Team Octopus or: How to squeeze through the pressure

Posted: June 18, 2012 in CrossFit, Exercise, Fitness, Health
Tags: , , , , , ,

Reflecting on the pressures I feel while navigating through the challenges of escaping my poor health/fitness condition, I wondered if it was anything like what a 600 lb. octopus felt when squeezing through a hole the size of a quarter.

The ability of the octopus to compress like that could reasonably be considered a survival mechanism, although I can’t seem to locate any authority that states the reason for the behavior. Makes sense, though: Why else would you scoot through an unreasonably small opening, if not to get away to live another day? Or, to twist the question into the shape I’d like it to take, why else would you put yourself through all this pressure and/or pain except to stay healthy?

The other question I can’t find an answer for is whether this is painful for the octopus. Granted, it’s hard to ask them to rate their pain on a scale of 1-10, but their physiology should suggest whether it would be possible for the compression to cause pain.

This all came to me when I was joking about meeting the four horsemen of the apocalyptic workout–the day that makes you want to end all exercise forever.

I’d had a workout that left me sobbing in pain and frustration: changing my dosage and timing on one of the medications to prevent migraines had made me light-headed and light-sensitive, so I was doing my workout in the shade in sunglasses…and with my eyes closed whenever possible. Every squeak of the equipment and sound of the timer going off put my teeth on edge. I had flash migraines, where it felt like someone had shot me in the left eye with an arrow, but only for a few seconds at a go. I was cranky, because the changes had disrupted my sleep schedule.

Unrelated to the medication change, I was cramping in my left quad and gastroc. My body seemed to be screaming at me to quit, assaulting me on all fronts. I felt rather like the one time I’d had sunstroke, just before I passed out. And then, the crowning blow was a simple hamstring stretch.  This is usually the “ahh” moment, as I’m almost done and everything left to do is on my back on a nice foam mat.

Pain exploded in my right quad, radiating to my hip. That’s when I started crying. As I said before, pain for a purpose, to achieve a goal, is one thing, but there’s no sense in suffering needlessly. And, as often occurs, I began doubting whether I would ever progress.

The same thing happened for the next three workouts. I felt like I was squeezing my fat ass through a teeny hope, pressured by pain and fear. My husband felt a big knot in my quad. I set up for an early appointment with Stephanie the phenomenal PT, but, in this case, early meant five days away rather than three weeks.

In the meantime, Gary was rolling the knot. Foam rolling is the best way to do this for yourself, but it’s really difficult for me to get the balance right for most of these, so we’ve taken to using a rolling pin over the area. As I’ve mentioned before, muscle knotting is common in people with fibromyalgia. Usually neither Gary nor I can find the knots, although massage and/or physical therapists seem to put their fingers on them immediately. This one was big enough for him to find.

So we looked up how to deal with knots in muscles. The instructions basically said (in all the sources we could find) to stretch the knot away from the contraction. Since we had no idea how to figure out which way it was contracted, Gary and I decided to go with rolling along the same direction as the muscle fibers. Turns out that was the right idea, and that, yes, until you’ve had a lot of hands-on training, figuring out which direction it should be stretched isn’t that easy for most people.

So he put some pressure on the rolling pin and ran it up and down the knot, the IT band and the hip. I concentrated on breathing like I was in a Lamaze class (although when applied to childbirth, I gave up and asked for the epidural) so the crying incident would not be repeated.

The rolling (and some anti-inflammatory OTC meds) helped, but I dreaded the hamstring stretch each and every day after the first time my quad screamed. On something like the fourth workout after this ghastly newcomer showed up, I had finished the hamstring stretch and was into the piriformis stretch (which you do by pulling your knee toward the opposite shoulder) and there was something like a pop where the knot had been, a burning sensation, and then an immediate reduction in the pain.

Ahh. Is that what the octopus feels once it’s out of the hole?

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