I have long advocated against confusing what you do with what you are, especially in the realms of nutrition and fitness. For example, “I eat a vegan/paleo/Mediterranean diet,” not “I am a vegan/Paleo/Mediterranean.” (Well, some people are in fact Mediterranean, but you get what I’m saying.) Similarly, “I do triathlons/run marathons/do Crossfit,” not “I am a triathlete/marathoner/Crossfitter.”
When we wrap our identity up in our habits and choices, we tend to suffer an identity crisis when a wrench gets thrown in the works. I know this, yet when I injured my foot more than seven weeks ago and was unable to walk without pain, I…had an identity crisis.
I’m a walker. Wait…I walk. Yes, I walk…everywhere. I walk for exercise. I walk almost a mile from my house to light rail and then another mile between my office and the closest bus stop. In April, I walked all over Paris. I’ve walked all over Las Vegas, New York City, Buenos Aires, Vancouver B.C., Portland OR, San Antonio, Washington D.C., Boston, Montreal, Philadelphia, San Francisco and parts of Southern California. I’ve walked half-marathons and seven weeks ago I walked eight miles barefoot on the beach, which I will certainly never be stupid enough to do again (even though I’ve done it several times before without incident or injury).
OK, I think I’ve persuaded you that
I’m a walker I walk a lot. Not only that, but I walk fast. Friends have identified me from distances too great for facial recognition simply based on my walking speed.
I’ve gradually worked up from two weeks of no walking (bound in a walking boot) to one mile to two miles to, gloriously, three miles on Monday, putting my normal 4-5 miles within reach. Sunday was the first day I was really able to push off of my injured foot, which is bringing my walking speed back to near-normal.
This unfortunate interlude has reminded me of the benefits of exercising mindfully. I always stay focused while weightlifting to avoid injury and get maximum benefit, but I often let my mind wander while on walks. Injury recovery, however, has brought my focus back to my body: how does my foot feel while walking and after I get home? How did my body feel when I couldn’t walk? How does my foot feel when I step out of bed or when I’m moving in and out of yoga poses?
No one likes to be hyper aware of pain and injury, and I feel very fortunate that my pain was minor in the scheme of things. But episodes like can be a valuable reminder of things that have slipped our minds…like the benefits of being mindful. We shouldn’t be removed from our bodies, we should be aware of push and pull of our muscles and joints, the stagnation that comes from sitting too long. How else will you know what your body truly needs?