Guest post by Michelle Kempton, originally published in Canadian Running.
For months, my training partner Meryl Cook gently suggested that I stop running and give my body time to heal – but, like your typical stubborn runner, I didn’t listen to her. Now, I give complete credit for helping to heal my Achilles injury.
As fate would have it, Meryl was by my side in the New Orleans race when my Achilles became unbearably painful and my soleus seized up. This is also when I finally caved in and realized that I needed a healing hand, and became Meryl’s patient. Aside from being my running partner, Meryl is also a homeopathic doctor and Bowen practitioner — two fields of medicine that I know very little about and had never tried before. The Bowen technique, created by Australian Tom Bowen in the 1950s, involves gentle rolling movements across various muscle groups. My self-diagnosis on the web obviously wasn’t working – I needed professional help.
After the race, Meryl assessed my whole body and told me several old injuries had contributed to my current problems. She taped up my Achilles.
In order to help me, Meryl explained that I’d need to temporarily stop running and not ice my injured area. Stop icing? But isn’t that what all runners do? She explained that icing would interfere with the Bowen treatments.
As a runner, Meryl understood and had empathy for my desire to keep running, but she explained my body needed to rest. I was stressed out, my kidneys were struggling, she said, plus I was rapidly gaining weight and my body wasn’t healing. At first I was skeptical about her recommendations (that stubborn runner syndrome was kicking in again!), but I took a leap of faith in trusting and following her suggestions.
As the result of micro-tears in my Achilles, I had a massive bump on the back of my heel. Not good. My pelvis was also out of alignment, and had been for almost a decade. When I was pregnant eight years ago with twins (weighing 8.1 lbs. and 7.1 lbs., respectively), my pelvis separated. After their birth, the pain went away and I never sought treatment. I also had three numb toes. As it turned out, all of these issues were connected.
Meryl’s approach to treating patients is unconventional — I find her very mysterious and Zen-like. Even though she’s located in a busy part of downtown, when you step into her office, it’s tranquil and quiet. You lie on a massage bed, remain dressed and she covers you with a warm blanket. It’s so relaxing that I usually fall asleep within a few minutes. Meryl quietly makes gentle moves with the soft tissue over the muscle and joints and it doesn’t hurt.
When my appointment is over, not only does my Achilles feel better, but I have an overall feeling of calm and peace. It’s nothing like I’ve experienced before, but I’m seeing results. Whatever it is that she’s doing, it works, I’m thrilled to report that three months after treatments began, the bump on my ankle is gone, my pelvis is aligned and I’m getting feeling back in my toes. Meryl treated all of these issues simultaneously and now I’m about to start running again.
As runners, we want our injuries to heal quickly, but unfortunately that doesn’t always happen. It takes discipline to be a runner, but also to be an injured runner. Allowing our body time to heal is hard, but one of the most important components of getting back on the roads is being patient. So if your training partner tells you that you should consider backing it off, you might want to listen to them.
Michelle Kempton is the co-founder of United By Running and the race director of a few of Nova Scotia’s largest events, including the Sole Sisters, Maritime Race Weekend and Lucky 7 Relay. Michelle started running five years ago to lose weight. Since then, she has lost 120 pounds and become a proud middle-of-the-packer.