Falling over whilst running last Monday, I rolled on my right shoulder, got up and continued. Over the next few hours, my shoulder stiffened and became increasingly painful. How did the rest of the week pan out?
Based on what I see and know, I am happy that there is very little by the way of injury, or damage. There is a small bump over the acromioclavicular joint, which is sensitive to mild pressure. It also hurts there and thereabouts when I lift my arm forwards and across my body. Any kind of resistance or weight-bearing using the right arm is consistently painful. Sometimes there is pain when I am still. That pain is more vague. It is difficult to point to where I feel it, aside from somewhere within the boundary of my shoulder, arm and occasionally chest.
As the days have passed, I have been able to move my arm more freely. It definitely stiffens when I keep still for longer than ten or fifteen minutes. Then I must coax myself to rotate my shoulder girdle, lean my head and reach out. I know this will be unpleasant for a few seconds and then ease. Whilst this is my conscious experience, I am very aware that my body systems are orchestrating healing. The fact that I feel pain is coincidental. My brain, which most likely plays the central role, has no care for how I feel. This magnificent organ is only interested in my survival.
Neither does my brain care much for the fact that my sleep has been broken this week. The first nights I could not entertain the thought of lying on my right. Now I can, in an awkward and temporary way. On my left I can sleep, and this has afforded me enough rest despite waking perhaps half a dozen times.
I am using my right and dominant arm say at 85% capacity. Most day to day tasks are now tolerable and affordances in my environment increasing. My perception of the environment is arguably created by these very affordances, or opportunities. The way that I move and my ability to move both inform what I experience. This is why normal movement and re-establishing the best possible movement is vital.
Running along, I have a tendency to elevate my shoulders a little. I strive to relax and be more floppy using a combination of outward focus and gentle self-encouragement: relax, relax, relax. It has been noticeable then, when running that my right shoulder aches deeply as my arms swings and guards. It is much like the feeling if muscles working out as you reach those final burning reps. There is some relief when I let my limb dangle and swing.
A minor injury, yet a fair amount of disruption. I know that I tend to feel things sensitively in my body. That is simply how it is. I feel things more. This has its advantages in my work, being able to empathise. So how best to deal with vigilance to one’s bodily sensations? This is a vital skill in the art of ultrarunning and other endurance sports.
Running through pain
Running through pain is familiar. Often this is the pain of fatigue, using the body for hour upon hour, climbing or descending a hill or a mountain. It hurts. It is expected to hurt, but somehow it is fine on the basis that this is the deal. The pain, as all pain, is real. It allows for a unique presence and an opportunity to transform oneself. It is not a coincidence that many who immerse themselves in endurance activities do so for this reason.
So far, the furthest I have travelled on foot is some 106k. The next step is the 100 miler. Yet others have achieved enormous mileage that dwarf these distances or cover the most challenging terrain. Scott Jurek travelled the Appalachian Trail, Catra Corbett multiple hundreds of miles and Kilian Jornet running up Everest twice amongst many incredible feats.
To read more about these and other ultrarunners, pick up Rise of the Ultra Runners by Adharanand Finn. Then we have The Bob Graham Round (BGR). On the BGR, and if you love running, you must read Feet in the Clouds by Richard Askwith and listen to the Bob Graham Sounds podcast.
The healing process continues. I am 11 days in and sensitivity is still expected. There is little, if anything, that I am not doing now. I am aware that I will need to work on reactivating the muscles of my arm and shoulder. There’s a need to design a programme to achieve this.
Most of me knows that this will get better. Occasionally I think otherwise. I am not choosing these thoughts, as they just appear. What I do with them is more important: do I listen and engage, or let go? The latter is best, if not harder. Letting go is one of the most healthy practices, so much so that I work with most patients on such skills.
This minor injury has been and is fascinating. I am curious about the actual sensations and the thoughts and feelings that arise involuntarily. They emerge from my past learnings and world view. How much they inform this moment and how I actively create a new model takes place in the laboratory of my lived experience. I am both looking in and within.
Let’s see what happens next.