I don’t really know where to start except the beginning - on TV. For a while, I’d seen Roger Teeter on TV talking about his Teeter Hang Ups inversion table. On more than one occasion, I’d been to their web site and read about inversion and the benefits and wondered if it really helped. I wondered about how much better I’d feel riding, running and just sleeping if it were all true. So one day, I sent an email to the company and explained how TgR reviews products for multisport athletes and that I’d like to try an inversion table to find out how it may or may not be of benefit to us. I was pleased when Teeter agreed to send TgR an EP-550 inversion table for review.
Phase 1 - It’s here!
It’s always exciting when we receive products to review. It’s perhaps even more exciting when the boxes are large. I didn’t have too much of a problem moving the box inside by myself but it is a stout package and a little help will be appreciated. The EP-550 arrives mostly assembled so it didn’t take long to have it ready to go. As I always do, I read the instructions fully before beginning the assembly process and followed them to the letter. After all, I’d be hanging upside down and wouldn’t want to explain that accident to the ER staff. Once assembled, the unit looks and feels very solid and I have felt confident and secure on it from day one.
I will admit that I could not resist going full inversion that first night even after reading that I should take some time in partial inversion to allow myself time to adapt to the process and position. In hindsight, I would allow myself that time to adapt and suggest you do the same. It can be uncomfortable at first as your feet and ankles become accustom to supporting your body weight from the other direction and I’m sure I would have adapted much faster had I taken just a little more time. Even so, after a few sessions of partial inversion, I began to find the most comfortable settings and positions for me and was hooked almost immediately. I have continually experimented with different positions for my feet, combinations of settings of the mechanisms that hold my feet and even which shoes to wear during inversion to find the most comfortable combination for me. It has been a process and I still have some tingling in my toes but the overall benefit to me far outweighs the effort of working through the acclimation process.
Phase 2 - That’s odd?
For the first week, I just hung upside down for a total of 10-20 minutes every morning with a couple of rests mixed in to let the feet and ankles reset for a moment. By the end of the week, I noticed less back pain upon waking in the morning. Our mattress is old and worn and I’ve become accustom to upper back pain for the first 20 minutes I’m awake everyday but it was noticeably better after that first week and mostly gone by the end of two weeks. Could it be that the Teeter was helping?
Encouraged, I decided to watch the DVD that accompanies the EP-550 and incorporated the morning “spinal awakening” exercises performed after waking but before leaving the bed in the morning as well as some of the abdomen exercises done while fully inverted.
Phase 3 - No way!
About a week before the Teeter arrived, I built up a 2004 Trek Madone to ride. On loan from my friend who still had the frame he bought new at the same time in late 2003 that I bought mine. I reviewed my frame years ago, sold it shortly there after but had been thinking it would be fun to revisit the frame and see if my opinions then matched my opinions now. I’d forgotten how low my handle bar position was back then. Clearly I was more fit and flexible then and I was now considering flipping the stem to “Old Guy” position as I was having trouble with my neck and lower back during and after rides due to the low position. A few weeks into my Teeter experience, I realized that not only was I having no trouble with the lower position but I had no neck and back pain at all. In fact, I found myself riding low in the drops, far lower than I have been able to ride in quite a while. Not known for my dedication to stretching, the only difference in my routine was the Teeter. Even so, I hesitated to give it all the credit right away. Really, how could it be that simply hanging upside down could improve my flexibility so quickly.
The next revelation would complete my conversion.
For quite a few years, I’ve had a problem getting my left cleat positioned on my cycling shoes. My left foot sits very close to the crank arm no matter what I do and I’ve not been able fix it - basically, I sit slightly twisted on the bike. I believe it has to do with a hip injury from 2002 after a marathon and the subsequent compensation when I refused to take some time off until I could barely walk. When I looked down while pedaling, I could see all of the pedal axle on the right side, but I could only see a small part of the pedal axle on the left side as I pedaled. Shortly after I noticed my new found flexibility, I happened to look down and see just as much pedal axle on the left side as I did on the right. It took a few minutes to register, I shifted around a bit and looked again - I was sitting dead strait and center on a bike for the first time in at least 5 years. I have to admit, I was completely shocked to see that sort of dramatic change without a specific effort to effect the change. At that point the spinal awakening routine, core exercises, twisting/stretching and reverse squats from the DVD became a daily ritual that I’ve continued for the last two+ months and the improvements on the bike and run have continued as well. My flexibility and core strength is as good as they’ve been in many years. I’m now doing 70-100 mile rides with the comfort usually reserved for 40-50 mile rides.
