Wednesday, February 13, 2013

More Greens, Served Cold: Envy, Energy, and Arugula and Pear Salad with Maple Dressing

So I've been thinking some more about--and working on quieting--the green-eyed monster since my post the other day about experiencing envy at the Y.

One of my instructors tore her meniscus recently.  It's clearly a very painful injury, and there's nothing you can to do fix it except rest it; you can't cast it, or medicate it.  In some cases it can require surgery, but from what I've read, that's a less desirable solution.  For a person whose entire livelihood depends on being able to teach fitness classes, and that career depends on being fit in the first place, a torn meniscus is really, really bad news.  Healing takes time.

Our instructor has continued to come and teach classes, demonstrating the exercises when she can, sometimes on one leg, pushing herself and us as hard as she can, stepping back when she has to, and often--I can tell by her contorted facial expressions--working through the pain.

(This in itself has given me pause.  When we injure ourselves, do we push through the pain?  Or do we stop and rest?  What does taking care of ourselves mean to us?  Is it different psychologically than physically?  I know that I've run or exercised despite injuries more times than I can count, altering my gait, gritting my teeth and telling myself that if I just work through it, I'll be fine.  Sometimes I am, and sometimes I'm not.  Is this a cultural thing?  I have worried for my instructor, but on the other hand, everyone else in the class seems to accept her presence, despite her injury, as a matter of course.)

The class I go to on Tuesdays is Tabata, which is essentially a high-intensity interval training class, with new exercises every week, which each person does as hard and as fast as she can, until we feel that our hearts will just about burst through our chests, and we suck in our air in great gasping gulps.  The great thing about Tabata is that it's an intense workout that is completely scalable to your ability and fitness level, and that you are called to do your personal best in a fitness class where no one passes judgement on what that personal best might be.  Though the Y is really supposed to be about community anyway, in some ways, Tabata unintentionally promotes mudita -- that empathetic joy I was talking about -- even more so in group fitness.  And just being together in that class encourages everyone to challenge themselves as they need to be challenged: so we are quite literally part of the larger energy that makes the work possible.

About halfway through Tuesday's class, my instructor, who had been nursing her knee for half an hour, finally sat on the floor, bent over her leg in obvious agony.  It was the worst it has been so far since her injury.  I watched her, and I wanted desperately for her to stop moving, to ice her knee, to sit there and call 9-1-1.  But she got up and finished the class on one leg, cheering us on.  She must have hated us then, in some way, being able to move and run and jump, but instead, she hollered and urged us to go faster-higher-harder, taking out her camera to film us, capturing the class energy in her pocket for posterity.

I thought about how incredibly generous that was ...what a gift it was to be there for us when she could not do the same for herself.  (I also wondered if it might be slightly insane, given that just being there and trying to teach might have jeopardized her healing process.)

Have you ever cheered someone on when you've wanted what they had, even though you couldn't attain it yourself?  Are you the kind of person who pushes on, despite an injury or illness?  What are the limits you draw on working through the pain?

Arugula and Pear Salad with Maple Dressing
adapted from Cooking Close to Home: A Year of Seasonal Recipes
When I make an arugula and pear salad, I tend to throw in the same things all the time: goat cheese and cranberries.  This isn't incredibly original, either, but I enjoyed the more earthy sweetness of the maple syrup paired with the pecans and pairs.  The original suggests adding shaved cheddar, but I'm trying to eat more vegan, so I opted not to include it.  You should feel free to add it back in if you like.

1/2 t. garlic, minced
2 T. olive oil
2 T. balsalmic vinegar
1 T. maple syrup

4 c. arugula, stems removed
1 pear, sliced 1/4" thick
4 thin slices red onion
1/4 c. pecan halves

Toast the pecan halves on a baking sheet or rimmed piece of foil in a toaster oven for a few minutes, or until fragrant. Set aside.

Blend the dressing ingredients together using an immersion blender (great for emulsifying) or whisk.  Set aside.

Place all of the salad items in a large bowl, add the dressing, and toss to coat.  Or have your two year old divide the ingredients between the serving dishes and see what happens, then pour dressing over each plate.
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  1. This whole cheering others on thing happens a lot I think in infertility circles, and it's HARD. I've noticed though when it comes to running I have no problem cheering people on who are more experienced or just starting out, even while nursing my knee. I do have a jealous streak, though, and sometimes I have to fight myself to cheer someone on when it's towards something I really want for myself as well (as opposed to instead of). Thanks for the reminder to not be so self absorbed.

  2. I think it is both part of American culture to pick yourself up by your bootstraps and play through the pain (rub some dirt on it!) AND I think we judge those as weak who don't suck it up and keep going. I really dislike that about our culture, and I think it's detrimental -- certainly -- to physical healing, but also spills over into emotional healing.

