Ever heard of Rolfing? I sure hadn’t.
Out on a run, I crossed paths with an old friend. He was almost finished a speedy fartlek in his Fivefingers, and blew past me before we recognized each other. I probably wouldn’t have noticed him if not for his bright green KSOs. There aren’t a lot of “barefoot” runners in my area, and almost no fast ones.
I caught up with him (both literally and figuratively), and learned that he was now running 60-mile weeks. This impressed me; I’ve never known someone who ran decent distance in Fivefingers. But it turns out barefoot running was only one of the alternative training methods he used.
He told me that he had Rolfed for 4 hours. Hearing the word “Frolf,” I made a joke about Seinfeld.
It's the white stuff on this peaceful, but still kinda scary, fellow here.
Once the awkwardness of the misunderstanding had passed, he explained that Rolf is a message for your fascia (for those not in the know, fascia is like a stocking for your muscles– it goes around and through them, giving them structure).
The goal of Rolfing is to redirect your fascia and thus change your body’s alignment to a more natural form. This way, your movement becomes more energy efficient and you less injury-prone. You can see why Rolfing would appeal to a barefoot runner– the two are based on the same reasoning.
A lot of Rolfing institutes take this a few steps farther into the homeopathy realm, saying that Rolfing increases “emotional flexibility” and creates “a sense of integration and well being.” This is where I get off the bus. It’s not that I don’t believe in energy I can’t see; it’s just that these hazy new-age terms mark the edge of a certain territory. We’ve crossed over into Homeopathy, a pretty bad part of town. I might buy a designer watch for cheap, but there’s a reason why most people don’t shop here.
That is not to say that there is no science behind Rolfing. There was one study done at the UCLA Department of Kinesiology in which the sample group showed:
Movements were smoother, larger and less constrained.
There were less extraneous movements.
Body movements were more dynamic and energetic.
Carriage was more erect and there was less obvious strain to maintain held positions.
–journal of the American Physical Therapy Association, March 1999 issue.
Most of the people who want to be Rolfed (sounds lewd, no?) don’t cite this study, however. They cite anecdotes instead– if they know someone who enjoyed the results, wouldn’t everyone?
That’s why I chose to write about Rolfing. It reminded me of the barefoot runners who come into my store (“it worked for Christopher McDougall; why wouldn’t it work for me?”). At least they get away only spending $85-100 on minimalist shoes; my friend shelled out $1200 to be Rolfed!
As for myself, I don’t think that there are any alternative routes to success. When I’m training, I prefer to stick to the tried and true methods: stretching, eating right, cross-training, and running hard. And I recommend that you do the same.
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