Thursday, March 25, 2010

Mucho Culpa

A very dear friend has just written to announce her return from a Mexican holiday, so my title is somewhat inspired by some of the very little Spanish that I know.
It is a long established human custom to complain to God, the universe, one's friends and family, when we finally realize that in some department or another crucial to our getting through our regular activities in due order we have been making a serious mistake. How in heaven's name could I be so thick? Why didn't somebody tell me?
Why have I spent so long doing something the wrong bloody way?
I speak of the calf stretch. Today's lesson is about fitness. Primarily the fitness of my feet, but also, I suspect, because of the holistic relation of one part of the musculo-skeletal system to another, my upper legs and possibly the lower back as well. Maybe the whole back.
Now I did read the stretching bibles, initially that little gem put out by Anderson's,  Bob on text, Jean on anatomical sketches. Great book. Do what they say, and you should never have an injury, as well as the mental satisfaction of knowing you're looking after your body. I appreciated their wisdom very much, and thought I was following along well enough to be able to attribute any muscle problems to old injuries, too much too soon, cold weather and of course the mystic's peculiar contract with a God who admires athletes, even old ones, but can never see any way they are as necessary as contemplatives, who by definition must spend a lot of their time being very, very, immobile in their bodies, in order to give their souls freedom to roam the heavens at will. Scratching an itch is in, another dozen miles is not.
And wouldn't you know it, the calf stretch is their first example. Beautifully explained, too. Very clearly, the knee closest to the wall bends to pretty much of a right angle, so the forward shin is vertical, while the back leg, which owns the calf to be stretched, goes straight back, so the body forms a perfect line from head to the rear foot.
True, there is a another diagram later on showing the back leg as bent somewhat, but that is to stretch the Achilles and the LOWER calf muscle, not the BELLY, where all the real trouble can collect like garbage in the bottom of a pit.
Somehow, I fixed on the second diagram. For years, and years, and years. Oh my, what a red face. What a lesson not only  about reading the directions, as in that Old American Proverb, but about reading them in the right order.
What brought this to my attention, finally, was the rowing machine. Our lovely Concept 2, which for the last three weeks of Lent is getting a lot more attention. Except for the occasional day off, I'm operating on a 500 calorie per day schedule, 300 in the morning, 200 in the late afternoon, day after day, and loving it. In order to maintain this schedule, there cannot be much going for broke, maybe a couple of bursts and no more, but it has been enough of an increase to give me a sore inside right heel. There was some other stuff too, closer to the toes, but it never struck me this could have anything to do with tight calf muscles. But the heel, bless it, was a dead give away. It was new, and I had not been running on it. I finally put my mind to reasoning outside the box as I had learned to think of it, erroneously of course, and put the physics of physiology to work.
The first thing you notice is how it simply feels like a nice stretch. Big and totally comfortable. The whole body involved, as I think I prefer putting my arms straight out, not bending them so I can rest my head on my hands. The whole body sensation I have missed from Day One in that area, although I had known similar sensations in the other stretches.

That was then. This is today, as  I ponder that I might have been kept stupid about the real calf stretch because my guardian angel didn't want me to get too good at running before I discovered the merits of the erg, which is of course a much more balanced workout. I can hardly wait to see what happens when I return to the road and the track, but all that relies on the spark that gives permission and inspiration.
Meanwhile, I've been able to adapt the relearned calf stretch, with the extended arms, to include not only adjustable pressure on the muscle, but also a bit of a work-out to provide the necessary triceps antidote to the rower's constant pulling. Straight arms provide a nice push stress, and if you bend your arms gradually to diminish the angle of the back shin to the floor, you can sense with immense precision just how much pressure to apply, or not apply, to the muscle. This delights someone with my analytical mind especially, as become terrifically bored as soon as I suspect my body suspects I'm interfering with the natural cohesion of body, mind, and spirit.

1 comment:

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