October 19, 2010

Down for the Count: Dealing with Injury

In late August, I started feeling a strong discomfort in my right knee. I figured it was a product of overtraining (think teaching three Spin classes and three Boot Camps weekly along with 4-day-per-week 1/2 marathon training) and vowed to "take it easy."

A month of decidedly not taking it easy later, I had to bow out of the 1/2 marathon I'd been training for for 6 weeks due to the knee discomfort, which admittedly had upgraded to an actual injury. Still determined not to seek help, I kept on with my busy schedule, enduring the painful hours of exercise pounding my knee.

Today is October 19th and I have only just scheduled an appointment with an orthopedist. I stubbornly waited until past the point of pain, past the point of injury, and only now will I honestly confess...it was stupid.

Here at bene-fit, we take our mission of consistent physical activity and enjoyable healthy living very seriously - but I was trying to "trade out" the latter for an overload of the former, and it resulted in a frustrating setback.  I'd lived the words of G.K. Chesterton, who once said that "the trouble with always trying to preserve the health of the body is that it is so difficult to do without destroying the health of the mind."  I'd become so focused on the "have-to" of exercise that I'd forgotten the "want-to" of inner peace and physical comfort.

So what can you, as burgeoning fitness buffs or eager newbies, learn from my sob story?  First of all, slow down.  The great part about a healthy lifestyle is that it lasts just that long - your entire life.  There is always time to recover, heal, and emerge an even stronger version of yourself if you are struggling with injury or fatigue.  Get a massage, try practicing gentle yoga, or even just soak in a hot bath with epsom salts.  Thank your body for speaking to you directly - even if it yells! - and repay it with honest rest.

Second, try something new.  When I was sidelined from runnning, I felt lost, as though I'd just begun exercising.  I realized how reliant my fitness routine had become on the daily run, and without it, I needed to reassess my cardio as well as my overall physique and goals.  I began checking out different classes at my local gym and fell in love with Les Mills Body Pump, a high-energy weightlifting class, which fit into my schedule and gave me something to look forward to in lieu of a jog.  I am loving the challenge as well as the added toning bene-fit of a new strengthening workout.

Finally, allow yourself to grieve.  When I first got injured,  I almost literally went through the five stages of grief - denial ("I'm not hurt!"), anger ("ARRRRGH THIS HURTS AND I HATE IT!"), bargaining ("Maybe if I take my run down to 3 days a week, it'll be fine."), depression ("Without running, I'm just worthless.") and finally, acceptance ("There are far worse things in life than a little setback.").  I needed to express my frustration and sadness over losing a large part of my fitness routine before I could buck up and see the light - I still had my health, my new exercise challenges, and my supportive relationships.  What's a little knee pain when most everything else is going so great?

In any arena of life, there are going to be ups and downs.  An illness, injury, or burnout period can be devastating, but it's not life-threatening.  If you maintain a positive attitude and find your bene-fit in new and different ways, chances are that you will recover in less time and with more energy than before.  Stay strong and yes - rest up this week!

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