Home > Uncategorized > FTIAT: Give it that extra push!

FTIAT: Give it that extra push!

Thanks to Martine (nascentnovelist), I spend at least 10-15 minutes per week writing with a posture that wouldn’t make a chiropractor breathe fire on, at, or around me.

It’s not that Martine devotes herself to preaching the merits of good posture. It’s just that my introduction to her was via her entry on maintaining good posture through long writing sessions. The contrast between that entry and the one recommended below kept me coming back for a kind of “more” that’s much more comfortably achieved than the kind she reflects on here.

Recommended post: Challenge yourself!

Give it that extra push!

When Deb asked me to write a post about something I was grateful for, the answer popped into my head immediately: my back injury. It sounds weird, I know, but I am. My back injury has been a constant companion for over two decades, and like a nagging aunt that refuses to leave you alone until you button up your shirt before going out in November, it’s been giving me good advice. I just needed to learn how to listen.

When I was six years old, I fell from a ladder and landed straight on my back. I couldn’t sit or stand for a week. My parents were terrified that I’d never be able to walk again, but I healed. Up to a point. I could move like a person, but not without pain, and I was stiff as a board. Touching my toes? Forget about it.

I spent my adolescence and early adulthood in agony. Every day, part of my brain would analyze dull aches and sharp stings for signs of serious trouble, all the while spending an uncomfortable amount of hours and dollars consulting specialists. All those years I was convinced that I’d like nothing more than to be like everybody else: pain free.

At twenty-two, I finally despaired. My back had been better for a few weeks, good enough that I hadn’t really noticed it. But when I carried two bags of groceries home, it went cachunk, and suddenly, it hurt so bad I didn’t know how to get back inside my apartment. And the thought hit me: what if it never gets better? What if I have to live with this pain for the rest of my life?

What if?

That was the moment when things began to change. My doctors, chiropractors and physical therapists had been telling me to be careful all my life. If I were to work out, I had to do it gently, slowly, repetitively. At the first sign of pain, I needed to stop. I should probably stay away from barbells all together, but if I braved that part of the gym, it would be to do many slow reps with very low weights. Swimming, water aerobics and long walks were the workouts of choice for me. You know, the same advice they give geriatrics patients. It was clear to me that this was as good as I was going to get, as long as I did things their way. But what was my way? That’s what I needed to find out.

I struck lucky. Met a certified personal trainer who didn’t mind making a training program for me without charge (we’re still together). I didn’t tell him about my back injury, so he made me a strength building program with a hint of cardio and let me loose on the other side of the gym: where the olympic bars live. It was terrifying and exhilarating. Then I started working for a chiropractor who didn’t believe in the safe-is-better-approach and who pushed me on an unsuspecting group of martial arts people.

Getting good advice from certified professionals helped, but the change came from inside me. I decided to test my limits. To push myself. To learn the difference between bad pain, and necessary pain. And what do you know: by accepting a little pain at the start, I got better. My muscles grew stronger and soon, they were able to support my back. My posture improved. And little by little, without me even noticing it, the pain disappeared. I still can’t touch my toes, but I can deadlift 225 lbs.

So did I get my wish? Am I pain free? Most of the time. But my injury is still there, pushing me back into training every time I slack off. It’s a reminder of what happens if I let myself be held back by the advice of others instead of listening to my own body. It’s a push to continue to improve. It’s not a handicap: it’s a tool to make sure I’m doing everything right, and an alarm that warns me if I’m doing it wrong.

last : Little Gratitude | Two Ships (2/17/12) : next

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. February 3, 2012 at 8:59 am

    Probably the two worst types of physical pain are dental and back related. I’ve been “blessed” with a bad back since birth, so I can relate. I like that Martine describes it as a tool and not a handicap.

    • February 3, 2012 at 3:46 pm

      I don’t know if I should be happy or sad that you can relate. Hope you’ve found a way to deal with your pain.

  2. February 3, 2012 at 9:59 am

    I’ve, fortunately, never experienced a lot of physical pain, but having bipolar disorder has taught me an enormous amount. And for that I am thankful!

    Great post!


    • February 3, 2012 at 3:48 pm

      Thank you for reading, and for the kind words.

      I had an aunt with bipolar disorder. All respect to you for being able to be thankful for it.

  3. February 3, 2012 at 2:32 pm

    MS is a bit like that, though I can’t say I am grateful for it. I decided I could have a life or an existence. I chose the latter, and that means pushing my boundaries. Each day I do a ‘pain/gain equation’. If I do x, I will be sore. Is it worth it for what I will gain?
    I don’t always (by quite a big margin) get it right, but I do have a life. And I can’t touch my toes either.

