First she said it was atrophied. Some muscle called the TFL way up in the crease between the thigh and the trunk of the body on the outside of the leg. Atrophied.
“That sounds bad.”
“Yeah, basically it’s dead.”
Yes, then she said dead?
“Can it be resurrected?”
“Yeah, sure. Now resist.”
What’s happening and why am I letting it happen? I’m at the Stretch Chi studio in Chicago, practicing the Ki-Hara method of resistance stretching, the new tool in my physical reclamation plan. I’m a runner turned walker turned grunter when I stand up. I do Pilates, work out with a trainer and have a chronic something that keeps me from moving the way I used to. From even sleeping the way I used to, sleeping without pain that is. I know this might just be part of growing up and I don’t like it. So I’m fighting it.
First I tried therapeutic massage. Loved it but my masseuse moved to the suburbs and the hour drive home erased any of the gains I made on the table. Next was the chiropractor. He practiced more soft-tissue manipulation than bone cracking and got me walking again after I sprained my back doing Pilates, of all things.
But then the night pain – from the lower back down the leg – sent me to the sports doctor who sent me to physical therapy. My goal is to run again. Regularly. Five miles at a time. Maybe even just three. I’m not asking for much. I don’t even need to go fast. Just faster than my speedy, speed walking.
My physical therapist examines my gait. I bounce up and down and swing my arms unevenly leading to a little bit of right side twisting. I lift my left leg differently than my right. It’s a wonder I get anywhere.
“Have you ever heard of ChiRunning?” she asked.
“Chi as in Tai Chi?” I asked. “Sounds like an oxymoron.” I have a difficult time with programs that require calming one’s mind and breathing, which is what I think of when I think of chi anything. But then, the same day, my black belt karate friend recommended the Stretch Chi program.
“It’s a cross between deep-tissue massage and stretching,” he said. “It hurts like hell while she’s doing it but you feel so good after she’s done.”
I couldn’t overlook the fact that the chi concept– which has been defined for me as energy, life force, the way and breath – entered my consciousnesses twice in one day. Was this a sign that I needed to get my chi on? I decided yes and that is why I willingly subject my IT band, quads and hamstrings to mashing, thrashing and stretching. That is why I have committed to the rescuing of my TFL. I do feel more flexible, if not calm, and I am looking forward to the next step where I take the chi from the stretch mat to the running path.