Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Meditation may help "Chemo Brain"

Meditation may help side effects of cancer treatment

by Kathleen Lisson

Does meditation help "chemo brain?" According to an article in Science Daily titled 'Mindfulness-based stress reduction diminishes chemo brain,' an eight-week meditation program helped men and women with breast and colorectal cancer to reduce chemotherapy's negative affects on their ability to pay attention and complete cognitive tasks. Both groups are close to my heart because my paternal grandfather died of colon cancer and my mother died from breast cancer. 

The mPEAK class I took from the UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness was based upon MBSR, the meditation program used in the study. UC San Diego offers MBSR programs to the public - check out their schedule here: 

Read the Science Daily article here: 

Monday, December 7, 2015

Help! I pee when I run - How to stop urination during workouts

How to Stop Peeing During Running Workouts

by Kathleen Lisson

Physical Therapist Julie Wiebe shows female runners how to reduce urinary incontinence while running by changing their running posture in this video. 

As a half marathon runner, I have used pantyliners and folded toilet paper to keep my underwear relatively dry during long training runs. I am interested to see if changing my running position will reduce the leakage I have during exercise.

Watch Physical Therapist Julie Wiebe's video here:

Do you grip your abs when you run? Do you use your gluteus maximus to propel you forward or your hamstrings? Do you look at the horizon when you run?

Sunday, August 16, 2015

A 45 minute Swedish Massage can help you stay healthier!

Results of a Study of the Effects of a Massage on the Immune System

by Kathleen Lisson, CMT, CLT

As a long distance runner, I am constantly looking for ways to improve my health so that I can stick to my training schedule.

The 1989 Loma Linda University study, 'Effects of Long-Endurance Running on Immune System Parameters and Lymphocyte Function in Experienced Marathoners' found that "exhaustive endurance exercise in marathon runners is associated with many significant perturbations in immune system parameters, most of which return to normal levels at 21 h of recovery." Even though I am not a marathon runner of ultrarunner, I am lowering or "perturbing" my immune system for an entire day after my long run. I want to do healthful things to improve my immune system the rest of the week.

I do not get a massage immediately after running, but I have included massage as one of my wellness practices, because of its positive effects on my immune system. A 2010 study from the Cedars-Sinai Department of Psychaitry and Behavioral Neurosciences found that healthy adults can benefit from a single 45 minute Swedish massage.

According to the article, "Adults Demonstrate Modified Immune Response After Receiving Massage, Cedars-Sinai Researchers Show" on the Cedars-Sinai website, results included "significant changes in lymphocyes ...a large decrease in Arginine Vasopressin (AVP) a hormone believed to play a role in aggressive behavior and linked to helping cause increases in the stress hormone cortisol ...a decrease in levels of the stress hormone cortisol (and) ...a notable decrease in most cytokines produced by stimulated white blood cells.

Read more about the study here:

The Abstract of 'A Preliminary Study of the Effects of a Single Session of Swedish Massage on Hypothalamic–Pituitary–Adrenal and Immune Function in Normal Individuals' by Mark Hyman Rapaport, Pamela Schettler, and Catherine Bresee and published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine on October 2010 is here:

What do you do to improve your immune system during your long distance running training?

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Adding Meditation to Your Long Runs

How Do You Overcome a Difficult Run?

by Kathleen Lisson

Meditation and Running

Brad Stulberg recently wrote about the link between meditation and long distance running in the article 'Is Running Meditation.' Stulberg interviewed San Diego ultrarunner Cameron Rentch and offered tips on how to add meditation to long runs. In the article Rentch states that he uses meditation during practice or a race if he starts to focus on the more painful aspects of the run. He focuses on his breath instead of the negative thoughts.

My favorite tip is to direct attention to your breath during a steady state run, then to different areas of your body and the nature surrounding you as you run.

I agree that 'flow' is different than meditation. When I experience 'flow' there is no choice and meditation is about choosing to focus on a certain thing, like the breath.

The article is here:

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Runners: A quick trick to increase your weekly mileage - remembering your rave runs?

Positive Memories Good for Improving Running Performance

by Kathleen Lisson

An amazing run in Washington DC a few years ago... 

