The time has come. I have become acutely aware that I am not bionic. Try as I may to dismiss this notion, my body has a voice, and the voice is screaming. Loud and clear. Well, loud anyway. I still struggle with the clarity which seems to go in one ear and out the other. At least the voice bounces around in my head for a little longer than it has in the past. Just enough time to get a sip of wisdom.
I was doing nothing out of the ordinary. Just jogging the dog (ahem, a glorified trot), as I do every day.
Then I felt it. A slight flicker of movement, a nudge on my lower back. As in true Eve form, I ignored the knock on my lower back door. I kept running. No more than 100 yards later, the knock became a SWAT team of pain, kicking though the door frame with thunderous intent. I let out the strangest, primal noise. From the back of my throat came a hollow, guttural, startled cry. The sound of being in battle and caught off guard when you realize you have been wounded. I crumpled to the concrete. My body began to stiffen, so I rolled to my back, right there on the bike path. I looked up at the sky and tried to plan my next move. I did my best to breathe and release the tension. My breathing was more of a shallow pant, it reminded me of a Lamaze scene in a Rom-Com. It subsided enough to get up, and determined to finish my walk, I hobbled another 3 miles. The pain started to multiply like a cancer. It moved its way up my shoulders, neck and head. Fast forward, I made it home, not without a stop for Advil, Tiger Balm, a heating pad and bottle of wine. It was time to sit down and listen to what my body was trying to tell me. Because we don’t communicate often, I felt like I needed a translator or to get Rosetta Stone, stat.
Why did I blow my back out?
Here is the Trainer Answer: I am not doing the work. Do I stretch appropriately. No. Foam Roll. Still no. Take days off from training. Who are you kidding?
The Anatomical Answer: It is common for athletes, runners, or anyone who performs chronic cardio to have overdeveloped hip flexors and knee extensors. Over time, this imbalance tilts the hips forward. The anterior pelvic tilt causes hamstrings and abs lengthen and the muscles in the lower back, to shorten. Your body does not fire the muscles in unison. You have muscles that fire too late because they are too long, and muscles that fire too early because they are short. This imbalance can cause problems, i.e., throwing out your back, when you need to stabilize. This completely makes sense to me now. I have always had chronically tight hips. As a hyper mobile 41-year-old that can still drop into the splits in every direction, the extreme flexibility in my hamstrings and overuse of hip flexors finally caught up with me.
But there is more to it.
Holistic Answer: There have been many studies that link emotions to our psoas muscles. (Think hips). Your hips are the emotional junk drawer. If you are not good at releasing, lack the tools, don’t have the time, and/or desire, to sit in discomfort, bring the raw to the table and heal what is hurting, the pain needs to go somewhere. If not out, it goes in. Where? To the junk drawer.
My junk drawer became overstuffed. It wouldn’t shut, and finally fell apart. I don’t spend a lot of time with my emotions. My go-to is to move, tune out and not think of anything…or just go to sleep.
I have more important things to think about, like clients and career, to deal with my own stuff. I have become very proficient at “non-emoting”.
The Coach Answer: Even if I did everything “right” to prime my body for movement, I have not been doing the work in my emotional space either. The health of your mind and emotions directly affect physical performance. It is time to take that foam roller and dig it right into my heart.
The Personal Answer: We all have our garbage, we all have our issues. How we choose to deal with our issues is what is important. When you tackle each setback with the goal to learn from the experience, growth happens. My relationship of 3 years ended. My shy, but practical side of the brain, whispers logic. I understand that parting ways is for the best. However, the flammable and emotional side of my brain is being a bully. Before logic can finish a sentence, the grief, pain and rage of emotions scream out stories and opinions so loud I become paralyzed. Therefore, I just don’t deal with it.
It hurt, badly. The break up was hard enough. I know that everyone heals differently and certainly has a right to. But, it was a colossal slap in the face to find out that my ex jumped into a new relationship faster than the time it took me to finish the ½ tube of toothpaste he left in my bathroom. How easily replaced I was.
Everyone has a right to search for happiness, comfort and familiarity. That is our primal instinct. And, I suppose, I am no different. However, I need to take a hard look at my “comfort and familiarity”. I must work hard refrain from resorting back to the defense mechanism of distraction. That is where I am comfortable. Changing behavior is not easy, it takes time. It takes courage to go toe to toe with what is painful. It is scary to feel weak and vulnerable. I understand that this is work that must be done so I can continue to do what I love everyday for as long as possible. All.Of.It.
The Take Away for me with this experience:
1. Listen to my body, for real
2. Rethink Chronic Cardio
3. Work on muscle imbalances
4. Give myself some grace
5. Clean out the “Junk Drawer”
6. And for God’s sake…throw away that damn 1/2 tube of toothpaste