshoes

Steven Sashen:

Of course, we’re recording. Did you know that if you want to run pain-free you might not need new shoes or new shorts or a different way of running or different… I mean, it might be as simple as changing your breathing. I know that sounds crazy, but that’s we’re going to jump into today on this episode of The MOVEMENT Movement, the podcast for people who want to know the truth about what it takes to have a happy, healthy, strong body. Starting feet first usually. This time, might be starting lungs first. We’ll find out. Those things down there, they are your foundation. We break down the propaganda, the mythology, sometimes the flat out lies people have told you about what it takes to run or walk or play or do yoga or CrossFit, whatever you’d like to do, to do that enjoyably and efficiently.

Did I mention enjoyably? I know I did. It was a trick question. Because if you’re not having fun, please do something different so you are. I’m Steven Sashen, your host of The MOVEMENT Movement Podcast, CEO of Xero Shoes. If you don’t know about us, go to www.jointhemovementmovement.com. You’ll find previous episodes, all the different ways you can interact with us. You can leave comments. You can do whatever you want to do. We say we’re creating a movement about natural movement, The MOVEMENT Movement. You’re the one helping create the moving part of that by sharing, liking, giving a thumbs up, hit the bell on YouTube, all those things you know how to do. In short, if you want to be part of the tribe, please subscribe. Okay. Let’s jump in. Amy, I think I give a good setup that pain-free running might be as simple as breathing which is a good one. Do you want to say hello and tell people who the hell you are and why the hell you’re here?

Dr. Amy Novotny:

Absolutely. Thank you for having me on, Steven. I appreciate it. I’m Dr. Amy Novotny. I am here because I can give a little bit of insight into how to run long distances pain-free. I’ll run 50 miles pain-free. I do ultramarathons. I do marathons. Done Boston. I have a little bit of a background and I have my doctorate in physical therapy. I have some experience in this area. A few years ago, about seven years ago now, I started diving into looking at the lungs, the diaphragm, and the nervous system. The fight or flight nervous system that ramps us up, I started diving into it and what really happens when we feel that tension, when we feel that stress. I realized that our breathing impacts that system, that system impacts our breathing, and both of those are impacted by our body position. If we can look at all three of those areas, we can shift our body and get it moving in ways that we never thought possible.

Steven Sashen:

A, thanks. B, so you are the anti-me in addition to being a blonde woman, although we are sharing hair today. Other than that, as a competitive sprinter, the idea of driving the distance that you talked about running is not interesting to me. I love that. Well, I want to back up a little bit and pick apart a bit of just what you just said. What was the thing that really kind of the pivotal moment, that aha moment that led you to diving into this? Were you injured?

Dr. Amy Novotny:

No. Actually, I wasn’t injured. It first started, I was offered a new position as a director of a clinic. I started taking some courses in breathing. The same time, I had run several marathons and I was trying to qualify for Boston. It was a little bit elusive. I was on the treadmill, practicing, doing some tempo runs high speed and I started messing with my breathing. I realized when I shifted, all of a sudden, all that tightness in my legs went away and everything became easier. I’m like, what happened? How did I do that? How do I repeat that? How do I teach that? That’s literally how it happened.

Steven Sashen:

You didn’t go to the next one. How do I make a million dollars with this?

Dr. Amy Novotny:

No. I haven’t gone there yet.

Steven Sashen:

That’s the next step. For me, when I got out of my big, thick, padded, motion-controlled, traditional shoes and was running barefoot, it was my second barefoot run where in one step, it went from difficult and painful to effortless in a blast. That was actually what allowed me to stop just running hundred meters, and if I wanted to run a few miles, I could. I just don’t like doing it. I mean, that moment is still emblazoned in my brain. I know exactly what I did. I stopped overstriding and pointing my toes. I stopped putting the brakes on with the ball of my foot and everything changed. Do you have a similar memory of what that thing was in your breathing that shifted?

