Yesterday I participated in my first-ever timed running race (the 35th Annual Shamrock Run). I ran better than anticipated even though my time was in the Snail Varsity neighborhood (28 minutes, 36 seconds). Perhaps indulging in cardiovascular exercises at the gym and weekend training runs in my neighborhood have helped me prepare for finishing the race. I felt the high of my accomplishment throughout yesterday. There was definitely a reason behind the exhilaration.
I almost didn't run the race.
Two weekends ago, I felt severe pain under my left kneecap during a training run. The aching sensation first surfaced during a 45-mile cycling event over a month ago, and I must have aggravated the ailment while running. I initially thought that I could tough out the pain and make it go away, but the pain continued through the week during gym workouts and the following weekend's training run. The pain was so intense that I couldn't complete the 4-mile training runs without stopping several times. The pain also manifested while walking up stairs, running to catch buses at the transit mall, and riding my bicycle.
Worried that the pain would persist throughout therapy of the race, I researched my symptoms on the Internet a week ago, and learned that I was experiencing patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS). I was in denial when I read about one suggestion to make the pain go away: "stop running."
No bleeping way.
I had invested so much in the race, both emotionally and socially. I was excitable that several friends and peers at work were also participating in the race. This was my second organized running event (and my first race) since I had decided to make distance running a part of my fitness regimen. There was no way that I was going to back out of the run with only a week to go. Not participating in the race was not an option.
After my indignation had subsided, I read further about treating PFPS, and learned that some effective exercise routines which can be accomplished without further aggravating the pain included weight work which doesn't involve putting severe pressure on my knee joints, swimming, and light stationary bike sessions (after several pain-free days). Most of my gym work in the past few months involved high-intensity stationary bike and elliptical machine activities. Following new routines would be a challenge.
I thought about quitting my workouts until the pain had disappeared.
Thankfully, the "Dude, Let's Try This!" response kicked in and I made pool exercises and non-intrusive weight machines centerpieces of my new workout routines. Even though I'm a terrible swimmer, doing laps with the U-shaped flotation device felt liberating. And designing my own workouts in the therapy pool (like doing "the running man" while using swimming barbell floats) was fun. I maintained my exercise routine in the past week despite being forced to stay away from my beloved elliptical machine (and the Food Channel programs on their TV consoles). So I leaned into the dip throughout the week, slept aplenty at night, ate sensibly the day before the race, and finished the race.
There have been many times in the past when I abandoned a project or became discouraged with an endeavor after adverse events unexpectedly happened. I've had equipment failures onstage in middle of musical performances--which led to an apathy and half-hearted performance on one occasion (apologies to Pamela, Cameron, and Cedric if you guys are reading this). I took an hiatus from exciting writing opportunities at work after Powers That Be questioned my commitment to the immediate silo in the workplace. I've walked away from creative opportunities at the first sign of discomfort.
There's value in giving up things that don't add value or meaning to my life goals--after all, time is a finite resource--but there's greater value in knowing when to quit or lean into the dip. Running is a strategy that fits into my big-picture fitness goals, and a little PFPS-induced detour isn't going to deter me from forging ahead with my running plans. It's good to build my resilience mindset. It feels even better to tell my resistance mindset to STFU.
I expect my resilient mindset to stick for my fitness-related setbacks. Hopefully the mental resilience will become a routine for all aspects of my life goals. In meantime, I have three more races that I am looking forward to in the upcoming weeks.