A recent article on the Triathlete website by Mackenzie Lobby Havey titled 'Study Finds Recalling Positive Memories Can Impact Performance' discussed the effects of a study published in the journal 'Memory.' According to the study results, college athletes exercised more when they made a habit of remembering good training experiences.

I go through phases where I am super eager to get out there and log some miles, and periods of time when I have to drag myself into my running shoes to stick to my training schedule. I am interested to see if setting aside time to remember great running experiences will help me stick to a hard training schedule.

Read the article here:

Read the abstract for the study, conducted by University of New Hampshire psychologists Mathew J. Biondolillo and David B. Pillemer and titled 'Using memories to motivate future behaviour: An experimental exercise intervention' here:

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

mPEAK 3 day intensive mindfulness training for athletes in San Diego

mPEAK Mindfulness Training 3 Day Intensive Meditation Class in San Diego

by Kathleen Lisson

mPEAK Intensive Particicpants - San Diego Meditation Class

I recently attended a 3 day intensive training in mPEAK mindfulness training in San Diego.  Before the training, athletes were asked to read three books about mindfulness, Resilience: The Science of Mastering Life’s Greatest Challenges, The Mindful Brain: Reflection and Attunement in the Cultivation of Well-Being by Daniel J. Siegel and Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence.

I have taken the 8 week mPEAK class, sponsored by the UCSD Center for Mindfulness, earlier in 2015, so I was interested to see how the teachings had been adjusted to fit into a 3 day format. For more information on the program, visit the Mindful Performance Enhancement, Awareness & Knowledge website here:

Friday, June 26, 2015

Kathleen Lisson Headshot and Bio

Kathleen Lisson is a Board Certified Massage Therapist and Certified Lymphedema Therapist with oncology massage training, a trained Veriditas Labyrinth Facilitator, MMI Certified Meditation Instructor and ACE certified Personal Trainer. She specializes in reducing swelling after plastic or orthopedic surgery. 

Kathleen has worked as a Primary Instructor at the International Professional School of Bodywork in San Diego teaching Mindfulness and Meditation and lecturing on Massage for Special Populations. She teached Peggy Huddleston's 'Prepare for Surgery, Heal Faster' workshop at OASIS and in various locations around San Diego. 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Releasing the Psoas and Pelvis with Active Release Therapy

Active Release Therapy at Fix Body Group in Hillcrest, San Diego

by Kathleen Lisson

I had the good fortune to be worked on by Sam Wagg from Fix Body Group in Hillcrest after my tough Half Marathon run at the San Diego Rock and Roll Marathon / Half Marathon in May. Sam invited me back to his office for some treatment, including releasing my Psoas muscle. He used Active Release Therapy, which, according to the ART website, is a "movement based massage technique that treats problems with muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia and nerves." As a massage therapy student, I was interested in how this type of massage could benefit me as an injured long distance runner.

Massaging my psoas was just one of the ART techniques that Sam performed. I found running easier after he addressed my psoas, pelvis rotation, adductors and hamstrings. I would recommend Fix Body group to a fellow athlete looking to improve his or her performance. I am now working with Brett Buckmaster at Fix Body group to improve my running form and biomechanics. I found myself using my quadriceps and external rotators, including my piriformis muscle, to run instead of my glutes and hamstrings, which was wearing down my body and causing injuries and soreness.

A video of Dr. Leach from Las Vegas performing the psoas protocol is here:

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Mental Training Tips from Chrissie Wellington in Triathlete World

Meditation for Runners and Triathletes

Meditation Cushion and Running Shoes 

by Kathleen Lisson

In the Triathlete's World article "Chrissie Wellington's Racing Tips," Julie-Anne Ryan shares Ironman World Champion Chrissie Wellington's mental strategies for winning a triathlon. A few of her tips are familiar - I try to chunk a half marathon course into sections in my mind in order to not feel overwhelmed. I liked her idea to listen to meaningful music as she previews the course to create a good memory she can draw upon during the race. Her second to last tip is to stay in the moment. I have found that meditation is great practice for strengthening my 'stay in the moment' mental muscle.   

Do you use any of Chrissie Wellington's racing tips?

