Monday, April 6, 2015

Bend Before You Break

Sometime in January I woke up with a kink in my neck. The kind where you don't really notice it until you turn your neck just the right amount and suddenly you're screaming in pain. I tried poking around my neck a little to try to ease the tightness and instead discovered that my neck pain was really shoulder pain manifesting itself as neck pain. Why is this important, you might ask. Well, because my shoulder/neck/upper back is still not quite back to normal more than two months later. I don't notice it often-- sometimes at night, when I raise my arms above my head-- definitely not often enough to call the big guns yet. I've debated getting a massage and if they weren't so darn expensive I would have gotten several starting back in January. When it occurred to me that I was still dealing with this same issue all these weeks later I thought maybe going to yoga would provide some relief.

The yoga at my local YMCA is nothing like the hot yoga studios where you leave feeling like you had a great workout. This yoga is gentle, more like a stretching class with some yoga poses thrown in there. And you know what, I love it. I went to class Friday morning and spent the entire class feeling like I couldn't get enough stretching. Suddenly I was realizing how crazy tight my hamstrings were, and how my hips barely let me get into pigeon. I remember thinking during class about how athletes spend so much time beating their bodies up, many until they reach their breaking point. We constantly hear about the importance of recovery but for so many of us this pillar of training is neglected because it isn't as glamorous as running 14 miles and doing an open water swim.

I have dealt with several small nagging injuries and one more serious one in the few years that I have been an endurance athlete. Before that I swam competitively and spent the last three years of my swimming career seriously injured. I'm talking three surgeries in three years. While some of them were accidents, so many of our injuries are unpreventable. Since the start of the year I have been struggling with my run because my IT band has been acting up. I went to yoga on Friday and on Sunday did the longest run since my 70.3 back in September. And it was pain free. Coincidence? Maybe, but I think there's some kind of connection.

I ask so much of my body, constantly taking it through really hard workouts yet I never give it the reward it needs. Don't we owe it to ourselves to treat our bodies like temples? Like goddesses? There's this notion in the sports world that our bodies are somehow disconnected from us. All the time we are being told to listen to our bodies. But you know what? Our bodies are a part of us. They are connected to us in every way and deserve as much love and respect as we give our minds. So why wait until our bodies are screaming at us to do something. It doesn't have to be yoga. There are so many things you can do that aren't training to make yourself feel good. For me, movement is a game changer. I'll go to yoga, take the pup for a walk, hike at the local trails.

So go. Go beat yourself up the best way you can and then build yourself back up. Give yourself love and nourishment. I promise you'll feel amazing.

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