Part 2- Learn to adapt and push forward!!
In the first part of this small series I discussed what it means to deal with pain. I talked about some of the demons I continue to battle and how pain affects my life. I just had a day come up where I missed out on an awesome opportunity because my hips hurt so bad when I woke up I could barely move. I understand I will have days like this. I was told I would for the rest of my life. So what can I do about it? I can train myself to adapt to this pain and push through it. I can force my mind to lead my body through the pain. I know that there are some that consider this to be silly. Yeah sounds great on the internet but it is entirely different when it is your body and you are fighting the pain. I just read an article in Outside Magazine that my friend Raph Ruiz had sent me. In the article it looks at pain from the perspective of some of the worlds best athletes. There are two quotes that I loved in this article. I will share both with you.
“During really hard training intervals, instead of thinking ‘I want this to be over,’ I try to feel and sit with the pain. Heck, I even try to embrace it.” – Evelyn Stevens, elite cyclist
That is an excellent way to think of things. It makes me think of what my friend Marc Shen had shared with me while talking about one of the long distance paddle board races he has done. He told me that smiling, even though you are in pain and exhausted, is the best way to keep pushing through the pain. He said “When you are making a ‘I am in pain face’ you are actually wasting more energy and keeping your muscles tense. So smile instead. It relaxes your body.”
There is truth in that. I have tried it when I am having a hard time walking due to pain, or when I am swimming for distance or paddling for miles. It really works, not only because you are relaxing your face and body but also because you are smiling at the pain that you are overcoming. Mentally, that goes a long way. Your mind controls the pain. I think of what people have endured and then look at what I am going through at the time. I usually end up laughing at myself for even thinking for a second that I had it tough. There are people who would love to trade places with me on my worst day so I think of them, what they may be going through and I push on knowing that I am truly fortunate. That is my version of adapting to pain. Doesn’t mean I don’t have terrible pain every day, because trust me I do, but it does get me through it just a little easier. Sometimes that’s all it takes.
That leads me to the second quote that I loved from the Outside Magazine article.
“Whenever I get down and catch myself with negative thoughts, I pretend I’m saying those things aloud to another person. I ask myself, would you ever say, ‘Well, it looks like you’re really blowing up, your day is over.’ to a training partner who is struggling? Of course not! You’d tell him, ‘keep pushing and just make it through the next five minutes.'” -Rebecca Rusch, world-champion adventure racer
This quote resonates so much with me because I used to be very good at talking shit to myself. I would allow the pain I was dealing with to justify things. But I would never say the things I aimed at myself, twoards a friend going through a tough time. Never. I love that quote for that very reason. We can pick others up and allow ourselves to slack? No sir! So if you have been guilty of this or are currently doing it, try to remember that quote. It will train your brain to adapt to that pain and push forward.
The day the above picture was taken (a few days ago when I was in St. Petersburg,) I had a medical procedure. I was dealing with that for most of the day and was exhausted after. I didn’t feel like myself, had some pain and just wanted to lay in bed. I could have easily told my friend I wasn’t going out but I didn’t. I pushed forward and went out for dinner with him instead and I ended up having a great time. We got to catch up and laugh and it was exactly what I needed. By the time I got home, I was still exhausted, but felt so much better.
So by learning to adapt to the pain and the crappy days, you can deal with it and move forward. It’s not easy, or fun. But what do you gain by giving up and letting pain push you around? More pain as well as the negative ramifications of mentally quitting or giving up on yourself. Don’t ever give up.
If you haven’t checked out the About Me page, please take a second to do so. It will explain what caused all of this pain for me and help put this blog post into a little better context. So what do you do to help fight through pain? Leave a comment below, I would love to hear what works for you and others out there. We all struggle in life, it’s just a matter of when and how we choose to deal with it. Stay stagnant or move foward? I choose the latter every single time!