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Where to Get a Running Analysis in San Diego

Where to Get a Running Analysis in San Diego

By Kathleen Lisson

After struggling for years with injuries that stopped my ability to run for weeks and months at a time and last winter's ankle sprain, I am ready to put a stop to my running injuries and build a stronger body. I am running the La Jolla Half Marathon this weekend and want to strengthen my legs to be able to run the San Diego Rock and Roll Half Marathon in May 2015 and run the Triple Crown in 2016.

I have always been fascinated with the idea of getting a personal running analysis, so I made an appointment with physical therapist Nicole Miller at Movement Performance San Diego in Carlsbad. Nicole greeted me and asked about my running history, then put LED markers on my joints and used a high speed video camera and treadmill with pressure/force sensor to record video of my walking and running. The best part was when I could take a look at myself running and really see what my body is doing every step of the way. She then measured my hip strength.

My Running Analysis Video from Movement Performance San Diego

Actually seeing video of my running gave me new insight on how my body moves.

I turns out that my gluteus medius and gluteus maximus are weak and my hip flexors are tight. Nicole gave me a list of exercises I can do to strengthen my hips. I look forward to strengthening my hips and staying uninjured for the rest of the half marathon season. 

Monday, April 6, 2015

How I am activating my hips for long distance running

My Hip Strategy vs. Knee Strategy

by Kathleen Lisson

I'm not a physical therapist, so don't take any of this as medical advice.

I took one huge a-ha away from last weekend's Movement Performance Institute 'Evaluation and Treatment of the Injured Runner: A Biomechanical Approach' class taught by Christopher M. Powers from USC. Long distance runners absorb a lot of shock every time we take a step, and we absorb that shock in our joints and our shoes. Even the best shoes still leave a lot of shock absorbtion for our bodies to handle. How do we handle it? By using our ankles, knees and hips as shock absorbers. Many runners do NOT adequately use their hips to shock absorb, so the burden falls on the knees or ankles. 

From what I heard, we runners can use a 'hip strategy' - let our hips take some of the burden of shock absorption from potentially overburdened ankles and knees. How does this happen? I have been practicing strengthening my glutes with the following exercises. Instead of doing repetitions, I am holding the clamshell, fire hydrant and surfer squat for one minute. 

Clamshell Exercise -

Fire Hydrant Exercise 

Surfer Squat

Step Down Exercise

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Why do long distance runners keep on getting injured?

Why do long distance runners keep on getting injured?

by Kathleen Lisson
As a long distance runner, I am learning so much at the Movement Performance Institute 'Evaluation and Treatment of the Injured Runner: A Biomechanical Approach' class taught by Christopher M. Powers from USC. The class is in Los Angeles, so I drove up from my home in San Diego for the weekend.

My top takeaways from day one include:
  • Runners are tough clients - we are Type A, focused on maintaining and improving our conditioning and VO2 Max more than our musculoskeletal system. 
  • Runners injuries are based on the way we run and/or overuse a.k.a. how many steps we are taking. 
  • Runners are all too often focused on the 'quick fix.' We want to keep on running. Just fix it! But - do we treat underlying causes of our running injuries or just want to mask the symptoms so we can keep lacing up our shoes?
  • Runners are always on the line between training and overtraining. When we overtrain too much, we risk injury and totally derailing our training schedule. 

The four issues we face are: 

Shock absorbtion, both passive and active- do we rely too much on passive shock absorption (bones, cartilage & shoes) and our quads to absorb the shock of pounding the pavement? This may lead to injuries like stress fractures, plantar fasciitis and joint pain. 

Limb alignment and stability- do we have excessive hip adduction and internal rotation, how strong is our butt?

Pelvis and trunk stability- is our glute medius weak?

Foot alignment and stability- do we pronate? 

We also learned about the top ten common running injuries, including patellofemoral pain, patella tendonitis, iliotibial band syndrome, trochanteric bursitis, low back pain, achilles tendonitis, shin splints, plantar fasciitis, stress fracturies and hamstring injuries.

I want to use this information to become a better running coach and sports massage therapist for my clients, getting runners out of pain and back to participating in activities they love. 

