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Thursday, June 8, 2017

Gold Medals, Happiness, and Fascia

I ran my first race in 2015, a half marathon (that's 13 miles). I made it in 2 hours and 37 minutes, and I was really happy and proud. The next day and the next after that were painful and tough: my body seized up and I could hardly walk down or up the stairs.
Since then I have run another half marathon, a ten k and a 12 k. I love racing! My pace is getting faster as I work hard on my body to perform better and better.

I had some injuries: IT Band Syndrome is when imbalances and weakness in the hips and the thighs manifest as extreme knee pain. I did some exercises and fixed it. Plantar fasciitis struck me last summer, and it has been much harder to overcome. This is a condition where the fascia beneath the foot become inflamed and tight. It can cause unbearable pain if it is ignored.
Both these common runners injuries are related to inflammation or tightening of the fascia. The fascia can be understood as a sheath of connective tissue that covers much of the inside of the body: organs, glands, muscles are covered with slimy and fascinating fascia. It is that white shimmery stuff you can see under the skin of a chicken. It holds us together. People are now suggesting that it is a vital clue to understanding the body in a holistic way.

As a midwife, working with childbearing women for over twenty years, I saw time and time again the effects of emotional states and attitudes on the pain and difficulty of labor and birth. I am not saying that a smiling and easygoing woman will have an easy birth. A big old smile during hard physical work really does help though!

The women I attended who had the most satisfying (for them), the easiest (for them), and the most joyful births were usually the women who tried their very best to go with the flow - to take the labor contractions one at a time, to smile and have a good time during the process. Very often, the women who birthed with such grace would have done yoga throughout their lives or at least throughout their pregnancies. This would help them figure out how to deal with a difficult physical situation - the necessity to hold a yoga pose even after you think you can't is a very good lesson for having children.

I started to notice with my Plantar fasciitis that the pain seemed to come in waves. Some days it would be fine, then it would get really really bad, then it would pass again. It didn't have a lot to do with the amount I ran, or my frequency or pace. It first erupted when I had a couple of mishaps that involved my left foot.
1. My dog ran me over when she was joyfully running down the hill. My left foot was super sore for a couple of days but I put comfrey leaves on and it was fine.
2. A month later I capsized in a canoe and banged my left shin bone up quite badly.
Then about a month after that, I was walking home in my flat sandals after a day at work (on my feet), carrying a heavy backpack ... I asked my husband to help carry it and his bag was also heavy, long story short when I got home my foot was KILLING me.

It got worse and worse. I read up on treatments. I used tape, massage, exercises. I stopped running for a while. I ran a ten k instead of a half in November. It started to pass. I joined a gym so I could run inside, started doing strength training, all the stuff ....

Then I noticed that it would flair up when I went for an angry run. When I went out to get my yayas out, when I was mad about some stupid thing some shitty person had done ... when I was working stuff out.

Now don't get me wrong, I know that our time running is like meditation, you can resolve things and bring peace and reach conclusions and find enlightenment. But we should not, ever! run like mad! Anger, hatred, envy, all the stressful feelings, disturb the smooth workings of our fascia. Just like when a woman is laboring to birth her baby, when you are running or racing, you need to let it go! Don't think about the pain, don't get stressed! It will have a direct, immediate and long-term effect on your fascia. This can lead to further injuries, to more pain, and ultimately a slower pace and less enjoyment.

Now, I make sure I do a little yoga-based stretch after each run: Mogul Muncher. I leave my worries at the door when I run outside, and at home when I go to the gym. I visualize healing in my foot. I am kind to myself. I let it hurt a little bit - after all, this old body has given me sixty years of great service!

My advice to you? Love your body! Shake your tail feathers! Let your body move! Keep those fascia loosey-goosey!

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