So I have a long weekend this week, and decided to make the drive up to Ottawa to enjoy it in all its wintery glory. It’s much colder than Toronto, so you have no choice but to invest in a nice coat and get on with your life. People in Toronto complain incessantly about winter, but people here tend to just put their coat on and get outside. It’s a refreshing attitude!
No trip to Ottawa is complete without a visit to the muscle whisperer, Waldemar. Sessions are a very enjoyable combination of therapy interspersed with (me prodding him for) his thoughts on anatomy, biomechanics, training theory and design after 42 years in the recovery and regeneration business.
Today was my first session. Knowing he is a fan of Polish pastry and that there’s a severe lack of Polish bakeries in Ottawa, yesterday before leaving Toronto I popped down to the venerable Granowska’s on Roncesvalles, a two block walk from the school I work at. He appreciated it, and made me a cup of tea while we enjoyed a Polish donut and chatted.
After a quick check of my glutes, hamstrings, and calves, he set me up for about 25 minutes of acupuncture. It seems the method he uses has a fair amount in common with Dr. Prebeg’s “Contemporary Medical Acupuncture” approach (for those who have watched the Solving Problems download).
To start with, he noticed that the slight scoliosis / twist in my spine, and hip height differential looked more pronounced than it had in the past, and asked me what I’d done to it of late. I think it’s from running the turn on the indoor 200m track, and I haven’t even done it much this year! I’ve really noticed a strange soreness and bulging on the left side of my ribcage underneath the pectoral muscles.
He noted that my muscles were much less tight than last year (thanks to Frank and his excellent therapy!), but he stressed that I have clearly not been taking his stretching advice seriously enough. He explained that when a muscle has a greater range of motion, a small amount of tightness in the muscle will not compromise a training session as much. In an athlete with a lesser range of motion, a small amount of tightness may cut into the required range of motion of the sprint movement too much, necessitating abandoning speed work until another day.
Tomorrow, he plans on stretching me manually, so I will have to perform a short warmup before arriving.
Throughout today’s session, we chatted about a variety of issues. One of the interesting topics discussed was the use of the pool for tempo workouts, as well as some speed related activities. Especially for older athletes like myself, he reiterated the need to avoid overusing the track, and to use deep water for tempo on regular occasions due to the lack of loading on joints. He also reminded me of some of the long term advantages of avoiding weight-bearing loads during tempo. He also mentioned that the work done in water though easier on joints, is more difficult work for muscles, thus the volume / intensity must be monitored carefully.
Needless to say, his massage technique is very different than what others have performed on med on me. He never seems to need to apply much pressure to be able to loosen muscles, and the techniques he uses make my muscles feel very restored by the end of the session. What is probably the most important thing is that it doesn’t take very long to recover from his work at all, which is different than what I’ve experienced with other therapists.
One of the interesting differences is between Waldemar’s style and that of younger therapists, who in my experience tend to be very concerned with fascia. In my experience getting worked on by those with an ART background, especially in the calves and hamstrings, is that they use a lot of simpler straight lines, instead of going across the muscles and shaking them, and there tends to be much more “digging” resulting in longer recovery times. Obviously I can’t speak for everyone, but this has been what I can generalize about my experience with sports / ART types vs. Waldemar’s approach.
I will be heading back for another session tomorrow, then returning again in mid-February for a tuneup. Tomorrow’s session should be quicker, but I will return in mid-February for another one or two sessions right before my final two weeks of indoor races.
In February, I plan to ask about muscle tone, and how to begin to comprehend if one’s tone is optimal. It is simply a concept that I do not understand at all right now. Also, when I return in February I’d like to ask whether I have a proper understanding of how to incorporate EMS into my training for strength development, as well as active recovery.