When you’re training for a marathon, there comes a time when you have to tweak your training schedule to make it fit into the reality of what your body needs. When your hip still aches from your long run over the weekend, you cancel your scheduled speed workout on Tuesday. Conversely, you know that when you feel totally fantastic after a tempo run, you can throw in a couple of extra strides before heading home.
I thought I’d gotten really good at listening to my body, and giving it what it needs–even when that conflicts with my idea of what it *should* need. But almost two weeks after surgery on Feb. 24 to fix my the wrist I broke snowboarding, I’m becoming aware that actually, it’s more like my body and I were at war, and I have decided to declare a truce.
This war against my body wasn’t the obvious, “My thighs look like sausages in these jeans and I hate them” kind (though I occasionally fight those battles, too–don’t we all?). It was more of a Cold War of disappointment in which I constantly spotted flaws or shortcomings. One of many examples of what I’m talking about: I’ve only been unable to run for a few weeks now, but it already seems silly–no, crazy–to me that running 8:30-minute miles rather than eight-minute miles during a group run could leave me angry at my legs and confused about why they conspired with my lungs to fail me.
It’s the downside of pushing your body to perform better, and it can be really helpful in challenging and expanding your ideas of what you’re capable of–when it’s not creating an ugly, unfair pressure-cooker environment. My goal for this week, the third after surgery, is to declare a truce while my body heals. Here’s what the truce means, and how it applies to everyday training as well:
- I’m making health my main motivation. My love of working out started with health, both the mind-clearing, endorphin-pumping mental kind, and the obvious physical sort.I started paying attention to pace and distance only as a way to keep myself motivated. Along the way, I started putting some serious pressure on myself — pressure that had nothing to do with my resting pulse or my cholesterol or disease prevention. My No. 1 goal right now is health, in a great big general sense, which makes my hiatus from working out a lot easier to take. After all, an infection is about the least healthy thing I can think of, and that’s what I’d risk if I sweated at all right now. There are worse, less healthy things in the world than a couple weeks off from serious training–though I’ll certainly enjoy returning to it when it’s time.
- I’m focusing on making sure I consume enough of what I do need rather than berating myself for eating too much of what I don’t need. Right now, this means eating foods that will help my body heal–increased calcium, protein, zinc, and vitamins A and C, according to organizations like the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and the Cleveland Clinic. And as long as I’m eating my plain, nonfat Greek yogurt, I’m not going to sweat the fact that I put a bunch of dark chocolate chips in it (chocolate aids healing too, right?).
- I’m focusing on what my body can do rather than what it can’t. I’m annoyed that my wrist still gets sore at the end of the day, and that my hand swells when I don’t keep it elevated in a sort of Statue of Liberty stance. Why not congratulate my body instead for no longer needing mid-day naps–a sign the major, hard-core healing is done? I’m still really digging Deena Kastor’s suggestion of “forcing the positive” until it feels natural, and that’s what I’m going to continue to do in celebrating incremental milestones.
- I’m also pushing patience. In recovery and in training (and, let’s face it, in life), it’s tough to take things week by week, and to be flexible about your goals when things don’t go as planned. But most of us value that feeling of meditation in motion that makes us feel like when we’re running, we are living totally in the moment. I think my recovery can be a lesson in that, too.
Have you ever consciously declared a truce with your body? Which battles were you fighting? What tactics helped you reach peace?