Wednesday, May 13, 2009

First time at ART

I need to get this out there, before I get to my post. I really don't like feet. In fact, I hate feet. They are stinky, gross, hairy (sometimes), sweaty, and generally disgusting. Yes, I realize that I don't have a very healthy relationship with feet - even my own. And this, in turn, has made me absoluteley cringe whenever anyone touches my feet.

I just don't like it.

You can touch my calves, the legs, the back - anywhere. Just not the feet.

And as such, I've only gotten one pedicure in my entire life. It was right before Nathaniel returned from one of his deployments, and I was doing all the 'girly' things possible to look great for his return. After a few minutes of the woman rubbing my feet before applying the polish, well... uncomfortable wouldn't even begin to describe how I felt. Suffice to say, it was the first and last pedicure that I've ever had.

So folks, remember: I don't enjoy my feet being touched. Period.


Yesterday, I had something done to me that was undeniably, one of the most painful things ever. Nope - not an epic workout (trust me, I would have preferred that), and no - I wasn't made to watch 'Daisy of Love' or anything horrendous like that. Instead, I had my first ever ART therapy appointment.

Active Release Therapy - for those of you who haven't shared in this pleasurable experience - is a technique through which the body is manipulated while the muscles, tendons, and soft tissues (damaged by scar tissue from previous injury or through repetitive motion), are flushed via deep tissue massage. In layman's terms - the therapist is applying a deep tissue massage while you move your body according to their directions.

Okay - are we all on the same page? Good!

After asking around, Charisa gave me the info to a local ART Guru and I had soon scheduled an appointment. How bad could it be? I thought as I walked through the front door.

Little did I know of the pain that awaited me...

After filling in some forms - where does it hurt? - and a few waivers, I was told that Asher would be with me in a few moments. Nothing really hurt, per se, but my calves were tight and there was only so much rolling, flushing, pinching, and sticking that I could do to myself (self-massage is painful!)

Typical Ironman training, I suppose. Because I do so little speed-work, I really haven't suffered the same sort of injuries that were so common in the past (IT band, hamstring, etc). Knock on wood. Yes, I'm superstitious. Instead, there's just a lot of buildup of lactic acid and the muscles occasionally get pretty tight.

A few minutes later, I was following Asher back to his office and we had a quick chat about my training, how I use my body, where I was experiencing pain (tight calves, mostly on the left side), and past injuries. He seemed really nice, pretty gentle actually.

The massage therapist that I went to in Pensacola was a little different. Shelley was awesome, but you could tell that she meant business when she cracked her knuckles and demanded, "So where does it hurt?" Besides, she was built like a linebacker, and had no problem squishing the knots out of my lateral quads. My hands still get sweaty when I think about how painful her deep tissue massages were.

But they were bloody well effective, though.

Asher just seemed really nice, totally incapable of hurting a fly. We chatted about Ironman - how I've never done one, but am training for two this year, and how he was one of the ART guys at Kona last year - and then he asked me to stand and take off my sandals.

After assessing my stance, and checking my pelvic structure for imbalance, he had me hop on the table, face down. He handed me a small pillow an told me to hold on. Okay, I though, as I grasped the thing under my chin. I knew it would hurt - but really, let's be serious. If I could survive Shelley, I could survive anything.

Five minutes later, and I wasn't so sure. He had gone a few times over my calve, and per his instructions, I was pointing and flexing my foot with each flush of the muscle he did. Through it all, I had tried to keep the conversation going - I have a bad habit of either talking A LOT when I'm nervous, or shutting down completely.

So I asked him question OUCH after CRAP THAT HURT question SHIT SHIT SHIT after F*&$! question. Maybe I though I could distract him from the task at hand? But alas, no.

"You know I'm going easy on you, because this is your first time in ART, right?" He asked.

I couldn't tell if he was joking or not. So I laughed. Nervously.

Then he had me change positions - I was on my side, and feeling very vulnerable. And only with a little plastic-pillow to grip, err, hold on to.

And it only got worse from there.

Suddenly I knew, that yes indeed! Asher WAS capable of harming a fly. In fact, he seemed to take a lot of pleasure in my pain. Yes, sir, I would like another! At this point, he was working on the lateral parts of my calf, while I was still pointing and flexing my foot.

