I was talking with a friend yesterday and he mentioned that his daughter, who is on a Division I college athletic scholarship, often called complaining about the new "ache and pain of the day". He said, it was always something, and the she often tried to use it as an excuse to skip practice. It seems this is not uncommon with a lot of athletes and a lot of runners.
A high percentage of the time, when someone engages me in the topic of running, the conversation inevitably turns into, "Well ... I used to run, but I've got these bad knees from a football injury!", or "I used to jog all the time, but I have really bad shin-splints ... I mean they're really bad ... doctor said the worst he's ever seen!", or "Oh believe me, I would love to be a runner, but my feet just hurt so bad when I'm done ... I'm pretty sure my feet are extra sensitive!" So, so many "special cases".
Some of this justification for little or no physical activity can be actually due to injury. But a large majority of the time, I think it's just a way to try to relate to someone who they have little in common with. Like a way to put themselves on the same athletic plane ... "if only it weren't for (insert excuse here)". Or even worse, a way to put you in a box and minimize your accomplishments, because of course they would do it too if not for ... "(insert excuse here)". I always try to act very concerned and compassionate, but if I'm totally honest ... in the back of mind I the cynic in me sometimes thinks, "Maybe you just need to toughen up a little".
There's always a fine line between being hurt and being injured. Obviously, we sometimes unfortunately deal with actual injury ... broken bones, torn tendons, ruptured muscles ... things that need time to heal, and at worst, surgery. But I'm a huge believer that the human body is one of the most remarkable machines on the planet. It's powerful. It's resilient. It can withstand extreme hot & cold. And a lot of the time, if we can simply get our minds around the physical task at hand, it can amaze us with it's ability to perform. Our simple "willingness" can push our bodies through a lot of pain, and a lot of resistance.
I'm very fortunate in that I've never really experienced any sort of injury. I've never had surgery. I've never torn anything. And in spite of 6 years of football, 7 years of basketball, almost 20 years of baseball, and a ton of running along the way, I've never broken a bone either. I'm just wired really well for this. But I think there's the misconception with a few folks I know that I feel GREAT all the time. Man, I'm 45 years old! I've ran almost 10,000 miles over the past three years .... 10,000! That's a lot! And also churned out a ton of core and leg conditioning along the way. Do you honestly think my body doesn't ache a large majority of the time? Well you'd be wrong if you said "no". It does. Some days ... like this morning ... I have to really push myself to hit the road (or treadmill lately). It would be easy to skip it. My body really wants me to skip it. The bed is warm ... and soft. And when I'm at home and not on the road, there's a beautiful woman lying beside me! But I'm driven by always trying to make my running better. I don't want to settle. I don't think I'm at my peak yet and I want to find how high exactly, that point is. And I try ... almost everyday ... not to make physical excuses. I run through the aches. I run through the pain. And when it hurts, and I'm tired, and I think about quitting, I say to myself, "Don't be a pussy ... don't quit!"
Now, I don't expect that everyone would choose this path. You'd kinda be crazy if you did. A lot of folks simply enjoy a little running here and there to stay in shape - which is absolutely awesome. Others enjoy races, but aren't that concerned about the clock - and as I've said a hundred times, that's great too. In fact I probably should be more like that. But if you are one of those people trying to whittle down your time, and break the finish line faster than you have in the past ... but little nagging aches and pains are holding you back - it might be time to really examine if you're cut out for this. If it's a legit injury - obviously don't push it. You need to heal, and maybe get some professional attention. But, if it's simply pain from sore muscles, or low energy levels ... I suggest you take a long look at whether you're unable or unwilling to accomplish your goals. And maybe, just maybe, you need to toughen up a little, and ask yourself why other people your age can get it done and you can't.
1980 Boston Marathon champion, Jacqueline Gareau once said, "The body doesn't want you to do this. As you run, it tells you to stop but the mind must be strong. You always go too far for your body. You must handle the pain with strategy. It's not age. It's not diet. It's the will to succeed." You can do this! You can overcome the pain, and fatigue, and resistance, and accomplish great things! But are you willing?
... be great today!