For the last week or so I’ve had this discomfort starting in my right hip and traveling down my leg. My foot will feel tight, as if someone’s pulling the muscles out of my foot through my leg. I’ve tried the usual stretching and strength training but nothing was helping. So yesterday I went to see my massage therapist.
I get there and Jeff asked me what’s going on. I tell him about my hip/foot issue. I press my right glute and say “I can feel something right here.”
“We’ll see,” he responds.
The thing about Jeff is he never jumps to any conclusions. He’s been doing this long enough and is wise enough to know that things aren’t always what they seem. So just because you feel something here, doesn’t mean the problem isn’t over there.
He works on me for some time trying to get to the bottom of what could be causing me so much discomfort. I’m worried about all of the possibilities: I’ve developed some strange gait from the surgery on my right foot two years ago or that my hips are a complete mess from having Milo.
After working on my back half, he tells me to roll over and starts to work my abdominal area. He hits something and all of a sudden I could feel my foot release. What on earth? The muscle he was working on was my iliopsoas: one of the major hip flexors. How was this muscle in my front causing so many problems in my back and down my leg? Because it’s all connected.
Muscles don’t work in isolation; they work in movement patterns and groups. So when they hurt, they also hurt in groups. And a lot of the time the muscle hurting isn’t the actual problem, it’s hurting because it’s having to pick up the slack for the real problem. My iliopsoas was out of whack causing my glute muscles to need to compensate. Then every other muscle connected to my glute had to react.
So why do I share this with you? Because I think we experience this same concept in other parts of our lives. We think we are able to compartmentalize issues; work problems stay at work just like home problems stay at home. But we’re not as successful as we might think.
Have you ever left a long day at work and as you’re driving home every other driver on the road just annoys you? Did every idiot driver really just start driving down the same road, or are your emotions from work getting the better of you as you drive. Have you ever lost sleep at night and then felt irritable all day long for “no reason.” Or have you ever argued with your spouse and then struggled to find the energy to get through your workout?
We can’t separate our lives into neat categories that don’t bleed into each other. It’s all connected, so if one thing is out of sync you’re going to experience it in other areas of your life as well. I’m certainly no expert, but I think there are plenty of times we need to slow down, step back, and ask ourselves what’s really going on.
So back to my iliopsoas. While it’s a common muscle to strain from running and it was certainly causing problems while I ran, what was making it aggravated in the first place? The way I was carrying Milo. My mommy life and habits had bled into my running life.