I watched the Vancouver Marathon this year and it is quite different watching from the sideline then when you are actually competing. Athletic endeavors, such as the marathon, are public displays of courage, fortitude, and persistence. As you go through the training for the months preceding the event, everyone in your family and relationship circle are aware of your training and your perseverance towards your goal. The run itself becomes a stage whereby you can show or demonstrate your fitness level and tenacity. Whether your goals are personal or public, and whether your motivation is internal or external, completing any kind of a timed event is a powerful statement. While cheering on co-workers for the Vancouver 8 km, half, and full marathon, I became very aware that some people run for the wrong reasons.
Endurance events for most people are tests of fitness that allow you to measure your fitness against yourself but very few are actually racing. The goal of any endurance activity is to increase your fitness over time and should never be to the detriment of your health. Fitness does not equal health and working on one without the awareness of the other is inconsistent. Training for and participating in an event such as the Vancouver marathon should be a challenge; we increase our time and distances through our training, and in the end complete our goal. It should never be about persevering with or through pain at the detriment of our health. This is living for the moment rather than for our future health.
To run or exercise with joint pain, a brace, or support makes absolutely no sense for long term health. The number of people I saw running with braces or limping along with improper gait patterns was astounding. The reality of it is, if you have to brace it, you should not be doing the activity. If you choose to, you are going to wear the joint out. There is no reason to do an athletic activity that requires you to wear a brace or support. Assuming that there is nothing broken, ripped, or torn, joint pain is an indication of instability and this is not corrected by a brace. If it can’t be corrected then you should simply not do the activity.
Fitness is one component of health and to exercise with pain is at the detriment of your health. The idea is to gradually challenge your body to be able to tolerate greater demands without creating inflammatory and degenerative changes. We only get one body to be able to do the things we choose to do and as time rolls, by we need to respect the feedback given to us by our body. If we push through the pain, we are hastening the degenerative process and this will mean a time that we will no longer be able to do the things we want and it will happen much sooner than you might think.