We will all experience pain at some point in our life, physical and emotional. If you are someone that never experiences any kind of pain, PLEASE let me know how you avoid that! For those of us with autoimmune diseases, we experience pain all day every day. Some days are better than others but even on our good days, we are in pain. It wasn’t until I accepted my pain, that I began to feel it less. As always, I’ll share from my own experience how accepting my pain has transformed the way I live.
I’ve been an OCR athlete for two years now and it wasn’t until maybe one race ago (I’ve competed in 8) that I learned how to properly prepare and recover from those races. I swear I’m usually a much faster learner than that! At the beginning of my race career, I sometimes took 3 weeks to recover. I’m someone who does not recover well from training sessions, so a race multiplied that by about a million percent. All athletes experience inflammation from weightlifting but those us with autoimmune diseases already have an abundance of inflammation which is why weightlifting is not recommended due the added inflammation we will experience. I now employ a myriad of tactics to help me recover from training which includes some of the following:
- Strategically eating foods that help with organ function, inflammation, and athletic performance
- Taking supplements, vitamins, and most importantly, shelling out an arm and both legs for CBD drops and salve
- Being amendable, both physically and mentally, to my training plan depending on how I feel when I wake up every morning
- Having self-control not to overexert myself so that I stay on track (if you know me, you know this is the most challenging one)
- Getting body work done to ease joint pain, arthritis, nerve pain, connective tissue issues, and more often than not, not being able to lift my right arm
I’ll stop there but there’s much much more! Before I started employing these tactics, I used to get to mad at myself for not recovering well, for my body being slow when I need it to be fast, and for experiencing muscle weakness which causes me to not be able to lift five pounds when I can normally lift two hundred. Once I shifted my mindset from ‘I wish I could’ to ‘I get to’, everything changed for me and the way I race! Instead of saying, today I can’t lift anything heavy, I say to myself, ‘Today, I get to go for a walk’. You can apply that to anything in your life.
I made a promise to myself a while back; only race when I feel up to it. Seems simple right? Well, for athletes, it isn’t. Accepting that you cannot sometimes physically complete a goal you set out to accomplish to us, is out of the question. Do I want to be the fastest and the strongest OCR athlete ever? Hell yeah. However, accepting that isn’t my journey, has made training and racing so much less painful and so much more fun! And at the end of the day, if you’re not enjoying your journey, there’s no point to anything you’re doing. I’m just doing me. Challenging myself, pushing myself to my limits, while having as much fun as humanly possible.
I signed up for my last race two weeks before I raced and it was the best I’ve ever performed, and PR’d my time! I only took one day to recover before I was back in the gym resuming my training. Please appease me and read that sentence again. It took me ONE day to recover when it used to take me THREE WEEKS. That feeling was better than crossing the finish line.
I’m supposed to race again in a few days, a race I signed up for months ago, but I’m currently in a flare up, experiencing cognitive impairment, extreme fatigue, and can’t really move by body weight around much less run and lift. Normally, I would force myself to race, feel horrible during the race, and make my flare up so much worse. So I’ve decided not to race. Am I bummed? Yup. Does it hurt my soul not to race? You bet your ass. Will I feel sorry for myself? Nope. What I’m doing instead of my usual training sessions is exploring new areas to hike and spending what energy I have outside of my work day, in nature. Accepting my pain has made me appreciate what I get to do with my body instead of sulking in what I cannot do.
Acceptance and surrender are not the same just as accepting that we experience pain is much different than surrendering to our pain. Surrendering is not an option. Life is not all sunshine and rainbows and we must all find ways to get through our uncomfortable moments. This doesn’t mean that it doesn’t suck. It just means that we are dealt certain cards and we get to choose how we want to deal with them. I choose to fight to live a life I love every day. Every damn day. Never surrendering, but accepting that the way I manage my life and being an athlete may be different than most and that’s ok. I accept that my challenges and how I choose to deal with them is part of what makes me, me!
I challenge you to replace what you cannot do with appreciating what you get to do. Set goals, work hard to achieve them, appreciate the good days and what the bad days teach you, never surrender, and damnit, have fun! Life is too short to be lived otherwise.