Dr. Amy Novotny:

Yeah. Actually, I was able to keep my ribs down. I released my belly button, my ribs dropped down. This wave of relaxation just came over my body. All of a sudden, my hips just freed up, my pelvis freed up. Now it was like, you know the Coyote and the Roadrunner and the Roadrunner is running and the body is just in this chill mode? Exactly how I felt. I realized, oh, I don’t have any tightness. I don’t need to stretch afterwards. I don’t have to roll afterwards. No more scraping, no more whatever. I didn’t have to do it anymore because I took away that fight or flight sympathetic tone out of my muscles so that when I stopped the muscle contraction voluntarily, I didn’t have this overriding tension that was related to a sympathetic nervous system of a guarding motion, a guarding protective state. There’s some positions I’ll do after a long distance race where I squat and hold onto a pole. I do this breathing and it just releases everything. I can pop back up and walk normally again.

Steven Sashen:

It’s so funny. I love what you said about not stretching afterwards. It was something that I never did because it didn’t seem to make any sense. The research actually backs that up, but it’s still something people think you have to do. There’s so many things that are just at this point kind of urban mythology about what it takes to run enjoyably, et cetera, et cetera. I got some videos the other day, we’re shooting some videos for some new shoes that we’re coming out with. The production company sent me some videos of the people they want to be in these videos. They said they’re really accomplished runners and so you’re going to love them. They had the worst running form I’ve ever seen in my life.

It’s like, yeah, congratulations that they’ve been able to somehow do whatever it is they do, but oh my God. No. It’s a fascinating thing, that gap between what we think we’re supposed to do and then discovering something radical like what you did. Once you had this aha moment and et cetera, what happened next? Were you just doing this for yourself? Or did you immediately start bringing this into practice with clients?

Dr. Amy Novotny:

Yeah. I played on myself for a while because I wanted to see… I didn’t know what I was stumbling on at first. I didn’t realize the connection between changing my breathing and calming nervous system down, so I studied about that for a while. Then I ran another marathon, dropped seven minutes off my time with no other changes. I was like, oh shoot, I’m really into something. Then I did another marathon, dropped another seven minutes. I blew past the qualifying for Boston. The other thing that happened during those races is when I started to develop pain, I changed my breathing back to this method that I’ve worked on and the pain just went away. Because I focus on exhaling and putting my foot a certain way or feeling something and it released muscles, and I went back and it neutral.

Once I had a couple marathons under my belt, I started dabbling with clients and saying, okay, we’re going to try breathing through a straw or a balloon and kind of mess with your breathing a little bit. Some were gung-ho. Some were no way, get that away from me. Never in the world are you going to touch me with this stuff. There was some pushback. I had push back from different physicians and doctors at first. Then slowly-

Steven Sashen:

What could they possibly say?

Dr. Amy Novotny:

They said, you are supposed to be treating people for their knee pain or shoulder pain. I don’t want you doing any breathing with them. I literally got that. My boss at the time told me don’t do that if the doctors don’t want it, otherwise, you’re not going to see these clients. It started to shift though when I got people better, faster than anything they’ve seen. People with nerve pain that have traditionally supposed to take months to recover, they got better in half that time. Then doctors started to come see me. Then people started flying from other states to come see me to get them out of joint replacements, knee replacements, stuff like that. Then things started shifting.

Then, I got hired to travel around the world to keep a guy out of a couple surgeries. Then I came back and said, I’m starting my own practice, my own business so I don’t have to worry about someone being afraid of me teaching their patients, their clients on how to breathe differently. It just gives me the freedom to work with people. Now I can coach whoever I want on how to shift.

Steven Sashen:

It really is interesting. The, if you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail phenomenon does kick in. Of course, there’s the flip side of that. You just gave me a flashback. I had shoulder surgery three years ago. My doctor after the surgery, he comes in, he goes, you know, we did a lot of work in there. I said, I don’t know how I feel about you being so giddy. Just FYI, he says, it’s going to be about two years to recover. My insurance company disagreed. They thought I was fine in three weeks.

Dr. Amy Novotny:

Yeah. Not good. Not good.

Steven Sashen:

That was a very entertaining one. I would be shocked if people who are listening slash watching are not thinking, so tell me what it is. What do I do?

