Oh, how I wish I were a masochist

Today I hobbled up to Coach Sandra’s magic workshop in Ossining for something she’s been promising for several weeks — an examination for “weaknesses” (I have lots of them, but I don’t think she’s talking about vodka) and imbalances. But it got put off due primarily to her travels.

Because of my recent incident, however, this visit turned from one of mere examination to therapy. Or should I say torture? Sandra is a myotherapist. I think myotherapy should replace waterboarding as our nation’s preferred interrogation technique. It’s certainly less messy.

The good news is that I don’t have anything seriously wrong with my hip. The bad news is that I was compared to a kitchen sink that has for years gone unwashed. It takes a lot of scrubbing to undo that kind of neglect. The hip is just the tip of the iceberg that is the whole of my problems, it seems. In fact, Sandra was amazed that I haven’t had more issues given how totally fucked up I am below the waist.

To summarize, here’s what happened on Saturday. The hip issue was the final straw in a cascading series of events having to do with tight muscles in my legs. My right hamstring had been giving me trouble for days beforehand. During the race it tightened up to such an extent that everything around it went into spasm and seized up as well.

My hip is not actually the problem — it’s just where the problem is most acutely expressed at the moment. The most notable issue is a large muscle knot (two, actually — but one is much worse than the other) deep in the heart of my right buttcheek (gluteal muscle). It sits at the top of my iliotibial (IT) band, which is no great shakes either. The IT band is not only tight, but it has scar tissue all up the side of it (both of them do, actually, although the right side is much worse than the left is). Did I mention my calves? They are also tight enough to bounce quarters off of.

I got scolded for running on pavement all these years. And not stretching or getting proper massages (meaning deep enough to be painful) all this time. Who knew?

What does this mean for me? A world of pain, the intensity of which I can scarcely describe.

For close to 90 minutes Sandra dug into these problem areas and made me alternately shriek and weep. Lots of her athletes break into tears while she does this, so I was told not to feel bad about it. I was also told that since she is undoing years of neglect, it’s going to really hurt and take at least another few sessions. She said the muscle knots have been there for a long, long time, given their density and size.

I also have about around 50 (seriously) stretching and strengthening exercises that I am to do twice a week now, working up to three times a week.

I was also told that, when she was still running competitively, Sandra would go engage in this process for 10 days with a guy in Ireland who is the best at this in the world. It was basically a Torture Holiday. Myotherapy, then run, then check things and do myotherapy again. Khalid still goes to him for this treatment. She ended up studying under the torture master and forging a parallel career.

Here’s what happens in these sessions:

  1. Sandra picks an area to work on. She digs into it (often using her elbow with full weight on it). I scream and cry. She expresses sympathy, but also warns that she’s just warming up the area — loosening the surface tissue so she can get closer to the source of the problem (knots and scar tissue).
  2. She digs and stabs. Then checks the muscle or tendon. Then digs and stabs some more. Then asks me if that last round of digging and stabbing was any less painful. I am tempted to lie sometimes, but I don’t because I know that will only prolong the process.
  3. Then she focuses on another area, letting the first recover a bit. Then she goes back and works on the original area some more. In the meantime, neighbors call the police because it sounds like horrific crimes are being committed on the second floor.
  4. I go home and take an ice bath. I do my stretches. I go running and see how far I get before it becomes painful. Then we do this again a few days later.
  5. Repeat until knots and scar tissue are gone.

There are some bright spots in all of this. For one, it’s not a serious injury. I was worried about a hip stress fracture or that my award-winning left bunion was causing all of this and would require surgery. For another, if I get all this shit worked out and do my stretching like my life depends on it (and try to stay off of pavement as much as possible), I should never have to go through this “cleaning the kitchen sink” process again.

13 Responses

  1. You have my sympathy. It reminds me of my PT days when TinTin, my PT, manipulated my arm and I would have sweat pouring from my brow, muttering obscenities under my breathe, with her teasing me that she “got me to say ‘shit.'”

    At least you know what it is and can start getting it taken care of.

  2. Whenever I’m doing PT, I tell myself: “it’s not so bad — I could be doing 1200s on the track right now”.

    And whenever I’m on the track, I tell myself: “it’s not so bad — I could be doing PT right now”

  3. My Active Reflex therapist said the same thing to me and then proceeded to kill me. Ouch!

  4. I need something like this.

  5. Where can I sign up?

  6. Wow. At least there’s a bright side. I seem to recall your stating a little while ago that you don’t stretch much. Would post-run stretching have rinsed the sink each day? I’m genuinely curious, since I’ve been neglecting the stretches for a while myself. “Studies are inconclusive” yada yada.

    • Don’t stretch much? You’re being kind. I don’t stretch at all. But that’s going to change. Pre-run stretching is the most important, and I have two — one to stretch the gluteal muscles and one to align the hips — that I am now required to do before every run (and, preferably, after every run as well). And, yes, I am told that had I done stretching and gone for fairly regular deep tissue massage I could have avoided what I’m dealing with now.

  7. I want to see what comes out of Joe Garland’s mouth if he visits Sandra. If the CIA learn about myotherapy, remind me not to become a terrorist.

  8. My PT did some similar digging into the left IT band yesterday, for only 20 min. though. Today my leg looks like I got thrown out of a truck on the freeway and run over. How is the bruising looking?

    • The marks I have were originally pink, then deep red, and now — 36 hours later — they are fading. Sandra called them “pressure marks” and said that if you end up black and blue that the therapist is not manipulating your muscles the right way — meaning your tissues are being damaged in the process of being manipulated.

  9. This is why I went to accupuncture once a week during the last 10 weeks of my marathon training. It released any knots in my muscles that had developed the week before. It was painful but it was a birlliant tool for recovery.

    Julie, it’s a good thing you know a lot of curse words. You will have to keep track of all the creative ways you come up with to string them together while your therapist stabs you with her elbow.

  10. […] the problem was muscular (specifically, knots or “trigger points”), but in some ways the cure was worse than the disease. Painkillers dulled the pain, but if I happened to forget to take one, I was completely […]

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