Despite all my talk about cross training in my last post, I have been running nearly every day. I have also been continuing to get treated by Dr. Lau every few weeks, where he works out the little adhesions I’ve developed and tries to get my limbs and torso to move like they’re supposed to. I added another therapy last week: acupuncture. A friend of mine had gone to see Steve Phillips, an acupuncturist here in Sacramento, with very positive result for a neuroma on his foot. I decided it was time to give it a try. It seemed smart to establish a relationship with one more person with an interest in helping me heal.
I think I was expecting Steve to be dressed in robes and have a long beard when I showed up at his office. Instead, he was wearing khakis and a button down shirt, was clean shaven and had a very inviting and humble manner. (Shame on me for stereotyping). I knew I was going to be able to work with him when I told him it was my first time and that I would like to learn as much as possible. I asked if he would please explain how this whole thing works. He sort of laughed and said, “Well, we don’t really know.” He then went on to explain it from the western-medicine perspective and then the eastern, energy-based model. Either way, he said, it works. I like that. It reminded me that, just because I haven’t quite figured out how something works, does not mean it does not work.
So, he put pins in my hip and all down the side of my hurt leg, then added some electricity to get the muscles jumping around internally. He then used suction cups along the same meridian or line of my leg to further encourage blood flow to the area that needed healing attention. He first asked if I minded having bruises, and I laughed. He said, I thought not. Athletes are often proud of their bruises. He tended to some soreness in my lower back with needles sans electricity. I left with a line of bruises on my legs and a feeling of relief. I then went out and ran 5 miles and felt great. My runs have continued to go well, though my training has been very conservative.
Enter, the Brain...
One night last week, I awoke at 2 a.m. and could no longer sleep. I think I was worrying about this injury, actually, because that was on my mind as soon as my eyes opened. I grabbed my iPad from the nightstand and went to iTunes to look for anything I could find on healing and meditation. Why, I don’t quite know. I found two audiobooks that sounded good and downloaded both. I didn’t listen to them until a few days later. One was a book by Dr. Andrew Weil and Dr. Marty Rossman about using guided imagery for healing.
The first part of the book had a pretty profound impact on me. It reminded me that healing is something that my body does, not something that somebody else does for or to me. For example, if I go to a doctor with an infection, I will probably walk out with a prescription for antibiotics. While my symptoms probably subsided after taking the drugs (if the diagnosis was correct), neither the antibiotics nor the doctor healed me. Rather, the doctor diagnosed the problem and the drugs reduced the bacteria living in my body to a level that allowed my body to heal itself.
In some ways, it’s convenient to think of all injuries or illnesses as things that happen to us that are only curable with drugs, therapy or surgery. Unfortunately, this can distract us from taking on our share of personal responsibility for both the injury/illness as well as the healing. Doctors and therapists are great at diagnosing illness and conditions and also very capable at applying treatments, but only we can do the healing. Further, we are more in control of our instances of disease, illness and injury than we know. How many times have you blamed a co-worker or child for giving you a cold? They exposed you to the virus, yes, but your body could not fight it off for whatever reason. That reason probably had something to do with being run down, poor nutrition or some other factor within your control.
This is powerful stuff because it makes me see that I can do more about my symptoms and healing my injuries than I thought possible. It also reminds me how powerful a tool my mind can be in terms of keeping me sick and injured as well as helping me overcome these ailments.
So, how am I using this? One big key, and maybe the most important, is I am learning to relax, recognizing that in that relaxed state, my body will heal fastest. That’s why sleep is so important. This applies not just to my injury but also to my training in the future. What would happen if I spent 30 minutes more a day laying around, meditating or in just a generally relaxed state. Will my body heal faster? Will that help with my recovery and resistance to injury? What about thinking about relaxing when I am stretching after my workouts--directing “healing vibes” to my muscles rather than allowing the monkey chatter in my brain to run on about all of the craziness that awaits me in my day. What about doing this when I'm running? Yesterday, I threw on my headphones during my run and just enjoyed running on a sunny day along a beautiful river listening to upbeat music. This is very different from most runs where I spend the time thinking about the report I have due, or the messy house I'll be going back to or, worst of all, thinking about injury and pain.
I think this focus on healing is leading me to make smarter decisions about my training too. Remember my story about my visit to the acupuncturist earlier in this post where I went out and ran right after treatment? I spent $65 on treatment only to go out immediately and (possibly) reverse the healing effects? Was that 5 mile run that important? Sometimes, I can be pretty thick. I am trainable, however. The other night, I not only decided not to run after my treatment, but I decided not to cross train either--just let the needles do their magic. Coach Tom was very proud!
I am a work in progress, but at least there is progress.