Dr. Amy Novotny:

Yeah. What I’ll do is I’m going to give you guys a little bit of a tutorial on how to get started, because what I can teach you right now can actually get you out of a lot of pain, get you started. Then one-on-one stuff is when people are more complicated and they want additional help. We’re going to start by going in a seated position. We’re going to do a little test first. I want you to sit in your perfect posture. Get into that perfect posture. Think of what it is, how it feels, and then just take note of your body. What do you feel? Do you feel your back working, your belly working, your butt working, shoulders, neck? Just get an idea of that. Then, most people have sat up in their chair, sat up rigid. Now I want you to sit back in your chair, sit all the way back in your chair. You’re going to allow your low back to relax into the chair back. Let your tailbone curl under you. Now here’s the hard part. Let that belly fall out. Let your belly button just open up and fall out.

Steven Sashen:

Hold on. I’m literally undoing the drawstring in my pants right now.

Dr. Amy Novotny:

That works too. Undo that belt, undo that first button, whatever it takes.

Steven Sashen:

Belts, who wears belts? Come on. It’s COVID time. Who needs a belt?

Dr. Amy Novotny:

That’s true. Everyone’s in sweatpants, if wearing pants at all.

Steven Sashen:

Yes, you read my mind. The only reason I’m in pants is because I’m in the office.

Dr. Amy Novotny:

Exactly.

Steven Sashen:

The first thing I do when I get home after I take off my shoes, if I’m wearing shoes, is I… I wish I could say anything other than this. I say, too many pants, and then they’re gone. All right.

Dr. Amy Novotny:

Awesome. Well, then it’ll make it easier for you to practice this at home after we go through it. You’re all set. We’re going to sit all the way back. Let your tailbone curl under you, belly button is out, because that is your gatekeeper for your rib cage. When you suck that belly button up and in, it’s going to lift the front of your ribs up, which is going to put you in fight or flight mode because your rib cage now, instead of being a cylinder, it becomes a hinge. You hinge off your lower back when you lift up that rib cage and pull your shoulders back. Soon as that happens, back muscles kick in, they crunch on that fight or flight nervous system, your tension ramps up in your body. We want to go opposite of that. We’re going to let the belly out so that front of the rib cage drops down. It helps to relax your back muscles.

Steven Sashen:

It’s interesting. I’m noticing that I have to make a surprisingly deliberate effort to relax my belly.

Dr. Amy Novotny:

Because you are used to sucking it up and in. You’re used to being in fight or flight mode. You’re used to being on, on, on, on, on, and never turning off. You’ll be aware.

Steven Sashen:

I didn’t come here for a therapy session, babe.

Dr. Amy Novotny:

You’re getting it whether you don’t like it. Sorry.

Steven Sashen:

Okay.

Dr. Amy Novotny:

There’ll be one-on-one done. Now, we want your knees at the level of your hips or higher. If that means lowering your chair, lower your chair.

Steven Sashen:

I’m lowering the chair.

Dr. Amy Novotny:

Awesome.

Steven Sashen:

Move my screen down.

Dr. Amy Novotny:

Good.

Steven Sashen:

Okay, got it.

Dr. Amy Novotny:

Now, if you have books, put books under your feet. Just make sure those knees are higher than your hips, because it allows your back to turn off. Now we’re going to put one hand on your chest, one hand on your belly. I’ll change so people can see a little bit better. One hand on the chest, one hand on the belly. We’re going to use our hands as a cue to our body to change the way we breathe.

Steven Sashen:

I want to back up to the new thing.

Dr. Amy Novotny:

Sure.

Steven Sashen:

This like a thing for squatting, when people say, if you’re going to squat, you got to have your hips below your knees to be a full squat. How do I want to put this? People get into a debate about what, where you’re measuring your hips, where you’re measuring your knees. For squatting, they’re looking at the hip crease and the top of the knees. When we’re looking now to have our knees higher than our hips, is it top of our knees and hip crease or something, some other measurement?

Dr. Amy Novotny:

Yep. Top of the knees and hip crease. Just make sure knees are higher than those hip creases. Yes.

Steven Sashen:

Got it. Okay.

