SFH #15: The Two Questions

A method for balance and recovery ⚖️

I woke up this morning with my right lower back and hip still sore from a tweak a few days ago. There was no single incident. I just overloaded my musculoskeletal system by packing in several activities in a short amount of time. 🤕 And as I've broached my 40s though I pride myself on a high bar of health, I still need to be reminded to be slower and more intentional. 

I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to teach you a hallmark rule that Margie Shapiro taught me at a running clinic one misty morning in the parking lot near Potomac River Running in Reston over a decade ago. 🏃🏽‍♀️

I've nicknamed it the two-question rule on pain and performance.

  1. Is the activity you perform at the moment (in Margie's example, running) causing an increase in pain as you continue to move?

  2. Is the action you perform at the moment causing an overcompensation or imbalance that you can materially feel as you continue to move?

If the answer is 'yes' to either question, you shut it down or back off. ✋🏽

End of story. You may continue to perform (in this case, run) after some rest and recovery to test again. The rule is always in effect.

I think these questions are pretty simple and elegant in that your body is capable of telling you that you have adequate balance and energy to perform, or you don't, and you need to restore.

Pain is your body's way of telling you there is a problem. We all have some level of pain tolerance, and there are worthy reasons to embrace discomfort. Yet, there is no doubt that if pain continues to grow as you continue to perform, that's a clear signal that your body is saying it's not ready, willing, or able. Shut it down. 👎🏽

Imbalance in your body can be subtle, or it can be painful. The key to spotting imbalance is to know what balance looks like in the first place. That comes with practice. It may be easier to identify that you favor a leg or land on your foot differently because of discomfort and imbalance in the act of running. And after 10,000 steps, your body will not be happy with the results of pushing the imbalance. The subtle changes like a rib being out of alignment, your pH is off, or you have a bit of mental fatigue--can all be more difficult to identify in the moment and address. Slowing down and taking a moment to check in with yourself - and following up with a question, 'What do I need?' can be a valuable tool to prevent further imbalance or, better still, restoring balance. ⚖️

I've learned a lot from those two simple questions posed years ago during a running clinic. It helped me stay mostly healthy through many moons of running all over this Earth. 🌎 And the lesson I'm most appreciative of from this message is that it does no good to continue to push an imbalance. I'm always better off to back off, shut it down, and restore.