Motivation Monday: the ‘truce with my body’ edition

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?


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10 responses to “Motivation Monday: the ‘truce with my body’ edition

  1. Tiffany

    Amy, as I read your blogs I find myself being both jealous (mostly b/c you’re ahead of me in the process) and empathetic. I severely sprained my ankle in October playing volleyball. After delayed healing and sporadic pain, in January I learned I’d also chipped the talus bone in my ankle. I had surgery last Thursday to remove the chip and scar cartilage and now must use crutches for the next 6 weeks while I grow new bone (<—I like saying that).

    I have spent the last week being quite tired from hauling myself around short distances in my house and scooting up and down the stairs and napping frequently. Although, I don't mind the naps. 🙂 The process of showering and dressing takes an hour, twice as long as normal for me, which I find both irritating and exhausting b/c I have to sit down for the entirety. The thought of 5 more weeks makes me exceptionally cranky, but I'm trying to make peace with it.

    At any rate, I had to call a truce with my body months ago due to an inability to do anything high impact, which is the only exercise I generally enjoy (volleyball, Zumba, tap dancing) and a terrible battle with my immune system. Basically, I've decided that I'm going to spend the rest of 29 healing so that when I turn 30 in June I can, hopefully, be healthy enough to live the life I want to live.

    • I just have to say once again that I’m so inspired by this goal of yours — “Basically, I’ve decided that I’m going to spend the rest of 29 healing so that when I turn 30 in June I can, hopefully, be healthy enough to live the life I want to live” — I’m stealing it and making it my own. Cheers to 30 being both of our best years ever!

  2. i have actually been working on something similar the past couple of days, although i’m “mentally checked out” and not injured. my truce is more with my mind-body than my physical-body i guess? still, both are important. i can especially agree with your first bullet point — exercising for health. i’ve definitely gone off the deep end of competing with myself, and while a little competition is good i think it’s actually worn me down mentally.

  3. Gary

    Hi Amy,

    I found your blog while searching for information about how soon one could reasonably expect to return to running after surgery for a broken wrist without jeopardizing recovery. I had a nasty fall on the ice–damn Snowpacolypse!–on Feb 17th, severely breaking both my radius and ulna while dislocating my hand. I had surgery two weeks ago Friday and it sounds like my experience was similar to yours.

    I’ve been doing some walking this last week and am hoping to get back to easy running and spinning on Saturday. I’m a marathon runner too. I had been running well and was psyched about the coming warmer weather and summer running and this set back has been hard.

    I’ve been surprised at how difficult recovery from this injury has been. I’ll be checking your blog to see how you are coming along and for a little inspiration from someone going through a very similar process at almost the exact same time. Best wishes for a speedy recovery and return to the roads and slopes!


    • I’m so sorry to hear you’ve been going through the same thing, but so glad you found the blog and decided to comment — it’s great to hear from someone experiencing similar frustrations! I, too, have been surprised at how difficult recovery has been, and am having to continuously revise my expectations as I continue to heal. But it sounds like we are both through the worst of it — enjoy your first run back, and please keep me posted about the rest of your recovery!

      • Gary

        Btw, my nerve block wore off prematurely too–though after 7 hours not just the one. I have never been in so much pain. Unfortunately, I was already home so all I could do was max out on vicodin and grit my way through it. It reminded me a little of the last four or five miles of a really tough marathon–except worse.

      • I KNOW! The hour or so of post-surgery pain without any pain killers literally redefined my idea of pain. From now on, any time someone asks me what my pain is on a scale of 1 to 10, I will only be able to answer one through three, because comparing anything to the 10 I experienced that night just feels wrong. Glad to know I’m not the only one!

  4. trialsoftraining

    Your attitude is amazing! I needed to read this – I was frustrated last night at hitting an 8:30 m/m pace rather than 8-8:15 for what was supposed to be an ‘easy 4’ (and actually *supposed* to be at 9 m/m. sheesh).

    I love that you take every opportunity (injuries, good races/bad races, etc) to learn something and reflect! I’ll be needing this “truce” deal with my legs and mentality over the next 8 days, that’s for sure 🙂

  5. Pingback: Motivation Monday: the ‘happy distractions’ edition « Amy Reinink

  6. Hm… A truce with my body. That is almost (but not quite) an opposite of my dilemma.

    I have a double whammy in the world of fitness to contend with – extremely loose joints/hypermobility (I can dislocate anything if I am not strong and stable) as well as nerves that do not transmit the signals to my muscles as well as they should – making it hard to be strong and even harder to get stronger.

    Rather than a “truce” I practice the art of listening. I am determined to push and re-define my limits, but not without paying attention to be sure that I slowly approach, cautiously push beyond, and retreat to recover. I listen very carefully, paying attention to movement and form.

    As you can imagine, I never listen to an iPod when working on something that pushes my boundaries!

    Good luck with your recovery. The body, aided by medical advances, is an amazing and resilient thing. I am confident you will emerge strong and ready to take your training to a new level!

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