PUMPING IRONY: Hurts So Good

True to form, I overdid it a little yesterday at the gym (gotta scale back my reps on those 350-pound bench presses), and today I’m paying for it. I think I strained a bicep or something on my left arm because I can’t really straighten it out without feeling some pain. Reminds me of an… Read more »

True to form, I overdid it a little yesterday at the gym (gotta scale back my reps on those 350-pound bench presses), and today I’m paying for it. I think I strained a bicep or something on my left arm because I can’t really straighten it out without feeling some
pain.

Reminds me of an old joke: Patient: “Doc, it hurts when I try to straighten my arm.”

Doctor: “I know how to cure that.”

Patient: “How.”

Doctor: “Don’t straighten your arm.”

Or something to that effect.

So, I spent the morning periodically stretching the offending arm and then did what any ordinary guy would do when his left arm is hurting and the rational sector of his brain is telling him to take it easy: I went to the gym. Not to do more bench presses, but to conduct an experiment.

The Experiment

Yesterday, while walking home from work, I was crossing an intersection when a car making a left turn forced me to jog out of harm’s way. For most people, this is no big deal unless the guy driving the car is having a bad day and hurls an expletive or two and then you feel like maybe you did something wrong and your self-esteem plummets for an instant before it all turns into anger and then you feel like you maybe haven’t evolved sufficiently to overcome some random event that other people would just shrug off (we’ve all been there…). But faithful readers of these pages will recall that I haven’t done any running of any kind since last summer, when my left knee developed a nasty case of bursitis. I’ve been walking a couple of miles a day since November, so I knew my knee was improving, but when I jogged across that street yesterday I couldn’t help but notice that there was no pain. None.

(This raises an interesting question: Maybe the body moves pain around. Maybe my knee was just waiting for me to mess up my left arm, so it could transfer my current ration of pain up there. And if I want my left arm to heal, I should sprain my ankle or something. It’s just a theory at this point.)

So, despite my aching arm, I headed to the gym this afternoon thinking that maybe my knee is ready for running. I loosened up on the Elliptical Death Machine for 10 minutes, then climbed onto the dreadmill and began walking. After a minute or so, I cranked the speed up to 4 MPH and broke into a jog. No pain. Just that familiar tightness in my right calf — like an old friend who visits whenever he needs money. Still, this is good, I’m thinking. I mean, good in a relative way, given that I hate running and hate running on the dreadmill even more.

If there’s anything more boring than running on the dreadmill it’s running on the dreadmill at a very slow speed. Most of us, I’d venture, are wired to cover a certain distance when we run — you know, a mile, 5K, 10K, 26.2 miles, etc. — but when you’re slogging along at 4 MPH, it takes a long, long time to get to the finish line. Even when it’s only a mile away.

But I was not experiencing any pain, really, so I figured I might as well run a mile. If you do the math, though, you’ll know that covering that distance at 4 MPH takes about three weeks, and even the best episode of Judge Judy playing on the flat-screen TVs across the room gets fairly tiresome by the time you hit the home stretch.

Still, running a mile at any speed on my once-bothersome left knee is nothing to sneeze at, so I left the gym feeling pretty good about myself. We’ll see how the knee feels tomorrow, but I’m optimistic: If it’s all swollen up when I get out of bed tomorrow, there’s a good chance that my arm will be back to normal.

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