For those still wondering - all conversation on my part had ceased. Asher, on the other hand, must have been used to people not talking due to extreme levels of pain, so continued chatting away. I have absolutely no clue about what he said OR how I responded. I was trying to not vomit from the pain. A small speck on the wall became my focus - but soon it became blurred with tears.

Yes, the man made me cry.

"Don't worry, it happens all the time," he assured me while I wiped my eyes and changed positions.

I think I tried to laugh, but was too petrified by his next comment:

"Okay - this is the part that's going to hurt. I'm sorry."


Excuse me??

Did he just say that 'this is the part that's going to hurt?'

I looked up at him, and could tell that he meant business. Instead of running full stop OUT of the office like my brain was telling me to do, I looked into his eyes and said, "Do what you have to do. I just want my calves to be knot-free."

The next ten minutes were pretty much a blur.

I remember that I was no longer capable of pointing and flexing my foot. Instead, Asher had to manipulate it with his leg while he pushed, squeezed, poked, and prodded my muscles. I think he even spoke to me, but I can't be sure. "That's it, just breath. Only 5 or 6 more and then your muscle won't be able to take this any more. I can feel it already. That's it. Point, flex, point, flex, breath."

I think between the tears, I started laughing. I didn't know what else to do: it hurt so much. At some point, I realized that he had my foot in his hand and was physically making my ankle flex and point, but there was absolutely nothing I could do. What surprised me even more - was that I didn't care.

The man had his hand all over my feet, and I just didn't care.

I guess pain will do that to you.

And for the record - he did it 8 more times, not 6 (at the max) like he promised. I counted. Hey - you've got to focus on something, right?

Just when I thought it was over, that my calves were flushed and I would be given permission to retreat from the damned table, he commented that my heel felt a little tight - and that he had just enough time to work on that.

Oh goody!

But instead of telling him no-thank-you, I gritted my teeth and said, "Just do what you have to do to make it better."

I re-gripped the soaking wet pillow, wiped my eyes, and prepared for the worst. It was even more painful than I expected. And from my heel! Sheesh! The one spot where I've never experienced pain before - who knew? A few choice words that come to mind, other than the four-letter kind?

It felt like the individual muscle tissues were being stretched, shaved down to their individual strands with a sharp knife, fired with a blow torch, and then made to move (point flex point flex point flex!!!! I know for a fact that Asher had both hands all over my feet, but I was beyond caring.

He could tell I was in pain, especially when (and trust me that I say I've NEVER made this comment before because child birth seems absolutely atrocious) I yelled, "I WOULD RATHER BE IN LABOR AND GIVING BIRTH THAN BE HERE RIGHT NOW!"

"Well," he responded, in a very cool and collect manner. "What book are you reading?"

"I DON'T KNOW," I yelled, clearly at my wits end. The man had his hands all over my feet and I just didn't care. "I'M ONLY 9 PAGES IN SO I CAN'T TELL YOU ANYTHING ABOUT IT. YOU'LL HAVE TO READ IT YOURSELF."

Pain can do that you you, I guess.

Afterwords, he had me walk down the hall. Immediately I noticed that my gait seemed more normal and my calves A LOT better. So much, so that my stride felt, well - great. It turns out, that the tightness in my calves had been causing me to slightly over-pronate on my left side. Hhhhmmmmmm.

This ART-thingy really does work.

"You should probably go for a walk - I got in there pretty good, and the last thing you want is to be really stiff tomorrow. Yes, a walk tonight will make you feel much better..." he replied as he walked me to the front.

In the end, I feel great for having gone through what was undoubtedly THE MOST PAINFUL massages of my life. I know that stuff like this works - and I'm all about doing what works to keep my injury-free and on the move. So I set up an appointment next week after the Encinitas Sprint Triathlon.


I know it will be painful - but hey... someone once told me that if I could survive the training for Ironman, I could definitely get through the race. Well - I've got news: if I can survive the ART therapy, I can do just about anything.

And so can you!


Molly said...

Ow. I end up giggling through tears because it hurts so bad when I get sports massages, so I hear you on that. Mine always apologizes and I'm like - if this is what it takes for me to be in good shape, it's what it takes, just DO IT. In my case it's my glutes that are insanely tight - she does nice things like stick her elbow in there full force while moving my leg around. *sigh* I should make an appointment before Boise.

Beth said...

