I don't mean any disrespect to the esteemed Anne Sullivan, but I think my certified athletic trainer is a miracle worker. Under the uber-capable, intuitive hands of Ali Novak, I went from having my knee scream at me on even the shortest, easiest of jaunts to taking on mile repeats, marathon-pace runs, and 20 solid miles last Saturday morning, all pain-free. I morphed from being disconsolate about not being able to train to being right on track for the Vancouver, B.C. Marathon on May 5. After just two sessions with Ali. Seriously: miracle worker.
As I admitted in our most recent newsletter, my usual M.O. with injuries has been to ignore them and hope they disappear. This was my approach for several reasons, including 1. I'm an optimist; 2. I'm a cheapskate; 3. My family is self-insured (thus we have lousy coverage); 4. I figure it'll mean I'll be sidelined for weeks, if not months, during treatment. No run = no fun!
Ali removed most of those barriers (except for the optimism part). A roughly hour-long session with her costs $40, money well spent especially considering how quickly I've seen results. As for being out of commish for weeks on end: Ali explained to me in a text that certified athletic trainers (versus a physical therapist), "are trained to keep people moving, so we can create modifications or supports (tape or bracing) to allow people to continue to participate as much as is safely possible, even while actively treating and rehabilitating musculoskeletal injuries." Music to my ears, as I'd been alternating asking a higher power to make my knee pain disappear and to allow me to still run my May marathon.
Feeling the almost-immediate results Ali provided made me admit other aches and pains I'd been having, such as my feet being so rigid that walking barefoot felt akin to having glass bones in my paws and my slope-shouldered posture. She had a solution for them all--in addition to sussing out that I need a stronger core to run more easily. Ali showed me a variety of easy-to-do home exercises--like Supermodels (Stand on a stair with hips level. Slowly drop foot down below stair, then slowly raise it, being sure power comes from hip and glute in your standing leg.), Sprinter's Lunges, and Dead Bugs that I can already feel paying back in spades on the road.
The work Ali does on me isn't massage-like pleasant. Au contraire: I'm in search of a leather strap I can gnaw on while she rubs her Graston Technique tools on my IT band, calves, hamstrings, and foot. For the time being, I wince, cringe, clench my hands, and try not to swallow my own tongue. (Oh, yeah, it's good times.) But sweet relief follows: I walk out of an appointment feeling like the back side of my body is finally long enough, rather than being yanked down by gravity. My feet feel pliable, my calves aren't tender to the touch, and my stride seems powered by my glutes and hamstrings rather than overworked hip flexors.
The moral of my story? Don't ignore injuries or recurring pain; the right practitioner can work miracles. (If you've got somebody as awesome as Ali, visit the AMR Connect Forums, under Practitioner, and sing her or his praises!)