Back to the Massage Table

The last time I had a massage I was training for the Toronto Goodlife Marathon – in 2012.  I’m not typically a touchy-feely person so I never really enjoyed going but, as I felt my body start to tire during the marathon cycle, I figured it was good for me.  And it was – until one Thursday night when the therapist went deep into my right ankle; it hurt while standing the next day, ached during my long run that Saturday, and resulted in three weeks of no running.  So I never went back and I have never re-entertained the idea of seeing a massage therapist again.

Until this year.  There are many times when I know that my body is tight – my back, my neck, my legs, my feet, pretty much everywhere – and I rethink that a massage would be good for me.  I regularly see a physiotherapist, mostly for maintenance,  but she can only do so much in the time that she has with me.   So, at the end of June, I began the daunting task of finding a massage therapist.

It didn’t take long before I realized that there are a lot of RMT’s locally and I had no idea where to go.  I asked for recommendations, searched Health and Wellness facilities online, read every single biography that I could find, and made several phone calls.  I wanted one who specializes in sports massage but also has a background in athletic therapy.  Location is important (it has be close to home) as is timing (must have evening appointments).   In the end, I found Amanda, who has a degree in Kineisology, a Masters in Athletic Therapy, is a registered massage therapist, does acupunture, works with several amateur sports teams, works two miles from home, and is hard to book an appointment with.  She sounded too good to be true.  After three weeks of waiting, I finally went to see her on Thursday.

I ran early on Thursday morning instead of later in the day, showered, changed and “Oh, wait! I need to shave my legs!”  After all, I wanted to make a good first impression and not show up looking like Godzilla’s long lost cousin.  So I showered, shaved, changed, and headed out the door.

TIght shoulders: teachers’ problems

Before we started, I filled Amanda in on my needs and my previous experience to make sure that she would not go too deep into my muscles.   My needy spots were obvious: my hips, my glutes and my neck (the evil aftermath of spending most of June marking and doing reports).  My calves, though, are “jacked.”  Jacked.  I spent all winter joking with my co-workers that I was going to be jacked by June because I would run at lunch when they went out for coffee.  Ta-da!  Jacked, I am.

I was glad that I ran in the morning because I didn’t really feel like it at night.   I felt great but I thought that a run would end up feeling sloppy so I ended up vacuuming my entire house instead: floors, couches (found 35 cents!) and beds.

I’m not completely sold on massage therapy and I am watching my body as it responds to Thursday’s session.  One glute, specifically the piriformis, is noticeably tight and sore, which it wasn’t before, so I skipped today’s long run as a precaution.  I’m hoping that it is just my body’s way of reacting to the pressure put on it and I’ll be back to myself in another day or two.  I’m staying positive that this will pass, and I am keeping the other two appointments that I booked because you’ve got to love a sports therapist who calls you “jacked.”

The Drinking Game

I have never been much of a water drinker.  My husband is constantly nagging because he doesn’t think I drink enough water.  He is probably right.  In the winter, it seems to be a non-issue; I can run for miles and miles and not have to worry about getting thirsty or light-headed.  But in the summer, especially when the temperature is over 30C and the sun is high, I can struggle; over the years, there have been a few times when I have been seriously dehydrated with shakes, dizziness and diarrhea.  I’m not sure whether it is my age, experience or having two kids that is causing me to be more careful now but, in the past few years, I have become much better at beating dehydration.

One thing that I have learned to do is drink ahead of time.  If my long run is on Sunday, I’ll make sure that I am getting more fluids into me on Thursday and Friday.  This lets me get rid of the excess on Saturday so that my bladder feels more comfortable on Sunday when I run.  Maybe it’s a female thing (after all, I have delivered two children) but this system works for me.

This summer, temperatures have been extremely high so I have had to tell myself to drink more regularly and make sure that my electrolytes are in check.  Being the math geek that I am, I have come up with a mathematical relationship that considers temperature and distance run.   On days when it is over 25C and I run 8 miles or more, whether over one or two runs, I drink a bottle of Gatorade, either during the day, after I run, or both; it really doesn’t matter how I drink it as long as I drink it.  If I run 15 miles or more on a long run day, I drink two bottles – one immediately after I run and one during the rest of the day.   After working with this temperature/distance/Gatorade relationship for the past few weeks, I find that I now automatically reach for a bottle when the math tells me to.   This has the extra advantage of putting more calories into my body, something which I am finding I need more and more of as my mileage and intensity continue to increase.

