Injury and pain

For months now I’ve been writing a weekly column about my journey from couch potato to an active and fit lifestyle—trying out this, that and the other thing, all without incident.

This past week, however, I started to have a lot of pain in my arm, and as if that wasn’t enough of a bummer, I don’t know how I hurt myself.

At the same time, I got a press release about the first events happening in the Torrance County 50+ Games, which will be in Feb. 13 in Estancia. So now I have competing pressures: Don’t injure yourself by doing a lot of hard workouts while you’re in pain, versus get your butt moving, girl, 50+ Games are right around the corner!

I had set up a session with a personal trainer Monday, but it’s easy for me to know which half of the pressure above will win. Now that I’ve gotten older, that macho streak which led me to do all kinds of silly things when I was younger—including the move that initially caused my arm injury many years ago—has mostly faded. I’m just not as likely to hurt myself that way any more.

Another part of the puzzle is the amazing experience of “moving in” to my body.

When I was a child, I was sexually abused. It’s not something I dwell on, but it did leave some lasting scars on my psyche. One of them, common to many survivors of sexual trauma, is the feeling of not being “in” my body. But working out and getting regular exercise has done more to help me inhabit my body than anything else in my life to date.

I used to have a mental image of myself as a tiny little person, riding along on the inside of my eyeglasses and peeking out at the world. Until I left home at 18, my body had not been a safe place to hang out, you see, and I spent almost no time there. Like many survivors of sexual abuse, I frequently bumped into things and had other issues arising from not being aware of myself physically. And I stayed that way, mostly, for the next 25 years or so. That really started to change when I started to work out.

Getting lots of exercise necessarily means paying attention to my body if I want to avoid injury. When I was visiting the high school track and running bleachers, sometimes in wet and rainy conditions, I had to be very, very aware of where my feet were and how tired my legs were to avoid a nasty fall.

When I am pulling and pushing myself up a climbing wall, I have to know exactly where my hands and feet are, how tired my fingers are, where my center of gravity is (and that moves around as I shift my weight), how far off the ground I am, and how tired my muscles are overall.

When I am doing box jumps, I have to know how high to jump, how far forward to launch my body, and where my feet are, to do it without hurting myself. And at this point, I still have to have that conversation with myself before nearly every jump, because I haven’t gotten the muscle memory yet.

Learning how to stop eating when I am full is part of it, too. Being in my body—and being aware enough—to know when I have had enough food requires attention to how my body is feeling. Since not doing this doesn’t result in a face plant, it’s easier for me to ignore this issue, but I’m working on it, and I believe my best asset is being aware of myself physically.

But there’s always something. So here is what comes up for me now: How do I walk the fine line between being aware of what I’m doing and not hurting myself, and giving myself an easy out, a bulletproof excuse?

On Monday, I did not take advantage of the appointment I had made with a personal trainer. I wanted to see if my arm pain went away, and I wanted to do that without adding any work to that arm that might slow that process. On Tuesday, my arm feels much better—still a little sore but not as painful as yesterday.

But on Monday, I didn’t just cancel my workout. I also rescheduled my session for Wednesday. And if my arm still hurts, then we’ll work on my legs. This is where my stubborn streak comes in handy. I. Will. Persevere.

How do you react to setbacks in your health and fitness programs? Contact me at 505-286-1212 or leota@lobo.net, or look for my group on Facebook, “I’m Losing It!” and join the conversation there.