My Tools and My Toys

My toys
I've been all about the lately. If you happened to notice, I haven't been running much. And no, this is not because I've sequestered myself in my bedroom like in the episode of Sex and the City where Charlotte gets intimate with her toy rabbit. (Girls, you know what I'm talking about.) Um. Yeah. That would be a post for another kind of blog, so snap out of it and get your minds out of the gutter, people. I'm afraid that's not the kind of toys and tools I'm talking about here. A shame, isn't it? I'm talking about using my kid's toys and some kitchen instruments to roll my calves, massage my quads and stretch my tendons. Um. I guess that still sounds kind of kinky, but seriously folks, this is critical business if I don't want to continue along the long path of injury.

I have several items in my toolbox that I use on an almost daily basis. For starters, I have several different balls - a nerf ball, a mini foam baseball and a squishy fabric ball I confiscated from my son's toy boxes. Then I have a four-pronged, wooden "happy massager," which, when used properly, puts a smile on my face, a gel ice-pack which I wrap and secure to my ankle with a rubber band, and last but not least, the mother of all tools - a seriously badass wooden rolling pin. Yeah. This is not your sissy roller by any means (see "The Stick" on Maple Grove Barefoot Guy's Blog) No offense, Christian. (insert me smiling innocently here), but my tool will make grown men cry or at least make me cry. Really.

So some tricks I've learned when using this stuff... seek out the parts of the muscle that hurts and focus the tool on that trigger point for a good two minutes. Apparently that's how long it takes for the tissues to "conform." Trust me. If you aren't sweating bullets, crying for your mama, or screaming obscenities then you're doing it wrong. Take some deep breaths, focus and relax into the pain and eventually you will be crawling out of your hole. Slowly. After two minutes. Sometimes I find a mantra helps. Like the one that got me through childbirth. That was 8cm of drug free dialation, a fucked up epidural, a baby who was "sunny side up" (we're talking insane back labor), transition and a final bloody scene usually reserved for the most disturbing of horror films. So... amazingly enough the words that got me through that... "I believe in the power of my mind and the wisdom of my body." You confront the pain with precision and stealth. Like a ninja. Focus on it with your mind and trust that your body will know what to do to heal itself. I know. Easier said than done. You've got to dig deep to get out.

So my achilles was super tender about a week and a half ago but I think things are getting better now. As for my knee, it hasn't piped up at all over the last month. Granted I haven't been running like I was, but I feel like things are getting sorted out. In addition to the occassional rolling I think stretching has helped immensely. I've been on a strict regimen of stretching lately. Five times a day, in fact. Most of the time I manage to squeeze in about three times, but sometimes a couple of those stretching stints are more than 5 minutes long. I've gotten really good at stretching and facebooking so losing track of time while participating in these activities is actually benefiting me. My upper body is feeling stronger too. I've never done this many push ups in my life. And my abs. Well, they're just sore. I did an ab circuit the other day that felt like a complete fail. I have no coordination, and apparently, no muscle strength either. But, I'm slowly getting stronger and more flexible so its all good.
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  1. So I get linked and called a sissy huh? Why I oughta! :)

    I actually use a PVC pipe for a foam roller. But The Stick is for those "hard to reach places". I also like saying "The Stick".

  2. I have "The Stick", but don't use it as much as I should. And hey, runners' tools are supposed to look like something a dominatrix would have lying around, right?

    When I started toying with barefoot running, I found an archaic foot massager here in our attic - it's basically a block with a bunch of wooden beads attached to it that you roll the sole of your foot over. I could never stand to use it before b/c - honestly - it tickled!

    I thought my feet might not be as sensitive after doing some barefoot/minimalist running, but they are even more responsive to ticklish sensations (shhh! Don't tell my wife or I'm doomed!). Does that make sense that they are more sensitive now than before?

  3. The Stick owns me. Works great on a recurring calf issue I have, but I am it's bitch. Hurts so good.

    Power of my mind, wisdom of my body .... I really like that. Adding it to the Mantra rolodex. The Mantradex?

  4. MGBG - Hahahaha! Its all in good fun, man. I knew you could hang. :-)

  5. Tommy - that archaic foot massager sounds wicked! Yeah, I would think your feet would be LESS sensitive to ticklish sensations. That's wild.

