When pain teaches pace
Jennifer J writes:
The people that take exercise boot camp classes with me call me mighty mouse. Mighty because I’ve always been faster, stronger and had much greater endurance than them – using the 45 minutes I had to work out during the work day to get the most benefit as possible – constantly pushing myself to the limit. Mouse because I’m 5’0 and quiet – I was never boastful about my abilities, I just did the best I could with the time I had – and me doing my best with results encouraged others to give 100% in their workouts.
A couple of years ago I started having pain in one of my hamstrings when I ran but I pushed through it. I also started feeling weaker during push ups – I thought it was age so I pushed through it. After a couple of years of pushing through, my muscles were so tight that my body had trouble pushing blood through my body. So now mighty mouse is in physical therapy.
I’ve had the following thoughts about this experience:
- At first I was shaken. I thought I was doing what was best for my body. I found exercise classes that worked for me for 3 years so when the pain came, I ignored the warning signs and kept doing what had worked in the past – just like what the US is doing with its economy and the stock market. When are we going to realize that was has worked well for us in the past is no longer working? When are we going to realize that we need something new?
- Pain is supposed to be a precursor to change. Pain is a call to stop down, analyze to find the problem and start experimenting with change. The sooner we realize that pain is an indicator of something that needs to change and not something to simply be suppressed, the sooner we can start problem solving for a better future.
- People say I am an intense and extremely passionate person. And I definitely worked out with intensity. Then when I started having some pain, I started stretching….aggressively. The first thing I leaned from my Physical Therapist is that stretching aggressively only makes tight muscles tighter. She said that when you stretch a muscle too far, your body sends a message to your brain that you are experiencing pain, and then the brain sends a message to the muscle to “tighten up or you’ll rip”. The second thing I learned from my PT is that if you push the body to do more than it’s ready to do, the system freaks out and gets so tight in protective mode that it ceases to function (like the inhibition of blood flow in my body). I want to make systemic change for a better world. This experience has taught me that if I push too far, too fast, it’s only going to make the system tighter and tighter until nothing new can get in.
- This is who I am – intense and passionate – and I feel like I’m losing my identity somewhat. But I’m also learning a lot from this experience and I love learning and growing. I know this is a big one – it’s redefining me. I don’t think I’ll have to change from intense and passionate to passive and indifferent but I do think I will be changing the outlet of my intensity from aggressively fighting through to progressively building with. And I will be much more keen to warning signs.
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