Dr. Amy Novotny:

Now in that position, it should feel easier to tuck your tailbone under you a little bit too. We’re going to use our hands as a way to help us move our body in a manner that we’re not used to. Now, if you have a straw, I tell people grab a straw. If you don’t have one, no worries. But I use a straw. I’ll take a paper or plastic one, cut it in half and then put it between my lips.

Steven Sashen:

Wait, I’m going to do, I don’t have a straw but I have a pen that I’m going to take apart.

Dr. Amy Novotny:

That works too. I think plenty of people use those.

Steven Sashen:

Yeah. At least I thought I had a pen that I was going to take apart.

Dr. Amy Novotny:

No ink poisoning allowed.

Steven Sashen:

Well, boy, I don’t know how the hell they can make this. I have all these pens that end up getting taken apart when I don’t mean for them to, but now when I want to, I can’t figure out how. I got half of it. Oh, wait, wait.

Dr. Amy Novotny:

You got a cylinder.

Steven Sashen:

I got a cylinder out but then here’s the push pointy thing that I can’t unscrew. Well, all right. I will pass on the straw thing and pretend. Oh, wait. I’ll use this tiny little piece.

Dr. Amy Novotny:

There you go. That works. You want it between your lips, not between your teeth. No clenching with your teeth, that’s just going to increase your tone. Okay. I’m going to keep talking. We’ll watch you have the straw in your mouth.

Steven Sashen:

First, you put me in therapy. Now you make me look like a [crosstalk 00:15:03] wearing this.

Dr. Amy Novotny:

See, by the time I’m done with you, everything will seem so much easier in life.

Steven Sashen:

Okay. Here we go. I have to try and not laugh while I’m doing this.

Dr. Amy Novotny:

I know. Okay. We’re going to go through four steps for breathing. It’s going to seem easy at first, but I’m going to make it more complicated in a second and make you feel even more inadequate than I already have, Steven. Just preparing you mentally. Okay.

Steven Sashen:

This is worse than a high school reunion. Okay.

Dr. Amy Novotny:

I’m trying my best. We’re going to breathe in the nose. Pause a second. Blow out through the mouth, straw or pen. Then hold your breath and pause three seconds. Okay. I’m going to coach you through that and get you into this relaxed state. As we do it, I’m going to start to cue you to focus on different parts of your body to let go. Okay.

Steven Sashen:

Yup.

Dr. Amy Novotny:

Here we go. We’re going to do a gentle breath in your nose. Feel the air go in your nose. Pause. Now, blow out through the straw. Hear the air coming out of the straw as a whoosh. Then hold your breath. Hold it, hold it. Now breathe in your nose passively. Think in your nose, air going horizontally to your throat. Pause and blow out through that straw. Hear the air coming out. Then hold, hold. Now breathe in. Gently breathe in the nose. Pause. Now blow out through the straw and feel your chest melt under your hand as you blow out. Good. Hold your breath. Hold. Now breathe in. Gently breathe in your nose guiding the air to your throat. Pause, and blow out through the straw allowing your chest to melt in and your belly to spill out. Hold. Hold. Breathe in.

Keep the ribs down as you breathe in. Feel the air go in your nose passively. Pause, and blow out. Feel your breastbone melt under your hand. Your ribs are dropping down as that belly spills out. Hold, and breathe in. Gentle breath in your nose to your throat. Feel the air fill up your throat. Pause, and blow out. Feel your chest melting in away from your hand, away from your shirt as your belly opens up. Hold. Hold, and breathe in. Keep those ribs down, shoulders down as you breathe in your nose to your throat. Pause, and blow out. Feel the chest melt in. Armpits are relaxing as your low back lets go. Hold. Hold, and breathe in. Keep the ribs down as we breathe in. Feel the air go in without effort. Pause, and blow out. Feel your breastbone melt in.

Your ribs are deflating, your low back lets go, butt cheeks open up. Hold, and breathe in. Keep those ribs down as you breathe in. Feel the air go in passively and blow out. Chest melts in. Feel that low back let go. As your belly spills out, tailbone drops down. Hold. Hold. Now breathe in passively. Feel the air go in your nose horizontally to your throat. Pause, and blow out. Collarbones drop away from your chin. Ribs are dropping down away from your armpits. Hold, and breathe in. Gentle breath in. Feel the air go in without effort. Pause, and blow out. Melt that chest in. Feel the ribs drop away from your armpits. Belly spills out. Hold. Hold, and breathe in. Keep the ribs down, back relaxed as you inhale to your throat and blow out. Melt away from your shirt, your belly opens up, ribs drop down, low back relaxes. Hold. Hold, and take a break. That gave you an idea of how to get started.