  3. It reminds me of the "go to work even if you're sick" culture here that makes everyone else say "No, stay at home with your germs!" but some people can't afford to. Coming from a country where sick leave is the norm, this sounds like madness. If you're sick, if you're injured, it's not good to carry on regardless, it's bad. Love yourself a little, be selfish if you have to - we're always telling mothers to do this, but it applies to everyone. (I realise that's slightly off topic, but it's what the last commenter made me think of.)

  4. I can be jealous and cheer someone on at the same time. I did it for all the people who were pregnant in the year between the stillbirth and W's birth. It's hard, of course, and I regularly feel selfish and small because if I were a good person then I would wish them well with no jealousy at all, especially when their happiness doesn't take away from my own. But all that business about being kind to ourselves includes forgiving ourselves for jealousies, so long as we're also making sure that the jealousy doesn't affect our relationships.

  5. So much in this post!

    I've been injured twice in the past year - once with tendonitis, another with a sprained ankle, when I ran my half marathon despite spraining it at the start.

    When you're an athlete, or make a living using your body, you have to work through some amount of pain. My running coach tells me that running is nothing more than getting your body used to pain/discomfort.

    The problem, then, lies in the balance between that discomfort and real pain, and it's really hard to know what will help it. I suspect that your instructor hasn't been injured in a while, and she's discovering, painfully, her threshold for healing.

    It's hard to know what's right - resting CAN heal your injury, but also weakens your muscles so that you might run the risk of re-injuring again (for me, the tendonitis required strength. Taking time off running made me lose strength and therefore made the injury more prone to reoccurrence. Just the nature of the beast there).

    It's hard to watch someone in obvious pain, and I suspect that the reason your instructor is so good at her job is because she's bad at being injured. And likely it IS jeopardizing her healing process, unless she figures out how to modify for REAL so it doesn't bother her knee. Man, that so sucks. :(

    The cheering someone on part... YES. I'm part of a running board, and when I was injured, it was incredibly hard to see people posting new personal records and long runs. Awful, hard, because I was on the sideline with injury.

    But there is something cathartic, too, in cheering someone on. I joked that I was living vicariously through people, but it really IS energizing sometimes, when you know you can't do something, to sit back and watch someone achieve something great.

    And the obvious crossover here is infertility. I am likely not going to have any more children of my own. So spending time with other people and their babies, their kids... I don't know, it makes me feel FULLER somehow. Bigger than I am. Connected to people through being human and enjoying someone else's baby. And this, I think, is a post for my own blog. So. Um. Thanks for the inspiration?


  6. As NotMaud said, I wonder how much of her presence was motivated by a need for a paycheck. And as Lollipop said, there's also the cultural thing about "working through it". I agree that this is not necessarily a good thing. And in your instructor's case, I wish she felt she could do something differently. At least teach class sitting down... ?

  7. I have pushed through pain to the point that I can not longer distance run anymore. I have really had to let go of running - at least for now - due to this type of unhealthy persistence. Lesson learned. I hope. But - I will be the first to go to a 5K and cheer on a friend.

  8. I'm drooling over that salad! I agree w/ Mel that playing through pain is part of our culture. I came to work every day during the 4 years of IF and tried to do my best and look like nothing was wrong even though I felt like I was falling apart on the inside.

    My non-IF friends may not believe it, but I really did cheer them on during their pregnancies.

  9. Thank you for another thought-provoking post and I really enjoyed the comments too!

    Right now I am doing my best to cheer on my fellow Chicago area bloggers who made the LTYM cast, which is hard for me, because really wanted to be a part of it too this year.

    A lot of my good friends refer to me as one of their biggest fans/favorites cheerleaders, as I love to support and cheer on my loved ones whatever they are working on or trying to accomplish in life. Thought I am not sure if I will ever run a marathon or even have the desire to, twice now I have followed one of my sister-in-laws as she has run 26.2 and it is such an amazingly experience to be there for her and cheer her on. Kind like how it is just as awesome (or more) to give a gift and watch someone open it, as it is to receive one ourselves.

    I am inconsistent when it comes to how I handle injury or illness. I have been known to push on/through, but sometimes I also am proud of having known when I needed to stop and take care of myself. I have gotten injured over the years when teaching as a group fitness instructor and it is frustrating. Also during pregnancy when I was past 14 weeks and wasn't supposed to be lying on my back I would do my best to talk the clients in my classes through the movements, when I was doing them myself.

    As far as limits, I would say (at least for me), that it just depends on the given situation. Finally, I do agree with everyone who thought of the connection between what you wrote about the those dealing with infertility.


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