Wasn’t expecting this one eh? Yes, we’re getting a little deep today. All about breaking mental barriers with fitness & injuries. Due to a recent achilles experience I had, this felt very appropriate. I found myself channeling a certain mental strength I think we all have some experience with from time to time.
Before I dive into some details, I want to be real with you. I don’t have all the answers. My mind still struggles with finding balance in life in terms of my version of health (the never ending journey) and understanding what “listening to your body” truly means…
Listening to Your Body…is it legit?
That phrase feels like a broken record these days. It can be frustrating because it’s constantly thrown around but do we fully understand it? How do we figure out how to listen to something that doesn’t “talk”? What is my body suppose to be “saying: here??
I’m very back and forth about it all. I think it’s a powerful phrase because our bodies are extremely efficient and smarter than we give credit for. It literally comes down to science… For example when we go into fight or flight mode. Or when we naturally start to store fat due to starvation mode. Or inflammation and redness occuring because we injured ourselves…These are things we do not control (in a sense). It’s our body’s natural physiological response to something that is happening (a reaction to a certain trigger).
The nutrition science nerd in me fully believes in the concept that our bodies are capable of more than we think. And in a way they do speak to us like YO I’m really inflamed right now after that artifically flavored fried meal you put into this beautiful temple. HELP.
The tricky part is trusting our bodies when it’s speaking to us. It sounds a little hokey but it’s a concept we must embrace. I think it relates a lot to being present with your thoughts, signals and feelings. Which is an extremely difficult thing to do. I’m not writing this post because I have that concept down. I am writing this becasue I think you will find comfort in knowing that even health professionals and people who “SEEM” to have things figured out…still struggle. They are still human beings with valid emotions of all kinds.
Recognizing an Injury (big or small)
About a month ago I had a big girl presentation for my Patient Food Service Management rotation and ordered nice shoes. Well, low and behold those shoes actually sucked. Excuse my lame vocabulary but those are my honest thoughts. They were extremely uncomfortable and something felt off as I wore them that day running around the hospital. I also was wearing a pair of nikes throughout this rotation thinking they would be good for walking/being on my feet in the kitchen. I was wrong.
I am not trying to bash any brands here but we all adapt to things differently. My feet do not like Nikes. Plain and simple. The uncomfortable presentation shoes were the final straw and my feet had had enough. A few days later I noticed a slight pain in my left achilles. Insert: FREAK OUT.
If you’ve been following along for awhile then you know I had a half marathon planned for early November in New Hampshire. Being the determined person I am, I initially tried to ignore the pain and convinced myself it was probably nothing but soreness. A few days later the realness set in. Think excruciating pain anytime I walked on my heel or tried to run.
To be honest I was more worried that it would turn into something worse. Home girl was not about to show up to my internship in crutches. I had to take a step back and understand what my body was telling me in that moment.
Ugh. I know right? Luckily this was a very minor injury that was back to normal after two weeks. No broken bones or sprained ankles, just some tenderness and inflammation. Thanks to my strong background working with athletes and as a phsical therapy aide for years, I have a basic understanding of how to heal myself properly (for the most part). Yes, even nutrition is involved!
Those two weeks meant not running, eating nutrient dense anti-inflamatory foods, resting my foot, being grateful for compression socks and icing each night. Even though this was a very minor “injury” I knew I had to treat it with the utmost care. Why? PREVENTION my friends. That’s the thing with “minor” soreness or injuries. You have to be mindful that it doesn’t lead to something worse. The preventative side of health is a huge passion of mine in general as I truly believe living well for your mind and body as an everyday lifestyle is key to longevity and thriving.
You get what you put in. Be good to your body and soul…and it will give you goodness right back.
Overcoming Mental Barriers
I don’t want to talk on my high horse over here because in the past, I would have been REALLY down on myself with this injury. Take a break? Resechedule my half marathon? Stop running? Feel like crap? Oh the horror!
Jokes aside, it can be difficult to accept something that feels earth shattering in that moment (this could be different things for different people, we all have our soft spots). And it will always be a frustrating mind game we have to play with ourselves. Everyone is constantly preaching about “being present” which yes I think is very valuable BUT there comes a point where we have to think about the future. This doesn’t make you crazy…
It’s more about being intentional in how you’re treating yourself and the decisions you are making
If I ignored my injury it would have led to worse outcomes. The minor tenderness could have led to a legit sprain, effected my knee, caused back pain and thrown my whole body into whack. It could have led to not running for months…or worse…ever.
Okay, dramatic but you get the point! This can relate to so much in life and I think it’s a balancing act of enjoying each moment for what it is while also being thoughtful of the future. Sometimes looking ahead is completely valid. And that’s what I did to help overcome the mental thoughts telling me to go out and run. To push myself past my limits. Sometimes that push is needed but not ALWAYS. This is where “listening” to our body comes into play. SIGH. Darn bodies being smarter than us. We have to trust it though. We have to respect ourselves enough to simply give in.
Because trusting our body means we are trusting WHO WE ARE and the path we’re walking. Even if it means limping for a bit…
Minor Setback for a Stronger Comeback: Each Circumstance is Shaping Us
The moral of all this is to recognize that sometimes taking a step back may feel debilitating but the process will have a stronger impact on not only our physical health but mental health as well. Our circumstances are always shaping us…Molding us…And aiding in our growth as lovely little humans.
The first weekend back to running wasn’t so hot for me. I barely pushed 6 miles and felt like crap. It made me question if I should even continue training for a half marathon. But we must crawl before we can walk right? Initially I was pretty upset, not going to lie. I have learned I need to allow myself time to feel those emotions becasue in the past I struggled to do that with almost anything. And brushing away my feelings only blew up in other painful ways later.
So here is how I deal with it now: Feel. I give myself permission to be upset, angry, sad, happy, excited…whatever the emotion may be. Then I CARRY ON. It’s one thing to feel and another thing to dwell. At some point we gotta cheer up buttercup. There’s still a life to be lived regardless of how we CHOOSE to absorb it.
There is a rainbow at the end of all this, I promise. My second week back to running is where my inner Kobe kicked in. I set out for my usual Sunday morning run with zero expectations only to be have my body surprise me in the best of ways. I felt damn good. My legs felt strong. My breath was steady and I could feel my speed improving with each mile. By the end of it all I busted out 9 miles riding that runners high for hours after…A minor setback for a major comeback.
That frustrating achilles flare up wasn’t just a disruption to my life. It challenged me mentally and physically which in turn brought tremendous strength.
Not only did I come out of this with some quality runs, but a sense of pride for trusting the process. For being kind to my body and letting it do its thing. For letting go of the control and realizing that WOAH life will still go on, and we still get to live it. During the “break” I got back to being intentional with my stretching, focused on strength training, found a new love for spin and experienced a lot of self reflection…and now here I am still breathing, living, running and sharing stories with you 🙂
Have you struggled with a “minor” or major injury before? How did it impact your well being? Feel free to comment or send me an email, always love hearing your stories! XOXO tribe have a soul filled weekend.