Steven Sashen:

I’m going to tell you some of the things I experienced, just maybe this will be useful. First, how I want to describe this. There’s some things that you can do that are cues or triggers for other things. One of the things that I noticed was the position of my head and my neck changing totally naturally, without any effort on my part. My neck was lengthening. My chin was coming back a little bit. That was all relaxing. That was a really interesting, surprising thing. The most surprising one actually was I started by looking up at where the camera is on my computer. As I was doing that, my eyes just couldn’t stay up. They ended up going down, down, down until I was looking kind of like maybe down 15 degrees from horizontal or so. Not all the way down but way down.

The other thing, it was interesting once you mentioned lower back and butt cheeks. I always like it when people mention butt cheeks anyway, so that was fun. That’s such a weird phrase that we came up with, butt cheeks. That doesn’t seem right. Anyway, that’s a whole other story. Because where’s your butt nose? Anyway, but it was interesting because, so I have a compromised spine. I got a grade two, L5-S1 spondylolisthesis, a pars defect for people who are into geeky things like that. There’s always something going on in my spine because otherwise it would fall apart. Bringing the awareness to that was really helpful. I’m also just realizing I didn’t shave today because I forgot that we were doing this. So many thoughts, so little time. That was a really interesting reminder to feel that.

It was also just fascinating seeing how with almost every exhale, I could get things to drop yet another notch. How that again rippled the dropping of the sternum led directly to that kind of opening up of the back of my neck and the change in my head position. That was all really cool. Now, I’m imagining the thought that people are having is, that’s fine. What do I do when I’m running?

Dr. Amy Novotny:

Right. I recommend people start to practice this in a comfortable position. You want to start seated, because if we’re changing the way you breathe, you need everything else relaxed. Then you start practicing that same method while you’re walking. Then you can start implementing a version, yes, with your straw or pen.

Steven Sashen:

With a straw or pen.

Dr. Amy Novotny:

Then you start implementing it when you’re running. Now, the difference with running is that you may take air in through your nose and your mouth, but then blow it out through your mouth. But the rest of the concepts still apply, is you want, when you’re blowing out, you want your ribs to go down. You actually open your belly so that the ribs can drop down. What happens is your side abs start to learn how to keep your ribs down. Then when you go to breathe in, the side abs are kicked in so you don’t lift up your ribs and use your back to get air in. Because what happens is your diaphragm needs support in order for it to work well. That support comes from your side abs being contracted during the inhalation.

If you’re lifting up your ribs to inhale, that means you’re not using your diaphragm the way it’s designed. You’re actually using your ribs to lift up, to create negative space for air to flow in instead of that diaphragm having support and dropping down to create negative space for air to come in. I was going to say, when people are breathing and running, especially if you’re doing anything long distance, you don’t want your ribs flaring up and down when you’re running. Most people have that when they’re like I’m taking a deep breath in and out and the ribs are going up and down, up and down. You don’t want that. You want, if you put your hands on your lower ribs, you want to feel that they’re staying still even if you’re breathing and running at the same time.

You should be able to move your arms and legs but those ribs are not moving and they’re flushed with the muscles underneath where it’s just steady and stable. As I’m moving, I move my leg and my arm, and I’m sitting here talking to you, but those ribs are not moving. That’s what you want to accomplish because you know then that you’re using your diaphragm and you’re in neutral.

Steven Sashen:

Interesting. I had a thought that flew right out of my brain. In the first instruction for just sitting, which was basically curl your spine, tuck your pelvis under. I can never remember anterior posterior because it always seems weird to me, but either way. Tuck in your tailbone under, let’s just do that. Talk to me about that positioning and how that relates to when you’re running.

