Pain of the Week Club

The first few weeks of 2012 have been busy and generally pretty great. A lot has happened, including a solo trip to Massachusetts for work last weekend and a long-time-coming real estate closing. Those two events both had their challenges – some snowy driving during the former, some baffling delays during the latter – but were ultimately rewarding.

I got to Massachusetts safely, had a great time talking with organic growers and gardeners at the NOFA Mass conference, and finished my longest trainer ride ever – in my hotel room – to cap my 3-week build cycle and usher in a very welcome recovery week. And the house closing went through, although the transaction has yet to be officially recorded, thanks to the aforementioned baffling delays . It should happen Monday, but I’ve made statements like that before!

And of course I’ve been training this whole time, working my way through a three week build and into the recovery week that I’m finishing right now. The Pain of the Week saga began two weeks ago today, when the weather was too nice for me to do my 2 hour 40 min bike ride inside. So I rode to Geneva and back on my road bike, and although I got a bit chilly about halfway through, generally felt good and loved getting outside – in JANUARY. At one point during the ride, after taking a shot of gel from a gel flask, I pushed the flask top against my chest to try to get it closed. Not a big deal. But it felt kind of funny…and by the time I got home I had this tight feeling in my left pectoral area.

No biggie; it will work itself out on the transition run, I thought. This is where peals of cosmic laughter start. NO, actually it won’t. I think I subconsciously tightened up my upper body…because when I got home my left shoulder blade area hurt, and on down my tricep to my pinkie. It hurt all day, and by Monday it was bordering on excruciating to cough or laugh, much less swim or lift things. Crap.

So, long story short, it took about a week and a half to work this tightness out. I’m pretty convinced that it wasn’t so much a pulled muscle as accumulated muscle tension. Odd as it sounds, I figured out that the best way to release it is to stand with strong weight through my inner foot, arch, inner leg, and core…and to roll my left shoulder back. Stretching my shoulders UP wasn’t helping; I needed to release the tension from below, literally to ground myself and lift from my core.

This is a transition in posture that’s been a long time coming. I’ve been hiding in my shoulders for most of my life, trying to create a safe space…and now I’m learning that the greater safety comes in letting myself be found.

So by this Wednesday, having figured this out and gradually released the shoulder pain, I felt ready for my run. It was just a 30 minute recovery / endurance run (ZR/Z1 in QT2 parlance), which I planned to do on the treadmill before work. The first 12 minutes felt great. My pace was slow, but it was supposed to be. Then I tried to step the pace up just a bit to move my heart rate into the endurance zone. I started to feel some tightness down the outside of my right calf but didn’t think much of it. It felt like the kind of thing that would work itself out as I ran. And then, in the matter of a few seconds, the pain escalated to “stop now” level. So I did, massaged it, walked a bit, and then decided I’d try a slow run. A lot of times pain gets better for me when I keep working through it…so that’s what I tried.

Apparently this strategy does not always work! Afterwards my knee just wanted to buckle; the pain in my upper calf was intense, and I was a bit scared I’d torn something. As Bart Simpson would say, Crapdamnhell. My internal monologue was a little stronger, but I’ll spare you. My grandma reads this blog, after all.

My first concern was to get my hobbling rear into and out of the shower and to work on time, and of course my second was to deal with this new pain. The Pain of the Week. Maybe I should’ve signed up for the bi-monthly plan – heck, I could get by with Pain of the Month. But no, here was something new to figure out.

As I stood in the shower, I decided: My leg was still attached, and therefore it could heal. Everything I’ve learned so far tells me that living things want to heal. My role is to create the conditions for healing, and that starts with not freaking out. Pain is not forever. Create the conditions, and go forward.

So I iced, elevated, compressed, massaged, traded my Friday swim test for a short, easy pull / swim session, and worked through yoga poses until I found some that released this new POTW. And now, three days later, it’s letting go. I just did my recovery / endurance trainer ride, and it felt great. I also did plenty of recovery afterwards, including the eccentric calf raises I’ve been neglecting (and which could possibly have prevented the whole thing). And I’m on the road to feeling good again. I really hope my membership in The Club lapses for a week or two. But if it doesn’t, I can deal.

And you know what…a couple of women at the gym the other day were discussing home repairs, and they came to the conclusion that, “If it’s not one thing, it’s another.” Yeah, that’s true. With houses, bodies, minds, spirits. We’re never done building, never done finding new challenges, never done resolving them. It’s so tempting to think that the goal is some state of stasis, stability, strength, perfection. That challenges and pain get in the way of how life “should” be.

But without pain, there is inherently no comfort. One defines the other; they can’t exist separately. By digging into pain, we dig that much deeper into joy.

So the real stability – at least as I’m coming to see it – lies not in stasis but in motion. And the real victory is in moving forward with confidence – not that everything will go as planned, but that it’s possible to both embrace and influence what’s to come.

And if anyone would like my POTW Club membership sent to their address for a few weeks, let me know. No, really…no need to thank me.

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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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