Learning to Welcome the Pain
I’m good at pushing away pain.
I won’t say that I have a high pain tolerance, but when it’s there, I can usually do or say something to myself that compartmentalizes the pain and discomfort. I paint over the thoughts of “ouch this sucks” with. “You’re fine! You feel great!”
It’s only in the last parts of a race that I put my pain face on and give in a little bit; (hence my horrid race photos…) But this “giving in” is just because I can’t fake it anymore and the discomfort starts to seep through the cracks. The pain face comes when I get tired of putting in the energy to mask it.
I recently listened to a podcast with Lauren Fleshman and Jesse Thomas while I was going on a short recovery run and wanted to get out of my own head. In the podcast, Thomas mentions that a breakthrough in his career occurred when he started to respond and think about pain and discomfort in a different way. He compared a race to a deep tissue massage. The massage doesn’t do any good unless you relax the muscles and let the digging begin. When you lay there trying to push away the discomfort with tense muscles, it’s almost impossible for the massage to get deep enough to really help. Allowing your body to feel all the feels without breaking down or actively pushing it away brings the body and the mind to a new level. The pain will be there no matter what, but the way you respond to it can change with practice.
Today, I know I will be uncomfortable. I haven’t raced in seven months, and I’ve come out of practice with dealing with discomfort. I’ve been really scared to race since my injury. Not because I’m scared of getting re-injured or scared of losing, but because I haven’t felt that raw discomfort that rears its head during the last moments of a race.
Instead of pushing away or giving in to pain, maybe it’s better to just let it in--welcome it, let it run beside you, but don’t let it smother you. In the last couple laps of the 5k tonight, I will welcome all of the feelings, good or bad, with open arms.