August 26, 2009
not my favorite time of year
This is not my favorite time of year.
It rarely goes below 77F, and never gets under 75 unless lightning's about to strike the very spot where you stand. Humidity's usually around 90% except during the middle of sunny days, when it's sometimes below 50% (but the temp is in the 90s). We get heavy rain every day, which makes pre-dawn running a veritable steeplechase trying to avoid deep puddles as well as the usual potholes and car hi-beams and dogwalkers and loose cats and trash and storm debris in the road.
The wet leafy tree cover confuses older GPSs like the one I'm using at the moment; this really sucks when you're slogging through a run and just want it to be over with and the miles seem to crawl by. It also sucks when you're trying to zero in on some pace for some workout and the damn watch says you're going a minute too fast (wtf!) or too slow (shit!).
After a long summer of training (and very little racing), I start to wonder if my fitness has oozed away. Every ache and pain becomes a potential disaster. I am ready for summer to be over, but we won't feel the first cool breath of autumn until late October.
August 1, 2009
world's worst snake-oil salesman
I am a massage therapist. I have my own business. It is not going well. I would like to blame it mostly on the economy, but I cannot.
I really hate doing girly froufrou foofy spa massage. What I love is working on athletes and other people who develop problems from doing the same stuff all day (musicians, mailmen, dental hygienists, surgeons, hairdressers, you name it). I'm still fairly new at this and I'm not nearly satisfied with my competence, but I try to do the kind of work I want when I get massage. And that kind of massage works for me, but I don't know exactly how or why. I have my hunches, but no way to back them up.
When you have your own business - and especially a non-essential business like mine - you have to be something of a cheerleader. I know many therapists who can't come up with a sentence (in normal conversation) that doesn't contain the word "massage," who are rah-rah-rah-massage 24/7 and you just want to smack them. Massage is the source of all good things, and life is always that much better after a massage! What's worse: a lot of these people try to come off as all-knowing Healers who can answer any and all health-related questions and cure whatever ails you, be it "stress" or ADD or cancer or run-of-the-mill muscle aches.
I am no cheerleader; even things I think are really really really great might not be your cup of tea, and forcing things on people seems ridiculous. But certainly more important is the fact that I can't stand to bullshit clients, even those who want to be bullshitted. Someone gets on my table complaining of low back pain and "tightness" in the hamstrings. "What is it?" they ask hopefully. "Do you think it could be stress?" How the hell do I know? I've only known you for all of 10 minutes. All I know about your life and your daily activities is what you've told me: what you've remembered to tell me, that is, plus or minus any omissions or exaggerations. "Wow, I didn't realize how sore and tight my back is. Is it because of all the toxins built up in the muscles? From stress?" No, it is not because of toxins built up in your muscles. If you really had toxins pooling in your muscles, you'd be dead. But the problem is that I don't know what it is. I don't know what causes your pain, or what about the massage actually makes you feel better. I know the names and locations of your muscles, and what the muscles do, and what kinds of activities tend to cause the muscles to feel sore, and different techniques that make the muscle feel softer and squishier instead of ropy and concrete-like, but why this has any lasting effect, I couldn't tell you with any certainty. I could not point you to any peer-reviewed studies to back my statements up. If, instead of mashing the hell out of that knotted muscle, I instead put you to sleep, made an incision and peeled back the skin and fascia, and manipulated the muscle directly, would the effect be the same? I don't know. But I'm sure as hell not going to palpate the irregularities in your skull and tell you your pain has something to do with the ebb and flow your cerebral-spinal fluid, or that your skull bones somehow model your pelvic structure. I'm not going to pretend that the soles of your feet model the whole rest of your body. I'm not going to lie to you about toxins needing to be flushed out of your muscles. Sometimes I don't know the answer to your questions, and then the only non-bullshit answer is "I don't know."
Clients don't want to hear "I don't know." In fact, most of the time they don't even care to participate in their own treatment, and instead just want stuff done to them. I've noticed that some (but not all) of the best therapists I've known have a slightly patronizing way about them. They Know what is wrong; they are Sure they can help. It almost doesn't matter if they're right; it's the confidence that counts. I've heard my boss at the chiro's office come up with very plausible-sounding explanations that go on and on and on until the client's eyes are practically glazed over. When I get massage I always take mental notes on the technique (even if I don't want to; I can't help it), but I rarely remember anything the therapists say. Maybe I should make appointments with some of these Healers just to see how they handle the kinds of questions I can't answer.
Or maybe I should just quit and go back to the 24/7/365 world of IT. There, at least, I knew what I was doing.