There was this time in my life when I worked out every single day. I was into marathons, swimming long distances and going crazy at the gym. That was the time when I quit smoking and ate super healthy. I had this feeling that I have to push myself further and proof to my teacher at the academy that I can run longer distances, do better, be stronger and most importantly push my body to the limit. And I did. I ran every single day and ended up finishing two full and four half marathons within a very short time of preparation. At some point, with all this training, my body sent me some strong signals that I conveniently ignored. My knee started to hurt. Initially, it was not a big deal. Nothing some frozen peas in a bag from the freezer could fix. I had to train after all asking myself why my body just cannot do what I say instead of being so insolent. My body is supposed to listen to me, right?! Wrong!
Well, I did not listen to my body at all and pushed it to the limit. Training was all I was looking forward to the entire day. As soon as the lectures were over at 4 pm, I changed into my running gear. Do not get me wrong, some days sucked and I did not even want to run but I always had this urge to get better and to proof something to someone. I even realized that my gym teacher was amazed but also told me to stop when it hurts. I did not. And this is how it started.
After weeks of knee pain, I could not seem to shake it off anymore. I saw the doctor and was diagnosed with iliotibial band syndrome. This meant she prescribed some anti-inflammatory, told me to avoid any activity and recommended some physical therapy. I realized that the half marathon was just around the corner and I trained so hard for it. Also, this would mean that all my other forms of fitness (yoga, cycling, the gym, swimming etc.) would be on hold. This cannot happen. I trained so hard. I was in physically top condition besides this stupid knee so who cares, I kept running slowly. For someone who exercises six days out of seven and made a habit out of this exercising routine, a knee cannot stop me, right?!
At some point, my knee hurt so badly that I did not see exercising at this level as an enjoyable health benefit anymore. I knew I had to stop. My doctor told me that if I do not stop I would need knee surgery for sure. My knee was so swollen that I could hardly walk and honestly when I finally stopped running, it felt like a relief and I finally realized and woke up. The pain was excruciating at this point. So I rested and reflected. Why did I let my knee get to this stage? Why did I push myself to a limit that nobody but my myself set?
So, I rested. It was weird but I relished setting my alarm an hour and a half later than I normally would every single morning. I loved my morning runs usually more than the afternoon ones. Getting this done in the morning made me feel accomplished, happy and satisfied for the whole day. I enjoyed having time in the afternoon for errands or to squeeze in a session at the gym instead of running. So now what the f*** is going on with me? I am continuously resting instead of pushing my body to this intangible limit every single day with no end in sight like a dumb hamster on a wheel because I feel guilty. Because I still feel I have to prove it to my teacher.
You know what I learned? There is no teacher who gives a f*** about me, about my health, about my life or anything like that. It was all in my head. I thought I have to prove to him that I am the best. That I can run faster and better than anybody else. I did not want this knee surgery to happen so I started to create a fitness routine of not having a fitness routine. I also knew that my life as a professional “rester and chiller-on-the-bed” was temporary. It would only last as long as until my knee was fully functional again and I will give it the time to rest and recover. I started working out slowly when after the pain started to dissipate after four months
and 10 kg gained. However, there was this weird feeling about starting to run again and my overall relationship with exercise. I realized that I worked out and treated my body badly and pushed it to a limit; a limit that will get me nowhere in the long run. There still was this critical relationship with exercising that threw me in a weird stage. I tried to think of a time when I and my body felt really healthy and came up blank. I remember I always had this feeling that I have to satisfy or proof something to someone. My parents, my gym teacher in High School or in Police Academy. There was always this ingrained messaging that I believe now, wasn’t even there in all those years. All I really wanted to hear was that I am okay, just the way I am without pushing my already hurt body to another level.
Yet, there was my own frustration. Exercising for me has the potential to feel and be really wonderful, enriching, powerful and life-affirming in some way. I love this feeling to bend, run, twist, how I sweat during hot yoga, move around with my son in the park and be able to do all these things freely without pain. When someone told me they ran some particular marathon in under 3 hours I was jealous because I felt so far from achieving this perspective for myself. Then again, I also thought that it is possible to get back into it all and that it is all possible. That I simply have to listen to my body and give it time to heal properly since it took me this self-inflicted injury to come to grips with the fact that the fitness path I was hurtling down for so long was hurting me instead of helping me. So, now I am taking it easy but bringing my mental equation into it all in the first place feels like a good start. And watching South Park here and there with supper that includes sautéed shrimp.