Dr. Amy Novotny:

The reason I have you do that seated is because I want you to turn off your back muscles. Often, we arch our low back so much and we try to flatten our upper back and thoracic spine. The problem with that is it kicks in your fight or flight nervous system. Now, the more I arch my back and tip my pelvis forward, the more I’m going to use my back to run instead of my thigh muscles to run. I’ll use my calves and my back when my pelvis is tipped forward and my back is arched. I want to get you away from that because that also changes our breathing to fight or flight mode when you arch your back. I want to get us as much into relaxation mode with our breathing and with our body position so I get the back to curl a little bit to relax, so then you can work on your breathing to shift into parasympathetic.

So when you’re running now, try not to arch your back. Try to allow your back to relax into a neutral position so your pelvis can roll back a little bit and you’ll start to feel your thighs more. You won’t rely so heavily on the back muscles and the calf muscles. You switched to your thighs.

Steven Sashen:

It’s really interesting dealing with the number of people we have who’ve switched from wearing padded, overprotective, motion-controlled, blah, blah, blah footwear to something like ours. One of the number one things that I tell people is relax more. They think that it’s about, well, I have to build up all this new strength in my calves. It’s like, yeah, you might do a little bit of that but the first step is relax more. Don’t use them more. Or it’s a variation where people say, well, I need to build up calluses on my feet. I go, no, no, no. If you check out any of us who are accomplished barefoot runners, we don’t have callused feet. They go, well, I need to build up extra thick skin. Yeah, that’s not going to be it either.

By the way, that takes years. Don’t worry about that. That’s a bonus. The key thing is just the relaxing more, which seems so counterintuitive to people when you’re running, which is, I mean, as fight or flight goes, that’s the thing you do to flight. It’s a fascinating paradox.

Dr. Amy Novotny:

The thing is we have this spectrum. If we think the most relaxed we are is parasympathetic relaxation, we’re just in chill mode. Then if you think you’re at the other end of the spectrum, you’re on sympathetic threshold. A gunshot went off, your house is on fire. You’re in major mode. Running is somewhere in between, but we can also learn to control our nervous system. That’s what I teach people is as you’re running, everything is going to ramp up. You start breathing heavy when you first start running. Especially if you’re not experienced. Any sport, this works the same way. Then as you get more experienced, you don’t have such a reaction. But now the thing is, if you start something and you get more experienced and you’re able to relax down, the problem is there’s sympathetic tone that develop when you first started that activity.

If you don’t recognize and you don’t sense and feel in your body it releasing and you don’t know how to release it, that sympathetic tone still stays there. Even as you become more experienced, that layer of tone, that muscle contraction on top of normal stays there because your brain can’t sense it relaxing. We have the most incredible ability to habituate. Humans are amazing.

Steven Sashen:

Totally. To your point, I mean, this is the thing. Again, just bringing it back to what we do, because it’s all about me. The key thing is not about the footwear. It’s not about whether you’re running barefoot or in Xero Shoes or whatever else. It’s about the feedback. This is a thing that people don’t really quite get is… We’ve had people on the podcast who’ve done Feldenkrais work and other things where the key thing is getting your brain to recognize what’s going on so it can go, oh, that was a big mistake. I did not realize that was happening. What we say about running either barefoot or in Xero Shoes is you’re becoming your own best coach. People always want a very simple, specific thing to do. It’s like, well, it doesn’t work that way.

It changes if you’re running uphill, downhill, faster, slower, accelerating, decelerating, depending on the weather. You got to be able to get that information to be able to then be fluid enough to work with that information. You can’t do it… I’m sure there’s some better phrase for, hey, if you can’t feel it, you can’t heal it. There we go. TM, registered trademark. Don’t ever say that to anybody else.

Dr. Amy Novotny:

I’m taking it.

Steven Sashen:

I love how you’re bringing that awareness to this process in a way that most people clearly have not done. I mean, especially about breathing, especially about how you’re using transverse abs. I mean, there’s a lot. That was a very simple exercise and there’s a lot in there.

Dr. Amy Novotny:

It is. As you practice it, you’ll discover more and more.

Steven Sashen:

Right.

