The Doctor Is In Meditation

After trying a host of conventional medical treatments, she went to Rizzolo, drawn to his expertise in Traditional Chinese Medicine techniques like acupuncture, and his experience with ‘dry needling,’ a new technique that directly releases tension in a painfully bound muscle by stimulating it with a thin needle. Traditional Chinese Medicine is effective because it increases energy flow and awareness to traumatized areas while also balancing the entire body so that rebuilding can occur. Nelson says she felt less pain in it after only one session with Rizzolo. ”I knew then that I was going to be a champion again.”

Ilg echoes a similar sentiment to explain why he sought alternative methods after his fall on Longs. “In those moments, we default to who we respect and who we want to emulate. If I had known Western MDs who radiated presence and were athletes then maybe, but all my teachers were rock climbers, Tibetan monks, yogis… so that’s where I went.”

And yet the mindset of an athlete can present some challenges to the healing process. Athletes tend to be in tune with their bodies, but they have also learned how to push through and ignore pain, says Liam McClintock, a naturopath and acupuncturist in Boulder. “This can help in the short term, but over the long term it can be detrimental. Sometimes you just have to rest. Getting people to listen and discover what their pain is about is part of being a good practitioner.”

Education and understanding are essential for an athlete to receive the full benefit that these therapies have to offer. For example, these methods do not always provide the immediate results that come from taking a pill. “Sometimes athletes want an immediate change. I explain that their injury didn’t happen overnight so they need to give it time. Slow and steady improvements endure,” says Rizzolo.

Beyond Healing

The minds and bodies of healthy, uninjured athletes can also benefit from alternative therapies. Practicing yoga adds strength, balance and flexibility, which can prevent injury and enhance performance. It also increases focus, breath and relaxation skills which are helpful during the crux of competition.

Schwartz, who became a yoga teacher after using it as a tool to enhance performance and remain injury-free while racing ultras like the Leadville 100, says that yoga helps develop the mind-body awareness to perform at optimum efficiency. Learning to maintain an unrestricted breathing pattern while moving through yoga poses, for example, is a similar to the breath function required when running or biking or climbing for a long period of time. “For the body, yoga is really restorative and helps recovery, but it also cultivates a mindfulness that mimics what you need on the trail,” she says.

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