Tri this, part 2: Running, pain and the power of belief

As is often the case, places of struggle have a great deal to teach us, if we are willing to listen. I’m challenged to bring my curiosity to this place and be willing to notice and learn, even as part of my reaction is to walk, not run away.

Its the third week of my triathlon training adventure.  Its going better than I anticipated. I’m getting the intended number of workouts in, I’m feeling stronger, and I’m clearly making progress. What’s not to like?

As I’ve been training, I’ve noticed that I’m really uncomfortable when I start to run.  At the outset, I was expecting this, as I haven’t run for years, and I had no illusions that it would be easy. I’m making good progress–first day, I would walk two minutes and slow jog 3 or 4 minutes and Monday, after my bike ride and a 2 minute walk, I was able to jog 2 miles.  Not fast, but continuous movement.  Obvious improvement in two weeks. What hasn’t changed for the better is how I feel when I start to run.  Awkward, my joints hurt, exhausted, overwhelmed.  As alluded to above, my instinct is to quit.  I generally stop, walk for a bit, and then try again.  By the third try, I’m usually able to keep going, and  the pain abates.

On Monday, as I was going through the painful phase, I became aware of my posture.  My head was hanging, shoulders rounded, as if I had an enormous burden on my back. As I became aware of this, I experimented with my posture, lifting my head and opening my chest as much as I could.  I felt better!  I continued with my run and did the two miles.  Now, this happened at the place in my run where it usually gets better anyway, so I had a little curiosity; coincidence or causation?  I was pretty sure it was causation, but the next experiment would have to wait.

Today, Wednesday, was recheck day.  As I went out my garden gate onto the bike path, I deliberately raised my head, opened my chest and started to run.  The good news–I didn’t hurt, and I was able to run continuously for 30 minutes, with only a minor slowing to walk as I reached the top of a small hill. I was aware of my posture, keeping my head up and my torso long.  I also noted that paying attention to my core muscles was helpful when I would start getting a twinge somewhere, be it back, hip, or legs.

I have two conclusions here.  One, posture matters.  How I carry myself has a major effect on both my physical and mental well being, and it impacts my athletic performance.  Two, and this may be more important, is the effect of belief on performance and posture.  I think that the burden I was under and which my posture reflected was my belief and expectation that running was going to hurt.  I was not consciously aware of this belief, and yet as I experimented with posture and moving in a different way, I had a very different experience. It will be interesting to notice how this plays out as my training progresses.

In my professional life, as a body-oriented therapist, I am quite aware of the effect of belief and posture on well-being, and how making a change can have a significant impact. Its very gratifying to once again experience this myself, and I imagine that as my work informs my workouts, my workouts will also inform my work. This experience also reaffirms my belief that the body has a great deal to teach us, if we are willing to listen, bringing curiosity to whatever we experience.

4 thoughts on “Tri this, part 2: Running, pain and the power of belief

  1. Learn to get your arms in concert with your legs. When they move symphiniously (word???) with your legs, your body begins to sing a song that your ears have been longing to hear? What??? My body is working together for a common purpose? Who knew? Try it. Let me know what you learn. Curating for the tribe.

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