I found my old calf compression sleeve today. I used to race and train in it without fail for almost two years. After an indoor training run, my leg seized up inexplicably and I lay writhing on the side of the track clutching my leg, flexing my foot and massaging my calf for nearly ten minutes before the cramping calmed down. I’d never had an incident like it, and it was excruciating. I had no idea why it happened and I didn’t want to it to happen again.
A training partner of mine told me to try a compression sleeve. I bought one and ran, feeling my calf stay warm and cramp free- it was an exceptional run and I immediately associated the sleeve with the run, so I was never without it from that point on. And I wore just one, all black, on my right leg and it always drew comments… “Why just one? What’s the sleeve for?” to which I’d reply, “I need it for calf cramping.” I’d say the same thing, even as the cramping went away, even after it had been gone for months. “I need it for cramping.” And it became very simple. No compression sleeve, no running. I actually skipped a few training runs when I didn’t have it with me.
Then one day I ran without it, inexplicably if I recall, and when I finished I realized in a panic I’d run nearly 10 miles without it and I expected the cramps to set in, and come at me in horrifying waves like they did that day… but they never came. And I was shocked. My leg was fine. Better than fine. I didn’t stop wearing it immediately after that, it was slowly over a few weeks that I would lace up my shoes and take off without it until I decided I didn’t actually need it after all. I just thought I did. I probably didn’t even need it in the first place. But it’s amazing what value the mind can assign when we need it, when we want to believe in something.
When I found it buried in a drawer today I almost laughed at how important that little piece of lycra used to be and how I don’t even think to put it on now. It’s hard to determine sometimes what we need and what we just think we do. It’s hard letting go of the things that are comfortable and are easy to return to because they are familiar. I’m learning to not believe that I need something just because it is accessible and just because it felt good at one point in time. And I didn’t do any damage in wearing the sleeve, and maybe I even did need it for a while, but now it’s just something taking up space in my sock drawer.