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When seeking some sort of credential in exercise, whether it be as a personal trainer, coach, or group exercise instructor, one of the first things you are taught is the importance of (and the ability to suggest and implement) modifications to exercises and workouts. It is important to offer a client or class participant an exercise option that they can safely perform within their current fitness capabilities, if the original option is too difficult (or even too easy). We do this for a number of reasons, safety of course being of the utmost importance. Modifications also offer a feeling of inclusion, nothing is more awkward than sitting on a mat in the middle of class sheepishly looking around at others because you can’t do a single standard pushup.
But in my personal opinion, the most important reason to offer modifications (other than safety, of course) is to give people confidence. A simple reminder of “maybe I can’t do _____ YET, but I can do _____ TODAY, and that will help me be able to do ______in the future.” I’m a huge fan of reminding clients over and over and over again to not worry about what they used to be able to do, or what they hope to do in the future, but instead to focus on where they are right at this very moment. Today.
It’s always harder to apply these tactics to ones own self.
Runner’s are notorious for planning their race calendar months, if not years, in advance. It’s partially a necessity, you’ve got to have the time to train for said races. A half marathon requires 10-12 weeks, a full marathon 16-20 weeks, and an ultra of 100 miles or more? Basically you just sign your life away to training for half a year. Then you add in things like planning to run a particular race in order to allow you to qualify for even another race, you’re talking multiple years.
Needless to say, an unexpected injury is the monkey wrench in the gears of your training and racing goals.
Before this pesky hernia became so bad it required surgery (again) I had a pretty specific racing “to do” list this for the remainder of this year: Desert Rats, Barkley Fall Classic, and a solid attempt for a sub 24 hour 100 at One Epic Run. I had a lot of success training for and racing Hallucination, and a lot of success training for Knock on Wood, even if race day didn’t go as planned. I had a solid, strong base, and now adding a time goal to my next 100 attempt seemed like the thing to do. I had even discussed my plans with a potential coach, I was genuinely serious about doing everything I could to achieve the goal.
But then when surgery became inevitable, I had to tell a good friend I couldn’t go run with her in the desert, had to give up my spot at the BFC (despite Gary/Laz telling me to duct tape it and suck it up), and now I’m having to rethink my One Epic plans.
I had to change my expectations.
As of today I’ve essentially gone about 10 weeks now without running. While surgery was only about 3 weeks ago, I’ve spent the last two + months not running at all. I tapered for Knock on Wood, ran/walked (but mostly walked) 100 miles, and haven’t run since. When you have built a life around movement, or in my case, running, going months without that sort of movement is a struggle. If you’ve been following along, you’ve read the whiney posts where I lamented how I didn’t know what to do with my life without running. Pathetic, but unfortunately true. I’m sure many of you have been there, and can relate. Hopefully, those of you who can relate also know the incredible feelings you experience when you are finally able to move again. To feel your heart rate increase, sweat start to form, and lungs gasp for air again. For people like us*, it’s pure joy.
(* us being the crazy endurance types. I realize in a world full of convenience, we are a unique bunch. We have our reasons.)
Thursday morning I was given the all clear from my surgeon to resume aerobic activity. Of course, I also got the “you don’t win a trophy for making the fastest comeback after surgery” lecture, as well. I know, I know, trust me, I know, doc. I’ve been an excellent patient thus far, and I’m not going to blow all of that good behavior for nothing. Not to mention, this recovery has been significantly more difficult than last time, and I’m still battling a painful seroma in the location of the hernia.
I’m taking it easy.
I’ve started, stopped, and rewritten this post about a dozen times in the last 6 days. I was hoping to write a uplifting post about expectations and modifications. For all intents and purposes, I’ve maintained a pretty positive outlook through all of this. My expectations are realistic. Yes, it sucks not running. But I keep reminding myself how fortunate I am to have been able to get the surgery that I needed, when I needed it the most, and that I’m now on my way to recovery.
I don’t really know where I’m going with any of this, I guess I just felt compelled to write. The truth is, life is not always a positive story or a peppy motivational poster. Sometimes life is hard. Sometimes writing about life is hard. Sometimes, remembering that just because you aren’t where you want to be today, and you aren’t where you were three months ago, doesn’t mean you won’t be where you want to be in the future. This struggle shall pass.
Focus on today.