PAIN VERSUS DISCOMFORT // 3 MILE RUN VERSUS 4 MILE RUN
Listening to podcasts daily about a wide variety of topics has completely expanded my knowledge on literally everything.
This week, I listened to the latest episode of 300 pounds and running. The topic for the episode was the very title of this blog post: pain versus discomfort. The entire time I was listening to the podcast, all I could think about was just how applicable the topic and advice the hosts were giving was to all aspects of life…but specifically running for me. I thought about everything that has happened over the past 3 months or so of my injury recovery. In addition, this discussion forced me to take a look at just how accurately I have been evaluating my own pain and discomfort in all faucets of my life.
Thursday. It was WAY warmer than it has been lately in Eastern Iowa and I was itching to get a solid 5 or 6 miles in after Wednesday’s rest day. The problem? I hadn’t even made it more than half a mile when I found myself struggling to breath normally. Physically, everything else felt normal, and I do not suffer from asthma either. So, I was absolutely at a loss for why this what happening all of a sudden and what to do. This just did not make any sense to me whatsoever. I wasn’t sprinting or running uphill or against the wind. Stopping to catch my breath or walk for a little while did not sound the least bit appealing. Thankfully, the pain versus discomfort discussion was still fresh in my brain.
It really is quite simple in theory, rate how you’re feeling physically on a scale of 1-10. If it’s an 8 or higher, it’s pain. Anything less than an 8 is discomfort, and you keep pushing through it.
In practice, however, it can be extremely challenging to make the distinction. This is certainly the case when it comes to any major life decisions, overcoming enormous obstacles, or just a really important/necessary run. In this instance, there was no question in my mind that I was dealing with level 8+ pain. Plus, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that being able to breath normally is essential to running. Just looking back now, 3 days later, I am shocked that I was actually able to make it the full 3 miles without stopping.
There was definitely a mental battle going on for the bulk of the run though. At times, cutting the run down to 2 or even 2.5 miles seemed to be the most appealing and safest option. On the flip side, I was concerned that if I gave in to the pain during this run, I would just be that much more likely to do during other runs…even when I knew that it wasn’t necessary. Basically, I was in between a rock and a hard place. No matter what I did, I wasn’t going to be happy with the outcome. My planned 5-6 mile was for sure not happening, and whatever distance I did end up completing wasn’t going to be ran at the right pace.
In the end, everything turned out so much better than I could have imagined.
This was true of not only of my 3 miler, but my subsequent 4 miler the very next day. My 3 mile pace was 9:27…and my mile 1 time was 9:12. Not too shabby for someone who was undoubtedly riding the struggle bus for the majority of the run. Then, came Friday’s icy weather conditions. I really had no business running outdoors in those conditions. None at all. The risk of falling and re-injuring myself was incredibly high. However, I had a strong desire to redeem myself after that disappointing 3 miler. I vowed to get a minimum of 5 (preferably 6) miles in that day. No regret. No excuses. Well, this is when discomfort becomes a relevant factor.
There is really nothing comfortable about running on ice covered roads. Zero. In fact, I hadn’t made it more than 5 or 6 blocks when I found myself wishing I for the safety and warmth of a treadmill run. Yup. You read that right, WISHING I were running indoors on the dreaded and hated treadmill. I tired running around the ice. Impossible. I tried running on the grassy area between the sidewalk and road. Too hard, uneven, and a high probability of a sprained ankle. The only real option I had left was to just suck it up and deal with the slipping and sliding at any given moment.
This is only my second or third icy run of the year, but I was still impressed with just how well I handled myself.
Once I had made more than a mile without falling, I was able to convince myself that everything really was going to be OK. I was also dead set on not repeating my first loop, because there were just too many bad spots that I might forget existed until it was already took late and I was face first on the concrete. So, I opted to just run a little extra once I had crossed the rail road tracks, hoping for better road conditions on the north side of town. Then, I got just what I had been hoping for: a train. Finally, a moment to just pause and not have to worry about face planting into the ground.
I was just over 2 miles in, and quickly realizing just how much running in slippery conditions was affecting my form. My lower back felt super sore/tight, and my mind was all over the place. Once I got back up and running, I was doing my best to remain positive. The sidewalks on main street were not at all icy and I made sure to use that opportunity to make up for lost time. By then, I was sort of surprised that none of the previous day’s breathing issues were rearing their ugly head. I took it as a sign that I needed to get in more than 3 miles.
The discomfort became even more intense the closer I got to the 4 mile mark.
It was around the 3.3 mark when I hit the slickest part of my run. I was running sans glasses by now, so I couldn’t see exactly how icy the road was or where the ice was even at. Suffice it to say, running was not possible on that particular road. After getting through that still on my own 2 feet, I made the decision that 4 miles was going to be it. There was no way I was going to be able to get in another mile in this area without hitting another super icy patch of road and having to do battle. Once I hit that finish line, I could not believe how fast my 4th mile had been. 9 minutes 26 seconds.
I’m not quite sure where I was really going with this post or if anyone readers really took away the main point of this whole pain versus discomfort issue. What I’ve taken away from it, in a nutshell, is that you have got to be willing to put up with a certain amount of discomfort in life to get where you want to go. To reach your goals and to overcome any obstacles that happen to cross your path. However, it is essential to your success that you understand the difference between pain and discomfort, so you can remain strong and healthy. This, by far, is the hardest thing to do, at least in my experience.