September 10, 2013

Rest? No thanks.

I'm sitting here on the couch, about to start grading my students' essays, with a frozen water bottle tucked into my pants along the outside of my thigh.

IT band pain.

It's pretty common in runners.  It's a tendon that runs along the outside of your leg and it gets tight for a lot of people.

For the past ten days I've had hip-flexor pain and for the past 18 months my Achilles tendinitis causes me to wake up stiff and hobbling every morning.  All of this on my left leg and I know all of it is somehow connected.  I'm trying to find a sports massage therapist here in town but I'm still waiting for who appears to be the only one to call me back.

So right now I'm running, swimming, and CrossFitting a lot and most of the time I am managing some kind of injury.  Training with an injury means pain or discomfort on a pretty regular basis. And all of the information I find online tells me to rest.  Rest your muscles.  Rest your joints.  Rest your tendons.

I just can't do this.  I can't rest.  Even on most of my 'rest days' I still go on long walks.  I take rest days once or twice a week.

But resting to repair an injury or overuse issue is different than a  regular rest day; they're not scheduled.  Taking a rest day because I'm hurting is incredibly hard for me to do; it makes me feel like I'm missing valuable training.

But more than risking the loss of any progress, it makes me feel worried.

Worried that I will lose important gains or get slower or come back weak.  As a heavier, slower athlete losing any speed puts me back at 12 minute miles when I've worked so hard to get to 11:20/mile speeds.

Mostly I worry that I'll gain weight.  I've maintained a 50 pound weight loss for 5 1/2 years now and my total loss is around 75 lbs.  I'm at my lowest weight since my senior year of high school and I look great in my jeans.  I'm faster, stronger, and generally more awesome than ever before.  Exercise is a big part of that success and maintenance.  If I stop exercising, even for a few days or a week, I worry that the scale will move up ten pounds.  I also use exercise to control my eating, meaning that I eat to support my workouts and avoid certain foods because they cause me to lift less or run slower, so if I stop exercising I find it a lot harder to resist pizza, burgers, and cake.

So essentially I'd rather be injured and in pretty constant discomfort than risk gaining some weight back.  I believe that training for races and other events has been the thing that let me lose and maintain a weight loss.  The idea of giving that up, even for a few days or a week, is really disconcerting.  Shoot, actually it's really scary.  I'm swimming more as a way of losing and maintaining my weight but I know in my heart I'm a runner and a CrossFitter.  Swimming, while good, isn't as satisfying.

How do you deal with this?  Is rest hard?  In our world of busy-ness and where people glorify a packed calendar how do you make time to do something that might heal you but also might set you back?