Learning about the differences between training discomfort and pain/injury

If there’s something this rehab process has taught me (or attempted to teach me anyway) is the importance of understanding the differences between simple training discomfort and an honest-to-God injury.  My current situation is due to stupidity on two fronts:

  1. I grossly neglected core strength and conditioning throughout my training, thinking that my applied training was just enough to get by in that department
  2. When I began to feel a nagging pain in my left hip/groin, I figured I would just find a way to “power-through-it” and suck it up.  After all, triathlon is not for the weak-kneed, sissy-pants type…

I couldn’t have been more wrong on both counts!

I figured, “Who needs planks, when I’m in aero for a few hours per week, and engaging my core in the water for countless laps?”  The reality is that while your core IS working during those work intervals, the direct effect is actually a bit debatable.  Despite the fact that I’ve now gone “full-nerdboy” on triathlon, and I voraciously consume blog and magazine articles and YouTube content on training, I completely ignored the advice of top athletes and coaches.  I blew it all off –  because it was easy an easy thing to do as I kept logging my miles and tracking my Zone metrics on GarminConnect.

Then, when I noticed a nagging pain upon beginning a run (or a run-portion of a brick) I decided that was just the TriathlonGods testing my mettle, and making me earn my gains.  I was able to notice that the pain would subside after 12-15 minutes of running and not really bother me after that point – I believe this was due to both (a) compensation in my gait/stride and (b) compartmentalizing the pain and learning to ignore it.

While pushing barriers and learning to suffer (“Embrace the Suck” as Macca would put it) is important, this process can directly derail your progress and set you back months unless you recognize the difference.

I am still struggling with this area, but I’m now one to err on the side of caution.  I have only two PT sessions left, and while I’m a lot better than I was, I’m not all the way back yet.  I’m at loggerheads with the Managing Partner of my facility, as she initially did my evaluation, dished me off to her assistant (who I really clicked with), and then periodically viewed my file and asked me a simple “Howya feelin?”.  I’ve never clicked well with the Managing Partner, and I view her as a bit of a bully, a complete Type-A manager than runs rough-shod over her staff, and not a particularly pleasant person to work with (as a patient or employee).  She apparently took it upon herself to interpret my file and tell the insurance company “He’s about done…” this week after I experienced a bit of a setback over the weekend.  she hasn’t been hands-on with me for weeks and never asked me what I thought about how my rehab was coming, as she was much more interesting in TELLING me what she thought.  So I now have only two sessions remaining for them to orient me on a continuing program of strength and flexibility.  I’ve been shut down from running since late June, and I haven’t been cleared to swim yet.  I can bike but only for short durations (like a 10 min warmup).  So in the end, I would not recommend this particular physical therapist at all, despite her reputation as a leader in her field.

I am going to change PT providers and go to a self-pay system for a screening assessment and program set up, and then monthly check ins on my progress.  so I guess you can say I’ve gone from “blowing off” the strength and conditioning portion of my training to fully embracing it.


2 thoughts on “Learning about the differences between training discomfort and pain/injury

  1. You don’t need to learn to suffer. Pain is a warning sign, not a badge of courage.

    I had bad hip pain, went to the ortho, and was diagnosed with a minor labral tear. I was told not to run again. I took most of the winter of 2011 off, and started running again that spring. I haven’t had any repeat of the issue.

    My advice is given the seriousness of the surgery, the length of the rehab, the prognosis for full recovery (not a 100 per center), you should take a vacation from high stress exercising through the end of the year and start up slowly in Jan.

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