Thursday, June 07, 2007

Treat your feet

Feet... not usually something people like to think about or even look at. In fact, most people find feet a little disgusting if not repulsive, and I admit that I have seen my fair share of gnarly feet. For the majority of my 29 years of life, I don't think I have thought much about my feet. I remember a few times thinking I had kind of cute feet when I was in high school, but mostly they have just been a way to get around. It wasn't until a year or so ago that I realized how vitally important these two parts are to my mental and physical health. Aside from all my usual aches and pains, I developed something in my feet that has been nothing but a nuisance and annoyance and frustration. and I haven't been able to stop thinking about my feet.

In the world of athletics, many people are familiar with the condition plantar fasciitis. It is common in athletes, especially runners or anyone involved in high impact sports. Essentially, the fascia, which runs along the bottom of the foot, gets tight from overuse or other injuries. It causes tension to build up in the heel, which becomes painful to walk on, especially when the foot has been relaxed for a long time. There are a number of tricks people use to get rid of this... rolling the foot over tennis balls or ice, night splints, stretching, orthotics, anti-inflammatories, etc. If that doesn't work, it could be no running for a few months.

I think I initially got this when I was training for the Boston marathon last year. It was annoying, but I figured it would eventually go away. It didn't, but being the stubborn athlete that I am, I just ignored it and kept running. It's now been a little more than a year, and it has not gotten better. In fact, I think it just gets worse. I woke up one day and thought, "What is wrong with me? If I don't do something about this now, I might have to stop running forever." So I did something I don't think I have ever done. I called a specialist - a podiatrist recommended to me by another hard core athlete. I admit I went into the appointment with some trepidation as I had already concocted all the worst case scenarios possible... there was only one... stop running. I didn't want to hear that, which is probably why it took me so long to make the appointment. I was going to exhaust all my other options before resorting to that.

Well, the good news is that I haven't done any permanent damage. The other good news is that there is a way to get rid of it that doesn't involve surgery or never running again. The good/bad news is that I have to go through a minor procedure and then I am not allowed to run for a month. Relief? Yes, but with some apprehension. Telling me that I cannot run for a month is like asking me not to eat. I haven't gone more than maybe 2 weeks without running since I was a freshman in high school. In case you need a reminder... that means I have been running regularly for more than 15 years. It's a habit that is hard for me to fathom breaking. If a doctor told most people they needed to stop running for a month, they would kick up their feet and say hallelujah.

I suddenly realized that I am destroying my body. No normal 29-year-old should have sore feet, knees, IT band, etc. every day. How did I get like this? By not taking care of myself. Some would argue that I have taken care of myself being healthy and fit, exercising and all that good stuff. And although those are all good things, I have neglected to pay proper attention to at least one very important thing. It's called stretching. This is not something I have ever been very good at. It's no wonder my body is rebelling and falling apart. I have been driving it and driving it for 15 years without any recovery time or restorative measures. No amount of repair on my feet will matter if I do not start stretching, since my neglectfulness is probably a major contributing factor to this irritating condition. When I came to this realization, I decided I needed a forced stretching routine. It's called yoga. I enrolled myself (and Cameron) into a beginning yoga class, so I could learn and force myself to stretch. After 4 weeks, I can't say that I am cured of all my physical ailments... it would take more than 4 weeks to undue 15 years of damage. But I can say, that I think my body is thanking me. And perhaps if I can continue, I will be doing my body a well deserved favor.

Feet are important. We need to take care of them because they get us around every where we go. They take a beating every day and then we wonder why they hurt. Take care of your will be happier if you do.

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