Hurts So Good

We’ve spoken about pain before, and how to push through our perceptions of what is bad and good. The gallbladder implosion incident has given me for the first time a decent idea of what bad really feels like: I’ve broken toes before, but the pain of those is lost to the mists of time. First and second birth were so highly medicated that, to be honest, I couldn’t reliably tell you how it felt either. How do you know when you’re looking at a trip to the hospital?

This is particularly tough when your 14 year old is coming to terms to what an allergic reaction feels like, and the circumstances where she’d need to use an Epipen. It’s about understanding first that she has the symptoms: remembering what they feel like and how that affects her body. Then, it’s telling her that as soon as her major bodily functions became impaired (breathing, cognition) it’s vital to seek medical help and then self-medicate. Learning how your body works is an essential part of the process.

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The process of pushing myself physically comes with its own sets of challenges. Last night, for instance, for a brief and glorious period of less than a minute, heart-rate creeped up above my normal threshold. The physical consequences of this are many-fold: breathing loses any kind of rhythm, brain struggles to keep focused and, literally my chest hurts. Last night, however, I was prepared for all this. We didn’t stop, just slowed down. We kept moving, and experienced the sensations properly.

It wasn’t about speeding up last night, or pushing through any kind of barrier. I just needed not to stop, and so that’s what happened. Fear is the biggest killer, means by which you will never move past your static goals, because it is the possibility something bad is going to happen that prevents you from ever making the effort. Nothing bad happened, I didn’t fall over or pass out. Making it to the end of the class, for the first time in several months, really felt like an achievement.

Those of you who don’t have to worry about this kind of stuff are very lucky indeed. You individuals who can just run without thinking, exercise without consequence. I wonder, do you realise just how lucky you are? Is there ever a moment where you stop and think what it might be like not to be able to do everything you want… or is this never a situation that ever crosses your mind? These are the days when overthinking becomes a distinct curse.

Pain has all sorts of consequences, and not just the ones you’re unlucky to feel.

Saturday

Ah, at last…

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An issue with my sciatic nerve made yesterday a bit of a trial, but (as was predicted) I’ve woken up this morning to being largely pain free. This is the benefit of letting properly trained professionals look after your body, and trusting that they will, with time and effort, bring everything to a state of acceptable harmony. Pain’s a tough subject to broach with many, and the realisation that if you’re prepared to suffer it to help yourself be free from it long term… often, that’s the ask most people aren’t willing to even begin.

Not all pain is bad, you know.

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Well now you put it like that… but seriously, when it comes to the process of pushing yourself to greater gains, there is a point where physical discomfort is pretty much a given. To build muscle mass you quite literally rip your body’s muscle fibres apart allowing them to reconstruct themselves as stronger. In my case, by doing so, my poor left hand side (which has always been problematic) yesterday had a portion of nerve fibre caught in said tissue.

The process of this continuous reconstruction also relies on you not just working the major muscle groups in arms and legs: your core (all the muscles that surround your torso with their connecting areas to your limbs) need to be as strong as everything else: if they’re not, you’ll inevitably suffer issues, and that’s where I’m at right now. Arms and legs can do the business, but unless you work on core strength, a lot of the potential is simply lost.

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After decades of sedentary activity, there are inevitably going to be stones in the road. If I couldn’t cope with pain, I wouldn’t have gotten this far. It isn’t just muscle aches, or physiotherapy, but the real physical issues that having a reduced lung capacity initially caused on building stamina, and the mental pain when things simply get too hard to overcome. That’s the moment where you increase your tolerance for discomfort, and simply push on through.

Random bruises appear and are summarily ignored. Footwear is a priority, and if it doesn’t properly support the right parts of my foot it has become effectively useless. The journey from casual participant to hardcore gym goer was largely seamless, and it now means that as soon as this and my archive posts are done, it’s off for a 45 minute HIIT run. It will get really hard (and quite possibly painful) at about the 35 minute mark but it doesn’t matter. We’ll push through today, because the leg is up for it.

The key is knowing when good pain becomes bad.

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If that’s a discussion that confuses you, and you’re of the mindset that pain is just bad… we need to have a chat over a beer or seven. Yes, there is good pain, and pushing past both that and preconceptions of what you are capable of is the first step into a far larger universe.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some exercise to do.