Phase 4 - in-home therapy
A month or so before IM Florida in 2008, I could barely walk without severe pain in my feet so running was completely out. It turns out that muscle imbalances from had brought havoc upon my hip flexors and stabilizing muscles leaving too much work for my feet to do alone in balancing my body weight - or something like that according to doctors and physical therapists, it hurt. I walked hunch over and every step was agony. It took two weeks of physical therapy to stretch and work it all out so that I could at least hobble through a run. While I’ve tried to stretch occasionally since then, I’ve only really done enough to keep from becoming immobile again. The weakness in my upstroke remained on the bike, running was okay but not fluid - until the Teeter. I’ll never be a graceful runner but I now run easier and upright with a smoother turn over. I have snap left in my pedal stroke 80, 90 and 100 miles into long bike rides without the neck and back discomfort I’d grown accustomed to after long hours on the bike.
Phase 5 - Everyday life
For someone who is reasonably fit, standing for long periods of time makes my lower back tight and uncomfortable. I’m more comfortable moving briskly than standing or moving very slowly. Anymore than an hour or so of standing or start and stop walking around - think party or shopping or Disney World - and I would have to sit and stretch my lower back. Last week, a few months into my Teeter experience, my wife and I spent a few hours wondering around an outdoor shopping center. As we were on the way back to the car, I realized that I had not experienced any of the tightness in my lower back that always accompanies that sort of activity.
Why is that?
Teeter makes some expansive claims about the long term benefits to inversion. Clearly, I can’t verify things like “Rehydrate Discs” but I do have some ideas about what inversion on the Teeter has done for me.
Alignment - I think alignment is addressed in two ways. First, I feel that it has put my spine and hips back into alignment in a similar, if not better, way to what a chiropractor could do with consistent adjustments. I think it’s possibly better than the chiropractor in that it uses gravity to undo what gravity does. In that way Teeter is a great compliment to massage and chiropractic adjustment. Second, I believe that most of my misalignment comes from muscle imbalances and tight ligaments and tendons. Inversion easily addresses tight hip flexors, back and neck muscles and the like without having to know any specific exercise or technique. That means that I stay aligned better too.
Core Strength - simply hanging upside down stretches and strengthens some of the core. Adding a few simply moves addresses all core muscles quickly and incredibly easily.
Flexibility - I could touch my toes and even the ground before with my knees strait but now I can lay my palms on the ground. If that’s north and south flexibility, I’ve also gained east and west flexibility from the twisting moves while inverted. All of which helps a bunch on the bike and run. I really haven’t been swimming lately but I’m sure all of this new found flexibility and core strength will help lengthen my swim stroke as well.
Better alignment of my spine and hips and much improved core strength and flexibility is the source of the positive improvements in both my running and cycling and in my everyday life. I sleep better, wake without back pain and even walk more upright now than I did before the Teeter Hang Ups EP-550. Frankly, it seems too easy. It’s the first thing I do in the morning and I’ll admit, I read the news, check Facebook and Twitter and read and respond to email while I’m upside down making it a very time efficient activity as well.
I also think of the Teeter Hang Ups Inversion Table in a similar way that I think of my rollers. Rollers are for fitness but they also act as a passive cycling form coach. In that way of thinking, the Teeter is very much a passive physical therapist. Many of the benefits could be attained with hyper diligent stretching or by seeing a physical therapist but that’s time consuming and expensive and ultimately not as effective in my opinion. Even if I made the effort to improve things without the Teeter, it is my firm belief that the other claims that Teeter makes about inversion are more than likely valid. That makes the cost of a Teeter Hang Ups inversion table a bargain in my eyes.
Well, I’m sure there is someone out there who will say we shouldn’t use inversion therapy but, other than some minor tingling in my toes which is improving as I adapt, I have experienced nothing but positive changes after nearly three months of daily use. Certainly, I suggest everyone follow the directions that accompany the Teeter Hang Ups inversion table but outside of specific cautions, I think most can benefit from inversion.
The unit itself is large. It is fairly easy to fold it up so that it could slide under a bed or be stored in a roomy closet. That isn’t an option for me since I’m just not going to go through that sort of effort. As much as I love using the Teeter, I know me and it would be too easy to skip it if I was required to pull it out and set it up before using it - no matter how easy it is. It takes up about as much floor space as a recliner and I have that much room available so it works fine for me to leave it out.
I’d like to try the gravity boots. I think it would be more comfortable than the standard set up and therefore allow me to stay inverted longer. Of course, I can imagine I would end up not using the gravity boots as I bet there would be a trade off in convenience. It’s really easy to step onto the table I have now, set the foot holder and invert with little fuss. Easy is part of the allure of the Teeter so I could also see that the standard set up would end up being my preference.
It must be obvious to you by now that I really like the Teeter Hang Ups device. While I like most of the stuff I get to review (I don’t really ever ask to review stuff I don’t think is cool or useful) this is different. Great wheels make a difference but the potential for improvement is relatively small and certainly limited to making a difference while riding. All gear for running, riding and swimming is pretty much like that - it can matter but generally only matters while being used for its particular purpose. The Teeter has managed to improve my running, cycling, sleeping and general well being outside of sport and that’s is something that impresses me quite a lot.
I wonder if they’d make me an EP-550 Carbon - with a carbon frame and ceramic pivot points?