Pain. Pain is something most people try to avoid, yet for some reason many endurance athletes gravitate toward. Whether it be lungs burning on a cold January day, blisters from a sweaty summer rollerski, or achy shins from a long run, pain frequently makes its home our bodies. We push our bodies to the limit in pursuit of better fitness, often sacrificing comfort for performance.
If there is one degree the University of Olympic Training should award it would be a B.S. in Pain Management. Everyday it is something new; back, neck, feet, hands, heart, brain, something feels a little out of tune. However, when pain surfaces, an evaluation need to be made. Is this normal for what I am doing, or is it ultimately going to hurt my performance? Discomfort and fatigue are to be expected while training, but too much can be detrimental and have serious consequence both short and long term. At some point, every elite athlete finds their limit by pushing beyond what they are capable, ultimately sacrificing performance due to overtraining.
This summer I have had to dance along this line many times. Earlier this summer, I was exhausted from the training load, too tired to sleep and eat, and this past week it was a rolled ankle. Both times I have had to discern when I should push it and when I need to tighten the reigns and backoff.
“If we could detach your head and only listen to your body, we would.” This is what the recreational counselor at Roger’s Memorial Hospital told me when I first started working out after being in treatment for two and a half months with no physical activity. When I was struggling with my eating disorder as a teenager, I didn’t listen to my body. My brain had taken over, telling me to push past the pain and do more evert single day. I worked my body into an oblivion until I I was so screwed up, I no longer knew what 'good' felt like.
Thankfully I have learned a lot since my younger years. Even though I still carry with me the grit to get through the toughest of workouts, I also have gained the wisdom of knowing when to call it quits. Being tired is part of the game, but there's not much life in being dead.
Let me put it this way; if we are given the option to make $50 a day or $75 bucks a day, which one are you going to take? Both have the same amount of work, one just allows you to put in $25 more everyday. As an athlete, I wanted to go into the season with as much in the bank as I can. I want to have $75 days often, maybe even some $95 in there. Howver, if I carry fatigue or prolong the recovery of an injury and start having $50 days when I should be having $75 days, I’m gonna start losing ground fast.
So to close out this post, I’m going to share a realization I had a while ago. As a kid, I always heard how God took a day to rest after creating the earth, creating the sabbath. Now as a kid I thought He did this to give everyone a day to go to church, but really it was for much more than that. He did this because He is a God of rest, not only for himself but for his children as well. Now if God took a day to rest, how important must it be for us to also join in His rest? I mean in Mark 2:27 it says “for the sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath.” We as humans are created in such a way that we flourish when we have ample rest. In fact, as an athlete, it is not during my workout that I am getting better, it is when I recover from the workout that I make gains. So if you have been feeling beat down lately, take a break. And if someone makes a big stink about you taking a day to rest, tell them I told you to. Better yet, tell them God told you to.
Since I haven't been able to run, I have been getting out on the bike more. It's been great to explore the awesome roads here in the Adirondacks!
This is a picture from the U16 camp I was coaching in Marquette, MI back in 2013. The camp ended with a three and a half hour run at Pictured Rocks and a rolled ankle didn't stop me. A little tape and I was good to go. You can see me in the black with the tape on my left ankle.
Since rolling my ankle, I have been spending a lot of time in the cold tub here in Lake Placid. Having access to Sports Med here at the OTC has been awesome and definitely put me on the fast track to recovery right away.