When I started down this running/triathlon road a couple years ago, I would drive through pain and discomfort to hit a scheduled workout. Inevitably, that led to more pain and discomfort. Which led to more pushing through, and more pain. You can see where this is going. As I wrote a few weeks back, I’m not as young as I used to be…I can’t pull off that nonsense anymore.
So when my left knee said “dude, not feeling well”, I listened.
There’s a significant difference between discomfort and pain. Discomfort can be managed and sometimes ignored; this is often muscle soreness and the body just getting used to the stresses put upon it by the training, an increase in frequency or intensity, or a new exercise. Pain is your body’s way of saying “hey, dumbass, stop doing that”.
As a triathlete, I face discomfort almost every day I’m training. Whether it’s at the gym lifting (leg day sucks bad for this), running, cycling or swimming, if you’re comfortable, you’re not doing it right. Your body can handle a great deal of discomfort, and it will change that to pain when you’ve done too much. But you can still have a dynamite training session and still be uncomfortable.
Pain, however, should be experienced very rarely during training (racing is a different matter, and I’ll get to that shortly). Pain is your body’s way of saying “oops, you overdid it…better back off”. You should never answer back with “nah, I’ll be fine”, or the next thing your body will tell you is “thanks for that, now we’re screwed”…and you will be.
Now racing can be treated a little differently. Just watch the Ironman World Championship every October. The pros (and many AGers) face some serious pain, tell it to **** off, and drive through it. Sure, they can’t walk the next day, but ask them if it was worth it, and I’ll bet you that every single one will say “hell, yes!” I once read a Twitter post (and I can’t remember who said it) that said “don’t fear the race, fear the training”. So true.
The human machine is an amazing thing; I’m constantly in awe of what I’m able to do myself…and let’s not even talk about professional athletes…those people are simply incredible. But this machine can do some incredible things, and tolerate unreal stresses. We can run hundreds of miles, walk for days, tolerate all sorts of temperatures and pressures, and we’re always searching for new ways to push ourselves. But by that token, our early warning systems are also quite incredible. Our bodies warn us in plenty of time when we’re about to do something really stupid. The trick, however, is listening to those warnings and acting accordingly.
And so that’s what I did this weekend. I started RICEing my knee on Friday evening when I got home. I skipped my long run on Saturday and my planned 90-minute trainer session today. I walked plenty, but I also hydrated well and slept a lot. Today, my knee is feeling perfect and I’ll be ready to get back on the wagon tomorrow.
Lessons learned? Respect the messages your body sends you, give it the care it needs, and it will not fail you.