Lastly, when I am drinking water, I try to make sure that I am using a bottle or container that I really like.  After all, drinking games should be fun, right?  A few weeks ago, my oldest was buying a bag of Kernels popcorn and wanted to get a bottle of water too.  “No, you can wait,” I told him, but then I saw the Mood Water.   These bottles are so much fun it is almost impossible to not want one.  Both of us noticed that the water had a bit of a flatter taste to it, possibly due to a higher alkaline level.  (But what do I really know?  I’m a math geek, not a chemist.)  Regardless, the bottles were emptied – down to the last drop.

Most people plan their meals – what groceries they are going to buy, how they are going to cook them and when they will eat them.  But our bodies are sixty percent water so we really do need to take care that we are staying hydrated and replenishing our fluids, whether it is because we ran, gardened, walked, or even sat outside under the hot summer sun.  I have made a conscientious effort to watch my fluid intake this year and I really believe that it has made a difference in my overall health.  So, while a bit unorthodox, the number and drinking games that I play are working for me.  What do you do to make sure that you are getting enough water?

 

The Tale of Two Feet

Getting to the bottom of my foot issues.

For the past year, I have really noticed the effects of the aging process, the biggest change being in my feet.  Towards the end of training for Boston, I could barely get through a long run without my feet screaming at me.  I knew that I needed to pay some attention to the balls of my feet, but I wasn’t about to change shoes or add orthotics within weeks of Boston.  But that resulted in a marathon that broke me.  My feet were killing by the 10th mile and the sun was hot; the two were a rotten combination for me and I finished in an hour longer than planned – but I finished.  In Boston, that was all I needed to do.

Bye bye, Orthotics!

Once Boston was behind me, I started to research orthotics and look for chiropodists in my area.  I had orthotics before and hated them; they were heavy and painful to run in as they never seemed to target the part of my foot that was tender: the metatarsals and the midfoot.  Adjustments were done but they made running even more painful so, eventually, they were taken out and I only wore my orthotics for work, not running.  It wasn’t long before I took them out of my shoe and completely stopped wearing them.

Now, though, I was ready to go back.  It had become painfully obvious that I needed some kind of support or padding under the forefoot.  I met with a few chiropodists and decided to work with one who specialized in runners’ feet.   Over the past few weeks, we have started to find a solution to my aching feet.

The black lifts my heels to help straighten my hips.

The first problem seems to have been an easy correction: my left leg is longer than my right so that my left hip sits significantly higher.  Doc placed a heel lift in the bottom of my shoe, between the sole and the insole, to raise my right side.  Now my hips are straight, and it makes a noticeable difference in my running as I don’t feel that I am swinging my hips as much.

The sore forefoot is more of a challenge.  As it turns out, I have developed mild arthritis in my feet so that is part of the problem.  Since there is no cure, I need to find a way to work with what I have so that I can still run.  My feet are also concave, not convex like most, as the three middle metatarsals have dropped.  The good news is my bones are strong.  Other good news is Doc doesn’t feel that I need orthotics because of the way I land when I run – on my forefoot/midfoot.

Week One’s trial was a complete bust.  We added some poron to bottom of my insole to try to raise my metatarsals and create some cushioning.  My first run (4 miles) went well but my second (8 miles with some speedwork) was a disaster; that night I had such a burning sensation through my feet that I was sidelined and icing them in a bucket of ice water for the next two days.  When I started running again, I swapped the insoles for an older pair.

Week Two was better.  Doc removed and built more support under the footpad.  Every run, from an easy 4 mile run to 9 miles with intervals  went as planned, but I couldn’t finish my long run on Sunday; at 6 miles, I was fighting tears and ready to hang up my shoes.  I felt broken.

Later that night, I found myself playing teacher.  At school, I have to look at the strengths in kids and build on them.  Now it was time to do that with me.  Even though I have been having some issues, I still ran 28 and 35 mile weeks during these trial periods and my pacing is good.  My speedwork is getting better and my leg span seems to be increasing.  But on a long run, my feet hurt.

I’m now at the start of Week Three and am only one run in.  Today, things were fine.  Despite a bit of doubt that kicked in halfway through, I finished my run painfree again.  Optimism.

One day at a time, one foot in front of another, I am not giving up and will continue chasing my dreams.

“If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.”