Good News: Not a Strain!

A photo taken after a 6.2 mile road march during my assessment and selection to the SFAB.

So, that strained Rhomboid muscle I thought I had? Turns out, it’s most likely not a strain! It’s only been two days, and the pain is nearly all gone and I have full range of motion in my shoulder, arm, and neck. When I said it felt more like a crick, it’s because it was/is likely a spasm. I can still feel the spot where it was hurting after my workout and a bit yesterday, but for the most part, it’s almost all gone. I’m still going to skip today’s weightlifting session, but I will run. I am an advocate for being cautious and not pushing on with pain, especially if it’s injury-related. Since the spasm was caused by over-exertion, it’s something that could turn into something worse easily if I keep pushing. Therefore, today is a non-weightlifting day.

When I run, I almost always have some sort of pain in the beginning third of the run. Most times, it’s right at the beginning, but most of the time, it happens within the first half-mile or so; some phantom pain in a knee, an ankle, or some other joint. I know it’s a phantom pain because as soon as I change my pace (by running faster/harder) or if I keep going on it for about 20-30 seconds, it goes away. Also, it’s typically not a flaming/shooting pain. Those are very easy to interpret as an injury, and when I feel something like that, I stop immediately. That’s why this shoulder/back issue was so perplexing. When I “Hurt” it, it wasn’t a shooting pain like when I hurt my back a few months ago. It was a dull ache that just became more pronounced over the course of the evening.

After taking any long break (more than a few days) from running, I usually get some muscle soreness after getting back on the road. It’s completely normal and expected, and something I’ve learned to live with whenever I have to take a break from running due to work, vacation, and (gasp!) drill/annual training. Right now, since I run every other day without exception, I have literally ZERO pain after running. To the contrary, I actually feel better after a run now, and I like that. The runs themselves aren’t exceptional. I mostly don’t really enjoy my runs that much, although I’m learning to try to enjoy them. At least I don’t hate them anymore.

With my weightlifting, since I’m doing StrongLifts 5×5 which has the weight amounts increase with every workout, I do have a certain amount of muscle soreness after every workout. I’ve come to get accustomed to that, as well. However, I also have to remain vigilant to not talking myself out of recognizing legitimate injury. I’ve been known to ignore pain and push into full-blown injury, and right now with me attending WOCS, I can’t afford to not be able to participate in physical training. So, I’m being extra cautious, and it’s actually teaching me a lot about listening to my body.

A little over a month ago, I had sustained a slight groin injury. I was mortified. Two weeks before I was set to take my second Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT), I thought I had sidelined myself due to training too hard. I let it rest for a week and eased my way back into weightlifting and running. It turned out to be the right about of time and I had no problems during the ACFT or afterwards. I’m doing the same with this spasm; giving it some time to heal/rest, and then when I get back to it, I will take it easy and ease back into things.

Fortunately for me, I don’t have any ACFT’s coming up for the next six months or so (we’re still unsure if we will have to take another one in April), but I do have some gruelling road marches (aka ruck marches) coming up; a 2-mile, 4-mile, and 6-mile in December, January, and February. Those will require carrying a rucksack with a minimum of 48 lbs overall weight at a pace exceeding 17 minutes per mile. That pace doesn’t sound very fast when you’re walking or even hiking with a light pack, but that 48 lbs rucksack PLUS the water really adds a level of difficulty you can’t imagine until you try it. One thing is certain, however; you can’t do it with a hurt shoulder/back.

So, I am ecstatic that it seems like it’s not actually injured. I will give it some time to rest some more, and on Friday, I’ll ease back into my weightlifting. The weekend after this upcoming weekend is my next WOCS drill, and I will do my 2-mile road march then. I’m expecting it to go well; I practiced a 2-mile ruck last Monday with 63 lbs, and I did it in around 29:30, well ahead of the 34 minutes we need to beat.

Listen to your body and rest it when it needs it. And remember: weight loss happens in the kitchen while increased fitness happens in the gym and on the road.

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