According to the class overview: "Altered lower quarter mechanics can frequently contribute to various musculoskeletal conditions. Understanding how abnormal limb function can contribute to the mechanisms of specific joint dysfunction is essential for the evaluation and treatment of common orthopaedic disorders. This evidence-based course will review the anatomy and mechanics of the lower kinetic chain, particularly in relation to specific pathologies of the ankle, knee and hip. Emphasis will be placed on current research findings in the areas of gait analysis, lower limb function, and joint biomechanics. Implications for the evaluation and treatment of various musculoskeletal conditions will be addressed."
Learn more about the Movement Performance Institute here:

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Tips to Reduce the Negative Aspects of Stress for Endurance Runners

Is Stress a Threat or a Challenge? 

by Kathleen Lisson

  • Trying to avoid stress is what causes negative effects of stress in the body
  • Running is a way to 'get good at stress'
  • When stressed, help others to increase Dopamine in the body

According to an article in Outside Magazine, trying to avoid stress and letting fear and anxiety take over are the aspects of stress that cause negative reactions in our body. 

Author Bradley Stulberg states that "the more you push your physical limits, the more you improve your psychological ones." I have seen this in my running training. I become calmer and less reactionary when I run long distances. 

Stulberg quotes health psychologist Kelly McGonigal as saying that, “The most toxic thing about stress is not stress in and of itself, but rather, stress avoidance and the subsequent angst and rumination of always trying to avoid stress.” This was a big a-ha for me. There is truth to the idea that one can 'worry themselves sick' over something, creating more stress for themselves by trying to avoid a stressful situation. When my husband traveled to Nepal last year, the two weeks before he left were more painful for me than when he was actually gone. 

'Don't Worry' is easier said than done, but what if a sizable amount of the negative effects of stress in our lives is inflicted upon ourselves in the form of the worrying and the plotting and the stories we make up about stressful events in the future? A good piece of running advice I try to follow is to only run one mile at a time. Don't focus on trying to run mile 11 if you're only on mile three. Just run mile three.  

Another way to lessen the negative aspects of stress? Helping others. McGonigal states that helping others elicits a dopamine secretion. 

Read 'Endurance Sports Will Make You a Better, Calmer Person' here:

Monday, March 16, 2015

How do you control pre-race anxiety and improve focus?

What do Formula One and Soccer have in common with Endurance Sports?

by Kathleen Lisson

This video 'Grand Prix Starts vs. Penalty Kicks' (though its an ad for data collection) helped me to get a taste of pre-race jitters without being 'in the moment.' The video shares the perspectives of Formula 1 drivers and a soccer player preparing to take a penalty kick.

Watch the video and, as you are drawn into the story, feel in your body the emotions of preparing for a sports performance.

I felt my skin flush, my heart beat faster and my concentration focus on the moment of action.  This is the moment where I could perform, or, as the grand prix driver mentioned, lose all my gains made in training by underperforming at the start.

Now, long distance running isn't usually decided during the first few moments of the half marathon distance, but finding the mindfulness that would allow me to focus and reduce pre-race jitters might enable me to make better decisions throughout the race.

I can collect 'big data' on my reactions to different situations in training runs and prep races in my running shoes, as well as how regularly I am meditating and improving my 'brain game' while I'm out of my running shoes.

The video is here:

Friday, March 6, 2015

Workout tips that work from Consumer Reports ShopSmart magazine

By Kathleen Lisson

I am proud to be featured as one of ShopSmart Magazine's "fitness experts across the country" in their recent article on exercise tips and tricks. I shared tips for creating a 'power shelf' like the one in my refrigerator. 

When a snack attack strikes at my home, my husband and I can open the fridge and instantly see a variety of healthful snacks on the eye-level shelf. Stocking healthful foods on their own shelf makes it easier for me to choose a nutritious snack when I'm running late or too hungry to cook a meal. 

Friday, February 27, 2015

UCSD Center for Mindfulness mPEAK Program - meditation is like being a hockey goalie

Mindfulness for Athletes - Meditation is Like Being a Hockey Goalie

by Kathleen Lisson

I officially completed the first ever mPEAK program. The 8 week mindfulness course, offered at the UCSD Center for Mindfulness and modeled after a sucessful program for the US BMX Olympic team, offered plenty of 'food for thought.'

I came up with a good way to remind me to not think that I am failing at meditation when I think thoughts while meditating.

