Thank you for the pain
On a cold rainy day in 2017, I went for a run that resulted in badly injuring my ankle.
After attempting to miraculously heal it using home remedies and frozen veggie packs, there I was a few days later limping to my doctor’s office to negotiate when I can start running again. It was hard going through the pain, but it felt magnitudes
harder accepting the fact that I needed to rest for a while.
For the longest time, all I was thinking about was “how can I become a better
runner?” and a swollen ankle was definitely not on my list of answers. Ironically, that period of “rest” that I was rejecting so badly was exactly what expanded my
perspective to a world of improvements, some of which are shared below:
Override your perception of “loss” with a perception of “gain”
At that time, the pain was too intense to sneak a run against doctor’s orders, so I directed myself to a relatively more static practice… Yoga. It was an opportunity to boost my flexibility, but soon after, these series of deep breaths, gentle movements, and deeper stretches have significantly improved my posture, alignment, balance, and overall strength. In equal importance, these deep breaths that saturated my lungs during practice percolated into my daily breathing habits and quality of sleep.
It made me realize the intrinsic capabilities of my body that I hardly dedicate time to
develop or maintain.
A little tweaking goes a long way
The real test was when I could finally lace up my shoes for a run. I was anxious to
see where my baseline was after the rest period, but a few runs down the line it just
felt unreal. I noticed the good control I had over my breathing, the proper alignment
in my form, and how they both made me feel so airy and light, allowing me to run
further and faster. Should I be doing this well when I haven’t been running for a
while? Although unplanned, I realized how yoga played a pivotal role in enhancing
my performance, and I was thirsty to find what else can.
Explore what feels right for you
Being high on that significant improvement, I came to realize that I needed versatile
and holistic training; I needed to do much more than just run. Within the past 4
years, I have jumped between HIIT, CrossFit, swimming, mobility workouts, cycling,
and many more. Whether it’s in a class or on YouTube, I was committed to try,
maintain, and evaluate new practices. My rule was – and still is –: if it doesn’t
compliment my running, then it doesn’t make the cut. Most importantly, I needed to
detach my mindset from following a “runner’s guide” and figuring out what felt right
March 2020’s Rennie’s Run: all smiles celebrating a 12-hour relay race... which later marked our last group race before lockdown
Detours are disciplined creativity
2020’s full lockdown felt like my ultimate battle, and I had to rise to the occasion.
The never-ending domino effect of stress was overwhelming: working from home,
putting aside personal goals, disinfecting groceries, days blending into nights, and episodes became a means of measuring time. It was all – and to some extent still is –
fuzzy, but in the midst of chaos I was set to enforce any form of structure and
routine. With no running space or a treadmill, I had to get creative with a mat and
two walls in a tiny corner in my room. It was a golden opportunity to work on what
I’ve been postponing, and I had all the time in the world to patiently improve my
flexibility, especially for inversions. Once my mindset shifted, it was only a matter of
discipline: daily stretching sequences, inversions, and strength/mobility workouts.
As a measure of improvement, I was posting my progress on Instagram for myself to
remember 2020 differently in the years to come. Little did I know many would
eagerly join the progress as I go from headstands, to forearm stands, to splits, to
crow variations, to all kinds of things. We were all in it together, and they too made
the most of their tiny spaces as we cheered for each other through small cellphone
screens. I proudly look back at it as a personal milestone of achieving my highest
strength, stability, and mobility, and without a doubt I knew my runs would feel
much better the moment lockdown was lifted.
May 2020: enjoying an early morning stretch in my tiny comforting corner while in lockdown
I am yet to find a holistic combination that is most suitable for my goals. I still battle with reaching equilibrium in my diet as I juggle a long list of personal allergies and
preferences. I still look for ways to establish balance between my training, work, and
personal life. Honestly, I don’t think I will ever reach the ultimate combination, as
my target of becoming “better” keeps on moving the more I realize how expandable
my body’s capabilities are. I’ve come to enjoy being a work in progress as I
recognize my setbacks, even when they are disguised as injuries.
And to all my injuries, “thank you for the pain, it made me raise my game”.