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Relax into pain

As the bells of the New Year were completing their chimes I was agreeing to participate in a half-marathon run in March. At that time I had already missed half of the training but because I’d been fairly consistent in running short distances I was assured that with the balance of the training I would be fine.

However, I have a few problems when it comes to running for the sake of running.

I don’t like cold weather. I’m currently living near Washington DC so the temperatures are not as bad as other parts of the country, or Canada where I had been living previously. But on those days that were just too cold for me, well, I skipped the runs.

Running is not my favorite sport though I am athletic and like to be active. That said, it’s really easy to do because all you need is a pair of shoes and time to run – both of which I had. What I couldn’t seem to find were the excuses not to run.

The most important issue for me though is my neck. I have a herniated disc and running is a very jarring sport, hard on your joints and I’ve been told, definitely my discs. So far I’ve not had any problems but I’m cautiously optimistic and taking care to listen to my body.

Despite all of that I’ve been running longer and longer distances. The first time I ran 16 km (about ten miles), all in one go, an affirmation popped into my head that helped me when I was flailing. “My body is a beautiful thing.” Every time I said it I felt that my body straightened up a little bit and I had the motivation to go a little more. The affirmation took my mind off the tiredness my body was feeling.

When you are in pain it can be draining not only physically but also mentally. The more you think about how much pain you feel, the more everything hurts, and it can become a vicious circle. Break it by focusing on something beautiful, uplifting, or fun.

I realized during one run that my shoulders were up around my neck. As I was running I had to consciously loosen up my hands and let my arms drop, and work to release my shoulders. It felt kinda silly flopping around my upper body as I ran but it helped release the tension.

Holding tension in this way is nothing new and happens to people who sit for long periods in front of the computer, for example. When we are in pain we tend to hold the body in whatever way makes us not feel any pain. This creates tension in other areas. As counter intuitive as it sounds, when you relax into the pain the more you will ease it.

The other thing I noticed as I was running was my breathing. Every so often I’d realize that my chest felt tight and I could hardly breathe. I would take in a deep breath and let it go - blow it out, in fact. I tried not to do it when anyone was passing by because I was sure I sounded like a whale as it surfaces for air!

A good ole’ deep belly breath not only physically helps to relax you and release tension; it brings the much needed nutrient, oxygen, into your lungs. It will also help to release the old, stale air. Getting into the habit every so often during the day will go a long way in releasing pain.

Sometimes it suits you to sit out of an activity. I didn’t run because it was cold but I was not prepared to be so uncomfortable that the entire run would be torture. Neither should you be willing to participate in anything if there is the likelihood that you will suffer for days after in pain. It’s not usually worth it.

Tension, pain, and anxiety are going to show up no matter what activity you are engaged in. I have to apply these same practices when I work as well as when I run. Yet, these simple techniques cost nothing but when practiced regularly they can ease pain, reduce tension and improve your daily life.

Do you currently use them? Send me a message on Facebook and tell me what works best for you and in which situation.

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