Spartan Race 2016…and acupuncture? Together?
Yes, that’s right! And just like the teams who were out there in the field, the student interns at my school came together as unit to provide an outstanding introduction to Chinese medicine for anyone who wanted to give it a try.
At the recent Spartan Race just outside of Austin, Texas a whole bunch of brave, strong, and incredibly FUN race participants and spectators experienced acupuncture for the first time. My school, the AOMA Graduate School of Integrative Medicine, had a booth and a set-up for traditional Chinese medical treatment that included not only acupuncture but also cupping and the Chinese style of Asian bodywork therapy known as tui na. Graduate students and our supervisors were there at the race on Saturday and Sunday from seven in the morning to six at night and business was brisk. I was there on Saturday and, over the course of six and a half hours, I treated fifteen patients in an absolute whirlwind of needling and cupping and bodywork therapy. Each of my buddies served roughly the same number during their respective shifts. Our supervisor that day, Dr. Song, was there to help us when we needed it but the interns that participated are all reasonably advanced and everyone fell into a rhythm quickly. On Sunday, Dr. Shen and Dr. Luo supervised and (lucky for me and this blog post), Dr. Shen managed to find a bit of time to take a few pictures of the race.
Tonight in clinic, I saw Dr. Song and we both agreed that it had been a marvelous experience for everyone involved. She showed me pictures of her two children, who participated in the little kids’ race on the first day. I marveled at how her older child, a boy, took such good care of his sister. Dr. Song told me that she and her husband had made sure that the kids knew that they were a team and that they were going to complete the race together. She said that her son made sure that his little sister was safe and sound during every single step of the race. I loved that!
And really, as I ponder it, it is true that a sense of camaraderie permeated the entire event. For this and many other reasons, the day was perfect from start to finish. My amazing friend, Jenn Kipp, and I drove out to the Reveille Peak Ranch in Burnet together so even the drive out there was a bonding event. We got there and parked and started meeting new people during the shuttle ride from the parking lot to the race. As soon as we got inside the venue, I found the volunteer booth and charmed one of the guys there into giving me and Jenn a couple Spartan Support t-shirts. (After all…we were volunteers, so it’s only fair that we get a t-shirt, right?). At the end of our day, Jenn and I felt like we were at summer camp in the bus that shuttled us back to the parking lot. Again, we were chatting up a storm with the people around us. She was wearing scrubs and I was too tired and lazy to take off my name tag. Everyone around us could figure out that we were “the acupuncture people” and our fellow shuttle passengers were interested.
Being an acupuncturist at the Spartan Race is a great way to meet folks!
But let me back up and begin at the beginning. From the start, as mentioned, everyone was really friendly. Folks also seemed curious about acupuncture. “Do the needles hurt?” and “How does it actually work?” were the two questions our new friends in the morning shuttle and a few brave but (at least initially) unconvinced souls first asked. What really surprised me was that nobody we spoke to had ever tried acupuncture before. I realized that I am so used to my schoolmates and patients that I forget how many people don’t know about our wonderful medicine. Being in a field acupuncture setting, where everyone could see what was going on, helped us. I needled a lot of scalps and the few times I looked up, I noticed passers-by staring in fascination at what I was doing. And when folks saw me and my friends cupping and doing bodywork therapy, the interest grew and grew. We were all working hard and having a great time. Before I knew it, I was treating two patients at a time and my needles and cups and hands were flying. I treated aching shoulders and shins, I rubbed White Flower Oil into the legs of a patient who had fallen into some cactus, I worked on sore lower backs. I made one guy so mellow that when his treatment ended he decided he wanted to just sit and rest awhile longer…and then when he left he forgot to take his brand-new Reebok shoes with him (Stephanee Owensby, our Clinic Business Director, took them to the Lost & Found and we hope that he got his shoes back!).
What I really loved more than anything was the look on people’s faces when I would take out the needles and say, “Ok, there you go…sit here for a minute and then get up slowly.” The patients looked at me with the most incredible, dazzled expressions on their faces and they all said variations on “This was amazing…” I loved being with my friends and feeling the pride that we felt together, as a team and as AOMA students. We knew we were providing excellent care to the patients and introducing a whole bunch of people for the first time in their lives to a wonderful and efficacious medical tradition. It is entirely possible that we changed people’s lives this weekend!
And they made it great for us, too. Spartan people are tough and outgoing and they are up for anything–there is such a sense of fun and energy with this bunch. They play hard and they jump into new experiences with a fearless gusto that made being at the Spartan Race as ambassadors for Chinese medicine a total blast. Myself, I grew up in a weightlifting environment so I’m used to bodybuilders. This is a whole different crew. But the same as in the fitness culture, these people are just FUN. I don’t know if I’ll ever have it in me to compete in a Spartan Race (although honestly…I am tempted) but even though I’ll be graduated, I will volunteer again next year if my school allows me to do so. Those people won my heart with their joy and ferocity. At the end of the night, Jenn and I came back to Austin and met up with her husband at Black’s Barbecue for dinner. We could not stop talking about what a great time it had been. Truly, it was a perfect day.
If you are a race participant or spectator and you’re reading this now, I hope that you will keep us in mind if you want to have acupuncture treatments in the future. At AOMA, we have a student clinic with budget-friendly low rates and well-supervised student interns. In the professional clinic, the practitioners are highly-respected teaching faculty and truly excellent in both general practice and in specialty areas. There are resources for every budget and need at AOMA and I know I can speak for my school when I say that we will welcome Spartan Race folks to our clinic with great enthusiasm.
Are you interested in Asian bodywork therapy? If so, do contact me at Two Hearts Wellness! I’ll give a special rate to anyone associated with the Spartan Race. Eventually, I want to build my practice around a few core areas and one of the nearest and dearest to my heart is the athletic and bodybuilding community. I would love to see Spartan Race folks in my office now for bodywork and in a year for acupuncture. Do look me up!
On edit: If you’re reading this after summer of 2018? I am now a licensed acupuncturist. I had a great time with a second Spartan acupuncture clinic during the last year of my program (as you can see, here) and am still enthusiastic about treating athletes.
But what if you’re not in Austin? Do not despair! If you are not in the Austin area and you need some help to find an acupuncturist in your city, take a look at this blog post (added on edit) here. No matter where you are, I’m confident that there is someone for you in your local area.
This was my first Spartan Race and I cannot say enough about how much fun it was. The race organizers put together an incredible event in a beautiful location. The people were amazing. My school arranged for us students to have a great experience that allowed a whole bunch of people to find out about the wonders of acupuncture and Chinese medicine. From start to finish, it was unforgettable!
See you next year…
Photo credits: Thank you to Dr. Shen for sharing his race pictures, to Dr. Song for the adorable picture of her sweet children, and to Jenn who can wield a cell phone like a champion (as she did with the two pictures of me that you see here).
Paula Bruno, Ph.D., L.Ac., is a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist, an AOBTA-CP traditional Chinese bodywork therapist, and a wellness educator. She maintains an active and growing practice at her Austin, TX offices. Dr. Bruno is also available for distance appointments for wellness consultation or coaching.
In her first career, she was a Spanish professor.
Dr. Bruno’s specialties as a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner include: • Musculoskeletal health (acute or chronic pain relief; Ehlers Danlos syndrome & hypermobility support) • Digestive support, gut health, and weight loss • Aesthetic treatment, including scar revision • Men’s health • General preventative care and immune support for all persons.
When you are ready to discover what traditional medicine plus a vibrant and engaged approach to holistic health can do for you, either contact Dr. Bruno or book an appointment online.
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