January 17, 2012

No Pain, No Gain?

A while back, I posted a workout on dailymile that went something like "tough run, yada yada yada, but happy not to feel anymore pain, blah, blah, blah". Just as expected, the wonderful dailymile community commented with encouragement and awesomeness. I appreciated all of the comments and the support, but one of them stuck out more than the others and has been on my mind ever since. I don't remember the exact words but it definitely included the phrase "No pain, no gain!" and it got me thinking. Do I really believe in that concept? No pain, no gain?

Let me show you what no pain no gain really means. This is my training recap from 2011.
I started 2011 with the goal of running at least 1,000 miles, a significant yet not unreasonable distance considering where I was with my running. I started the year taking it light, having completed the Philadelphia Marathon in November 2010 and then the Ted Corbitt 15k in December 2010. I tried to keep my miles consistent, with a peak in March (I don't quite remember why) and then was supposed to increase mileage in June to begin building it up for NYCM 2011 training.

June began with the Race for Israel, a stellar race in which I PRd and felt awesome. But just 2 days later, I headed out for a relaxed 4 miler and couldn't make it passed my corner. I was in pain. Major pain. My right hamstring hurt and my right hip felt like it was on fire. I felt my eyes well up with tears, hung my head, and walked home in disgust. "Disgust" you might wonder? Yeah, disgust. Because the minute I felt that pain, I realized that the issues I had ignored for months had finally caught up with me and I was officially injured. I'd make mention of aches & pains here & there; how I might have stretched my hamstring too far during a wall split in yoga, or how my hamstring felt pretty tight during a run in Central Park. But I figured I was a runner, I was strong, and I could just ignore the pain & push through it. No pain, no gain. Until it was all pain and no gain.

I saw doctors, got an MRI, found out that I had some major swelling around my right hamstring that was forcing me to adjust my form and therefore impacting the rest of my body in not so wonderful ways. I decided I would be "smart", that I would stop running but still train for the New York City Marathon by swimming & getting my miles in on the elliptical until I could run again. My physical therapist told me to take those elliptical sessions slow, to avoid aggravating my hamstring. And I told myself I was doing just that, but how slow was I really going if I was getting 16 miles done in 2 hours? Yes, I did "long runs" on the elliptical like the insane woman I can be from time to time. Take a look at my August hours above and you'll see those miles. Then take a look at September. That's what happened when I didn't listen to my physical therapist or my body.... no pain, no gain? Anyone see the gain?

After months of putting my body throught the ringer & ignoring the pain, I finally gave myself a bit of a break. There have been weeks when I haven't run at all, instead focusing on a little elliptical here and there. When I have run, it's been inside on the treadmill with no hills or cold weather to deal with. Taking some smart advice, I gave up my intention of running the NYC Half in March and instead have decided to focus on a late Spring Half. In the meantime, I'll train for some shorter races, like the 4 mile Gridiron in Central Park on February 5th.

This past weekend, I ran outside for the first time this year and it was tough but felt good. My hamstring didn't hurt, my hip didn't hurt, and I had a smile on my face most of the time. I'm finally building up my miles again as you can see in this weekly recap. It's a small increase, but a start.
Yesterday, I posted about being true to myself and doing what I want to do to be happy. Running is a big part of that but I realize that I need to learn to keep my ego in check. Just because I want to run every day doesn't mean that I should be, at least not for now. I need to be honest with myself and I need to focus on my long term goals: NYCM 2012 and even longer term, to run for the rest of my life.

Around the time that I was dealing with my injury, I saw a fellow runner post about an injury of her own. She had twisted her ankle running that week and despite the pain she was in, ran a race that weekend so that she could complete here 9+1 to qualify for NYCM 2012. She posted this on dailymile and every single person that commented congratulated her on pushing through the pain. It got me thinking and it even pissed me off a little because as a community we should be supportive of one another in making smart and healthy choices. I wanted more than anything to post that I thought she was wrong to race that weekend, that she should've listened to her body to prevent further injury that might take her out of the game completely. But I chickened out. So as my supportive community, I'm asking you to call me out on my bullsh*t if you ever feel so inclined. I'd like to think I can keep my ego in check on my own but to be honest, it gets the best of me sometimes. And I could use your help. Thanks in advance.

There you have it, my thoughts. Feel free to chime in, to agree, to disagree... whatever you want.
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