As Victoria Wolk writes in Prevention magazine, even if you don’t play tennis, there’s probably a tennis ball somewhere in your garage. So grab one, Wolk says, and try pain-relieving exercises suggested by yoga teacher Jill Miller. The equipment is certainly cheap and portable.
For stiff knees: Sit on the floor or in a chair and place the ball behind your bent knee, as close to the side of the knee as possible. Contract muscles, squashing the ball for a count of 10, then relax for a count of 10. Repeat eight to 10 times, then switch knees.
For tight rotator cuff muscles: Place a ball behind your shoulder blade while lying on your back. Experiment with moving your shoulder in every possible direction for three minutes on each side.
For aching feet: Standing next to a wall or chair for stability, place a ball underneath the arch of your foot. Keep your heel on the floor and let your body weight sink in. Take deep breaths for 30 seconds to a minute. Slowly roll your foot from side to side so the ball crosses your arch. Repeat for one to two minutes. Roll the ball along the length of your foot from heel to toe for one to two minutes. Switch feet.
These and seven more “mini self-massage techniques” are illustrated with photographs in the magazine.
Taking the challenge
Stephen Madden, former editor of Bicycling magazine and lifelong amateur athlete, says he got the term “Embrace the suck” from Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans – it was a way to say you have to make the best of a tough situation, and learn from it. He adopted the phrase as the title of his new memoir about immersing himself in the high-intensity world of CrossFit training, which combines extreme levels of weightlifting, aerobics, calisthenics and gymnastics.
Madden skims quickly over his early life and gets into the year he spent trying to use the intensity of his daily workouts – nausea, vomiting and breakdowns were not uncommon – to become stronger mentally as well as physically. There’s a lot of detail and jargon here: CrossFit moves include things called kipping pull-ups, double-unders and Oly lifts, and the CrossFit gym is a “box” (the book’s subtitle is “What I Learned at the Box about Hard Work, (Very) Sore Muscles, and Burpees Before Sunrise”). Certain workouts get named for heroes: The “Murph,” named for Michael P. Murphy, a Navy SEAL killed in Afghanistan, involves running a mile, then doing 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups and 300 air squats, then running another mile, all while wearing a 20-pound weight vest. “It offers a lot of suck to embrace,” Madden notes.
But his overall message is about the psychological rewards of taking on a challenge. Madden insists that the discipline he’s developed – particularly in the kind of team exercises that involve carrying fellow trainees for long distances or figuring out how to wrestle with physical challenges as a group – has not only conquered his feelings of insecurity but also made him, at 50, a better husband, father and friend.