    • February 3, 2012 at 3:50 pm

      Turns out, there’re a bunch of us not-toe-touching people. I feel less alone.

      That pain/gain equation is so important. I don’t think any of us get it right all the time, but the main thing is to keep trying.

      Thank you for reading!

  4. February 3, 2012 at 6:53 pm

    Hi Martine! That was an inspiring post about not living in constant fear. I can’t touch my toes either. After ten years with a debilitating herniated disc, I’ve been living well for 3 years with an artificial disc in my spine. I have to be careful with it. I still do belly dancing and Wii Just Dance. I stay away from horse back riding and golf, but make sure to live a pretty full life. 🙂

    When I push myself too hard, nerve pain flares. But I’ve learned to listen to my back more and to ease into new exercises. (Still remember the 2 weeks of agony after I decided to do 100 flights of stairs in a day).

    Bravo for seeking out professionals who could give you a proper routine and increase it as you adjusted to it. 🙂

    • February 4, 2012 at 12:12 pm

      Listening to my body is the key, I’ve found. Glad you’ve found something that works for you. I hear belly dancing is excellent for core (and fun to boot).

      Thank you for reading!

  5. February 3, 2012 at 7:02 pm

    Your story really touches me. I have scoliosis, and I have lived with back pain…but it’s relatively mild. I’m not sure I could have survived what you’ve been through. As lucky as I’ve been though, I’ve always been extremely self-conscious, and hated my crooked body. For me, my salvation has been Yoga. Yoga has freed me. Freed me from pain and freed me from self-hatred.

    • February 4, 2012 at 12:17 pm

      I like yoga, but I haven’t put in enough time to actually get good at it. Once a week just doesn’t do enough to actually limber me up. One day, I hope to earn enough to afford classes.

      Glad you’ve found something that makes you feel good about yourself. I used to work at a chiropractic clinic so I’ve seen a lot of people without their shirts on, and just between you and me: most people are a little crooked. It doesn’t make them any less beautiful.

      Have a wonderful weekend and thanks for reading!

  6. February 4, 2012 at 1:59 pm

    When my second born was 5 weeks old, I fell and broke 2 vertebrae. That was almost 15 years ago, and only periodically does it give me problems now. For me, I look at my spine as symbolic for the support I am giving myself and receiving from others. If the pain starts to act up, I use it as a reminder that I don’t have to “do it all by myself” and to either ask for help or release what I am loading myself down with.

    • February 5, 2012 at 8:05 am

      “I look at my spine as symbolic for the support I am giving myself and receiving from others.”

      That is beautiful!

      Thanks for reading!

  7. February 4, 2012 at 5:40 pm

    Listening to our bodies is key… You are right on that note. Also, getting great training with someone who understands and is certified is imperative. I enjoyed your post and wish you well! 🙂

  8. February 6, 2012 at 4:31 am

    I love this post — I’ve always been in the “safe, but not too safe” camp for most anything, and it really sounds like you had a team of people around you who were in the “I don’t want to get sued if something bad happens” camp.

    Good for you for choosing to listen to your own body.

    • February 6, 2012 at 1:55 pm

      Thank you! And yeah, they really were. Glad to have been able to push past it!

  9. February 6, 2012 at 5:55 am

    Inspiring – as usual!

  10. February 7, 2012 at 10:43 am

    Wow, I just realized I hadn’t commented on this yet! Geez! I really loved the post, love your upbeat and positive attitude with the commitment to not give up on yourself and your body. It’s folks like you who inspire all of us to do our very best, no matter the circumstances. Recently I was experiencing back and leg pain and became very disgruntled with my body for it. I decided to set my fears aside and see the chiropractor who simply adjusted my back and hip joint. The pain is almost all gone, but in the process I learned how to sit with better posture at my desk as think about how I hold myself when I walk and use my legs! I had to go through the experience to learn all of it-now, I’m better for it. Thanks so much for sharing!

    • February 7, 2012 at 6:43 pm

      I get disgruntled with my body all the time too. When it doesn’t instantly get what I want it to understand (like the mechanics of jumping high and far, or climbing a rope), or when it decides to be too tired to want to work with me. But a yogi once told me to thank my body for what it does for me, and that really resonated with me, so now I try to be grateful to my body for putting up with all the stuff I put it through every day, rather than disgruntled that it’s not keeping up with my expectations.

      So great that it lead you to have better posture! Hope you don’t have to experience back pain again.

      Thank you so much for reading!

  1. February 3, 2012 at 6:38 am
  2. February 17, 2012 at 5:33 am
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