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WTF Happened to Your Legs, a.k.a. Recovery is Important

Almost every day, at some point, Gustavo pokes my leg and announces, “There’s a stone in there!” Over the past few years, and months especially, I’ve noticed that my muscles have a tendency towards tightness, even despite all of the stretching and (what I thought was) recovery work. In particular, my arms were in brutal shape just after I learned how to hook grip. Presumably, all of those muscles in my forearms were scrambling to figure out why they were being called upon all of a sudden – and so much, too.

At Koutí, we have a really great service where a physical therapist comes into the box once per week to work with the athletes. You set up an appointment with him ahead of time and tell him all of your ailments. Fortunately, the conversion rate for me makes this even extra affordable, so we have a standing appointment with him every week. In theory, Gustavo and I alternate weeks, but I tend to steal his quite a bit. What can I say? I’m older, I have more ailments.

Usually, we focus on my neck, shoulders, and arms. I sit terribly throughout the day. I get bored being in one room, so I tend to move from place to place just to vary things up. Sometimes that means sitting at the desk, other times on the couch, and other times at the kitchen table which is definitely, most certainly too high for me to type at. In between, I grab my phone, arching my back to gaze down at the “smaller internet” in my hand. It’s not surprising that my biggest complaints, then, come from my upper body.

During out Crossfit Level 1 training, I noticed a weird feeling in my knee when practicing deadlifts. I know too many people with too many knee injuries to not take even the weirdest sensation seriously, so I talked to Saulo about it in our next appointment. He started pressing around on my quads and calves. He has a habit of looking slightly up while he evaluates the muscle and then making a small nod when he has a plan in mind. Yup, it was definitely tight. All of it. Disturbingly so.

Despite all of the yoga, ROMWOD, and periodic foam rolling that I do, I’d never really paid any attention to my legs. My legs and I have had a difficult relationship in the past. I finally stopped thinking of them as “too big” and I thought we were on good terms since then, but I realize now I mostly just started to ignore them. They were strong. They helped me run, jump, and squat. Maybe they got surprisingly tired during burpees and lunges, but otherwise, I didn’t think about them too much.

I should have.

We started with a curved steel tool that’s used to break the fascia and bring blood flow to the area. On the first pass, it felt fine, negligible even. Second pass, almost relaxing. On the third pass, I felt Saulo place the tool at almost exactly a 90° angle and press down. Hard. It felt like a knife. Possibly a knife flaying my skin from my body. Possibly that’s a tad dramatic, but it was searing. And we were just getting started.

For nearly an hour, we did this on my quadriceps and calves to relieve the tension. The muscles had been so tight and neglected that they were pulling my knee into the wrong position. Honestly, I have no idea how I didn’t scream during that whole session.

I walked away feeling surprisingly lighter. Apparently, there had been so much tightness, so many knots and nodules – particularly in my quads – that it was impinging blood flow to the area. Doctors orders were to keep foam rolling the muscles for fifteen minutes on each leg until we finished up next week. All that and we weren’t even finished.

The next day, I woke up to find my legs completely bruised. When releasing the muscle fibers, apparently, it’s not uncommon to get bruises afterward because you’re breaking up the adhesions in the muscle tissue. What I didn’t expect, though, was how tired I would feel the next day.

Since we’re prepping for WODSunset, the workouts at the box have been pretty intense and last week was very, very high volume. In this case, we went from ten box jumps to ten burpees over the bar to ten thrusters. I started crying during the thrusters because I just could not get my legs to fire anymore. They were pushing, for sure, but it’s like there was no tension there so nothing was happening except that it hurt. Being so close to the competition, I got scared. I’ve been working very hard to improve a lot of these movements in particular and it worried me that maybe I wouldn’t be prepared anymore. Maybe I needed that tension to get through.

You have to trust the process.

I’ve continued to foam roll (and yelp while doing so) every single day. We have a plan in action for this week to help prepare me for the competition without doing a full release so I still have the strength and stamina for Saturday. Then, once it’s all over, we’re going to clear these muscles for good. After a few more days of recovering, I do feel a difference and more energized. In our last workout, I did fifteen thrusters unbroken, possibly for the first time ever, and felt like I could keep going. That was huge for me!

I’m a little bit scared for our next session still, but I learned one very big lesson. Do not, by all means, neglect your recovery!

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