On Being Tough

Aging is not easy.

My Grandmother used to say, “Getting old ain’t for sissies.” In her later years, she battled osteoarthritis in just about every joint. I know she hurt most of the day, every day. She didn’t complain much but once in a while, she would utter this phrase.

Our culture likes to promote the tough guy image as something to strive for, to admire. People who complain, especially men, are often viewed as weak or, well, complainers, whiners.

I remember Willis Reed limping onto the court in the 1970 NBA finals. He had sustained a nasty thigh muscle injury and no one thought he would make the game. He played, although with a considerable hobbling, shuffling kind of gait, and the New York Knicks won the game and the championship.

It’s an inspiring story …to a point.

Pro athletes have a strong incentive to play hurt. Money for one and ego on top of that. You and I need to play smarter rather than play hurt.

But, when are you being a complainer and when are you being too stoic, too tough for your own good?

If you don’t feel good, there’s a lot of benefit in talking about it.

But then you have to do something. If you just keep talking and talking and talking, you’ve become a member of the Complainer Club.

Or maybe you’re the strong silent type. You don’t say much but you also don’t do anything to help yourself.

Or maybe you won’t stop doing things that cause the problem in the first place.

When something hurts, ask “What’s going on here? How did I get here?” and most of the time, if you’re honest about it, it’s not a mystery. And then the path out is clearer.

When you’ve injured yourself – new activity, too much of a usual activity or some type of trauma – it’s not too hard to figure out what’s going on.

In that case, slow down, take care of the injury, give your body some time and most of the time, you’ll come out of the injury just fine.

This doesn’t sound all that hard to do, right?

I have ignored my own advice brilliantly. A couple of years ago, I decided to add some running to my fitness routine. Things were going along just fine until we went to the beach and I ran barefoot.

And ran faster.

Two days later, I had a lot of pain in the bottom of my left foot. I knew what this likely was. Plantar ligament injury.

If I had slowed down, adjusted my routines, protected my injury, and rebuilt the strength of my foot, I could have avoided Platelet Rich Plasma injections, prolonged recovery and an associated weight gain of about 15 lbs.

But what if something hurts and you can’t pinpoint a cause? If you’ve examined your activity, and been honest about it, and the activity is not the culprit, then you’ll need some help, guidance to sort things out.

Being tough is not about ignoring an injury or not complaining. Being tough is listening to your body, slowing down, and healing the injury. That’s the tough part.

And one more thing. Don’t beat yourself up if you make a mistake. It happens. Learn from it.

That’s all I have for now.

Thanks for reading.



PS – If you’re interested in my books, go here. To work with my colleague Laurie Kertz Kelly, go here. To work with me, go here.

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