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Pain is my Friend, not my Foe

I'm a runner. I confess....nothing makes me happier than lacing up the shoes and hitting the road. If you aren't a runner, I can never fully explain to you why I love to run. It relaxes me. It makes me feel alive. It helps me manage stress and anxiety. It help to improve my mood. I could go on and on.

One of my favorite things to DO while running, other than the running of course, is to listen to podcasts and audiobooks. I rarely take the time to sit down and read a book on my downtime. This despite the fact that I love to learn new things and hear new perspectives.

One of my Go-To audiobooks is "Ultramarathon Man" by Dean Karnazes. Dean Karnazes is arguably the most important Ultramarathon runner in history, as he brought the concept of running 50 or 100 miles in a single race to the average, non-running person. He's published several books and has

been all over the various national morning shows.

And he starts his book off with a wonderful, comical story about getting a pizza delivered directly to him while en route during one of his extended runs. And the young man delivering the pizza asks him the question that EVERY runner has heard at some point or another:


"Why do you run?"

"Why do you run so far?"

Now I've listened to this entire audiobook during my run at least 7-8 times. And what I found interesting is that he never really answers the "Why?" question. He sort of speaks AROUND it. But never answers it directly. But after the 4th or 5th time reading it, I found the answer within his words. And I'll do my best to translate his answer.

Question: "Why run?"

Answer: Because Life is Pain. Pain within Life in UNAVOIDABLE. And you can decide whether or not you are going to spend your life fighting this fact, or you can embrace it and let pain run alongside you. As a companion. As a friend.

This isn't to say that pain doesn't hurt. Or that it isn't awful. Pain is pain. And it is your body's way to let your mind know that something is wrong. But our attitude towards that pain can make all the difference in the world.

Victimhood of Pain

Now....I'm not talking about INJURY. Injuries are damaged tissues that will either worsen with continued use or degrade over time without treatment. And the Pain associated with Injuries is NOT what I'm talking about.

I'm talking about the concept that Pain is the lack of comfort.

We live in a world where constant comfort and the elimination of all forms of pain seems to be the ultimate goal. With such a mindset, all forms of pain are vilified. Seen as bad. Something that needs to be avoided at all costs. And that if that pain appears, you need to get rid of it as quickly as possible.

And we are always playing the Victim to our pain, describing it in terms of something bad happening to you.

Some Examples:

-My surgeon just called and told me I HAVE to have surgery on my shoulder.

-I HAVE to get a root canal.

-I couldn’t go out because I had a migraine.

In all of these cases….a victim is describing his or her plight to you. And what is at the heart of victimhood? Impotence. A lack of power. An inability to change what is happening to you.

Empowerment of Pain

A small percentage of patients who walk through my door, however, will say these same examples in a very DIFFERENT WAY:

-I’m getting my shoulder fixed so I can get back to playing tennis.

-I’m having this tooth taken care of. I’ve been missing my ice cream.

-I stayed home and caught up on some Rest & Relaxation I’ve needed.

These are all examples of EMPOWERMENT. I am CHOOSING. And choosing WHAT? Choosing to do something that will result in a positive. Getting back to playing tennis. Eating more Ice Cream. Getting that needed rest to feel refreshed and ready to go NEXT TIME.

Life is Pain = Choose your Hard

The reality is....Life is Pain. Life is Hard. There is a lot of pain involved with the difficulties of life. Nothing is easy. One of my favorite quotes about the difficulties of life.

"Marriage is Hard. Divorce is Hard. Choose your Hard.!"

"Obesity is Hard. Being Fit is Hard. Choose your Hard!"

"Debt is Hard. Being Financially Responsible is Hard. Choose your Hard!"

"Open Communication is Hard. Silence is Hard. Choose your Hard!"

"Life will NEVER be easy. Life will always be Hard". Choose wisely!"

We Have a Choice

Embracing the Pains in life, the "Hard" of life, is empowering. It hardens you to the discomforts that will come your way. It re-calibrates your Pain Meter. It sets your mind to overcome whatever life throws at you. Little things seem.....little. You have suffered in the past...and you are still here. And this can be comforting to know. You have faced troubles, trials, and tribulations before.

Dean Karnazes repeatedly states that he never feels more alive than when he is suffering through one of his ludicrous ordeals, running 125 miles across the desert in 115 degree. He chooses to run "with the devil" by his side. He embraces the Pain of running because he knows that will make him stronger.

This has had a PROFOUND effect on me personally. And I’ve developed something of a Mantra that I pull out when I need it.

Pain is my friend, not my foe. When I’m running and it really hurts that day…I think of all the pleasure and satisfaction I feel once I’ve clocked my run that day. I think of the bountiful effects it has on my anxieties, my mood, and my personal relationships with my wife, children, friends, and patients. I think of the fact that today's pain will make me stronger, to face tomorrow's pain.

Pain is my friend, not my foe.

Kinda has a nice ring to it, right?

Sort of like Bruce the Shark from Finding Nemo…Fish are friends, not food.

Pain is my friend, not my foe.

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