Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Running Shoes Chronicle: Warning Signs

Pain threshold.

The body always knows when something is wrong.  We may choose to ignore it, or delay our response to it, but I believe that pain always finds a way to make itself known. 

My left knee has not been doing so well lately.  As a result, I’ve been restricting myself to doing no incline at all on the treadmill and taking it really really s…l……o…..w…….l…………y.  A physical therapist friend advised me not to run unless there is absolutely no pain but I must admit that I'm not that willing to comply.  I just find it utterly difficult to walk for just 10 minutes, no incline and no faster than 1.5m/hr.  Those were her instructions.  However, I know that the boredom will drive me insane.  Stubborn me, what can I say? 

This morning, when I hopped on the treadmill, I really wanted to be good so I made up my mind to just do it for 15minutes, no incline and really pay attention to my body.  But then after 3minutes, I could no longer help myself.  I had to run.  Not too fast though.  I kept it at 4.5mph, no more than that.  It felt great to be able to run again, to feel my heart beating faster, to feel a few beads of sweat forming, to bounce with the rhythm of my music (yes, it’s still Dido I’m afraid).  I felt liberated!  But then that all too familiar sensation started creeping in again.

Uh-oh, it’s back…that ‘you-better-stop-now-if-you-want-to-still-be-able-to-do-this-again’ thought and feeling.  Ok, ok…so the doctor also told me that running is no longer on the menu….EVER… to which I responded, “Seriously?”, which really translates to, “You do know that I will selectively perceive your term ‘order’ to only mean ‘recommendation’, right?”  (And now I hope he is not reading this).

The way we respond to the sensation of pain or discomfort is a function of our perception of the level of pain we have.  To choose to keep pushing in spite of the objective presence of pain could mean any of the following:

(   1)    That you enjoy pain;
(   2)    That though you may not enjoy the pain, you think you deserve it;
(   3)    That you are in denial, thinking that the pain is but imagined;
(   4)    That you acknowledge the pain but keep thinking that it will just magically go away    
          soon enough and way before any real damage could be done;
(   5)    That you think you are invincible

( If you all must know, I go back and forth between 4 and 5).

   The thing you need to remember about pain is that it's not very forgiving when it comes to being ignored. Depending on your threshold, it's really only a matter of time before pain screams at you to say it will no longer take 'No' for an answer.  It needs to be acknowledged and can be very persistent.  It can be worse than a jealous mistress or lover needing your attention and doing everything in its power to get noticed.  And really it wants only one thing, and that is to be understood.  When you find that you can no longer keep ignoring your pain, the wise thing to do is to not simply try to rid yourself of it, but to know the underlying reason for it.  Only then can you intelligently treat it and come up with a realistic strategy on how to manage it and heal yourself.
     Be grateful for pain for it warns us that something is not right.  It might be hard to admit this but we need pain and it does serve a very important purpose.  We really just have to learn to accept it, befriend it and trust that it is genuinely on our side.  What it really is, is a reminder for self-preservation.  If you say 'no' to that, then you obviously need to do more digging within yourself, not to mention taking not just pain medication but maybe also anti-depressants?  Just a thought.....