On The Root of the Problem

I feel like I’ve been dealing with a lot of body dysfunctions — but I’m finally at the place where I’ve accepted that humans are dysfunctional by nature (even though we are resilient, we are destructible), and I’ve accepted that for the most part, I’m not too different from others in the muscle pains/soreness I feel. In fact, I’m almost lucky. I don’t have any chronic illnesses, I’m at a pretty healthy weight, and I have never torn a ligament, broken a bone, or sprained anything seriously. I think I’m just a lot more sensitive to what I feel my body go through, surely because I understand the physical things I feel, and because I worry/care a lot.

Something in my junior year stuck out to me — a preceptor was talking about athletes view injuries, and some of their views are skewed. For example, it’s not about having a perfectly strong body…if you play a throwing sport, your shoulders are going to be weird and probably hurt sometimes. But rehab and strengthening are there to help minimize those feelings of pain as much as possible. And it took me another year to fully understand that statement — I’m going to be sore more often than not because I work out pretty frequently, and I like to lift heavy weights. And that’s okay. It’s about what you do to respond to the soreness.

So lately, I’ve been feeling a few athletic pubalgia symptoms on my right side. Now I’m about 99% sure I don’t have an actual hernia, but I’m feeling that weird deep groin pain along with general abdominal muscle tightness. It just feels a lot like pulling and my groin muscles are pretty sensitive on that side. And the root of the problem may be my limited knee flexion because of my silly IT band. So basically, I think my quads, while strong, are a bit inhibited and refusing to relax.

That’s the root of the problem, right? Yes…possibly. The truth is, it’s hard to tell looking back which symptom came first. It’s like the chicken and the egg. For my purposes, I don’t think it’s necessary to pick out one exact problem. There are actually multiple issues with my right side and instead of worrying about which affects me more, I should just treat all of them. This doesn’t mean you’re only treating symptoms, of course. You’re still getting the root of the problem, there’s just multiple roots. And one of the biggest ways to help myself is just to take a break from the gym. Or at least, take a break from pushing heavy weight. And get back to eccentrics, one-sided rotation work, mobilization, balance, and breathing patterns.

But the root of the true problem is this — I don’t want to stop working out, because as I’m also cutting weight/looking for fat loss (not drastically), I know that I’m going to face muscle loss. And I am absolutely terrified of that.

It feels good to say the truth out loud. And I understand that scientifically, I won’t really be sacrificing that much muscle taking a week or even two off. And I’ll gain so much more in patience, understanding of my body and how to treat it well. But that’s a lot easier said than done, and when it comes down to it I guess I’m obsessed with my body composition. I guess I believe that if I lose my muscle, I won’t be skinny. I won’t be anything…maybe I’ll just be fat. But that’s not true (unless I go back to China…waiting for my relatives’ comments is the best).

I guess I’m placing way too much identity into the way I look. I had to dig down to figure out exactly why I’m so stubborn about continuing to work out because it wasn’t enough to just tell myself to stop. It’s kinda the same way when you have to ask your personal training clients WHY exactly they want to workout. But a bit of the opposite, because I had to ask myself why I was having trouble stepping away.

And now I can remind myself every day that the feeling you get from “looking good” doesn’t feel as good as actually feeling good. I remind myself that if I take a break now, I can save myself months of pain and irritation. I can get back sooner. I can deal with it now. I can be patient. I can trust myself. I can take a break. In fact, I’m allowed to.

In the future, I aim to be better at this. To dig down sooner rather than later. To talk it out (I called a friend when I got upset at the gym a few days ago and it helped immensely. He even said “you can take a break, it’s ok…I’ll give you permission” and it was great to hear), to write it out. And also, to not panic if I can’t find the “root” right away. Even if I can’t figure it out, I’m aware that I need to do something about it and I’m trying and that’s good enough for me.

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Jen Xu

Jen Xu

Athletic trainer, coffee lover, looking for a hobby I don’t have time for. I write about fitness, mental health, being Asian-American, and personal growth.