Take it all in your stride

I’m in the habit of checking myself out, body part by body part, when I wake up in the morning.

Ok I’m checking out the status of the ring of fat around my abdomen I’m working hard to crush but mostly I do this so I can decide how much time I’ll need to warm up before running.  If it’s a swim day, I just make a mental note of what’s achy or crunchy and figure I’ll sort it out in the pool.

If I don’t self-assess in the morning I usually regret it. 

I’ll start out on a run and either some part of my body begins to protest or a few hours later or a day later I’m dealing with a strain that can set me back a couple of days or even a couple of weeks.

Which is what happened two weeks after D.C. Rock n Roll. I was back at the track doing fartleks with my triathlon partner for the first time since rehabbing my hamstrings and left hip labrum. I was trying out landing on my toes just a bit. This enhanced my speed and gave me a little more power than I’m used to.

Both of us got in an awesome 3-mile workout on the track even if I knew something didn’t feel right. By lunchtime, I was barely able to put weight on my right leg.

I had a regularly scheduled PT appointment with Kevin at the end of the day as we were still working on my hip, and we talked about what might be going on. I was feeling pain in my right knee, where there was a little swelling, but most of the soreness and swelling seemed to be triggered by my right adductor muscle, which just a few days before, I had been strengthening in the gym.

“How long is this gonna take?” I asked him.

“Two weeks.”

I know he’s just the messenger but I’m pretty sure I gave him one of those NY girl don’t mess with me looks.

“No running.”

Well that’s obvious. 

“No swimming,” he hesitated.

“Because of the adductor strain,” he added.

OMG really?

Kevin once said to treat your body like a sports car. Mine’s more like a precision automobile. We used to have one of the original BMW 2002 models. It ran great most of the time, but if everything wasn’t just right, or if it was too hot or too cold out, it just wouldn’t go.

“Shit,” is what I said but then apologized.

Here I am, two weeks later, at the other end of a deep funk, and I’m doing a return-to-run protocol. For the second time in 3 months.

I mention this because it occurs to me that while exercise enhances your overall resiliency in life, I’m thinking you need resilience just to exercise.

Part of this has to do with understanding what it means to rehab an injury, no matter how significant or minor. I read my MRI reports of my left hip and hamstrings and right knee, and even after talking with my orthopedist and with Kevin, I was still having trouble processing just how messed up my body is and what getting to a good place would look like.

And feel like.

It’s about function, Kevin said, and not about what the MRI shows. MRIs are famously extremely sensitive tests. So even though it’s good to know the extent of what’s going on with your muscles and joints it’s important to separate out how something looks in a picture from how something feels in your body.

A year ago I might have characterized myself as an accidental runner. I never planned to be an athlete and running was never a goal. But here I am, a person who's mission in life is to be a giver, laser focused on how I’m feeling.

So ok I get it.

But here’s another reason to get in the habit of doing a regular self-assessment of how your body feels. 

As I was listening to Terry Gross’s interview with Peggy Orenstein about her new book Girls and Sex: The Importance of Talking About Pleasure I started thinking about my own early sexual experiences and how little I thought about how sex made me feel. There are a ton of books out there on this topic, but there’s a lot to consider in Orenstein’s book.

Here’s what I focused on.

Orenstein reports that college age women are more likely to use their partner’s pleasure to measure their own sexual pleasure and satisfaction. As in he was satisfied so I’m satisfied.

On the other hand, Orenstein says, college age men are more likely to use their own satisfaction as a measure of their pleasure and satisfaction.

So what’s that about?

Here’s where it gets interesting. 

When young women are in a relationship with other young women, Orenstein reports, they are still concerned about their partner’s pleasure, so young women are more likely to take greater pleasure in sex when they are in same sex encounters.

Orenstein isn’t suggesting that young women are better off having sex with other young women instead of with young men in order to take pleasure in having sex if their sexual preference is men. Yet one of the themes in Orenstein’s research is that young women do not have mastery over what feels good to them. And mostly this is because they do not have a lot of practice at this even if they have been sexually active for years.

For example Orenstein, who focuses her research on young college women who’ve benefited from the feminist movement, spends a lot of time talking about the role of alcohol in all of this. Orenstein points out these are young women who speak up in class, who have professional ambitions.

Yet if they want a social life they report they need to go out and get drunk and hook up.

For these young women, drinking excessively not only removes any responsibility for having sex it removes any awareness of the experience or of the experience of pleasure.

Orenstein notes that women who’ve engaged in nonreciprocal sexual acts for years but who’ve never had intercourse often do not associate sex with what feels good. There’s a whole lot more to this – including a fuller discussion of consent issues - and I know I’m touching on the subject lightly.

But what resonates with me is the inability of so many young women to understand their own pleasures and desires. As a result, they’re often viewed as either victims or sexual aggressors.

I think all of us can benefit from spending a few minutes every morning checking ourselves out.

It’s just good to know.

How it feels to feel stiff. Or how it feels to feel loose. 

Or how it feels to feel good.

See you next time!