When I started taekwondo, I held onto the fantasy that one day, maybe even before I’d earned my black belt, I would outgrow strained muscles. It got me through those early days when every movement brought on a chorus of painful protest from my poor body. Training has definitely made my body stronger, more fit, and I experience less daily pain from my workouts.
But I’ve given up on the fantasy. Just this last week I rediscovered a set of muscles I’d clearly been ignoring. Palm-heel, palm-heel, wrist strike, wrist strike up and down the floor a few times really worked my forearms, upper arms, shoulders and neck. Aye-yei-yei!
Happily, all that pain early on educated me well in dealing with aching, fatigued, strained muscles. I knew even before I’d cooled down I’d need to take care of myself so I didn’t turn fatigue into injury. I forced my body to cool down slowly by wearing an extra layer, in that case a flannel shirt, as soon as my workout was done. Forcing my muscles to cool slowly helps them to move any toxins I’ve kicked up out of the tissues thoroughly while keeping the blood circulating through the stressed tissues. The result was my arms, shoulders, and neck didn’t develop that post-workout stiffness that makes me feel old and decrepit.
When I showered, I took a few moments to let the water warm my arms, shoulders, and neck then lightly stretched and massaged them to help them recover gently. After my shower, even though by then my muscles felt a touch tired but generally good, I rubbed a bit of salve into them. I keep two salves on hand for muscle strains and injuries: Dragon’s Kiss herbal (my version of Red Tiger Balm) salve and Warming St. John’s Wort salve. When the tissues are bruised or I fear I may have injured them, I reach for the Dragon’s Kiss. It contains Saint John’s Wort and works in all cases, but the formula is more complex. I like to save it for the days when I’m injured or fear I’m on the edge of injury.
This week, I used my Warming St. John’s Wort salve. It’s a simpler formula of Saint John’s Wort oil and beeswax with essential oils of yarrow, cinnamon, and clove that’s gently warming and promotes circulation. I think of it as a preventative formula…preventing the painful backlash from a good, hard workout. This week, it was exactly what I needed.
This week, I was lucky. The rest of my life cooperated to let me really take care of myself. Sometimes, that’s not so. I keep a tin of salve in my workout bag just in case I need it. A little bit of Warming Saint John’s Wort salve or Dragon’s Kiss herbal salve goes a long way toward helping ease the aches. Whether I’ve just overdone it or definitely injured myself, Saint John’s Wort is a powerful training partner.I took my healing a step further, too, by drinking lots of water for the rest of that day and the next as well as making myself a cup of restorative tea filled with vitamins to help my body recover quickly. And, of course, I rested my body and stretched gently several times that day and the next.