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Natural Awakenings North Central New Jersey

Running with Purpose, Grace and Ease: Put Your Running on Cruise Control

May 01, 2013 09:51AM ● By Ed Hemberger, CMT

If you’re a runner, you might ask yourself: Why use the best running shoes, individualized diets, energy supplements and specialized training routines if the human body is not organized to achieve its optimal level of efficiency? Why have your body work against you as you run?

The goal of structural integration, or rolfing, is to bring the segments of the body – head, neck, pelvis, torso, legs and feet – into balance and supportive relationship with one another. Rolfing brings about fundamental changes in the body structure, because it works on the connective tissue, or fascia, that wraps around muscles and connects muscles to the bones.  (You’ve probably seen connective tissue before – it’s the gristle you see in a steak or piece of chicken.)  A rolfer uses his or her hands to stretch connective tissue that’s been shortened back to its normal length and consistency.  We call this “freeing” the fascia, and when the connective tissue is freed up, it allows the muscles and bones to restore themselves to their natural, optimal placement.

Most clients, whether athletes or not, notice an immediate improvement in function when these body segments begin to assume their normal position.  This happens whether the person has a drastic posture or alignment problem or a more subtle one such as tight muscles, slight back pain or just a sense that things aren’t quite “right.”  Proper alignment allows the body to feel as if it’s gliding along rather than laboriously working with each step.

What are some of the specific benefits for runners of improving balance and alignment through rolfing sessions? Naturally, if your time improves, that would be a great benefit.  But, since no one can guarantee this, I can cite these benefits which often do improve time and, more importantly, lessen injuries:

1.     You should experience a more optimal foot plant and push off, as your feet will be hitting the ground more squarely.

2.     Your muscles will be activated in a more appropriate sequence, reinforcing effective mechanical motion through the lower leg, knee, upper leg and pelvis during each step.

3.     With all the joints lined up and working properly as shock absorbers, you will be able to limit long-term structural deterioration.

4.     You may decrease your potential for nagging side-effects such as shin splints, heel and fascial strain, stress fractures and tendon problems that sooner or later beset most people who run.

Ed Hemberger, CMT, is a certified massage therapist, certified structural integration (rolfing) practitioner, and founder of Hemberger Structural Integration LLC, with offices in Livingston, Boonton andManhattan He also practices Active Release Therapy (ART), Muscle Release Therapy, and Neuromuscular Therapy.  He advocates a holistic approach to his work with clients, helping them through massage, SI (rolfing), nutrition, stress management, life-work balance, and weight management.  Learn more at

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