By Sara Nelson, PT, DPT
As a physical therapist, I see a lot of people with physical problems that appear insurmountable. Through the years I began to believe that some people just couldn’t move because of their pain or limitation. I looked for ways to help them survive within those limitations. This view is common in the medical world. My son taught me this is an erroneous view. My son is an Ironman. If you don’t know, that is a competition in which participants swim 2.4 miles, Bike 112 miles and finish off by running a marathon (26.2 miles). I was so concerned he would hurt himself when he did his first Ironman, he hadn’t even run a marathon. He showed me that with proper pacing, fueling and self care, you can do almost anything. He finished that Ironman and has gone on to do four of these races. His wife was able to use his guidance and her own consistent effort to participate in and finish an Ironman herself, with 11 months of training. She accomplished that with no joint injuries, and having not been a swimmer.
There were lessons for me as the observer of these accomplishments that I have put to use in my own life and passed on to my patients. As a result, I am seeing people over come significant problems. These lessons include (1) be careful what you believe about your body, you may be putting unnecessarily limits on yourself, (2) Pushing through injury and forcing limitations will NOT help you achieve physical goals. Learn to work within your capacity and with your body to expand your abilities, (3) Modify workouts or take a break when you are hurting, until you can find the path forward where your will and body can work in harmony to achieve a goal. (4) Proper ‘fueling’ is absolutely necessary to go the distance. In other words, practice healthy eating which includes adequate hydration and nutritious food eaten at regular intervals. (5) If you hurt, do something to feel better. Self care is a powerful healer, and it includes massage, Epsom salts baths, learning about your body and how it works and how to help it heal, and more.
When I ask my son what he learned from the experience, he says he has learned that you can’t let your thinking intimidate you. No matter how far you have to go, you only have to take one step at a time.
If you need help knowing what steps to take, talk to a physical therapist!