OK so story time.
From the ages of about 12 to 19, I was a serious athlete. I played year round field hockey. Year fucking round. I attended the types of camps and leagues that required 8 hours of play a day and were scouting grounds for college and national teams and shit.
I loved playing field hockey, but my body was maybe not so enamored with the sport.
Here’s the thing: puberty coinciding with hardcore athletics is not always a good combination. By the end of my first season, I had collapsing arches and was wearing a knee brace. But things didn’t end there.
I think the problem was that I had a really bad coach. She was of the opinion that players should be praised for ignoring injuries. I remember one time, there was a girl who actually BROKE HER THUMB in the middle of the game. So instead of sitting it out (because of injuring it more) the girl borrowed a thumb cast from a girl who ALREADY had broken her thumb and played on…in OT. This girl risked permanently damaging her thumb.
For a high school sports game.
And then got VIP for the game because “SHE NEVER GAVE UP.”
So anyways, my senior season rolled around and as I mentioned, my body was pretty much being pushed to the limits. At practice one day, I rolled my ankle running. I stopped and paused to make sure I could put weight on it (because I wasn’t sure how hurt I was) and my coach yelled at me for stopping. “YOU SLACKER KEEP GOING THAT’S NOT HOW VARSITY ATHLETES RUN.” Or something. And then I kept going (on an ankle that was already unstable) and ended up hearing a really bad SNAP/CRUNCH sound and collapsing because my ankle could no longer bear my weight.
I had to be carried off the track by some trainers.
When I went to the hospital, the doctor told me I had actually sprained my ankle in MULTIPLE places. I ended up with crutches for about 4 weeks, and had to have my ankles taped and wear a brace for the rest of the season…and never really regained my mobility and flexibility until about three years later.
So where am I going with this?
Pain is not “weakness.” Injuries are NOT something to just POWER THROUGH. these are actually VERY STUPID things to do. You don’t want to get hurt permanently, or even worse than you already are.
Telling people to not be wimps and suck up injuries is incredibly harmful and risky. There’s a HUGE difference between being lazy and being LEGITIMATELY INJURED and current sports culture really venerates equating the two. It’s not awesome or something to be praised…it’s actually sort of stupid.
So…if you are working out, if you ARE just getting into a sport…pay attention to your body! Pain is a good gage to determine what your body is ready for and what it’s not! General muscle soreness is one thing, and something I think most people can differentiate between “oh god I’m just out of shape” from “oh god I think I have a stress injury because I overdid it oops.”
If you DO overdo something and feel some swelling or sharp pain or localized tenderness (even blisters–sidenote, I once had blisters within blisters so badly that there was the danger of rubbing down to the bone…and also I’ve gotten infected blisters before and those are NOT FUN and CAN LEAD TO BLOOD POISONING PLEASE DO NOT IGNORE BLISTERS)…don’t ignore it. DON’T feel ashamed for taking it easy on yourself. Because permanent damage is just that…permanent.
So here’s my take on the whole “getting in shape” thing:
- Stretching is almost more important than your actual routine. If you stretch and warm up properly, there’s less risk for injury and more possibility of going longer and harder because your body is primed properly!
- Hydrate yourself. Don’t feel weak for doing this. That’s just silly. Your body runs on water (and other things). You can’t run on empty! And even when you try….just…it’s not pretty. Trust me. You can work out if you’ve fainted and are unconscious, right?
- Sometimes you will be hardpressed to get out of bed and get started. You will feel like rolling around in something soft and crying. This is OK. Personal days are OK. Just make sure your schedule doesn’t completely fall by the wayside–one of the hardest things to do is starting after you’ve stopped completely.
- But missing one or two days just to recuperate is nOT stopping completely
- And if you do injure yourself acutely–be it a sprain, strain, or stress fracture, LISTEN TO YOUR DOCTOR. If they say you shouldn’t be using it…don’t use it. Fuck anybody who tells you “well a little is OK.” It’s probably not.
- Have fun. Stay positive. Don’t let anybody dictate what you SHOULD be doing (unless that person is a trained and licensed professional whom you have hired and/or consulted in a professional setting in which case you should probably listen to them because that’s why they’re there). But remember: the person who knows your body best is yourself.