Post #8 Healthy Thinking #6
I am not an expert in many areas but I have mastered the art of making bad decisions and I am a self proclaimed expert in pain, most of which is self induced and the rest is caused from a joint disease called Elhers Danlos Syndrome. Pain is a natural response to keep us out of trouble. In a way, it’s a good thing because without it you couldn’t even take a bath without getting burned. On the flip side, pain can rule your life, it can knock you down and keep you there. Most of the time we cope with pain like we do any other symptom, we mask it. Pharmaceuticals, alcohol, and food are a few ways we mask pain (much more on this in a future post). Pain is generally a result of a deeper issue or problem. This is not limited to health and fitness. Every aspect of your life can be controlled by pain if you let it. Most people that have a drug or alcohol problem started out trying to escape or cover up pain until the whole thing spirals out of control. Regardless of whether the pain is physical, emotional, or spiritual I think everyone can agree that, pain hurts.
There’s another aspect of pain that’s a bit more complicated though. Our minds and bodies do not want to change. Our nature is to keep things comfortable and and easy. When we start incorporating change our minds and bodies revolt in a way. The end result is pain. If you do something that stretches your limits, whether it’s physical, emotional, or spiritual it’s going to hurt and the the body’s natural reaction is to stop stretching the limit and get back to comfort as quickly as possible. The struggle is indeed real. Our bodies are resilient, they will fight with intensity to remain the same so if we want to change we need the drive of a champion and the understanding that with change comes pain. The process may hurt but we need to be sold on the idea that the end results and accomplishments are worth the pain.
Think of it this way, everything that we get better at comes with a price. The price is usually sacrifice, hard work, and yes, pain.
As a kid, I couldn’t wait to learn how to split firewood with my dad. I grabbed the axe and went to town. The next day I could hardly move because my muscles hurt so badly. To top it off, I had the nastiest blisters on my hands. After about a week, my muscles felt better and my blisters had healed up. I had a choice to make, learn from my experience with pain and stay away from the axe or rebel against what my body told me and pick it up again. As time went on the blisters turned into calluses and my muscles developed to the point that splitting firewood was actually enjoyable. This process is similar with many things. Muscle soreness will lead to strength, straining your brain will lead to intelligence, tough seasons in a relationship will lead to a stronger bond, taxing your cardiovascular system will force your body to create new blood vessels to improve oxygen consumption and the list goes on. When we do things we are not used to and we push ourselves pain is inevitable but with the pain comes growth. I guess you could call it “growing pains”.
So here’s where the lesson got driven home for me and I started to gain a different perspective on pain. I was hiking with a friend and we were about 3 miles into our hike. I took one wrong step and turned my ankle. This was almost a weekly occurrence, if I was hiking there was a good chance I would sprain my knee or ankle. I always prepared for my hikes with a splint and an ace bandage. I also use trekking poles so I could take some weight of the injured foot and get back to the truck. This day was a little different though, I finished up wrapping my ankle and tapping it up and then I took some ibuprofen. I packed everything up so I could finish the hike. I took about ten steps and ………….BOOM!….I landed on a root just the right way to blow out my other ankle. It was a bad one. I sat down on a log and wondered how I would ever get out of the woods. This picture is a great example of what my ankles would look like after a day of hiking.
In a few minutes my ankle numbed up enough to try to stand. The pain was so intense I thought I was going to pass out. With each step it became more clear that this was going to be the longest 3 miles I had ever hiked. I was in a bad place physically and mentally. I had made a decision to throw in the towel and go back to life on the couch. This idea to get more healthy may work for everyone else but I have far to many physical problems for this whole thing to become a reality. Week in and week out I would go for a hike and spend the entire week nursing an injury. All I could think of is Einstein’s definition of insanity. About a mile from the truck I had already made plans to sell all of my hiking equipment and I had even pictured tossing my hiking boots in a fire. I was done. I was a little less anxious about getting back because with less than a mile I probably could crawl back if I had to. I had a drink of water and popped my earbuds in. My music was on random shuffle and a song came on that was titled “Worth the pain”.(I’ll toss the link at the bottom) As I listened to the song (maybe unconsciously) I started thinking. I was only a few months into my journey and I was still at least 350 lbs and body was in terrible shape, BUT I was making some progress. While I was mentally tossing in the towel I had physically hiked six miles, three of which were on sprained ankles. A few months prior I had trouble getting to the refrigerator. After I was over my pity trip I decided that I wanted another shot at that trail. It took longer than usual to heal up this time and if I remember right I even took a couple weeks off from hiking until the swelling was gone.
****Huge Disclaimer**** I am in no way saying that you should push through pain that is a legitimate medical problem. Looking back I did some really stupid things and I made some bad decisions (remember I’m an expert). If you have a medical condition you should seek medical advice and pushing through could complicate matters.
However, “normal” growth pain and being uncomfortable can be great reminders that change is coming. Instead of seeing pain from growth as a negative we should embrace the pain knowing that the next time we perform the same task
it will be easier we will become better. When you trust the process more than worry about the pain change will happen and you will grow from it.
Here’s that link: Worth the pain
“Eat plants and move your body, all ya gotta do is a little more than yesterday.” 😉
Until next time,