I imagine that meditation is like being a goalie in hockey. The thoughts are like hockey pucks.

The job of the goalie is to see the hockey pucks and divert them away from the goal net. Goalies only handle the puck as much as they need to - they don't focus on holding on to the puck.

The puck is a part of the game - no goalie stands at the net and expects the opposing team to never make a shot on goal. Pucks coming toward the net is part of the game just as thoughts occuring during my meditation. My 'job' as a meditator is to recognize the puck when it's coming toward the goal, and divert it so I can reconnect with the breath.

As a Buffalo native, I will always love my Buffalo Sabres! Here are Dominik Hasek's best moments as a goalie. I will think of him the next time I have an especially distracting "Thought on Goal."

So, does thinking of meditation as playing a goalie mean that I won't get frustrated when I let a thought get past my hockey stick? Of course not, goalies are human after all! I think that's why I picked hockey as a sport for my metaphor, it's very human and full of emotion, just like me. Meditation is not about losing my drive to win, after all. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

UCSD Center for Mindfulness mPEAK program

Improving Athletic Performance through Mindfulness - 

UCSD's mPEAK Program

by Kathleen Lisson

meditation class for athletes
Shoes AND a meditation cushion - the new tools of running?

I am very fortunate to live in San Diego - I am able to attend the first public session of the UCSD Center for Mindfulness mPEAK program.

Our facilitators are Pete Kirchmer of Mindfulness Based Health, Lucas LeardMann and Lori Haase. My fellow students include an Ironman triathlete, a sports coach, a BMX cyclist, a physical therapist, a baseball player in a local Senior / Masters league, a surfer and several yoga enthusiasts. Some of us have practiced meditation before, and it is quite new for others.

The program is modeled closely to one that helped the USA Olympic BMX cycling team. According to the UCnet article 'Mindfulness training program may help Olympic athletes reach peak performance,' "the first group of athletes to complete a mindfulness training program developed at UC San Diego won first, second and third place at the 2014 USA Cycling Elite BMX National Championships."

The eight week program meets on Tuesday nights for two and a half hours, and participants are encouraged to meditate for an hour every day. During the meetings we experience meditation and different mental and movement exercises designed to let us explore the effects of mindfulness on physical performance. Instead of a classroom environment complete with lecture and handouts, our meetings focus on each participant experiencing mindfulness in new ways and gathering knowlege from those experiences.

I look forward to posting my reactions to the class on my blog. I want to give myself a few weeks to let the training sink in and reveal its benefits. If you would like a taste of what the daily meditation practice is like, here is a link to the audio files for our body scan meditation as well as other guided meditations: Guided Audio Files to Practice Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction.

I would like to thank Alex Hutchinson of Sweat Science for writing the Runner's World article 'Mindfulness for Athletes' that piqued my interest in the mPEAK program. Follow Alex on Twitter here:

I will admit, I signed up for the class wanting to know what those BMX athletes learned to improve their performance. I am now far more interested in the effects of mindfulness training in my own athletic performance!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Should I Start Running?

Tips for Future Runners - How to Find Out if You Will Like Running

The Finish Line is a great place to find out if you are inspired by running

by Kathleen Lisson

So, you want to be a runner.

Maybe you want to start running to improve your fitness, support a charity or spend time with a loved one. 

Before you invest time and money, what is one quick way to know if you are 'a real runner?'

My tip for exploring whether taking up running would be an inspiring choice is to volunteer at a local race. Before committing to lacing up your own running shoes, find the website of your local running club - the San Diego Track Club is here in San Diego - and inquire about volunteer opportunities. 

Many local 5K races benefit charities and serving as a guide along the course or helping athletes at the finish line will give prospective runners a front row seat to the different ways that running makes a difference in people's lives. 

  • The first few finishers are competing at their top form and pouring their hearts out to put on a good performance. 
  • The middle of the pack runners are striving to achieve personal goals and balancing the love of running with busy lives. 
  • Some of the most heartwarming stories are at the back of the pack - runners finishing their first races with friends to cheer them on and non-athletes who have taken on the challenge of training to support a charity or honor a loved one. 

Experiencing the passion of other runners can inspire potential athletes to take on the rewarding challenge of training for their own race. 

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