  6. I'm working through various foot injuries myself, including PF and top of the foot pain. The night splint helps PF, and it seems like it would help achilles tendonitis too. I'm also planning on getting Altra's instinct, the thought being I can still train with good form and I can gradually add barefoot distance over time.

  7. Stephen - what's Altra's instinct? Is that a minimal shoe? I had PF for eight months. It was horribly debilitating, but I didn't stretch or target massage at all, which I probably should have.

  8. Oh, I for one am totally disappointed. I was hoping for 'that' kind of a post. :)
    Fine, I'll read it anyway. I could use some toys for injuries, of course.

  9. ZM, here's the shoe: (in the women's version). It looks to be more transitional than true minimal, but their Adam and Eve should fit the minimal bill. I hope it lives up to its promise, 'cause I sure could use it.

  10. Ewa - Sorry to disappoint. I guess another post about the "other" toys would surely drive traffic on my blog. Hee hee. Maybe I should consider?? Ha!

    Stephen - Thanks so much for the link. I'll check it out.

  11. Well, I see you're up to trouble again, Krista.

    Seriously, my niece's boyfriend swears by the foam roller. He's a personal trainer and he's helped me with my stretching. Using the roller and getting extra help with stretching really makes a difference. You're right about the pain though- the roller really hurts in some spots. But my stride is much more fluid and I just feel better when a do it and stretch too. I should stop by soon and get an adjustment for sure.

  12. I do things much different when it comes to tight muscles. It is certainly a forward thinking idea, and not what mainstream fitness promotes. Though I have found it to be very effective. I have not stretched, etc in numerous years with no negative effects. I am super active with a lot of variety.

    A tight muscle is your body speaking to you. Every muscle is designed to have tension on it. The tension should be balanced along the muscle chain. Generally speaking a overly tight muscle means that another muscle is too loose. This causes the muscle on the opposite side to tighten up. A loose muscle is a deactivated muscle. The muscle can be reactivated very easily. Though you need to know what muscle needs attention. Once you regain tension on the loose muscle then the tight muscle releases it's "grip". When a muscle is deactivated the opposite muscle must take up the slack which is why it gets tight. It's working harder then it needs to. I have always found the tight muscle is not the muscle that needs help. It is often the muscle on the opposite side that is loose. The tight muscle is just feeling that way cause it is working overtime.

    When it comes to stretching, massage, etc. You just need to work within normal limits. Often what happens is you may massage way to deep in a professional setting, or you stretch beyond your natural range of motion. Both these things will actually deactivate muscle tissue. Stretching is highly over rated, and it is really a shame mainstream fitness continues to promote something that is very questionable way to treat the body.

    Ya notice people stretch all the time ? If it really worked there would be no need to repeat it all the time. Same thing with massage. Massage has some positive benefits if it is done properly on each person's muscle chain. Often this is not the case cause that industry does not identify MAT type thinking.

    I understand most are not familiar with this style of thinking. Each person may treat there body the best way the see fit.

    More info can be found here..... if your interested in other perspectives.

    I've had a tightness in one foot from BF running. After isometric work the tightness goes away. I never stretched once to fix it. I reactivated the deactivated muscle.

    At the end of day. Ya just need to know what you are doing to your body. Range of motion excersices can be more beneficial then stretching, but you must stay within your natural ROM. If your gonna stretch do it within your natural ROM otherwise it is trouble city.

    For pure pleasure find a MAT specialist in your area. That info can be found in the web site above. These folks are also barefoot friendly. Shoes have a huge effect on your muscle chain. Nobody knows the muscle chain better then MAT specialist. They actually get to the root of your muscular problems....

  13. I should try one of those "toys". I had some minor ankle soreness while running BF on treadmill on Friday. Nothing bad, just sore on inside of ankle.

  14. My favorite tool is the foam roller although I like a tennis ball for my piraformis (butt muscles). I also have a foot roller that feels so good. I have used a rolling pin before on my IT bands. Painful! I'm glad you're getting your stuff worked out. It will be nice to get back to normal. In the meantime, it sounds like you're getting stronger all around and will make your return that much better!


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