While Sarah has been admirably training intensely through weather that would make Al Roker wince, I have been occupying the other end of the spectrum. For the past three or so weeks, I've been hanging under bad lighting at the Y, hitting what I call the 3 S's: spinning, swimming, strengthening, all in an effort to quiet the regular and often astounding pain that has been hitting my left knee, IT band and glute for too long. It's been so regular and astounding that I often wonder if my body is telling me that my days as a runner are over.
So I get props for not running and aggravating my already tender joints. However, I definitely do not get credit for the way I've been acting during my workouts. Embarrassing to admit, but I've been just pushing through the pain. In a spinning class, I'll continue to pedal standing up--a "jog" in spinning speak--even when my leg tells me its time to sit down and ease up. In swimming, I powered through about 700 yards of breaststroke, simply because that's what the (self-prescribed) workout prescribed, even though the frog kick wasn't doing my sore glutes any favors.
Rationally, I know when I'm going too hard that I should dial it back, but it is so, so, so hard for me to do. Why? Old habits die hard, I guess. Although today I'm a nearly-middle-aged middle-of-the-packer whose main concern is getting across the finish line, I used to be an elite rower, putting in 3-days for a year before I realized how insane that was, who defined herself--and was defined by others--by her splits, her body fat percentage, her mental tenacity. Not sure about you, but I have a hard time not reverting to a high-school mentality when I visit my parents and childhood home ("You bought my sister a sweater and didn't get me anything, Mom?"). Same thing with my athletic mentality: I put on a sports bra, and I immediately go into strive-achieve-prove mode, almost unconsciously.
On Monday, after I walked the dogs for 45 minutes, with every step producing a whimper from my leg, I finally surrendered and called a physical therapist I have worked with previously. I saw her yesterday, and she found that my hips are out of whack, and as such, I'm compensating terribly. She gave me a mere two exercises to do--when she said one set of 10 for each, my reply was, "Only 10? Shouldn't I do more?"--put a cool electric patch on my hip that dispersed anti-inflammatory medicine, and told me to keep spinning and swimming. Honestly, I wanted her to say to take a week off--I'll happily take a break, when it's a mandate--but she wants to keep blood flowing to the inflamed areas. The only caveat? Stop when it hurts.
So this week is pretty much do or die. I have to get my leg feeling better, or the consequences will be much worse if I continue down the unbalanced path I'm on. It's going to be tough to sit down in spinning when everybody else is cranking it out. I suspect, though, that the temporary hurt to my pride is nothing like the pain of hearing I should never run again.