Monday, September 8, 2008

Why Attend the Minnesota ZHealth Workshop: move better, feel better - really (a workshop preview)

Want to last longer, move better, reduce pain? At the end of october - in fact, that's halloween (Oct. 31) to Nov 2 - Dragon Door is hosting a Z-Health workshop called " Z-Health
The Essential Secrets of Elite Performance" for Athletes. Athletes is a term defined broadly: if you move, and want to improve your movement - your athletic effort - you're an athlete.
Why would you want to attend this workshop? There's a couple of big reasons:
(1) If you're an athlete who suffers from any kind of ache, tweak or out and out pain, and have repeatedly hit the manual therapists' offices - whether chiro, massage or similar, the approach presented in ZHealth (or Z-Health or Z Health) will help. That's a bold claim. It's true and i'll come back to it.
(2) If you're an athlete who's hit a plateau, you'll learn skills that will help you tune your performance in what are likely very new ways - unless you're already working with a trainer certified in the Z approach that will help you move past your plateau.
(3) if you're an athlete who needs good hand/eye coordination for your sport, believe it or not, you'll improve it.
(4) If you're an athlete learning a new sport or have been playing a particular sport for awhile, the workshop will help you move with more efficiency. More efficiency means more power, speed - more of what's good for your game. The same goes for whether you're a powerlifter, kettlebell'er or hockey player.
You may say, ok, those sound like incremental improvements. So what?
On the one hand, the answer might be well, increments are what it's all about in sport: in the recent olympics, the difference between a world and olympic record in the 200m men's sprint was 2/10ths of a second. it took almost a generation to beat that record, too. You may say well you're not competing at that kind of elite level; those kind of increments don't mean much to you.
OK. If getting better measurable gains in your activity is not important to you, that's fine. For instance, you mayn't care that you can walk your circuit faster; you just want to keep doing it.
So therefore, on the other hand, that's the other rationale for improving efficiency: improving function while reducing wear and tear on the body. If we move with more efficiency, we're using our bodies more effectively. That means less energy is put into that movement, which means we have more energy for other things. Likewise, that efficiency means better use of our limited resource - ourselves - which means fewer problems over the long haul.
A Stitch in Time Saves Nine
One of the things we learn about in human physiology is that we're internally extremely well connected - a tweak that starts in the foot can effect the knee, can effect the hip, can trigger the back, can bug the shoulder, can screw up the jaw, can hurt the head. The cumulative effect of these little things can mean at the least less effective, efficient movement and at the worst means a whole host of pain, and a set up for problems like injuries in the movements to come.

The z approach takes this science of our wiring and shows us how to tune our movement to create the clearest path, the freest signal through that wiring so that we can work as effectively as possible. That efficiency means better performance, reduced pain. It's freaky how these things connect, and how quickly the effect can be demonstrated.
The Missing Manual
One of the biggest drags about us is that we don't come with The Manual.

I used to work a lot on motorcycles - this was necessary as i could only afford ones that were made a decade or more before the period in which i was riding them, and so, that telling you something about my finances, i had to be able to maintain them. One of the best resources for this up keep was (a) canadian tire, home of many parts that could be jury-rigged into working and (b) clymer manuals on how these things fit together - both the mechanicals and the all-important electrics. Without these manuals, hacking around the bike to try to tune it was just guess work. If it worked, it was often more luck than knowledge.
We don't come with Clymers. Netter's Anatomy and Guyton and Hall's Physiology while great texts on body parts and discrete physical systems, ain't great when it comes to seeing how, to put it loosely, the mechanical interacts with the electrics.
Without such a manual, what we often do in our own training, especially those of us who do not have coaches, is our best guess hacks. We read the articles, maybe follow some forums, watch friends, and try to put together an effective approach to get results, from getting the right gear to applying "correct" form. But how do we know what we're doing *is* actually right? is actually good for us? We're extremely complex, highly adaptive systems. We take tons of abuse, from poor eating to high heel shoes and keep functioning. So sometimes it's hard to tell if what we're doing is wrong - especially if we seem to be making progress. But at what cost progress? Perhaps if you're making loads of gains and are completely pain-free (either during or apart from your activity), you've lucked out and are operating optimally. Way to go. For the rest of us, well, there's this tension we get in the neck, or the back kinda aches, or sometimes when we walk our knee hurts. Pavel has this comment on his seminar with Charles Staley "Put up your hands anyone who's had a shoulder injury. Anyone who hasn't put up their hands, can't"
Anyone who's been in pain, and been helped out of it knows how much better their activities or daily lives are. For some of us, we go to manual therapies, and feel great for a time once we're off the table. For some, that treatment's enough. For many of us, we have to keep going back to get that release.
For all of us in such tweaked categories, getting a manual to deal with these tweaks proactively can make a world of difference to our performance - on and off the field; in and out of the gym.
Demystifying Movement
In the Z approach, athletes get a broader view of movement than muscle. After all, we have bones, muscles, nerves, but we also have sensory and perceptual functions or various systems that maintain those bones muscles and nerves in space. Without these we couldn't stay upright, little own move. The Z approach takes each of these components into account when talking about tuning movement.

