Part 1 of “Listening to Your Body”
I hate quitting.
There have been very few activities that I’ve quit in my life. My parents worked hard to teach me the importance of finishing what I start.
When I was young, I played Little League baseball.
I loved baseball. My friends and I would play for hours out in the street or down at the park. We’d practice fielding fly balls and grounders, and spend hours at batting practice. So, when it came time to play on the team, I was excited.
Unfortunately, my first year was at age 11 — kid-pitch. At younger ages, it starts with tee-ball, then progresses to coach-pitch.
When my friends and I would have batting practice, we weren’t worried about throwing a strike. Our goal was to avoid hitting the batter. This was not the case in Little League.
I was a small kid, because I hit my growth spurt late. My strike zone was not very big at age 11. This became a serious problem, because those kids on the mound wanted to strike me out so badly.
What ended up happening was that my on-base percentage was great, but I didn’t have very many hits. Let me correct that — very few balls hit my bat, because they mostly hit my body.
I played two seasons of Little League before I quit, and I’m surprised I lasted that long. It looked more like I was taking boxing lessons than playing baseball!
Running isn’t the same for everyone.
I have three great examples of people who wanted to run long distances, but it just didn’t work out.
I talked my good friend, Paul*, into running a mini-marathon with me. Paul’s the kind of guy who throws himself into things 100%. He meets a challenge head-on, and probably pushes himself harder than he should.
Training started off well, and he was able to slowly add distance and speed. But, when it came to pushing past 5 miles, he started noticing pain in his hips.
Paul slowed down his running, and sought the advice of a personal trainer. They worked on stretching and adding in exercises to strengthen his hips.
Despite those efforts, Paul still couldn’t push past 5 miles without pain. So, he quit training for the mini-marathon.
My brother had a similar problem.
He started experiencing pain in his right hip after he completed his runs. In this case, it didn’t matter how far he ran, it happened every time.
He immediately stopped running and went to the doctor, where he was diagnosed with bursitis and advised rest and anti-inflammatory medication. After 6 weeks, he started training again.
But, the problem didn’t go away. He was still having the pain right at the top of his hip. We talked, and he decided to meet up with a physical therapist that specialized in sports medicine. The decision was made that he needed to quit running.
One of the women I work with, Tracy*, recently started working out. She had a weight-loss goal in mind, and so looked to running as a way to achieve her goal.
She was smart, and started out very slowly. Tracy would walk on the treadmill for 10 minutes and then run for as long as she could. Initially, her run times were measured in just a few seconds, but they slowly began to increase until she was able to run a full minute.
A few days ago, we were talking about her experience with running. I wondered how much progress she had made in her run times. It was then that she informed me that she really couldn’t be a “runner”, because of her body type.
Tracy is a very curvy woman, and it was actually painful for her to run for too long due to a lack of adequate support. Unfortunately, many women are in her situation and there aren’t always great, affordable options.
So, Tracy quit running.
They listened to their bodies.
These are three great examples of how people listened to their bodies and avoided serious injury.
I know that everyone’s first instinct is to push through the pain and achieve the goal. Sometimes, that’s an okay decision, but it is more often the wrong choice.
Our bodies use pain to let us know when we’ve started to push too far. It’s a natural feedback mechanism to ensure we don’t do permanent damage.
Part of the problem is in our view of modern medicine. Instead of viewing medical expertise as something that could help fix and issue and prevent injury, we think of it as a way to help fix us after we hurt ourselves — almost as if it were a license to be careless of the consequences.
Paul listened to his body and took time off to evaluate why he was getting pain. He consulted an expert and learned about ways to strengthen his body to prevent injury. Ultimately, he decided not to run farther than 5 miles until he can do it safely. He is still running today.
My brother ended up taking several months off from running. His therapy was immensely helpful, and he is currently training for another mini-marathon. Not only is he feeling better, but his run times are coming down, too!
Tracy was able to find a happy medium when it came to running. She knows how long she can run before things become painful, and she doesn’t push any farther. To achieve her weight-loss goals, she is looking at other activities that wouldn’t be limited by her physical build. Listening to her body has allowed her to stop an activity (running) before she suffers injury, and move toward a safer option.
Make your own goals.
I’ve written before that you don’t have to run a marathon to be a “runner”.
The quickest way to injury is to buy into that lie. When you hang your identity on a specific distance, it makes you more likely to ignore the warning signs. Because, if you quit, then you’re a failure — you’re certainly not a “runner”.
So, rewrite the script. Think about running as a part of your healthy lifestyle, not the entirety of your health plan.
This may mean that you stick with interval training, where you only run for a few seconds or minutes, then walk for several minutes. Or, it could mean deciding that running two miles is what you need, not ten miles.
Reshaping your views on running puts the activity in its place. Running is not the objective, getting and staying healthy is the objective!
- Consult a physician before you start running to make sure you’re healthy enough for the activity.
- Stop running if it hurts, and take a break.
- If the pain continues, consult a physician or physical therapist.
- Learn your limits, and proceed cautiously.
- Add in cross-training activities. This could be things like weight-lifting, dance, yoga, basketball, or walking.
The bottom line — listen to your body to avoid injury.
*Names were changed to protect their privacy.