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No pain no gain

January 08, 2021

At the end of our last session I asked my client about the wraps on her wrists. At first I thought she was wearing long sleeves with a thumb hole. Instead it was an ace bandage backed up with a velcroed-splint. I waited to hear about slipping on the ice or other such fall. What she said is the motion at her work has put a strain on the tendons in her lower arm and wrist. The discomfort has been building into sustain pain. The kind of pain that wakes her from her sleep.

She was self-treating as many a person might. “Ah its not that bad.” I will work through it. Turns out she has been working through it for the last three months. It’s not getting better, it’s getting worse. Why would she do this? Why do any of us do this?

My early athletic training encouraged me, demanded I work until it hurt. Embrace the burn. Run till my lungs burned. If I turned an ankle, jammed a finger, got knocked up side the head….the direction was to shake it off. Toughen up Stabler. You got to fight through it.

In class work it was about pushing myself to keep up with the studying. Pull all nighters. 12-13 hour study days on weekends. Skip meals, skip sleep, party hard, and then right back at it. These skills, patterns, and habits were learned then and developed through my adult life. They helped me through the child rearing years. The push to get a promotion. The deadlines for a demanding client. The focus was on doing what it took to produce the result. This meant ignoring my body, my needs for the greater objective or what was needed to survive let alone succeed.

Somewhere in my early fifties I got glimpses of the impact burning the candle at both ends would have. I no longer bounced out of bed Saturday morning for a two-hour workout, followed by yard work, a game with the kids, and a relaxed evening with my honey. My body’s resiliency had diminished. There was no more working through the pain, cause the pain doesn’t stop like it did when I was younger.

Listen to My Body for My Answers to Life

What if I learned to listen better to my body? To notice that ache on the side of my knee as an early warning signal that my running mechanics are off or maybe I should take a rest day. I might have learned earlier if I paid attention to these signals, they could lead me to better results, less fatigue and more freedom. It would be the type of approach I could use in this 60-year-old body. Watching for signals as a positive source of feedback. A way to be aware and avoid the injury ignoring the pain could generate. Ignoring the pains could result in surgeries to replace joints, fuse vertebrae, rob us of our freedom and mobility earlier than necessary.

When it comes down to it. I would tell my friends or children to take care of themselves. I need to do that for myself. Value my body and life enough to take care of them. I value being able to flop around on the floor with my grandkids. Being able to take a 7-mile hike. Have the flexibility to load things into my car for the dump. To be able to be independent.

It starts with paying attention to my body. What I am putting into it. How to have activity in the day. And knowing when to rest. Noticing when something is giving me enjoyment and energy and when something is feeling like a burden or more effort than it’s worth. Paying attention to myself and my experience starting with how my body is impacted by what I do is a foundational skill to building and sustaining a life that I love. Learn this before your body tells you I need a new knee.