Equal and opposite, multiplied

One of the realisations I took away from participating in Lauren Shelley’s Pilates for Runners class was if a body part hurt, the actual issue was never where the pain was.

My lower back hurt, but the issue was with tightness in my glutes, hips and quadratus lumborum.

My shins were sore, but the issue was with my rock solid calves.

My knees were sore, but the problem was with my rock solid quadriceps.

Way back in high school, when my patellas used to slide out of place, it was because of my strong iliotibial bands and weak adductors.

My hip wouldn’t stretch out, and it was because the psoas muscle on that side was way too tight.

I had a sore heel one day, and in an attempt to relieve it, I foam rolled my calves. The foam rolling didn’t feel like it was working and distracted, I kind of rolled around on the foam roller, up my leg until my butt was perched on the roller. Bam! I felt this pulse of pain fire down my leg, and slam right into my heel. With some judicious Googling, I worked out that I must have had a knot in my piriformis, and it was pressing into my sciatic nerve running down into my heel.

I don’t know a great deal about human anatomy, but I have worked out that muscles need to both contract and extend. If your calf muscle is tight, it’s going to impact on the functionality of the shin muscles, and vice versa.

I have a sequence of stretches that I do regularly, in an attempt to free up all the issues, and sometimes I swear it’s like the Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly song.

In order to stretch out my hips, I need to stretch my hamstrings. In order to really release my hamstrings, I need to release my hip flexors. To release my hip flexors I have to release my quadriceps, but to really stretch my quadriceps, I need to have freed up my hips. To free up my hips, my glutes have to be released too, but in order to release my glutes properly, my hips have to be loosened up.

I have pretty much the same issue with every muscle in my lower legs and feet too.

So I end up doing each stretch at least twice. Release the quadricep a bit, to enable the hip flexor to loosen, and then stretch the hamstring so that I can then get stuck into my hips and glutes, to enable me to release the hamstring more. Once that has happened, I can get the quadricep really stretched, and also get rid of that last bit of hip flexor tightness, which enables me to stretch my hips and glutes out again.

Whenever I’m not completely certain why something hurts or aches or just feels ‘off’, I just do the whole sequence, and go through the Yoga With Adriene Runners Yoga video a few times, and at some point, I’ll usually succeed in releasing the stuck point, and be back to normal.

When I’ve done all that, if I’m still knotted up, I’ll go and get a good remedial massage and see if that’s enough pressure to fix the issue. And if I’m still broken after all that, then I go to the physiotherapist, because if I can’t run or move or do exercise, then my brain breaks instead.

Flushed with embarrassment

I feel I need to apologise to people who were (admittedly until now) unaware of my scorn.

I need to apologise to North American users of portaloos. Porta pottys. Shitboxes. Cabinets of doom. Portable toilets. Plastic shitters.

You see, I would read on Reddit and Facebook and other forms of expression the abject horror people would feel when they were faced with using a portaloo. I thought: “Yeah, they can get a bit stinky, particularly at race startlines with all the nervous shitters, but jesus! It’s just for a few minutes!”

I just didn’t understand the general revulsion until the other week when we were cycling round Stanley Park in Vancouver and stopped at a small park playspace. The park authorities were renovating the public washrooms there, and had put in a bank of hired portaloos. Until then, I didn’t know that North American portaloos aren’t like Australian portaloos. They aren’t the same design.

My Australian friends, North American portaloos DON’T HAVE A BOWL.

Seriously. It’s just a wide mouthed toilet seat and lid, atop a large plastic box with a big hole, filled with blue liquid. (And floating used toilet paper, bobbing like jellyfish). At least with the classic Australian long drop bush toilets there’s a good metre or so between your arse and the pile of poo, but here, there’s not even that. Maybe 15 centimetres, max, between you and a small lake of blue liquid.

That this was not a one off was semi-confirmed last week when we were in Seattle (maybe it’s a Pacific Northwest thing, but still, two different countries). We were heading into an exhibit, and they had a bank of portaloos set up outside. I needed to go, and was a bit curious as to whether my horrific discovery was an aberration, but no – a big old hole again.

The portaloos back home have a seat, a bowl and a flap at the bottom of the bowl connected to a foot operated pump that allows you to blue water flush your waste away into the plastic box, leaving the bowl, if not semi-pristine, at least not completely loaded up with the aftermath of the human digestive system. There is also a small sink with running water (attached to a smaller, foot operated pump) and usually some spray soap in a dispenser so you can wash your hands.

It wasn’t until this trip that I realised that Australian portaloos are relatively civilised.

Australian portaloos give you the ability to pretend that if you were to accidentally drop something into the bowl – a mobile phone, or an energy gel packet – that it would be salvageable. I mean we all know that if anyone actually dropped their iPhone X into a portaloo toilet bowl that they’d immediately be calculating how they feel about disposing of A$1000, but you still get that choice! In North America you don’t get that choice: one poorly angled pocket emptying moment and it’s goodbye device.

So please consider this an apology to my North American brethren; your revulsion is completely understandable.