As the spring semester rolled on, and Springdance results were posted, I continued my quest of bodily exploration. Ballet 1 was my central class of choice since our Tap teacher was on sabbatical for the next five or six months.
The quote in the title was one of many fascinating exchanges I had with my Ballet teacher that semester.
At one point, the lovely and kind teacher came over to me during warmups at the barre and looked at my hamstrings, then gently grabbed the back of my leg and told me to relax. I told her I was, which she initially seemed not to believe until we worked on it a little more.
Apparently I’m tighter than a broke man’s beer budget.
Flash forward six to nine months, all the way to two weeks ago, and the adventures have continued. A couple of weeks prior, I went into the local doctor’s office here on campus and asked to get my knees checked out. I was worried I had accidentally damaged myself the Tuesday prior before Tap class. I was warming up to a song I’d recently found (“Run Boy Run” by Woodkid) and I wasn’t nice to my knees.
Well that initial doctor had told me “no tap until you can see the physical therapist.”
It was, however, her opening line about 10 minutes prior that won my trust as she ordered me to sprawl out on the table in exam room four.
“…well, I won’t be able to help you much, but physical therapy will.”
Bill Snyder couldn’t have given me a more inspirational pep talk, or one that would have inspired such confidence in what he was about to say.
Just kidding. Thanks lady.
Still, I went to Tap class after that day and took it easy. The truth of the matter was that in 13 years of running I had experienced pain of almost all varieties. This, though, was something new. This was a burning type thing around the knee caps, and slightly more tension in the IT Bands. As athletes, I’ve always believed it was our obligation to our bodies to know when we were just being sissies and whining because we were sore, and to know how to differentiate between when we might actually be hurt. That’s why I went in at all; I thought I might have pinched a meniscus or something.
About a week later, I sat again on the table sprawled out, but this time not in exam room four. This time, I was in the physical therapists office, and Alissa, the therapist who I’d seen for my wrist injury in March, was directing one of the other physical therapists as the newer therapist examined my leg.
She led me through some tests measuring strength and flexibility. Before long, the lady came to my knee caps, where most of my pain had been centralized, and tried to move them.
Remember that first exchange I told you about between my ballet teacher in spring and I? You know, the one in the title bar above? Well, that basically happened again.
The therapist told me, and I’m paraphrasing here: “You know those are supposed to be able to move right?”
Apparently the muscles and such that flow over the knee cap are supposed to be relaxed enough that a person should be able to move their kneecap up and down and left and right without too much difficulty.
I guess running and dancing and athletic stuff in general causes your muscles to tighten up. Since I’ve added dancing to my regular fitness activities in the last year, it appears I’ve pushed my activity beyond what my body could tolerate without regular stretching.
Still, I was happy to have learned all of this, especially after the two therapists consulted and decided just to humor me and check out my meniscuses (which were totally fine). Here’s what I learned:
-Yes, I’ll be in pain now and then, particularly in the knees.
-I’ll always be prone to such soreness without preventative measures.
-Those preventative measures consist simply of 30 minutes to an hour per day of stretching. Once I get into a routine of that, I’ll be fine as long as I maintain that parallel to my level of activity.
-Since stretching is a way of preventing injuries, stuff like Yoga is great. Meaning I have to keep doing it not just because I love Yoga, but because if I don’t, I could be forced to deal with injuries from running and tap dancing as well.
I’ve always been determined to resist aging as much as possible, both in my body and in mind, but apparently I’ll have to go old-school here, and just start stretching before my day begins.