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January, 2014:

Treating my Shin Splints and Plantar Fasciitis with ASTYM and Dry Needling

I ran the Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Half Marathon every year from 2010 to 2013, and every time I did the race, I seemed to have more problems with shin splints and foot pain than the previous race – and yes, I follow a really good half marathon training program by Hal Higdon. My legs hurt so much during the 2013 race, I was pretty sure I ran the race with three stress fractures in my tibias (two in my left, one in my right).

After the 2013 half marathon I rested my legs for months, but I was in pain within weeks of trying to run again. I decided to suck it up and get professional help. I started with an informal evaluation at one of Runner’s Den’s weekly injury clinics. I described my pain to the doctor and he immediately referred me to Endurance Rehab for ASTYM®. And then he warned me – ASTYM hurts.

I didn’t think much of it at the time. I used to be a gymnast. How bad could it be?

The next day, I called to make an appointment at Endurance Rehab and relayed the injury clinic doctor’s recommendation that I receive ASTYM and she warned me – You know it’s going to hurt a lot, right?

Ok now I started to worry a little bit if the receptionist was warning me. I did some research on YouTube to get an idea of what I was in for.

A few days later I met with my physical therapist, Eric, who did a full athletic history and evaluation. He said my shin pain was due to the fact that I had a lot of scar tissue my legs, which is why they didn’t get better with rest alone. His plan of action: break up the scar tissue with ASTYM, strengthen my leg muscles, and train me on a better running posture to prevent recurrence.

My calves after a session of ASTYM - early in the process

My Legs after ASTYM – Early in the Process

My ASTYM included both anterior tibialis muscles (front outside lower leg), my left posterior tibialis (front inside lower leg), both calves, and the bottoms of both feet. The video above must have been done on a person who didn’t have any injuries because Holy Fucking Shit ASTYM hurts! The first time Eric did ASTYM on me, it hurt so much I was shaking by the time he was halfway through. (He said I was the first person he’s seen have that reaction.) I never shook again, but it is not uncommon for me to cringe, grunt, scream, swear, and pound the table during ASTYM. I’ve pulled my foot away a few times, and each time Eric patiently holds out his hand until I give it back.

And did I mention the bruising? We’re all glad I did this during winter because if I wore a dress or shorts outside, everyone would wonder who’s beating me.

The good news is the pain gets better and the bruising decreases over time as the scar tissue breaks up. When he works on me, Eric uses ASTYM and manually massages my tibialis muscles. His hands are bright red from the pressure he’s putting on my muscles and except for a few small areas on my plantar fascia and my post tibialis, I’m pretty comfortable compared to when he first worked on me.

Dry Needling - 20 Needles in my Post Tibialis

Dry Needling – 20 Needles in my Post Tibialis

We also did some dry needling in my post tibialis during physical therapy. Dry needling uses the same gauge needles as acupuncture but they go all the way into the muscles. It’s based on the premise that the needles cause micro-trauma where they’re inserted which stimulates the healing process. There are people on both sides of whether dry needling is an effective treatment or only placebo. I don’t care. It seemed to help me.

It felt really intense when the needles were in my leg, especially when they were going in. I had an urge to point and flex my foot after the needles were in but I figured that would hurt a lot so I opted to do it with my non-needled foot instead.

I’m happy to share that my legs are on the mend and I’m starting to run again. I’ll write another post soon about the process of learning to run with a completely different running form.

Funny Signs at the 2014 Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon

I had to miss running in the 2014 Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona race this year due to leg injuries, but on the flip side, I had an awesome time cheering marathoners on with funny signs during the race.  I teamed up with Jeff and Dannie Moriarty for some serious fun near Mile 13.

We arrived at our spot a bit before the first marathoners would be running by so I gleefully took my sidewalk chalk to the marker at Mile 13 and wrote the following on the street.

Rock n Roll AZ Street ChalkIf You Did…

The Half…

You’d Be Done…

By Now!

Finish Strong

Oh I amuse myself! I chatted with a racer the next day and she said she when she saw my note she thought whoever wrote it was “pure evil.”

Now, I’m someone who actually likes being insulted when I run. Don’t ask me why, I just like it. My shirt from last year’s race said, “Masochist” across the front and “Run Bitch” on the back. I figured I’m not the only one who finds this endearing and helpful so I continued the “Run Bitch” tradition with one of my signs. Some people laughed said they liked it. The best reaction was, “How did you know my name is Bitch?”

Photo by Jeff Moriarty, Used with Permission

Photo by Jeff Moriarty, Used with Permission

I held this sign for most of the race until we started seeing more and more racers who were walking. I didn’t want them to think I thought less of them for not running the full route so I switched to my other sign.

Photo by Jeff Moriarty, Used with Permission

Photo by Jeff Moriarty, Used with Permission

Dannie had an awesome Breaking Bad inspired sign for the race. I told her to hold onto it for next because if I run the full marathon, I’d want to see that.

Dannie Sign

Jeff had the best sign of the race.

Photo by Jeff Moriarty, Used with Permission

Photo by Jeff Moriarty, Used with Permission

The reactions ranged from shock, to laughter, to “holy shit,” to racers and spectators stopping to taking photos – even two police officers took photos. I liked his Zombie sign too, but nothing could top Jeff with his pants around his ankles.