Dr. Amy Novotny:

Some people think, oh, you’re just teaching breathing. You’re actually learning to control your body again. As you dive into it and you start realizing where your body is holding that sympathetic tension, that your brain is not aware of right now, you start getting deeper into the exercise, deeper and deeper. Your body just transforms. It’s incredible.

Steven Sashen:

I had a weird thought that I want to share with you that’s related to that. One of the ways that we know that we are an individual, self-identity person, human with a name, there’s all these little components that I refer to as the qualities of thought. Like the sense of I is there’s a location quality. If you ask where you are, people point at themselves, they don’t point to some other corner of the room. There’s a familiarity thing. You’re used to who you are, which goes back to habituation that you mentioned before. If it’s ongoing, we just stop paying attention. There’s a continuity thing. Like, we feel like we’re the same person we were when we were children even though we obviously are not the same person we were when we were children.

There’s a kinesthetic component obviously. There’s a body thing. I mean, you feel like you’re you, and you would probably feel like you were you even if you got rid of your arms and legs, which is a weird thing to think. There’s all these components that go into the sense of self. When you start to become aware of those or pay attention to those things, you realize how much effort you’re expending to hold on to all of that, to keep that going. Once you realize how much effort you’re applying to hold onto it, you can temporarily let go of that. Or at least, use less effort, which surprisingly that’s all the same things that we were just talking about. I just thought of this. I’ve never played with that while I was sprinting. But the one thing that I do before every race, so I’m at the start, it’s an indoor 60 or it’s an outdoor hundred meters.

I look at the finish and I realize that the only reason it looks three-dimensional is because we have two eyes separated by some distance, and that our brain makes it look three-dimensional. If you just pay attention to the brain part, I know that sounds weird, then suddenly all that 3d stuff flattens out. It feels like I’m looking at a picture and the finish is just a couple inches away. Then I start the race. I mean, I wait till the gun goes off, but it’s a funny thing that I do to relax before a sprint, which is a very high, intense thing. I’ll never forget being in the world championships in Berlin, in whatever that was, 12 years ago or so. Watching Tyson Gay and Usain Bolt sitting next to each other on the little seat behind the blocks before the race started, and they looked like they were going to fall asleep.

Dr. Amy Novotny:

They’re going in relaxation, conserving.

Steven Sashen:

Yeah, it was really cool. Then right before they started where no one could see, they looked at each other and kind of gave a low five and then they got up and got in the blocks. It was awesome.

Dr. Amy Novotny:

They’re smart. They’re conserving their energy. They are staying in parasympathetic relaxation, because when we’re hyped up, we’re expending energy for no reason at all just to hold our body position. And to maintain a fight or flight short, shallow breathing method. But they’re relaxed. They were probably just hunched over or curled up or whatever.

Steven Sashen:

Exactly.

Dr. Amy Novotny:

Because they know innately how to calm down their body and they’re not wasting their energy so they can use it in those whatever seconds that they’re going to run. The other thing too, which actually you may be able to experiment with, with some of your races is in your sprint, try to get your ribs down and calm your breathing as much as possible because it will allow your legs to run faster for a longer period of time.

Steven Sashen:

It’s a really interesting thing because in a 60 meter race, I get two breaths tops. Exhaling on the start and then, so I don’t have an inhale until about maybe 15 meters, maybe 20 meters, depending on how much I’m really pushing on the start. Then I get another breath in the 60, somewhere around 40. In 100, I get two more breaths. There’s not a lot of breathing that goes on at all. But to your point, one of the key things that I pay attention to is relaxing because the more I can relax, the faster my cadence.

Dr. Amy Novotny:

Yep. Absolutely.

Steven Sashen:

As a short sprinter, I need to rely on… Not short distance. I’m 5’5″, as a short sprinter, I need to get those extra steps in at the right speed because guys who have longer strides because they’re taller, I can’t match that. That’s something that I paid attention to since day one is noticing that the more I relax, the faster I can move.

Dr. Amy Novotny:

Yep. Absolutely. Because it’s going to free up. When you relax, your rib cage can drop. Your pelvis can go in neutral. All of a sudden your legs can move. It creates space for your hips. Your hips can move, so your legs can turn over faster.

