As I approach sixty years of age and remain competitively active, I realize a few more things about myself as an athlete and a human being. I received a boatload of revelation this week at a new muscle recovery studio in Medford, New Jersey. Erik and Jacquie Stilley opened Body Lab NJ last year. The husband/wife team have deep athletic competition roots both around my hometown as well as Division 1. It was no surprise therefore to see young athletes from the high school district already in there when I showed up.
My wife purchased a one-month membership for me for Valentine’s Day. Body Lab offers this and many other affordable options, none with contracts (big 5-star plus!). My objective was to use the services for the month leading up to my first race. I was supposed to be recovering from the planned progression of workout intensities and durations. Instead, I found myself recovering from my old nemesis, the herniated L5.
I explained my latest and greatest to Jacquie, who patiently listened to my whole history of OCR, Mud Run Guide, and L5 injuries. Jacquie is a Certified Athletic Trainer who previously worked with D1 teams like Ryder and Princeton. She’s also armed with a Nutrition and Healthy Living certification from Cornell University.
She was delighted that I caught on quickly to the regimen and explanations she gave me. She zeroed right in on my new culprit. Let’s call it the QL because I can’t pronounce its real name. The QL was the culprit, this time up the chain from the L5 instead of down.
Jacquie hooked me up to the Normatec hip isolator. This thing is magic. I fell in love with the leg system a few months ago. But for my new condition, this hip machine was the honeymoon. That feeling ended quickly when I got on the stretch floor. While the foam rolling wasn’t so bad, this was where I learned my lesson about a whole new aspect of what a herniated L5 can do. For twenty-five years it has produced asymmetric linear issues down my right side. The latest cumulative trauma from all that is now a rotational thing. Makes perfect sense in hindsight. Now my left side is suffering from all the extra work it has had to do all these years. Jacquie hit all the right spots.
I went home with a lot more mobility and less pain. I went for a run the next day and promised I’d be back with a report the day after.
The run was good. I put in an extra half-mile just to be sure. I didn’t need the anti-inflammatories that evening. The next day I went back to Body Lab NJ for round two.
As I showed and explained my normal daily regimen that I’d been doing for many years, part of the answer Jacquie gave me was to stop doing symmetrical strength and stretch work. Instead, work asymmetrically to bring the two sides back into equality. Then do symmetrical work to gain the benefits of an equal load. My body had become totally adapted to the workouts and was no longer responsive. I suspect that had Jacquie not diagnosed and treated what was going on now, I was soon headed for another major break of some kind.
I’m telling you, my readers, all of this because first and foremost, a good athletic trainer will work with you as an individual and prescribe treatment based on your individual needs. She will listen, question, and take the time to observe and adjust. Body Lab NJ has the essential equipment to get the job done. But Jacquie didn’t just send me off in a corner with a Bosu ball to stumble through some generic one size fits all treatment. In fact, I didn’t use most of the stuff she has in her arsenal. Tailor-made treatment is what works. Worth every Valentine dollar.
Turns out we have mutual friends who also come to the Lab. The designer of the Destroyer and Devil’s Playground obstacles is known to frequent here with his wife. They were up at F. I. T. Challenge this weekend showcasing their creations while also celebrating the opening of OCR season. I’m sure I’ll see them here sometime as they are regulars and like to post about important stuff like muscle recovery, OCR, and obstacles.
We post things like this so that, as Jacquie said, “younger athletes will know now what I wish I knew when I was their age.” It’s all about prevention. The number one lesson of prevention, particularly for beginners and young folks, is not to wait to use facilities like Body Lab NJ until something hurts or breaks (in other words, when you feel something). The truth is, Erik and Jacquie are there for everybody who deals with the demands of daily life, whether competing as athletes, balancing work and fitness, or “sometimes just waking up feeling sore and heavy from the unknown.”
Mud Run Guide gladly awards Body Lab NJ 5 of 5 stars and wishes Erik and Jacquie all the best in starting up their new business.