For the past 9 years, I’ve called myself a runner. It started because I moved to a new town with no access to the workout facilities I’d had before, so running became an easy substitute- no equipment needed. Running quickly became an important part of my life, both physically and mentally. There was a period of time when I wouldn’t bother with a run that was any shorter than 6 miles because I didn’t consider it to be much of a workout. Because of kids and other life circumstances, those days are long gone…..
In the fall of 2010 I experienced my first serious running injury, Achilles tendonitis. I made the problem worse by continuing to push through pain instead of listening to my body and resting. I ended up in 6 weeks of physical therapy and had to stop running for a few months. When the PT told me I couldn’t run, I panicked. Running was such an important part of my life, and who would I be without it? How would I relieve stress? How would I get a good workout?
My injury actually taught me a number of valuable lessons I wouldn’t have learned otherwise. The first was that I’m not invincible and I shouldn’t just try to push through pain. It’s important to take care of your body, and pain is your body’s way of telling you something is wrong. I tell people that all the time, but just wasn’t willing to listen to my own advice. The second thing I learned was that I’m not defined by a specific activity. Although I love running, if I can’t log the miles I used to or can’t run anymore at all, it’s not the end of the world. There are plenty of other activities I can do and still lead a happy and healthy life.
I’ve learned this lesson, but I know others who have not. There is someone in my life who I believe is being hurt more than helped by exercise. He’s one of those crazy runners, just like me. He loves it, and it’s a big part of who he is. I get that. But he continues to push through pain (his is a permanent problem that rest or doctors can’t fix) instead of listening to his body. When I try to talk to him about it, I can see the walls of defensiveness going up. I’m not sure what drives him to continue: the love of the sport, the fear that he’ll never find another activity that gives him the kind of workout or feeling that running does, or the fear that if he stops running, he’s going to fall off the exercise wagon completely. He doesn’t want to face the fact that he’s doing his body more harm than good.
So I struggle with what I can do to help him. I’d love to see him try some other activities that don’t cause him so much pain or at least cut back significantly on the ones that do. I’d be happy to do them with him. “Want to go for a bike ride? Let’s do it! Could we try running just a few miles instead of training for another half marathon? Great!” But in the end I know that I can’t force him to change. He has to come to that realization and decide for himself.
I see members on SparkPeople’s Message Boards every day who are injured and want someone to tell them that it’s okay to just push through the pain. Eventually it will get better, right? Well, probably not. You could be doing all kinds of permanent damage to your body by sacrificing rest and recovery for a few hundred calories burned. Is it really worth the trade-off? There’s a big difference between being sore because you pushed yourself to work hard, and pain because you’ve got a potential injury that needs to be addressed.
Have you been one of those people who didn’t want to listen when your body told you something was wrong? Do you have someone in your life that’s doing their body more harm than good? Do you think it’s a lesson they need to learn for themselves, or is there something you (we) can do to help?