This is another one of those blog posts that I feel really stupid writing. It’s a past experience, it’s me that chose to do it… and yet I still can’t quite believe that it happened.
The other week, my mum and I were recalling last year’s trip to Dublin, when I remembered that that was the holiday I went on when I could barely walk. Yep, you read that right: I went on a city break, complete with numerous walking tours, when I was struggling to even limp. ‘Why Sophie’, you ask, ‘what on earth happened to you?!’ And this is the part when I (ashamedly/embarrassingly) reply that I had injured both my left foot and my right hip, but had continued to exercise on them anyway.
I’ve spoken a lot on here about my battles with disordered eating and body image (have a read of that here if you fancy), and this is what caused me to over-exercise in the first place: I’d spend around three hours in the gym everyday, which is not only time-consuming, but is seriously dangerous for your health. Because I wasn’t taking any rest days, my body was becoming tired and useless- so to counter this, I pushed it to its breaking point.
Now, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with pushing yourself- this is often how we accomplish our goals and break through a ‘fitness barrier’. What I mean is that if your body is in physical agony when you are working out, then you shouldn’t be doing it. Just stop what you’re doing right now, go home and put your bloody feet up. Looking back, it would perhaps have been a good idea to listen to my own advice, because this is how I felt: once I’d start running, the shooting pain that I felt when walking turned into more of a dull ache that I could just block out, and that’s the only way I can explain how I kept on going. I’d convinced myself that only the ‘weak’ would go home and rest up (despite the fact that by this point I was walking about like I had a wooden leg).
I then started wearing a waist trainer, which made my hip problem a million times worse. Some days, the tops of my legs would go numb, and every time I moved I felt like my bone was grinding into the socket (I know that that imagery was vile, but I’m just trying to put you in the picture). It was only when a physio actually told me to stop wearing the corset that I realised what an idiot I’d been. She diagnosed me with tendinitis and told me to rest up, which was the best possible thing she could’ve said: not only did it give my body time to heal, but my head got a rest too.
This has taught me a few important (albeit incredibly painful) lessons when it comes to health and fitness. Firstly, if you ever injure yourself, seek professional help. Private physiotherapists can be expensive, but I found that after just a few visits to mine, I learnt so much about my body and how to recover from these injuries. It turns out that another contributing factor was the fact that I’m flat-footed (the most glamorous condition, I’m sure you’ll agree), which I’d never even known before- I thought that my numerous trips to A&E with sprained ankles were just because I’m a clumsy oaf, but at least now I can blame this on my feet (partly at least, anyway). The second thing that this episode taught me was that it’s okay to have a break sometimes. I’d always been scared to take a day off exercising for fear that I would slip into my old ways and put 20lbs on in a week; but being forced to have a break because of my ill-health made me realise how silly this was. Eating disorders are funny old things: they cloud your judgement and make you act in the most irrational ways, which is what happened here.
And the third and final lesson is that I have to listen to my body. I cannot beat myself up because my legs don’t want to do anymore squats, or my arms can’t handle more push ups. Having the courtesy to listen to your body is the least you can do for it: if you look after it, it’ll look after you. Some days it will work harder, other days it’ll be a little more sluggish, but it will perform to its best ability if you learn how to treat it correctly.
Over a year on, I still have to be careful whilst exercising, and give my hip extra TLC through stretches and foam rolling- something I completely ignored before. I hope that this blog post was useful to someone out there that may be going through the same thing: trust me on this, you’ll feel a whole lot better when you can actually walk again properly! Take some time out and see how your body heals itself- you’ll be amazed at how quickly you’ll be pain-free.
Ta for reading,