“Back” to Square One

Posted on July 5, 2012

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Sitting here and staring at the computer reflecting on the stupidity of my actions in the days prior has left me disappointed.  Perhaps disappointed is not even strong enough of a word, but at the moment it most adequately explains my current state.  Sitting here isn’t even an accurate enough description seeing as I am laying down with a heating pad sprawled across my back generating what I hope to be some kind of magical healing power.  However, it has proven to be, at least thus far, a temporary bandage on a seemingly permanent wound.  The problem is, you see, I have injured my back.  It is not an injury that should be taken lightly, but with my “never give up…I must keep going” attitude, it was.  No longer riding the denial train I am left with the realization that when I’m hurt, I’m hurt, and that means I must rest.  That is always easier said than done.

In the past I have always acknowledged my injuries with one part doubt and two parts denial, at least in the beginning.  At some point, usually fairly quickly, I would come to the realization that the injury was much worse than first anticipated.  Then, I would do the one thing I never wanted to do – rest.

Why is it so hard to rest?  Taking off a few days to nurse an injury is always better than the alternative, but somehow my mind rejects that train of thought.  I suppose I like the idea of life having some semblance of a repetitive routine, especially when it comes to working out.  There’s a comfort level in it and it becomes a daily ritual like waking up or going to bed.  I do my best not to deviate from it because chaos, at least in my mind, will ensue.  I worry I may lose the passion for it if I take too much time off, or that my body will suddenly forget how to run quickly or even lift a weight.  Therefore, I push my body and I keep pushing until it pushes back.  Sometimes, though, I push too far, even after meeting substantial resistance.

At the first sign of back pain two weeks ago I shrugged it off and tried in earnest to work through it.  “Just soreness,” I told my wife as she saw me wince in pain more than once.  “I’ll be fine,” I said, “Don’t worry.”  She looked at me with concerned eyes and I smiled through the pain, because, as I always tell her, “It’s what I do.”  The next morning I awoke to acute pain and again I battled through it, disregarding the advice I often give to runner’s suffering with an injury – rest and heal.  For some reason I couldn’t listen to my own advice.  I stubbornly worked through the pain, hoping against hope that I would awake the next morning rejuvenated.  I expected that the miraculous healing powers of eight hours of sleep would take full effect – it didn’t.

I finally decided, with the stern urging of my wife, to rest (oh such a putrid word that should be banished!).  The problem, however, was that I was unable to sit still.  When my wife wasn’t looking I was dropping to the floor attempting pushups and, of course, setting back any progress.  I desperately wanted to move.  After one full day’s rest, when my back finally started to feel somewhat better, I was trying sit-ups.  “I had to loosen up my back.  I’m fine” I said, as I hunched over in discomfort an hour later.  I refused to give in to the pain.  I couldn’t let it win.

Two days ago my wife went for a run around the block.  I told her I needed to get out and walk just for a while.  Her eyebrow raised and she stared at me with those bright blue eyes and said, so beautifully, “No!”  I pleaded.  I begged.  I told her I needed to walk because I had spent the day lying in bed and needed to loosen up my joints.  I even started to believe myself.  I gave her my puppy dog face and assured her I was better.  She agreed to only let me walk and said she would check on me as she ran to make sure I was walking.  She forgot that as soon as she turned the block I would be out of sight.  About 5 minutes into my walk my legs, for some reason unbeknownst to me, started moving faster.  The pain in my back became prominent once again, but my legs just kept moving faster and faster.  Before I knew it my wife had turned the corner and I was no longer walking.  I was running again!!  The wind was in my face.  It was beautiful!  Then, I noticed my back pain.  It nearly dropped me to my knees as soon as I stopped.  I straightened myself and as my wife approached I smiled.  “How do you feel,” she asked.  “110% better thank you!” I replied.  Then, I retreated indoors, falling onto a bag of ice in complete and utter despair.  I was back to square one and it was my fault.

As I lied in bed completely broken that night I wondered how I had gotten to that point.  How did I so foolishly neglect my own advice, as well as the advice of my wife, and put myself in such a horrible predicament.  I didn’t sleep much that night.  I tossed and turned, wondering how many days rest I would need to be 100% again.  I felt horrible as I realized Rachel would have to cook by herself, clean, do laundry, grocery shop – all the things we do together.  It has always been a partnership, each one making the other stronger.   But, there I was, the weakest link.  I apologized the next morning for pushing my injury to its limits and for having to rest even longer than I ever expected.  She looked me in the eyes and could see right through me; a defeated man filled with guilt and stupidity.  Her hand brushed across my hurt back as she said, “All I care about is that you feel better.  I love you.”  For a moment I was healed.  If only love could cure a hurt back.

I’m still trying to understand why I pushed myself so hard and refused to listen to my body.  I think maybe it’s because I didn’t want to feel weak.  I didn’t want to give in or give up, because I felt as though I would be losing a part of myself, even if just for a few days.  Now, here I am, out for much longer than I would have been if I had just rested at the onset of pain.  It not only serves as a lesson to me, but should serve as a lesson to anyone dealing with an injury.  If you feel pain, other than soreness, rest.  If I had just done that from the beginning I would not be writing this blog today; I would be out running.

One of the biggest keys to being healthy is patience.  If you get too eager it can get the best of you and eventually impede your progress.   Be strong in your commitment to get healthy and also be smart.  You never want to end up back at square one.  Trust me, it’s not worth it.

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