Saturday, February 27, 2010

What Seems To Be the Problem?

Well, many of you may think that I should have gone years ago but I've finally done it, I'm in therapy.

I've got a couple of busted knees and haven't been able to really run since my 22k three weeks ago. Normally I would have just said, "Thank gawd. Now I can go back to eating and watching 'Friends' re-runs". But I'm committed. There's money down. I'm racking up the air miles. I have to push through it.

So I've sought help. Namely an Athletic Therapist (for making me exercise even more??) and a chiropractor for Active Release Therapy (for punishment??). The Athletic Therapist did an initial assessment and discovered all sorts of quirky problems. Based on her description – one hip higher than the other, one shoulder higher than the other, one arm more raised than the other, knees turning inward, one calf fatter than the other, one butt cheek flabbier than the other – I have this vision of myself as looking like some kind of Dickens villain.

Simultaneously, I’m having my body beaten into submission with ART. My chiro told me to book 30 minute sessions (as opposed to 15) because of the amount of work required. And because I need long breaks. Basically, he takes his thumb, puts it right on the muscle, and proceeds to throw his whole body weight into it as I flex. SO PAINFUL. We’ve set ground rules that he can’t hurt me on purpose and I can’t kick him. Not surprisingly, I have bruises everywhere and I’m getting worried looks in the locker room at the gym.

Like in other therapeutic situations, the origin of the problem is never what is initially presented. You think you've got issues with your sister when it's really about when you got lost in the shopping mall when you were five. Same thing with the knees. They're hurting me but it turns out the problems are all in my hips and butt. Not all that surprising since I've had a tumultuous relationship with these body parts for years. Apparently, ample does not equal strong, and strong makes all the difference.

The body is so interconnected, working synergistically to make it all happen. Our muscles in particular. And when one part slacks off it affects everything else. My body has a classic therapeutic situation going on: dysfunctional family. My butt and hips are the third child, knees the eldest, and my quads and hamstrings are the long-suffering middle children. My brain as the parent is letting the baby of the family - my butt - off the hook. It doesn't have to do any work, it gets to sit around and do nothing. My bossy, first-child knees are not happy and are making it known. And my quads and hamstrings are just trying to keep it all together, keep everyone happy.

So the therapy is trying to change the dynamic. It's training my brain to step it up and parent my butt and hips. Not nag, just firmly tell them to start chipping in more. In the meantime, it's coaching my quads and hamstrings to take a break, spend some time on themselves and not worry about everyone else so much. It's not their job to make everything work right. And my knees...well, they probably won't stop being bossy and voicing their opinion. But hopefully we can work it so they'll only pipe up when it really matters.

I've still got some months before the marathon so that should give me enough time to get things sorted out. The dysfunction makes me a little nervous, though. On a day-to-day basis it should be manageable but a marathon is like a family road trip. It's close quarters, for an extended period of time, people get hungry and irritable, lots of stops for the bathroom. All the idiosyncrasies could come out and old patterns emerge.

Fingers crossed.

Sunday, February 7, 2010


When it comes to fitness, I'm great at starting things; not so great at the follow-through. Which usually means I expend a lot of capital with little to show for it. I've bought several gym memberships in my life and I'm diligent at going the first few weeks. And then it tapers off. I've bought velcro weights to wrap around my ankles so I get toned merely by walking between the couch and the refrigerator. I have no idea where those weights are and I developed cankles. I've been on several packaged cleanses - a quick fix where two weeks after I've tasted the last bit of the tincture, I'm full to the brim with toxins again.

The point is I've spent a lot of money to get fit, with little to show for it. So when I took up running it was because I needed a cardio activity and I figured that all I needed was a good pair of shoes and I was set.

I was soooooooo wrong. In fundraising we say you have to spend money to make money. In running I apparently have to spend the dimes to make my times. I know I'm doing it for charity but I could soon be a charity case myself.

Here's the list (to date) of what I've had to spend my hard-earned cash on:

Four running clinics
Two pairs of shoes
2 summer pairs of running pants
1 winter pair of running pants
1 winter pair of running pants with wind panels
9 pairs of running socks
4 long-sleeved technical shirts
2 short-sleeved technical shirts
2 technical tank tops
2 sports bras
2 toques
1 neck warmer
1 headband
1 running jacket
1 pair of mitts
1 pair of gloves
1 water bottle holder
1 jar of stuff for my skin to protect it from the wind
1 gym bag
20 drop-in gym passes
1 book on running marathons
1 ice pack
10 clips to keep my @#$%^&* hair out of my face
5 Active Release Therapy sessions
1 Athletic Therapy assessment
Many power bars and other post-run snacks
Many electrolyte replacement chews

You'll notice a theme. I think if I lived in Hawaii running would be an economical form of fitness (and I'd probably want to do it a whole lot more). Not so in Calgary. Winter adds a whole other layer (or five if you're smart). I've been trying to be frugal but I acknowledge in doing so, I'm taking my life into my hands. I've acquiesced to the layering and special pants and fabrics created by NASA that would let you survive in the sub-arctic as well as repel bullets, but I can't quite seem to bring myself to buy the strap-on spikey shoe thingys that enable one to run on the curling sheets known as Calgary's streets and sidewalks in the winter.

It's kind of bizarre that in this day and age an activity that the vast majority of us are able to do merely because we're homo sapiens comes with such a high price tag. I've been trying to figure out if I'm spending all this money because I must or because I feel I should. True, I did need more protection for my legs from the achingly cold wind that we're blessed with here. But I suppose I could have thrown on my cheapy biking shorts (that I got at a trade show for getting a four-year gym membership ......that I used for two months.....) rather than buying those NorthFace pants that, for what I paid for them, should also be able to shave my legs, give my car an oil change, and do my taxes.

Is it because we humans like our toys? Am I buying all this stuff so I can feel like I fit in better? Or am I just succumbing to the rabid consumer in me that I self-righteously deny most other times (except at consignment stores)? I can try and justify each expense (Winter: the Calgarian's Scapegoat) but there's definitely more at work here.

If I was running purely for fitness I know I wouldn't have spent as much. So I think a big part for me is that running a marathon scares the crap out of me and I want to be so completely and absolutely prepared that I can't fail in any way. These expenditures are insurance.

Which leads me to wonder if much of the other stuff I spend my money on is some form of insurance as well. Against what requires far more navel-gazing than I'm prepared to go into on a Sunday morning but it's worth a look one of these days. Gotta be more in there than lint :-)