Anatomy 101

I’ve just learned a new word: “piriformis.” It’s my new favorite word, I can’t stop saying it — piriformis, piriformis. It sounds like something delicious, an Italian dessert perhaps. And in fact, “piriformis” means pear-shaped in Latin – which I find adorable. Who doesn’t love pears?

However, the context of how I learned my new favorite word is slightly less adorable. “Musculus piriformis” is Latin for pear-shaped muscle; and “piriformis” is the official name of the pear-shaped muscles in our rear ends. My more scientifically-inclined readers may cringe at this description, but to the best of my understanding – the piriformis muscle starts near the base of the spin and stretches outwards to attach to the hip joints.

How did I discover this? I didn’t. My phenomenal sports massage therapist discovered it (at Tranquil Space in DC, if you’re in the area, I highly recommend this place- awesome massages and yoga). I’m usually pretty “tough” when it comes to sports massages, knowing that the discomfort will be worth it. However, when it came to my piriformis – I couldn’t take the heat. Turns out, my pear-shaped muscles were way too tight. I was sent home with instructions to look this up online and get stretching.

Although I was grateful for this information, I couldn’t help but feel slightly overwhelmed by the ever-growing list of body parts requiring my undivided attention these days. I used to think of “running” as a simple form of movement – a fast version of walking. However, now, I’m starting to see that running is much more than that.

In a way, running has become an odd exercise of self-discovery – almost an introduction to my own anatomy. I discovered my “IT bands” a few years ago — the bands of fibers running down the sides of my legs responsible for the minor pains below my knees. And of course, my “tight-butt” issue lead to my most recent discovery of the piriformis muscles.

However, the discoveries aren’t all bad. Just a few weeks ago, I discovered some new muscles developing in my stomach region; I believe these are called “abdominal muscles.” I’ve heard a lot of hype about these infamous “abs” before, but never truly felt them like I do now. I can’t help but hope that my abs turn into “the Situation.” (Jersey Shore, anyone?) But this may be asking a little much.

So far, it’s been a fascinating experience to watch and feel my body change. I’m more in-tune with its needs and feel stronger than ever. And I can’t help but think how ironic this is in a way… That it took living with a serious chronic illness like narcolepsy to bring me here – face-to-face with the greatest athletic challenge of my life.

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