Runners! Dancers! Athletes of all kinds! Have you ever popped an Advil before your workout, thinking you were doing the right thing by heading off possible injury? If you treat the problem before it happens, your feet and legs will hurt less afterwards and they will have a smaller chance of getting inflamed…right? If you are thinking to yourself, why yes, I have done that many times, Becky, then STOP NOW.
Before I started running with the Portland Marathon Clinic group last year, I had no idea that it was bad to take ibuprophen preemptively. I always thought I was a smart cookie to take it before my run in order to prevent muscle soreness and inflammation. In my head it made perfect sense! Then, Coach Patti set me straight. Patti, a totally adorable older lady who looks like she spends her afternoons sitting on her favorite chair knitting, but in reality could whip me in an ultra-marathon, said that taking any anti-inflammatory before a workout can be counter-intuitive and in reality be very harmful to you. Why is it counter-intuitive? Think about it. If you take a pill that lessens and/or blocks pain during your workout, you may not feel what your body is trying to tell you—that you’re stretching your limits and you need a rest. Pain tells us when to stop or take it easy. But harmful? Really? Here’s why: the body uses the occurrence of inflammation to tell itself when there is something that is injured. Taking that Advil will prevent the healing process since the body isn’t receiving the signals it needs to activate it. Danger, Will Robinson!
So what you’re saying, Becky, is that I should just suck it up and feel the burn? Well, yes! After all, I feel like my best self after I’ve sweated and burned for two hours after an excruciatingly hard run. We are constantly hearing “No pain, no gain!” That’s completely accurate and a great attitude to take, in my opinion, but that’s not the whole picture. What I want you to know is that, like in many aspects of life, we should not anticipate and perfectly set up the outcome of every experience and every twinge of discomfort in order to avoid the hurtful parts of life. Pain can be a good thing. It tells us when something is wrong, physically and emotionally. How else would we know what to change?
It’s something we all need to be conscious of. Trust in the universe, and feel grateful knowing that each time we stub our toe, it’s merely a reminder to watch where we’re going and perhaps to choose a different path the next time.