Some folks think that Z is about joint mobility: that its thing is just to focus on moving the bendy bits instead of manipulating muscles, like other folks do.
In my experience of Z the answer is yes and no. Yes, the initial approach (Day 1 of the workshop, R Phase focus) is HUGE on getting full range of motion around joints, but the focus on joints is there as a powerful means to an end. The real meat and potatoes of the this initial phase is about what's happening around those joints with our nervous system, particularly with mechanoreceptors. Joints have more of these awareness detectors than any other part of the body. If one part of the body is having issues with its reception, the ENTIRE rest of the body responds. You'll see a demo that shows a problem with a thumb - no pain, but a less than fully mobile joint - will substantially, hugely shut down the ability of the hamstrings to generate force, but how freeing up that thumb joint will bring that strength back. That improvement in strength had nothing to do with building mass; it had to do with improving the signal path from a seemingly unrelated joint back to the brain - to give the all clear for that joint.
Bottom line of R: decreased joint mobility (a joint that cannot move through full range of motion), decreased strength; increased mobility, increased strength.
In Day 2 with I phase, the focus moves from the joints' relation to movement into how our visual and vestibular systems - balance, eye tracking and so on effect movement.
The S part of the workshop begins to put these components together into movement practice for coordinated benefit.
The workshop promo uses terms like "massive" development of power and "immediate" strength gains. These sound very much too good to be true, don't they? And (to me, unfortunately) the workshop also talks about "revealing secrets" to making these gains.
For the Less Trained. The thing is, if you haven't worked with a coach before ANY good coach will help you improve your performance - likely immediately. And if you haven't worked with a coach before, they may even break your current personal best in one session. So i'm not too moved by such claims. So on the grossest level, if you take this seminar you will definitely learn stuff to improve your performance, and you will see benefits right away. But what differentiates this approach from perhaps others is the longer haul: there are many many carry over effects of the whole Z approach that go beyond sport specific training.
If you learn how to squat right, for instance, you learn how to do this one activity well. If, however, you learn how to stand in balance on your bones, using as little energy as possible to hold a "long" spine, you have a foundation for effective powerful movement in any movement/activity (on day 3, if you're a kettlebeller, ask about "femur snap rather than hip snap" in the swing/snatch).
For the More Coached/Trained. If you have worked with coaches before, or do so right now, then you know how precious any gains can be. If your coaching/training has focused on mainly muscle work, it doesn't take a big leap of the imagination to get that if you can bring on board the other systems of the body like proprioception, like the vestibular and visual systems, that you're going to do better, harmonizing more of what the body has to offer to improve performance. Check out Mike T Nelson's posts about deadlift improvements with Z approaches for more.

For Those With Pain or Injury. If you've had an injury or are coping with one now, you'll know how valuable it can be to get out of pain so you can get back to your training. You may see a specialist to treat your ills and feel great while that happens. But have you asked yourself why do you have to keep going back to feel well? Do you believe that you will have to keep going to feel well? Would you like to explore the options of how you could take care of yourself such that you could get out of the treatment cycle?
If you are in pain, and would like that attended, may i recommend booking an appointment during the weekend with Dr. Cobb who will be delivering the workshop? He can assess and point you to a proactive plan for your own well being. It's worth it.
If you are keen to make your body last as long as possible pain free, running effectively, and efficiently, and if you want to improve your athletic performance, the skills you'll learn over these three days will literally last a life time.

Note for Instructors: if you're a trainer and want to learn how to provide these kinds of techniques for your clients, as well as how to do assessments of performance, you may want to consider taking in a Z-Health certification course rather than this workshop (here's a review of my experience with the first z-health cert, r-phase).


Unknown said...

Hey there and just so the word gets out I'll be doing private sessions as well in MN :) zzzzzzz

Mike T Nelson said...

Excellent review!! Thanks for all the great info. Sounds like you had fun at the R Phase cert! I look forward to hearing more about your thoughts on R Phase cert also.

Shameless plug time--if you are in Minnesota for the Z Health 3 day workshop (or RKC) and want a custom Z assessment for yourself; drop me a line at michaelTnelson AT yahoo DOT com as I have a few limited slots still open. I can everything from sports specific work to visual (eye movements and vision related) and vestibular (inner ear) testing and whatever you need to reduce pain and reach max performance.

Rock on!
Mike N

dr. m.c. said...

Thanks Zach, And yes mike, the cert was beyond expectations.

My take on it is here

all the best


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