Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Painful Massage Therapy

There's no other way to really say it, so here I go. My massage therapist is evil - she's a pure genius - but evil. I don't know HOW in the world she can inflict so much pain on one individual, while keeping up a pleasant conversation. She has a great laugh, tells funny stories, and listens attentively to the things I say, all while finding the exact spots that not only are causing referring pain, but working them out. She said that working on my calves (after 23 painful minutes - believe me, I counted each and every one of them!), was like kneading bread dough. But she kept finding kinks. Not the surface kind - but the kind that are really really really hard to get to. Deep tissue, folks.

You see - I've been seeing Shelly for a few months now, just to help maintain my body, make sure my legs are okay, and it's been great. She really understands the needs of a triathlete, and while massage therapists that I've gone to in the past have been great at getting the gunk out of my hamstring/IT bands/quads, Shelly knows the reason why I'm prone to pain in those particular places. I've got - here we go folks - tight glute (yes, ass, if you may) and tight calves. And those two tight entities pull on my poor hamstirngs/IT band. So whenever I arrive at her torture chamber - er, office, complaining of a spot in my hams/IT band, she has usually zeroed in on my glutes. And then works everything else out.

A few weeks ago, she gave me homework. Yes folks, I repeat - my massage therapist gave me homework! She said that I needed to STRETCH after every workout, and then she gave me the looks - the look that says you're legs are always tight and I CAN TELL if you don't stretch. So with her words echoing in my head, I started stretching, nay, I improved my stretching after each and every workout. And it began to work wonders. Yes, it was a pain in the rear - an hour run would turn into 1:30 with all the stretching and flexibility work. But for the first time in my life, I could actually touch my toes without already stretching. My flexibility was improving, and with the help of painfully cold ice baths after tough workout sessions, my legs and body have really been responding well.

And then came the Santa Rosa Island Triathlon and my own silly idea that because my massage therapy was going so well, I could skip the week after the race and see Shelly the following week (yesterday). Big mistake. The race was turned into a duathlon - a 2.5k run, followed by a 20k bike, and then another 5k run. There were some really really fast girls in the groups, so I knew the first 2.5k would be blazing fast. And probably pretty painful. But I also realized that if I wanted a chance at the overall win, I would need to retain contact with the leaders as much as possible. To make a long story short, I came into T1 about 11 seconds down from the first 2 girls (pure runners, amazingly fast), and made up that time quickly on the bike, and managed to hold on for the win. It was an amazing race, I felt awesome, but as a sprint, it was one of those painfully short, red line-it-all-the-way, pedal to the medal, as much pain as possible in a little over an hour - kind of races (like the one I missed Saturday). It was a phenomenal race and a great workout, but the first thing I did after crossing the finish line and dropping the banner, was think to myself, "man, my hamstrings are shot." In spite of walking around, soft pedaling on my bike, and attempting to run a little, my legs were beyod gone. If ever I needed a post-race massage, it was then. The ice bath helped tremendously, but in a sense, my legs were telling me game over!

Last week of training was great - lots of intensity and endurance based intensity as a final build towards Clearwater 70.3. The workouts were going awesome, I was feeling fast, and then after Friday's easy ride I could feel the slight jerk in the lower part of my hamstring/IT band. I knew I had a massage scheduled, so I didn't worry about it too much. Skipped the race and and watched IM Hawaii feeds all day (while eating sushi! Yum) and went for a really great ride on Sunday.

And then came the massage. Shelly was great, she's not really that evil - she certainly couldn't help the fact that I had developed a knot the size of a tennis ball in the back of my calf. So she did what she's supposed to do: worked it out. And for 23 min, I writhed painfully on her table as she told jokes, all the while reminding me to breath. I focused so much on my breathing, I could feel an oxygen-induced high, or maybe it was the pain taking me to a new level. I don't know. I just know that it was one of the most painful experiences of my life. I kept looking at the clock, thinking okay - it's been 5 min, she should be done soon. Okay 12 minutes, I do lots of 12 min pieces. 15 min... hhmmmm. My calf has something against me. But I can do it. Surely we're almost don. 20 minutes - didn't I do a 20 min bike piece the other day? If I can handle that, I can really do this. Ouch! Ouch! OUCH! All the while Shelly kept reminding me to breath. And then I thought if I stopped breathing I could pass out and I wouldn't feel ANYTHING. It was truly awful. After 25 min she moved onto the other calf, which thankfully wasn't as bad. The rest of my legs, hamstrings, glutes, quads were in really good shape. She praised my stretching efforts, and reassured me that she could really tell a difference that I've been stretching and working on my flexibility. She also said that the tennis ball that I've been using every day or every other day was working wonders on my glutes and hamstrings and that I should keep up the good work. After she had finished she asked if there was anything else.

