“I don’t like to go to class with this new instructor. I am in pain. I won’t ever come back to that class!” I heard this refrain time and time again. Sometimes it is about running. Sometimes it was about biking. Occasionally it was about walking. People would try something new and when it hurt they would whine about the pain and run away.
I sit back and watch people when they talk about exercise and fitness. It's very interesting, even more so because I've been on both sides of the spectrum. I've been in the camp that "I can't exercise because it hurts me." So many people start an exercise regime and then back off because of how they hurt. They wake up the next morning stiff and it's difficult to move. They stretch and it aches a bit. They are sore and yes, tired. So they run away screaming and crying that exercise is not for them. Some just run away from that particular exercise. "I can't run because it hurts." Or "I can't go to zumba because my knees ache." They run away. Yes, they are excuses (which I've talked about extensively; here and here just to name two more recent posts!) And yes, they are valid excuses, these people REALLY do hurt. I'm not disputing that. Exercise hurts, plain and simple. If you are doing it right and really pushing yourself to improve, it will hurt. The problem is that we as Americans run from pain like it's the plague. (I'm not talking like pain from a broken foot, or pain from cancer. Yes, THAT is pain and that is pain that we SHOULD be afraid of.)
Somehow it clicked with me a few months back. I realized that I WILL hurt. It's not really pain as much as it is discomfort (Although when I've really pushed myself it surely feels like pain...but realistically speaking it is more discomfort.) It clicked that this discomfort was good. And for some reason I embraced the pain. I embraced the fact that trying something new was going to hurt. I embraced the fact that running would hurt some days. I embraced the fact that I would hurt and on a daily basis.
Somewhere, somehow in the last 100 years or so we as Americans have been
brainwashed retaught the belief that pain is a bad
thing. If it hurts, don't do it. What kind of mentality is
that? How will you EVER succeed if you don't push yourself past a
little discomfort. Our ancestors were not afraid
of pain. Our forefathers sacrificed a
lot to settle and survive in harsh territories.
Our ancestors faced unmanageable pain when they fought for freedom. History shows that pain was a very real and
very present fact of life. They didn’t
run at the first sign of pain. If they
had, we would not be free. Their
families wouldn’t have food. Our world
would not have evolved into what it is today.
So where did we go wrong? I have no clue and it’s not really important. The important thing is to recognize this tendency to flee from pain. Real and true pain is something that we should be on the guard for. However, we need to recognize that what we perceive as pain is really progress.
Like I said, I’ve begun to embrace pain. The beauty of pain is this……by ignoring the aches and pains that pushing my body brings, I have been able to see myself progress further than I EVER thought was possible.
So how HAVE I learned to push myself past this pain. The best example is a bike ride I had the other week. I wanted to quit. Ohhh, I wanted to quit so bad. I had a mental conversation with myself. “Was I dying?” The answer was no. “Were my legs in danger of falling off of my body?” The answer was no. “So what’s the issue?” And the answer? I guess there is no issue! I pushed through it. I admit that I was sore and achy. But that ride gave me a sense of accomplishment that filled me with confidence and self satisfaction. That ride ALSO helped me gain progress in my long term bike riding goals. It was a win win. If I had quit I may not have LOST, but I certainly wouldn’t have won! I want to WIN!