One of the coaches at my Crossfit recently posted the above quote on his facebook page. It sounds simple right? You are in the last round of a heavy workout, the final km of the marathon: Accept the pain and cowboy up to the finish line. I’ve always thought that this mental toughness was one of Crossfit’s greatest assets in that it really does expand the boundaries of what one thinks is physically possible. Before I started participating in Crossfit about 2 years ago, the only time I experienced reaching my physical limit was during the Marathon around the 35th kilometer. Nowadays daily Crossfit workouts teach me to persevere through bloody hands, sore legs, and absolute physical exhaustion that is brought on in a matter of minutes. Possessing this never quit mentality is exactly what transforms an average Joe American into a better and stronger athlete. But what happens when he or she tries to push even harder? Red Sox fans are eternally grateful that Curt Schilling pushed through his bad ankle to beat the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS (the bloody sock) and no one wants a police officer or fireman to quit in the middle of an emergency due to injury. However, for us mere mortals and contrary to the quote above, ignoring pain can push one over the edge resulting in long lasting consequences.
Last year I trained all out in preparation for my 4th Marathon. I sucked it up running and lifting my way through slight but constant hip pain (I was running a lot right?) finishing the big race with a new PR of 4 hours and 26 mins. I was on top of the world and at Crossfit the very next day to pick up where I had left off. Sadly, however, that world came crashing down a few days later when I herniated a disc in my back doing light deadlifts and nothing has been the same since. It’s been 11 months, 1 MRI, several x-rays, 2 ESI’s (steroid shots), 1 inpatient surgery, 10-20 prescriptions, 50+ visits to doctors and physical therapists, and more agony than I’d like to remember since that 180 lbs of “straw” broke my back…and sadly the pain has been anything but temporary.
Sure, with a lot of hard work, a good surgeon, one terrific physical therapist (Thanks Elie!), and some of the determination picked up in my 6am Crossfit class I am back to pre-injury levels (actually, I ran a 30K two weeks ago and finished a full 26 minutes ahead of last year’s marathon pace), but the pain from my original injury lingers. Like a stain on one’s favorite shirt that refuses to come out even after hundreds of washes, my body will never be the same. I don’t blame any of this on Crossfit (attending the 6am class is still the highlight of my every day), but, I do regret ignoring that pain in my hip and not seeking medical attention last fall.
Had I listened to my body and quit working out temporarily, the pain I now live with every day would be a lot less likely to last forever. (exactly the opposite of “Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts forever”)