Jeff zombie sign

One thing I learned this year was that if you put your name on your shirt – like the original Mouseketeers – people will cheer for you by name. I thought I was hanging up my running shoes after last year’s race, but now that rehab is going well, I’m thinking I’ll be back on the course next year. I may have to get another custom running shirt for the occasion.

If you thought our signs were funny, you should check out Jeff’s Harassing Marathon Runners Flickr album that includes all his signs from this year’s and last year’s races.

Minimalism Project: Closet Clean-Out 2014

Last year I made the commitment to being more of a minimalist and got rid of a lot of things that served no purpose in my life, which included a major closet clean-out. Now that the new year has started, that process has started again.

One of the first things I did on January 1st was go into my closet and flip every hanger so that the hooks were facing into the room rather than towards the wall.

Part of my Closet on January 2, 2014

Part of my Closet on January 2, 2014

As I wear each garment and it comes back from the wash, it will be hung on a hanger and placed back on the rod with the hook facing the wall. At a glance I can assess what I have and haven’t. At the end of the year, if there’s something that hasn’t been worn, I will probably never wear it again so I will get rid of it. Of course specialty items like my ski gear and evening gowns are exempt from this process but even they are subject to the wardrobe chopping block if they aren’t going to be used.

Same Section of my Closet on January 9, 2014

Same Section of my Closet on January 9, 2014

I’m a bit of a dork and definitely neurotic so I extended the project to include garments that are on the shelves of my closet like my jeans, sweaters, and workout gear. I created a checklist that listed each garment individually and taped it to the side of the shelves. Whenever I wear one of these items, I cross it off of my checklist.

The List on my Closet Wall - January 2nd and 9th, 2014

The List on my Closet Wall – January 2nd and 9th, 2014

As I hung the checklist I thought to myself, “Why do you have 3 pairs of yoga pants? Didn’t you get the REI yoga pants to replace the Nike ones because they were getting threadbare?” I grabbed the pen that lives in the closet off the shelf, crossed off the Nike pants, and tossed them into the donation pile.

I did a similar process last year to clean out my closet and at least 30 garments didn’t survive to 2014. I will be interesting to see what makes it through this year. I will have to remember that having nice things is meaningless if they serve no purpose and that a garment is not a substitute for a memory behind its acquisition.

Legalizing Recreational Marijuana Makes Sense (and I Hate Pot)

As of January 1, 2014, any person over age 21 can legally buy marijuana in Colorado from a licensed dispensary. It’s just like buying liquor at a liquor store. Looking at what Colorado is doing, I’m starting to think that this may be the right move for all states.

Marijuana by warrantedarrest from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Marijuana by warrantedarrest from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

From my observations, the medical marijuana system is corrupt. I believe that marijuana has positive benefits for certain patients; however when a state legalizes medicinal marijuana it seems like everyone who wants a marijuana card figures out which doctor to visit and what magic words they need to say to get a card. Then they use it as an excuse to be legally wasted all the time and possibly illegally share their legally obtained pot with others.

If we legalize pot, it will be distributed through legal channels and regulated to ensure that it’s safe. And the government can tax the shit out of it like they do cigarettes and with any luck that money will go to some good use. Hopefully this will reduce the demand for pot on the street and all the crime that goes along with the drug dealing will decrease. There will always be a black market for pot, just like there are still guys who illegally make moonshine; but I hope more people would choose to buy it from a licensed store if they choose to partake.

And let me make one thing clear – I am not a proponent for the use of marijuana in general. I hate the way it smells. I hate the way people act when they’re wasted. I chose not to be around most people when they’re drunk or high. If I ever live somewhere where marijuana is legal, I won’t allow it in my home. Yes, I am the anti-pothead who is saying it’s better to legalize it for all adults than to legalize medicinal marijuana.

Marijuana Joint by Torben Bjorn Hansen from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Marijuana Joint by Torben Bjorn Hansen from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Don’t tell me that marijuana should be illegal because it’s bad for you. There are a lot of things that are bad for us that are perfectly legal – like smoking cigarettes, drinking excessively, and being overweight. If we made everything that’s unhealthy illegal, we’d all be in jail.

Here is my concern for states that are considering legalizing marijuana – you have to figure out how this will work with the DUI laws. Driving while impaired by any amount of any substance is illegal in Arizona. I hope there are drug tests that are sensitive enough to tell when a person is likely currently impaired by pot. The drug test for marijuana for employment can show if you’ve used it in the last 30 days. I don’t want people getting DUIs when they haven’t used in a week but today they’re just a bad driver. Colorado’s law set a limit for how much THC you can have in your blood. If you go over that limit, the presumption is that you’re too impaired to drive.

Medical marijuana is legal in Arizona but some people are pushing for an amendment to the state constitution that would make using marijuana legal for adults and regulate its distribution.

What do you think – should marijuana be legalized? If so, what are your concerns? If you’ve been to Colorado and you’ve legally purchased pot, I’d love it if you’d share your experience in the comments below too.