When the nerve pain in my shoulder finally inspired me towards physical therapy this past spring, it was natural for me to feel resentful. 1) it is inconvenient to get to PT twice a week; 2) it is frustrating to be forced to change one’s usual routine. I did a lot of walking, a little more yoga, and adhered religiously to my PT exercises. By June, I was feeling better and started to increase my running, and by July, I was discharged from PT, back to running 4 days a week, and ready for my goal half marathon in October. I studiously ignored the twinge in my left heel and plugged away at my training plan, driven by my love of solitary, cool, early-morning runs and the anxiety of an impending race date. Even in late July when I finally got myself to a podiatrist, I took his words of “no restrictions” to heart and continued my routine, adding speed intervals for the first time ever and dedicating myself to hills once a week.
I was exactly back where I’d been 4 months earlier, and it felt great!
…Until it didn’t.
In yoga we learn about the concept of “the Edge.” It’s the place where you push yourself almost to your limit, and learn to live there comfortably. In more literal terms, it can mean sinking into a deeper chair pose and using your breath to tolerate it and not just praying for it to be over and straightening your legs to make it easier. Getting to my Edge is something I’m still learning, and it takes practice and a lot of listening to my body. The Edge is a movable thing, and every day it’s my job to rediscover or redefine it. The Edge has nothing to do with what the person next to me is doing, or what I did yesterday. It’s about now, and reaching but not forcing. As one of my favorite yoga instructors says often, “if it feels like something is going to break, it probably is, so feel free to back out if you need to.”
And you know what? If I need to, I do. Yoga has taught me to strive, but not strain, and to be kind to my body when it needs me to be.
It would have been nice if several months ago I could have applied this principle to running! It is so easy for runners to ignore our bodies and instead focus on all the numeric data we have. I was so pleased, in July, to be back where I was, pace- and mileage-wise, in March. Never mind that in the middle I’d endured a 20-mile race, significant pain, physical therapy, rest, extensive travel, and illness. My Garmin said I was where I wanted to be! And I was doing it in warmer temperatures! Sprints! Hills! I was winning!
And holy shit, my leg and foot were killing me. But I threw on compression socks, and kept going. In September I got to the point where it took me 5 days to recover from the pain of a 9-mile run. Mercifully, before the deadline I was able to defer my entry to next year’s half marathon. I trudged on, my runs becoming shorter and slower, and my ice-and-stretch time growing longer. I was so far over the Edge, physically and mentally, that I wasn’t sure how to get back!
With the help of a physical therapist, an amazing treatment known as Graston, a night splint, new insoles, self-massage and more stretches than I can count, I am inching my way there. Some days, my Edge is a 30-minute walk, yoga and ice packs. Saturday, my Edge was a 5-mile trail run that left me pleasantly sore but not debilitated. In yoga class on Sunday, I gave myself the goal of tuning into my body. Yeah, there was that twinge in my heel when I had to balance, but it wasn’t too bad. Oof, I felt those hills in my quads as I lunged forward, but I managed it. I found a comfortable Edge that for some reason is easier to locate in a yoga studio than on the sidewalk. As I’m working on recovering, I feel like the streets around my house have too much data and too much room for comparison, so I’m working on mixing it up, hitting the woods when I can and learning to stay where I am supposed to be. At the Edge, not over it.