Today’s Self Talk Journey — reminding myself of what I tell my athletes and clients everyday

Lately I’ve been dealing with some really annoying groin/core pain. Today I got an email saying that in August, my job is looking for people to speak about core injuries they’ve dealt with in their athletes. Of course, I can’t be here for that seminar, and I wouldn’t have much to say because I’m dealing with it on my own person, but I thought it was cool because it means that this kinda stuff happens a lot to people. And there are so many interventions and things that can be done to fix it. Those thoughts in general help me to de-victimize myself and find a more positive outlook in general.

At the end of my workout, I’m not sure what I did but I felt a sudden twinge on my ab muscles. I couldn’t really pinpoint it because I’m kinda sore all over, but I could FEEL it in one spot. And I was freaking out a little, trying really hard to find it so I could get rid of the little pain because that’s always my first reaction. I was really upset that it happened because I was getting so close to getting better again.

Yet somehow, instead of spending my entire morning with clients ruminating on my pain and making it worse, I was able to let go. I had all great clients today, they always make me laugh and I love that we have so much to talk about. I talk to one about her kids and having babies because it’s fascinating to me, I talk to another about all the things she’s experienced in life as a wise 70 year old. I talk to another about Utah because she has family there. Distractions are very important to me when I begin to have catastrophizing thoughts.

Looking back now (to just a few hours ago), I realized that I did things a little differently this time. I reminded myself that it’s normal to feel these things sometimes. I reminded myself that it’s happened before but I end up being fine later in the day. I reminded myself that — hey, I treat really young athletes who probably feel these sensations from time to time, but don’t really understand the difference between soreness, pain, injury, etc. Now of course, all pain is in the head because that’s where we receive and interpret our pain signals, but I reminded myself that I have the capacity to distinguish between soreness and injury (and there are surely different levels of soreness) for my own person. I’m lucky, because not everyone is able to do that.

I also reminded myself that if I truly did have a sports hernia and not just some very, very irritated muscles, I’d probably be in a lot more pain, and not just when I’m driving and working out a lot. I reminded myself of the month prior, when my glute muscles were spasming and it was causing me a lot of back pain — I got out of that. Granted, that issue probably caused this current issue in a way, but that’s okay.

I’ve actually really enjoyed trying out a lot of different methods to deal with this pain. I’ve noticed that my psoas, adductor, and medial hamstring muscles are very…in sync. Which makes sense, since they’re next to each other. I’ve noticed that any type of psoas release or stretch has the best results for me, and the other two are pretty good as well. I’ve been making sure to keep my glutes relaxed/loose but still really strong because I do need to work on my hip extension. And when my lateral quads/glute meds/abductors get tight, there’s definitely an effect on my anteromedial muscles. Basically, my leg muscles need to find a balance and I’m getting there.

Finally, the biggest thing I noticed is this — I’ve been very aware of my “core” and my bracing when I’m standing or sitting because I realize that I do need some core support, but I’ve been giving too much. But my main issue is that I see my stomach stick out after I have any breakfast or water (which is a completely normal amount of sticking out, but it’s still sticking out), and I have been activating my rectus ab muscles to sort of hold it back, without realizing. And I think over time that just led to an extreme amount of tightness, but more of an inability to relax. So it’s interesting to see that all these things came together from different aspects of my life — poor pre AND post-training habits, a skewed view of my appearance, and my thoughts and expectations for the “injury”.

I’ve learned that the core involves your groin muscles, your rectus abs, obliques, transverse abs, and the pelvic floor muscles. And if these are out of whack, obviously you can have pain of any of those muscles, back pain, even issues with bladder control sometimes. Of course, you can have weakness of any of the core muscles. But just like any other muscles, they can also be inhibited in the sense that they’re always “on”. Meaning they’re always, constantly contracting even if it’s minutely, and that leads to an inability to relax the muscles (what I’m currently experiencing). Which can lead to pain and dysfunction of the muscles. So it’s not always about strengthening, but sometimes it’s about reeducating the body to learn to “relax”. I mean this all in the neurological sense.

And here’s I’ve dealt with it — I’ve done a lot with slowly building up a muscle contraction, holding at max for a bit, and then slowly releasing again — and so far I’ve had great results. I suppose it is progressive muscle relaxation, but I make sure to use a lacrosse ball to actually feel where I’m looking to release. And it’s not that the “release” stays forever, but it is enough that I can have a good workout and load it at that “new” length. And that is the essence of myofascial release, I believe.

This is something interesting, and this might get personal but that’s okay. I’ve noticed that I am going to the bathroom quite a lot. It’s not an abnormal amount, but it’s an annoying amount, and it’s sometimes caused me to drink less water because I don’t want to deal with it. It’s definitely mainly just because it’s a habit — when you only work part-time, you’re home a lot more than usual and can use the bathroom pretty much whenever. I got used to that, but it’s not always accessible at work (and even if it is, I can’t just be going to the bathroom every hour). At around the same time a few months ago, I learned that all these variations in urine output can be affected by hormones (aka your diet and adrenal glands), as well as issues with the core muscles.

And at the precise time I realized that, I was in the midst of really fixing my diet to repair my gut and my hormones, as I definitely wasn’t eating enough of the right stuff. I was also dealing with this irritating core pain. Now, of course, I can’t say for certain that my diet and my muscle pain is related to my irritating need to use the bathroom a lot, but it’s just something to think about. I’d say I’m doing better now, but I’m also slightly training myself to wait longer between bathroom trips. No shame — it has to happen!

It is unbelievable how the human body operates. Every time I learn something new about it, like how the gut controls a lot of the immune system, it absolutely blows my mind. And when I can actually apply it to myself or my athletes? What a wonderful feeling.

That’s the trick. When I remember how strong the human body is, I remind myself that I’ll be back to normal soon enough. And I also remind myself that normal does not mean pain-free. I don’t need to be pain-free, but perhaps I could do without the persistent pain that’s always in the same spot. There are definitely things I could do to feel better, but I don’t need to pressure myself to feel better, especially because you can’t always put a timeline on injuries like this — those with less of a sudden onset.

I think it’s good to be proud of yourself. And the good thing is I still learned from my experience today. I may have had a bad start to my day, but I really really wanted to show myself that I could turn it around. And I did. It was a struggle to convince myself, but I did it, and things turned out better than I could have expected.

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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.