Paying attention to pain

I tried to ignore it, but I knew that was a bad idea. Ignoring those tweaks and aches and occasional shots of pain are a recipe for creating injury. This is a lesson learned from experience (see: plantar fasciitis from earlier this year). While there are some fun races on my schedule for the rest of the year, technically I’m in base training — working on my fitness, technique and endurance before specifically preparing for my next A-level race, Ironman Lonestar, a 70.3 in Galveston, Texas.

That race is April 1. There is no need to push through an injury right now or to push through a workout to create an injury. So when my tempo run this week included some soreness, stiffness and occasional pain on the inside of my left ankle/lower leg, I backed off the run and reported it to my coach.

I don’t want to whine or complain, I thought, but I know my body. There are two major types of “pain” I’ve experienced while working out. The first is discomfort at being pushed outside of my comfort zone. This is pain which really isn’t pain but more my body saying, “Whoa. This is new.” The second type is actual pain. Something is not right. This is not something that will go away with pushing through. In fact, pushing through may make it worse.

It’s taken me some time to understand the difference between the two. And even when I feel real pain, there is still part of me which wonders if I’m being “soft.” Then I remember six weeks of pool running and I’d rather be cautious than strap on the aqua jogger again.

Under consultation with my coach, we bagged my weekend workout plans and exchanged them for an hour of easy cycling on Saturday and Sunday. I had some reframing to do. The crisp but clear autumn days made me wish I was out for a run, but I stuck to my bike. In fact, I even changed out my “good, race wheels” for my older “factory wheels” all by myself. This was an incredibly empowering moment. So much so, I sent a text to a number of friends to account for my personal triumph.

The soreness and pain in my ankle has vanished just as mysteriously as it appeared. Maybe my body needed a rest. Perhaps I needed to get my whole being on the same page as I enter my busy season. Slowing down is never an easy sell for me. I constantly worry that I’m falling behind. But sometimes you have to slow down to survey the road. The best decisions can come from that place.

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