Okay folks, we’re gonna talk about Dead Butt Syndrome. I can’t say for sure, but you probably have it and I’m sorry. I’m pretty sure I have it, too. I came to this realization when two of my favorite worlds converged – public broadcasting and biking.
Do you ever listen to OPB? If you don’t, you should. And if you do, then perhaps you’d recognize the dulcet tones of a Mister Casey Negreiff – Producer for Morning Edition (or the helluvastellar-journalist, Amelia Templeton, wife of Mr. Negreiff). Casey has to be at work really, really early in the morning. When most of us are logging some serious R.E.M.s, Casey is sitting down in front of a microphone where he’s expected to put together complete sentences using big words about complex topics. What he says will be broadcast all over Oregon and SW Washington and to anyone else in the world who streams the station digitally (which is a surprising number of people).
With a job like that you might think that Mister Negrieff would take it easy on himself, sleep in until the very last moment, then hop in his car and drive to work. But he doesn’t. Instead, he rolls out of bed and onto a bike. And when I first met Casey many years ago, he didn’t even own a car – which meant he biked to work 5 days a week, 12 months a year. Rain, shine, snow, ice, darkness. No other choice. No option to be late. Seconds count when you’re doing live radio.
So when Casey casually shared a bit of biking advice with me, I was all ears. Sometimes when I’m riding I try to focus on using different muscles. This sounds super nerdy, which is probably why I liked it and have continued to think about it all these years later.
As I can best recall, it’s the idea that sometimes you focus on your quads doing the brunt of the work, or your hammies, or your butt. Now Casey’s not a mountain biker, but he does do ridiculous long road rides like Portland to the Gorge via Lolo Pass. (I know, disgusting.) Still, we’re mountain-bikers not roadies. There’s no time to think about using different muscles when we’re trying to hit the skinnies and shred the gnar, yo!
Except those times when you’re not. And instead, you’re climbing and it feels like foreevvvver and you need something to distract from the misery. That’s a great time to do the Casey Method. Which is exactly what I was trying to do the other day on some horrible climb I’m sure I’d been coerced into, which is when I discovered something truly awful. I couldn’t use my butt muscles. No matter how hard I focused, they just wouldn’t engage. Which is ridiculous, because our glutes are all huge and meaty and seem like they should totally be our secret turbo-boosters on climbs (as I write that I find it hard to not picture myself riding up a hill with 2 flames coming off my ass – in a good way).
I made an offhand mention of this problem to Dr. Gerbi over at Hood River Chiropractic and she immediately responded “oh, yeah, Dead Butt Syndrome”. What?! Is it contagious? Curable? What am I up against? She went on to explain (in much more medical and smart-sounding terms than I’ll use here) that DBS is a silly name for a real thing, Lower Crossed Syndrome. Which is essentially a muscle imbalance where some of your muscles start doing too much of the work, resulting in other muscles saying sayonara baby! If you’re not using me, I’m clockin’ out! Before you know it, your hip-flexors are super tight, you’re walking ever-so slightly bent forward, your gut protrudes, your back hurts, and your butt won’t engage. Turns out it’s a pretty common problem among us ladies who’ve had kiddos (a natural next step following whacked out stomach muscles, crouched breast-feeding posture, toddler on hip etc.) But it’s also a common problem among folks who spend a lot of time sitting, at a desk, staring at a computer, like you’re probably doing right now.
So here we are, looking like a bunch of damn neanderthals as our sweet backsides waste away. It’s really so sad. And I’d like to tell you that I have the cure to Dead Butt Syndrome, but I’ve only just identified the problem in myself. So all I can do is wish you good health and good luck while I go donate to my local public broadcasting station and grapple with how to raise the dead.
UPDATE: 10/26/16 Nothing like a dead-butt to rally the troops. Check out this article just shared by the folks over at MTB Project. Apparently, dead butt can also affect our knees! Holy crap, that’s serious. Wake up your glutes, people! I’m doing the “fire-hydrant”as I type…