How do you Deal with Running Pain?
We can help stop injuries from developing when we choose a different response to pain, which can also help us develop a coping strategy for all areas of our lives. How we deal with running pain is often how we deal with emotional pain in our lives.
If we experience serious pain while running, of course we should stop or else we will hurt ourselves even more. However, most pain initially felt while running is not so serious.
While running we may experience side stitches, belly cramps, leg cramps, blisters, an ache in our back, neck, shoulder or one of our knees, a twinge in our hamstrings, chafing, etc. We may also experience the pain of tired legs, exertion from running fast or up a hill, or the mental strain felt when thinking about how much further we have to run. The list goes on and on but we can always choose how we react to any pain we experience. If we can practice accepting running pain and aches without fear, we can help prevent running injuries.
Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, author of Running with the Mind of Meditation suggests we take the following steps when dealing with pain:
"The first step is to acknowledge the pain. The pain is one thing, and the mind reacting to the pain is another, so the second step is not to overreact. Becoming startled by the pain only exacerbates the pain, like throwing gasoline on a fire: our reaction to the pain makes it even worse. Therefore we acknowledge the pain, but we avoid having the immediate reactionary response."
When we experience running pain, we need to accept it rather than resist it or try to ignore it. Trying to ignore pain takes great mental effort which can lead to mental and physical exhaustion. We need to stay calm, breath, and relax with the sensation. We need to allow the pain to be felt without overreacting and acknowledge it for what it is—a sensation in the body.
Pain is mostly a mental problem and it is only difficult because our minds cannot handle the pain. Sakyong recommends that we try to feel the difference between the pain itself and our mind's inability to handle the pain.
"...life is at least 50 percent pain. If we do not relate to pain, we are not relating to half our life...When we are able to work with pain and understand it, life becomes twice as interesting. Relating to pain makes us more fearless and happy."
-- Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, author of Running with the Mind of Meditation
No pain is permanent. When we realize that nothing in life is permanent, we can much more easily accept all things we encounter in life whether this is pain while running, difficult life situations, our emotions, and even our bodies. Everything in life is temporary.
When we learn how to handle running pain, we feel confident and we no longer have a fear of pain. Pain also provides us with an opportunity to grow. As pain often arises from an imbalance in our bodies, we can learn how to correct the imbalance and move beyond it. Pain can also teach us genuine compassion towards others. As we experience pain, we can better relate to others who suffer daily from chronic pain.
Running and meditation are similar in numerous ways. When we do either, we come face-to-face with ourselves in silence and we must deal with whatever arises either in our minds or bodies. Sometimes we have thoughts we struggle with and sometimes we experience aches and pains.
The aches and pains that arise while running or meditating are often sensations that we have not felt before. During meditation, we practice acknowledging our thoughts and then letting them go without forming an attachment to them. Some forms of meditation, such as Insight Meditation, also known as Vipassana Meditation, specifically focus on the sensations that are felt in the body while meditating. By bringing awareness to these sensations without fear, attachment or overreaction, we allow pain to be released from the body.
We can choose to respond to pain felt while running in the same manner and develop an ease and comfort with all sensations. This practice can help us deal with all situations that arise in our lives in a healthier and happier way.
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How do you deal with running pain? Have you tried the approach described above or another technique to help alleviate pain or the fear of pain? Please share your experiences in the comments below.
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