Steven Sashen:

How does this relate to, and we only have a little bit of time. I’m diving into something kind of big. How does this relate to the fact that most runners that I see who are having, especially injured runners, they wouldn’t know glute medius if one hit them on the head, which would be very entertaining if one did. Often, they aren’t using their glutes or hamstrings that are prime movers to move. Talk to me about that interplay.

Dr. Amy Novotny:

The reason why if your low back is really contracted and very arched, your pelvis is tipped forward so you now rely on your hip flexors because your hips are going to be bent because your pelvis is tipped forward, your low back muscles and your calf muscles. Whenever I see someone with really strong calves, I say, oh gosh, that poor person. I don’t say, oh my God, you look great. I say, oh my God, you’re a poor person.

Steven Sashen:

Come on. I was a gymnast. That’s how I got my calves. Come on. Throw me a-

Dr. Amy Novotny:

I already know you’re in fight or flight mode because you told me how much you sank during the exhalation. Sorry.

Steven Sashen:

But-

Dr. Amy Novotny:

Yeah, but, but, but. The thing is you can strengthen your hamstrings and glutes all day long until the cows come home. But if you haven’t changed your trunk position, your rib and your pelvis position, you’re not going to access them in running. You’re going to continue to use your calves, your back and your hip flexors, which is where people get in trouble. You have to learn how to shift your ribs down to release your low backs. Your pelvis goes in neutral. Then you start feeling your hamstrings in a way you never thought possible. You feel your glutes in a way you never thought possible. Then you get a nice booty.

Steven Sashen:

I’ve always said that in America, they completely mismarket track and field where it should be just the world’s greatest booty contest because holy smokes. I was at the Atlanta Olympics and I was like, I’m not even a butt man but wow.

Dr. Amy Novotny:

You are now.

Steven Sashen:

I totally am now. On that note, anything else that you can think of that we want to toss in there before we have to sadly call it a something?

Dr. Amy Novotny:

Yeah. People, when you are going throughout your daily life, just watch how much you suck your gut up and then really just start practicing let your belly hang out. We’re in a virtual world nowadays. You don’t even have to worry about it. You can let your gut hang out. No one has to see that. Just put the camera up higher. Start practicing, noticing it when you’re driving, when you’re talking on the phone, when you’re in the middle of meetings, when you’re running. You will notice how much you guard yourself. Basically, you’re cutting off your midsection. It’s like you’re closing off all the energy that wants to flow through you by creating this hourglass instead of creating a cylinder. Just consider that. However I can help, if people want to reach out, you know.

Steven Sashen:

Keep going. If people do want to reach out, how would they do that?

Dr. Amy Novotny:

I tell people if I can give you resources, I have plenty of videos, resources. I have a guided breathing group for free. They can reach out to me, Amy, A-M-Y @pabrinstitute. P-A-B-R institute.com. That we can set up a free 15 minute consultation. I can find out what their needs are. If they need some videos for free. If they need to join a group for free. I do one-on-one coaching, and that’s done virtually. I have clients all over the world. However I can serve them.

Steven Sashen:

Well, Amy, A, thank you. B, this is way, way, way fun, especially because we have had zero conversation prior to this conversation. It’s always wonderful to find someone who’s thought-through this as well and is as exquisitely as you had. I just really, really appreciate it. This definitely messed me up on Sunday when I’m out on the track, I’m sure, which I’m looking forward to actually.

Dr. Amy Novotny:

Awesome.

Steven Sashen:

Anyway, first, thanks. Don’t go away. Let me just say goodbye to everyone. First, thank you all for being here. You got Amy’s info, drop her a line. Find her website if you want to do that. Ours again is at jointhemovementmovement.com. If you have any questions or feedback or suggestions or recommendations for people who should be on the podcast, drop me an email, move@jointhemovementmovement.com. Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention, go check out xeroshoes.com if you want to find super ridiculously comfortable, lightweight footwear for everything that you do. I think that’s all I’ve got other than, oh yeah, again, if you like what’s going on here, please just spread the word. Share and like and thumbs up and blah, blah, blah. You know how to do it. I don’t need to tell you. Again, if you want to be part of the tribe, just subscribe. Most importantly, go out, have fun and live life feet first. Recording stop.

 

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