"Could you look at my calf again? I think there's something seriously wrong with it."

A brief look of sympathy crossed her face as she replied, "Oh honey, I can't work on that any more. I got in there really deep and it's going to be painful. There's nothing else that I can do for it now without damaging the tissue. Just get ready and we'll talk about it when you come out."

We'll talk about it when I come out?? Holy cow! She's never said THAT to me before.

I got dressed - gingerly - and realized that my calf felt as though it had been kicked by a steel toed villain. As I emerged from her office, she asked how was I doing. Hhhmmmm. How WAS I doing? I replied, "my calf hurts. Like never before,"

Her response was at least reassuring, "It's okay. It's supposed to feel like that. I got in there really deep. Ice it 3 times today and tomorrow, drink plenty of fluids, and take it easy. NO calf raises the rest of the week. It's going to feel like someone punched you directly in the calf."

Punched? No way - this was a full blown, steel-toed, direct contact kick to my calf.

Well, at least something good came out of the session. I don't have to do calf raises. But then, I could barely walk on my left leg, let alone flex my foot. Yikes. Later on Nathaniel pointed out that my calf felt like grocery-store ground beef. The kind that comes in a package and you can poke your finger in and it leaves a finger mark. I used to do this as a kid all the time, to the exasperation of my Mom. But it was a neat feeling - feeling the plastic and being able to poke into the soft ground beef. But when it's your calf, it's a whole different matter. Throughout the day, I iced, took it easy, and skipped my strength session.

So there you have it folks. Make sure you stretch - or your massage therapist will be on your case. And inflicting way more pain than you though possible. More pain than an all out sprint race or break-through workout. Because while you can control your workout, your pace, your body - when you hop on that massage table, you are at the mercy of your massage therapist, whose main objective is to work out the kinks and make you a better athlete. One painful poke/jab/stroke/flush at a time.

Today I feel much better. I can flex my foot AND I can walk without pain. So that's progress. Shelly really is a genius, one that is able to inflict pain, but a genius none the less. I just wish my body wouldn't produce these tennis size knots. I'm really looking forward to a less-painful, feel good massage - hot rock maybe? - at the end of my season. But until then, I'll be willing to subject myself to her torture, er, therapy. Because it really does work wonders. (But I would still prefer to race anytime over get a massage.) But hey - I got to relax last night, feet up, bag of ice under my calf, watching random TV to take my mind off the weird pulse that had developed in my calf. And a bag of pretzels, cheese, and diet cherry coke helped keep me company. I'm not ready to break out the PB M&M of PB cups just yet... only a few weeks to go. Just like the painful massage.

Anyway - if you're reading this and feel the urge to get a massage, I would say go for it. You'll be cursing the whole time, but it'll be well worth it in the end. And be sure to treat yourself afterwards. You've earned it, my friend! Happy training!!


Anonymous said...

Great blogging! I'm your biggest fan!

And what veggies cause the most expansion?

Anonymous said...

Hey Marit!!
I am so glad you are blogging! yipppeee! I will read you every morning while i drink my hot tea and catch up in blog-land. Congrats on your sprint win and your "wonderful massage!"
Jen :)

Marit Chrislock-Lauterbach said...

Veggies that cause the most expansion? Spinach, most definiteley. But broccoli and culiflower (steamed!) are up there as well. THanks Nathaniel...

Jen - I'm so glad that you inspired me to do this - thanks for the message!

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Bernice said...

Being an athlete entails stringent routines to keep the body in shape. Most people resolves to use Chiropractic (Brooklyn Park, MN) treatment and massage therapy since they are among the most natural remedies available to relax soft tissues.

My brother had some spinal problems due to an accident that happened last year. Similar to your case, a Chiropractor (Brooklyn Center, MN) advised him to do stretching exercises at home as part of his medical treatment. Although he's not an athlete, such practice is required to help the nerves and muscles in the body to adjust. Right now, he is still continuing the routine that was given to him.

The problem with your calf is very unfortunate. Hope you'd recover soon!

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