Thursday, October 2, 2014

Wilma Rudolph – An Amazing Role Model

To date, much has been written, motion pictures made, commentaries given on Wilma Rudolph. Many titles have been given to her, to name just a few; “The Tornado," The Fastest Woman on Earth; "The Black Gazelle" and; "The Black Pearl". Wilma was one of the most famous alumni of Tennessee State University (TSU) and its “Tigerbelles”, the name of the TSU women's track and field program.

She won an Olympic bronze medal at the 1956 Melbourne Games in the Women’s 4 x 100 meters relay. She then went on amazingly to win gold medals at the 1960 Rome Olympic Games in the Women’s 100 meters, 200 meters and the 4 x 100 meters relay. Wilma’s phenomenal achievements at the 1960 Rome Olympics made her one of the most decorated female athletes of all time. Her time-enduring Olympic champion athlete status literally shattered longstanding gender barriers in previously “all-male” track and field events.

Wilma’s many awards are just a mere glimpse to her greatness which include, but not limited to, the following:

·         United Press Athlete of the Year 1960
·         Associated Press Woman Athlete of the Year 1960
·         James E. Sullivan Award for Good Sportsmanship 1961 *
·         The Babe Zaharias Award 1962
·         European Sportswriters' Sportsman of the Year *
·         Christopher Columbus Award for Most Outstanding International Sports Personality 1960*
·         The Penn Relays 1961 *
·         New York Athletic Club Track Meet *
·         The Millrose Games *
·         Black Sports Hall of Fame 1980
·         U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame 1983
·         Vitalis Cup for Sports Excellence 1983
·         Women's Sports Foundation Award 1984

*Indicates first woman to receive the award / invitation

From her humble beginnings in June 1940 in Clarksville, Tennessee, Wilma’s life journey is a testament to the human story of triumph over trials, tribulations and overcoming multitude of odds which often seem insurmountable.

It has been said that life is a great teacher, in that, often she gives the experience first, and then the lesson. For Wilma, her life was not only her experience, but, her gift to the world as it watched her in total awe on the world’s greatest athletics stage; the Olympic Games.

From being born premature with a weight of just 4.5 pounds, Wilma’s life challenges were not only to overcome racial segregation, but also, multiple illnesses ranging from measles, mumps, scarlet fever, chicken pox to double pneumonia. Moreover, once she was taken to a doctor for examination, wherein it was found that her left leg and foot were becoming weaker and deformed due to crippling and incurable polio, and that she would never walk again. With relentless time, energy, and efforts by her mother, over the course of two years, Wilma was able to continually walk with the support of a metal leg brace. Her family never gave up and helped in ongoing physical therapy, slowly but surely, she was able to gain strength. By the time she was 12 years old, Wilma started to walk normally with no crutches, brace, or corrective shoes. From that moment onwards, Wilma’s steady and heroic rise in the world of track and field is truly unbelievable and for the historians to be amazed.

In retrospect, it is truly amazing to sometimes look back over the last few decades and realize the advances in elite athletics. Multiple world records have been broken and remarkable times set. In addition, major media contracts, endorsements, and promotions are the mainstay. There have been also multiple doping scandals through Performance Enhancement Drugs (PED’s) and related. The sports world, however, has been very fortunate indeed that Wilma Rudolph has graced the multitude of stadiums in places such as; Tennessee, New York, Melbourne, and Rome.

Many more books may be written, motion pictures may be made, and commentaries given on Wilma Rudolph. Her true greatness is beyond just her many track and field races, Olympic gold medals, as well as accolades and awards. Wilma Rudolph’s legacy reminds us all that we come from various walks of life, multitude of circumstances, and challenges. Each and every one of us, with inner strength and courage, in the end must rise above and beyond, striving to achieve excellence in Sprit-Mind-Body. Life is more about what we truly achieve with what we are inherently endowed, and not so much which comes from external sources. Wilma Rudolph’s true greatness has, is, and continues to inspire generations as she is a role model and example for all on the journey of Life.



Monday, September 8, 2014

Challenges in Overcoming Improper Biomechanics & Bioenergetics

It has been over five (5) years since early July 2009 when I came out of the emergency-room and hospital recovery at Overlook Hospital in Summit, New Jersey. The definitive road for me to regain proper health, wellness, fitness, training and competition has been very long, winding, with many ups and downs. During the course of the last 5+ years, with each workout, training, and competition, there was, is, and continues to be increased hope for me. With heartfelt gratitude, I humbly thank the many coaches, trainers, physical therapists, fellow athletes and teammates who have made my journey so worthwhile and helped me in so many qualitative and quantitative aspects in overcoming sometimes insurmountable challenges and odds. I am truly grateful to the many countless people in my life who have made it possible for me to regain proper health, wellness, fitness and training in order to compete once again.

