Just over a week ago I found myself in a dark room, laying on a table top in nothing but my boxers, and someone continued to grab my feet with their slimy hands. This went on for 90 minutes….
NOW THAT’S AN ATTENTION GETTER!
In all reality I did something outside of my comfort zone (which is ironic considering this whole blog was created because I decided to do something out of my comfort zone to begin with); I went and received a full, therapeutic, deep tissue massage.
The reason? It hurt to walk. It hurt to breathe. It hurt to pick up the cat. It hurt to chase the cat. It hurt to exist. My body just hurt. This stemmed from the fact that for ten months I have been beating my body on the dirt, mud, rocks, tears, and the blood of saints throughout the enchanted woodlands.
Even though I am not even a year into trail running; I have started to learn more and more about two specific things:
My theory, based solely on my own stupidity, is that the few of us that actually get excited about running (there is a ratio out there of those who like to run versus how many friends said person actually has), forget that in order to run we have to be able to do multiple things all at once. Our joints have to function, our muscles have to fire, our brain has to be focused, and that all has to click together at once to ensure that one foot goes in front of another.
The human body is kind of cool like that.
Most of my life my belief was simple, “I like running. The road is flat. I shall run on the road and not grow weary.” When I transitioned to the trails I started to learn that after three miles my stomach hurt, after six my left hip began to sting, after after 10 my knees hurt to even bend. The former self says, “Push on.” This is where running and growing older actually helps, the current self says, “Problem solve. What is causing each area of error?”
In the world of computers, you trace back errors, if necessary, back to the original coding to completely solve the problem. Running I find similar; if my hips hurt, is it because I am injured? No, it’s because I lack muscular development in my hips. My stomach hurts; does that mean I’m sick? No, it means you’re not taking salt with your water and your digestive system is rebelling against you. Am I dying? No, you need to embarrass yourself and go to a masseuse.
Below, I’m going to outline four areas that I have found to be in ‘error’ since starting to trail run, and what I have done to be proactive about addressing each issue (there’s a happy ending with this one).
The problem: I can’t breathe. I can’t pee. My legs are shaking. I am going to puke. Nothing happens when I puke. I hate life.
The reality: A car cannot just function as a car, it must be fueled properly in order for its performance to be optimized. The human body is no different. I am not a dietician (the world is a better place because of that), but I have noticed a pattern for myself. If I eat take-out, donuts, and other garbage during the week, how do you think I perform? Exactly as you thought; like a drunk clown waking up from a scary birthday party with nothing but gin in his system to make the child play go away (and the balloon animal named Steve).
The adjustment: I did not go and hire a dietician. I did not go on ‘a diet’. I stopped eating crap. Unfortunately, in our society it is easier said then done. My Sunday nights are now aimed at prepping food for the week solely so I don’t either; A. Go out to eat, or B. Chooses not to eat during meal time. Make no mistake, we need our calories, but we have to ensure that we are eating the right calories. We are not the Prius of the running community; we are the oversized Ford diesel that gets 30 gallons to the mile..
Result: I’m still working non-stop on this one.
The problem: Easily, I could be the next star for Life Alert…at age 29.
The reality: It is partially because of strength (lack there of), part shoes, sleeping habits, etc…but my body was completely out of alignment. Hitting uneven dirt was not helping the situation. My joints hurt like crazy, along with tendons also (something that I do separate from muscle in discussion). This included some nasty injuries to my feet in the beginning of my poor choices (aka: running).
The adjustment: I looked at what my medical insurance covered. Did you know that many plans have something adjusted for people like chiropractors? Mine did, and now that I am an “adult”, I put it to use. Especially right after or leading up to a big race, I stop at my local chiropractor and get adjusted. This has included
screaming acupuncture, A.R.T, and a lot of stretching. These guys save my skin frequently, and they started by knocking out years worth of planter fasciitis and a misdiagnosis.
Result: Even after my last ultra, they have not seen or heard from me.
The problem: Not that I ever should flex, but if I did, after the laughter subsided from my wife, I could be in a paralyzing cramp until my 30th birthday.
The reality: As a high school student I never stretched (because I thought it was stupid). I strained muscles, tore muscles, damaged muscles, and never gave time to recover correctly from any damage; intentional or not. From high school to currently day, that would be at least 17 years worth of doing nothing to help work anything out of my system. Additionally, I’m mortified of physical contact.
The adjustment: “Suck it up buttercup.” I signed up for a deep tissue massage from a professional masseuse which is very different compared to the massage I got in return for allowing two girls in Mexico to paint my nails back in ’05. Within the first thirty minutes of the massage I fell asleep, drooled on the pillow, and forgot what was going on. After I woke up, flipped over like a buttery piece of bacon (butter on bacon?), and the rest of the experience flew by. While some people view massages as an event for those with way too much free time and money; I can assure you I am neither. However, I also know that these moments are crucial to bring my body back to life. If it was the DC comic universe, a massage is simply the Lazarus Pit. Plus, the company I was with helped me work through my fear of touch*.
Result: I have never done drugs in my entire life, but walking out of that building in the pouring rain a week ago was one of the most bizarre out-of-person experience. They will see me again after The Hawk.
The problem: Turns out lifting a gallon of milk is a challenge. Along with stepping on rocks. Along with jump rope. Along with a single push-up. Along with…
The reality: I am a very, very weak person. For clocking in around 6’5 and 250 pounds, I cannot really lift or move much. I am weak. I skipped the weight room in high school because of fear of being made fun of by the football team. I skipped the weight room in college because of fear of being made fun of by the women’s soccer team (this is a legit fear). I did not know what I was doing. I hated sitting still. I would argue with people that I received enough ‘strength’ just by ‘running’ (the ‘ ‘ indicates I didn’t know what either of those things actually meant).
The adjustment: The devil. Not quite, but pretty close. I am very fortunate to have a gym in Kansas City, ran by a demon who has completed Western States, is a ultra coach, and is passionate about runners getting stronger. Bless her soul for her patience. She works me over Wednesday nights for sixty minutes; ensuring that Thursday will be a rest day by force. For a small fee, I am able to get attention on areas of weakness (hips at the moment) from someone with the trail and ultra experience.
Result: This is the hardest adjustment I have had to do. However, it probably has had the biggest payout so far. I can now run at ultra distances without having hip problems. The
burpees jump squats crying is worth it.
Who knew running was so complex? You want to go from point A to point B, that’s it. However, there are so many gears that you have to go through to get through that distance, allowing the margin of error and breakdown to increase with the mileage as well.
How do I know that these things have helped me? The easy answer is taking my time from a course in July and comparing it to this weekend in which sixty minutes had been knocked off. The easier answer is this; in 7th grade (1999) I took a helmet to a knee doing something that I should never do (trying to be athletic). That one moment started the whole reaction of knowing that I get hurt, injured, and truth be told; I never recovered from that, the shoulder surgery, the ankle injuries, the knees as a whole. Something always hurt, all the time for 18 years.
I went running for a hard 10 miles yesterday. It was hot, nasty, and overall very pleasant. Why? It was the first time running distance, especially without mud, that I was not in pain. I was limping, I was not cramping up, I was almost dancing along the trails. For the first time in 18 years I did not feel pain running, before, during, and after. That is the testament to understanding even though I have no idea what I am doing, that these adjustments make a world of difference to the runner.
*They did not even mention anything about my fear. The masseuse was no non-sense. The moment of fear was over when I laid on the table, after removing the clothes, on my stomach. Only to learn that I was to be on my back to start the process. Hollywood is a lie, and I think they don’t tell you this in order to break the ice through the tool of embarrassment.