HA - Marit, you had me laughing. My guy always says "okay, only 3 more and then it's like 5 or 6 and I always call him on it because I DEFINITELY COUNT!" :) I'm just glad they only work on one small area at a time. :)

GOOD LUCK this weekend!! How fun. I can't wait to hear all about it!

Kim said...

hehehe giggle giggle hehehehe... i mean, OUCH, im sorry that hurt so bad! :) alas i go to ART every other week to work on my IT band... so boy can i sympathize on the pain. especially when she uses this plastic scraper on my knee and you can literally hear the scar tissue crunching!

im glad you went - it will definitely help both short term and in the long run!

Missy said...

hahahaha, yep, I call my lady a !@$% ##&$%Y*( the whole time! She does the same thing and it drives me nuts. I'm in so much pain, how can I speak, I feel like I'm going to pass out.

It's amazing, though. Bet you'll have some bruises to prove THAT visit. Hurts so good!

Maijaleena said...

Good luck at your race! Bust out some serious speed out there!

Jennifer Harrison said...

Careful what you ask for, Marit! I am always on my massage table in tears - riveting in pain and trying to just breathe thru the torture....but, I would go thru that everyday instead of delivering twins again!!!!! TRUST me on that one. 2 babies coming out a hole that small...even dialated, ha, think about that for a minute. Oh, just kidding, of course. Glad you got some good work done- your body is thanking you and will get you some pop for Sunday!!!!

Rebecca DeWire said...

Whoa, that sounds painful but I think ART is exactly what I need. I have never had a professional massage so I am definitely scared after reading your post. Maybe you can get an epidural the next time you go :)

Angi Axmann said...

I LOVE ART!!! For some reason I only feel it tickeling instead of pain:-) the only place where my ART guy made me cry was my BUTT. Watch out, you can get addicted to ART, because you will feel so much better tomorrow and the you wanna do it again and again...

BreeWee said...

I LOVE ART! Im addicted, I crave it, SO GLAD you went Marit, you are gonna BEG for it soon enough!

Now time for Nate to make it better with an easy massage right!!??

Ryan said...


Umm, I'll leave the labor thingy alone...

BriGaal said...

I have an unhealthy relationship with feet, too. Actually, I HATE my feet and have foot envy for everyone else. My feet are disgusting, and my toes are horrid. I hardly ever wear flip flops because of it. Then I secretly look at everyone else's feet and wish that mine were nicer. It's not fair! Wah! And just so you know, I did check out your feet at IMFL because you had sandals on and I am jealous of your feet, too.

Heidi Austin said...

wow-ouch....sounds like torture! It's crazy how muscle tightness can throw off your biomechanics. I'm glad it worked though. Maybe I'll work up the nerve to try it someday :)

Charisa said...

Glad you survived the ART :) It feels better when done!

Shan said...

I would have to agree that getting work done on your calves and feet are the WORST!!! Which is funny, because when I use the foam roller on them, it hurts WAY less than my quads...hmmmm. Probably why the calves and feet are always so tight... ;)

Sooooooo glad you had ART done Marit - you will feel its benefits for weeks (and years!) to come. I just wish it wasn't so dang expensive, or I'd get it done ALL the time!

Jen mentioned now you'd have some "pop" for Sunday - I'm afraid to ask what your workout is...7 hour ride or something?!? Sounds like you're at a point in your build where it might be time for a monster ride like that... :-D

ADC said...

Ha ha, not sure I can survive that. Glad you "liked" it.

GoBigGreen said...

Ok I am sorry but i am kinda laughing bc I think EVERYONE goes thru this their first few ART sessions. and then you will get addicted to it, sorta:) It is amazing and i am glad you can find some humor in it...! The good thing is unless you are injured ( NO) then you really dont have to go weekly. I tend to go every month and have him work on my danger areas, like you said, calves and often glute/piriformis.
One of our team's sponsors is an ART guy who was at Kona and if he is going back I will let you know!

Roo said...

I'm so glad none of my massage clients have a blog because I'd hate to read what they write about me!

Mama Simmons said...

Worse than childbirth? I think I'll skip it. ;)

elizabeth said...

WOW! I need to try this now :-) I loved reading about your experience, I have been thinking about trying ART as well... You will have to fill me in on how you are feeling now?

Mary said...

Yikes! That sounds like the treatments I used to get on my IT bands a few years ago. I never knew I could sound like such a trucker! :) Anyway, good for you! It sounds like something I should certainly try.