I first started competitive running in high school and then in college with main focus on 880 yards / 800 meters during track season and cross-country during off-season (References 1, 2). I did not compete at any shorter distances. I was a "very average" and marginal athlete not at-par with any of the many championship-level and elite athletes on the various track & field teams in both high school and college. I stopped competing in track after college and occasionally ran in 5K and 10K road-races from time-to-time and completely stopped all physical fitness in early 1990s. After a major lapse of nearly two (2) decades, starting in late 2009, as part of road to proper health, fitness and training, I had to overcome various plaguing health issues and turned to allopathic medicine coupled with holistic methods as an effective means in tackling various challenges with diabetes, nephrotic syndrome, chronic PTSD, chronic fatigue and other related health matters (References 3, 4, 5).

From late 2012, I restarted the slow journey back to competitive running by participating in several 5K road-race events. My times were very slow (>40 minutes) and I continually suffered from chronic fatigue, total exhaustion, and other painful lower body injuries (hamstring pulls, knee pain, ankle sprains, plantar fasciitis, etc.). Thus, I totally forego running road-races, and, in late March 2013, I competed in an outdoor track meet in the 200 meters (a much shorter distance). I completed the race in a very slow time and collapsed after crossing the finish line. Thereafter, I started doing combination(s) of distance running, intervals, wind sprints and upper-body resistance training. However, I still continued to suffer from chronic fatigue, total exhaustion, and other painful lower body issues (hamstring pulls, knee / ankle pain, plantar fasciitis, etc.) as well as issues with ups and downs with diabetes, nephrotic syndrome and chronic PTSD. I also had to seek help from physical therapists for my lower-body / leg injuries.

Fortunately, I attended two (2) important running clinics, first in August 2013, and, later in January 2014 (References 6, 7). I had the great opportunity to listen, meet, and have direct Q&A with world-renowned track & field coaches, researchers and experts having tremendous wealth of knowledge, maturity, experience and wisdom. I realized there were so many major advances in biomechanics & bioenergetics science, innovation and state-of-the-art methods and techniques. Specifically, strength training; fitness; stride frequency / length; force application; ground reaction forces; biomechanics; bio-kinesiology; important muscle / tendon / ligament groups; energy mechanisms; training tips and related areas. In addition, Newton’s laws of motion, gravity as well as Hooke’s law with emphasis on force application, stiffness, ground reaction forces (impulse and impact forces), forward momentum, and linear velocity. Also, proper running technique and running form during acceleration, sprinting, maximum velocity and speed endurance phases. I learned, for the first time, basics of GAIT analysis as well as different key aspects of stance, recovery, toe-off, flight phases of the GAIT cycle. I had to literally re-learn the basic laws motion and linear kinematics as well as being totally introduced to the latest art and science of running.

During Competition
With Analysis

In late 2013, a real-time GAIT analysis was carried on my improper biomechanics in New York City which showed; 1) decreased step length on right foot; 2) decreased contact time on right foot and; 3) increased variance on right leg with pushoff / propulsive phase. In addition, movement assessment was also carried out which showed; 1) Ankle; limited dorsiflexion motion with early heel rise; 2) Hip; decreased hip extension right-to-left limiting glute(s) loading and activation and; 3) Thoracic Spine; limited rotation and extension thereby limiting core activation.

During Competition
With Analysis

Based on the above, I have had to apply and, in most cases, continually reapply the principles of the latest art and science of running and resulting “mindful” and “common-sense” methods, techniques, skills and drills to my own health, fitness, training and competition. I still have a very long way to go in overcoming challenges of improper biomechanics and bioenergetics as I have shifted focus on competing, at Masters level track events, in much shorter distances; 100 meters, 200 meters, and 400 meters; with still relatively slower time(s) due to ongoing injuries coupled with recovery / rehabilitation / therapy.

Accordingly, based on analysis (as in above pictures), a lot of work still needs to be done via proper health, fitness and training. This includes, but not limited to, major essential improvements which must be made in reducing resulting ground reaction force and optimizing vertical impact and impulse forces in order to translate into increased overall forward momentum (Linear Speed = Stride Frequency x Stride Length). There must be special attention paid to improving proper and adequate levels of stiffness (Hooke's Law; Force = kx). Enhanced and very close attention to interrelationship between key "15 joint groups", practical and realistic impact of anthropometric factors and issues. Particular emphasis on proper foot landing during "pen-ultimate step" and various GAIT phases, minimizing ankle rotation, enhancing hips / glutes power, strengthening core / chest area, relaxing both shoulders, smoother hand-leg coordination / propulsion and strengthening neck.

Finally, as part of effectively dealing with diabetes, nephrotic syndrome, chronic PTSD, and chronic fatigue (central nervous system (CNS), neuro-muscular, and metabolic), "laser-focus" on adequate amounts of proper holistic methods (sadhana, yoga, ayurveda, and tai-chi), proper lifestyle (diet, rest, balance, and motivation), proper balance of both endurance and interval training as well as continual practice and maintenance thereof during off-season / early-season / mid-season / late-season.

I am so thankful to the most amazing enlightenment I received from the world-renowned track & field coaches, researchers and experts (References 67). Moreover, I am truly grateful for the continual words of faith, hope and courage from Coach Caryl Smith Gilbert and encouragement, motivation, support, and training tips from Coach F. Eugene Driver III. In addition, USC Track & Field program, all of my teammates at Trojan Masters Track Club, many friends at Dashing Whippets Running Team and newly-found friends at Central Park Track Club. All of you make my day!