Why not? Throughout his professional baseball career, the delicate left-hander never completed a full season. Injuries to his back, arm and hand always seemed to be lurking despite the once-in-a-lifetime talent the 22-year old had.
But after 23 starts following his call-up from the minors, Hamels never got hurt. His first full and complete professional season came as a Major Leaguer. His chronic back trouble, as well as his arm, elbow, hand and everything else held up under the rigors of a tough season in which the Phillies were in the playoff chase until the bitter end. Oh sure, he did a two-week stint on the disabled list and missed two starts, but that was strictly a precaution. In retrospect, Hamels said, he didn’t need to go on the disabled list.
So in September, after Hamels turned in another winning late-season outing, I asked the kid what the deal was. How was he able to keep himself healthy and from breaking down after struggling with injuries since high school? After all, it was the history of injuries that kept Hamels from being selected with one of the top handful of picks in the 2002 draft instead of falling to 17th. Finally, after all this time Hamels was recovering well enough to be dependable.
What was the deal?
Part of it was an improved diet rich with organic fruits and vegetables, no alcohol, regular massages as well as regular chiropractic adjustments. But the coup de grace was the active release technique (ART) treatments that Hamels said he received twice a week.
Suddenly a light bulb went off. Active release, huh?
I had recently been informed about ART a few weeks prior from a chiropractor who referred me to the web site, which defines ART as, “a patented, state of the art soft tissue system/movement based massage technique that treats problems with muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia and nerves. Headaches, back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, shin splints, shoulder pain, sciatica, plantar fasciitis, knee problems, and tennis elbow are just a few of the many conditions that can be resolved quickly and permanently with ART. These conditions all have one important thing in common: they are often a result of overused muscles.”
Plus, if it worked for someone as “delicate” as Hamels, why couldn’t it work for someone like me… you know, because I’m so tough.
In a nutshell, the theory is that the layers of muscles form adhesions that can produce scar tissue to an affect area. According to the official ART web site, as scar tissue builds up, muscles become shorter and weaker, tension on tendons causes tendonitis, and nerves can become trapped. This can cause reduced range of motion, loss of strength, and pain.
To free up the muscles and tendons (my word) and alleviate the adhesions, a series of soft-tissue massage and stretching movements are preformed by the chiropractor.
When I developed something others referred to as “runner’s knee,” and regular massage and chiropractic adjustments didn’t lessen the pain, I figured it was time for ART after talking to Hamels.
It’s a good thing, too, because a few months later – after a weekly session with my chiropractors who also work on a bunch of well-known NFL and NHL players – I have not missed a day of running. In fact, my training is much more consistent, my recovery is better than ever and my knee hasn’t hurt ever again.
Better yet, my chronic calf and hamstring soreness is much more manageable. After a week of hard running I typically show up at my sessions with my achy calves and hammys and am as good as new within 20 minutes.
It’s pretty amazing.
No, my consistency and health is not all because of ART. I eat better and pay much more attention to my recovery than in the past, but my flexibility is better and I haven’t had to worry about injuries.
That’s pretty important.
After Friday afternoon’s ART session, I didn’t feel any discomfort in my hamstrings when I sat down. The muscle spasms in my calves were gone, too. Because of this refreshed feeling, I decided Saturday afternoon would be the perfect time for a hill workout. Speed would have been preferable, as in a race or something like that, but high winds and steady made such a plan a battle on Saturday morning. The point of the training is to get strong and fast, and not to beat myself up in the rain and wind.
So I headed for the hills on Saturday, doing climbs and descents on every substantial hill I could find for the first 61 minutes of the run. And no doubt there were plenty of hills on my regular routes through the neighborhood and its outskirts – I suppose that’s the luxury of living in an area called School Lane Hills.
Nevertheless, I ran extra repeats up and down the hills I run regularly and then ran three circuits on North School Lane between Wheatland and Marietta avenues. After the 61 minutes I was legitimately whipped – so beat that I felt a little weak in the knees when I stopped for a quick drink about 12 miles into the outing.
Because of that I took it easy on the back portion of the run, skipping my regular hills in attempt to keep some semblance of pace on the gently rolling roads back to my house.
But that’s also where it got tricky, too. Figuring I was just a few meters short of running 18 miles, I took the wrong way around on the back loop to home. That’s when I looked at my watch and realized that I was either running very, very slow or the loop was longer than I thought.
It was longer.
Final stats: 19 miles in 2:11:59
Despite the tiredness from the hills, I ran miles 12 to 15 in 19:40 as well as one of those miles in 6:27. That’s not blazing, but quick enough for the workout I was doing.
Maybe it’s the ART? Better yet, it was probably the tailwind that pushed me across the Harrisburg Pike stretch near F&M.
Paul Tergat still wants to run fast. At least that’s what a story in The New York Times indicates.