Pain is not failure.

Huntington Beach at the 5K start

It’s been a solid month and a half since I’ve posted anything, even though I’ve had a ton of blog posts half-written in my head. Lots has happened, and I won’t even try to remember or recap it all. So let’s jump in on Tuesday, January 25th, in Huntington Beach, CA. I was there for a conference for work, and the organization had a 5K run / walk on the beach path. I walked it totally pain-free and pretty fast! I averaged 4.4 mph and finished in 42 minutes 22 seconds. That was about 11 minutes faster than the 5K my mom and I walked in Tempe in November, and I was super proud and happy. Still am! It felt great. I felt like I was floating almost…

Anyhow, I had a PT appointment 2 days after that, and Geoff put me through lots of assessment exercises to gauge whether I was ready to include more impact in my program. Meaning I’d get to start running and jumping! I was so excited, especially since I’d had such a great experience at the 5K. I was feeling unstoppable. He scheduled me for 2 appointments a the following week, and my job was to get there ready to rock. Geoff said he didn’t want to progress me unless I was pain-free.

With my hip feeling good, I went ahead with my workouts: A Friday swim, Sunday 2 hour bike, Monday swim, and Tuesday elliptical. I was starting to have some pain, and I was doing everything I knew to get it gone. Massage, yoga, lightening resistance on the machines, swimming with a leg buoy in the pool. But alas, I still had some pain. Not bad – a 1 or 2 on the scale of 1-10 – but still there. And I was stressing. I wanted so much to progress to running! But I couldn’t get myself to pain-freeness. Should I just not be working out? Why are the things that are supposed to be working NOT WORKING?

I considered cancelling my PT appointments, thinking that if I wasn’t ready to progress, why bother? I went anyway, though, and Geoff talked me off the ledge. He said that I needed to stay active, that I couldn’t just sit still and wait to be ready to progress. He had me do my regular strength exercises and sent me on my way – and I set my goal on pain-freeness for the following week.

More of the same for the next 2 weeks. Went easy, went super easy, massaged, stretched, still had some pain. The day of my February 10th appointment I had the most frustrating swim I’ve ever had. Couldn’t find my form, was trying to protect my hip and was overcompensating 10 different ways. My shoulders hurt, my back hurt, I was slow, I was sloppy, and I was pissed off. I was doing everything I knew how to do, and I COULDN’T GET RID OF THE PAIN. Again, not bad pain, but nevertheless, it was there. I didn’t realize how much I was straining to keep the lid on my frustration until it came blasting off, directed at Michael for some inconsequential issue that I can’t even remember now.

I arrived at PT that night ready to either cry or scream. I just felt defeated. Again, Geoff talked me down. Said that I didn’t need to be 100% pain-free to progress, just that it needed to be very slight discomfort and that it shouldn’t INCREASE with impact. Another session of strength work, a couple deep breaths, and another appointment scheduled for the following week.

And then I realized what had happened. My mental goalposts had shifted. Before I started trying to achieve pain-free-ness, I had felt ok with some degree of pain. I had pretty much accepted that at various points during this process, pain is just going to be there. Really, pain is always part of training. You push your body, and you find limits. You find parts of yourself that need to be stronger to do what you’re asking of them. That fact is just magnified in the process of healing this hip.

I had become so focused on avoiding pain – because it meant that I was missing my goal of pain-free-ness – that I was running from everything difficult, magnifying any discomfort I felt with the anxiety of thinking I shouldn’t feel it.

So essentially, I said SCREW IT. I’m not going to be an idiot and push through bad pain, but I’m going to accept that a low level of pain will come and go from this hip as it heals. It’s literally knitting itself together day by day, and it’s going to hurt sometimes. But usually when I stop fighting the pain, it resolves a lot faster.

Lots of parallels in emotional life, huh?

And this Thursday, after a much better week of workouts that were NOT perfect (pain-free) but WERE manageable and fun, I GOT TO RUN!!!!!

I passed the jump and jog tests without pain, and now I get to start the very first steps toward running. I get to run .02 mile intervals between .02 mile intervals of walking. That’s barely enough time to raise the speed on the treadmill. 🙂 The whole workout takes 3 minutes, about 1 minute of which is running. But it progresses every time to include more intervals or longer intervals. And all journeys start with the first step, right?


About solveighanson

I'm a (late) thirtysomething Plant Breeding Ph.D. student, daughter / sister / auntie, vegetable fan, yogi, sometime cyclist, and enthusiastic if infrequent baker. I started this blog in the summer of 2010 to trace my recovery from a pelvic fracture sustained in a cycling accident. That healing process was truly transformative, and since then I seem to have written mostly about the transformations that have followed. And hence the title of the blog: Don't call me a butterfly, because I'm not done changing.
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One Response to Pain is not failure.

  1. sunflower joy says:

    Hey, not on facebk very often….just excited your on…have to read some of your bk blogs to catch up with you and Micheal! Miss yous and very wonderful memorys! joy

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