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Modifying: It Isn’t Just for Sissies Anymore

When you think of modifying, you probably think “change.” Modifying is a specific kind of change, however. Modifying means making minor changes to something to improve it or to make it less extreme, less difficult. I have realized over the years that the word “modify” is something I have come to associate with weakness. In an exercise class, when the instructor gave a “modification option,” I would decide that was the time to push harder on my “non-modified option.” I didn’t need modification. Modification is for sissies.

It is this exact mindset that led to my hip injury that has forever changed my relationship with my body (again). Shaun T. Insanity Max 30. Tuck jumps. I could have done the modifier rather than the full tuck jump. Everything in my body was telling me not to do the tuck jump. But, modifying is for sissies. And I am no sissy. So, I forced the tuck jump. I felt the first of a series of injuries when I forced that jump. After four months of pain, injuries, physical therapy, chiropractic care, orthopedic specialists, steroids, pain medication, bed rest, and essentially no exercise, I now know that when I refused to modify, I tore my quadratus femoris, a random muscle deep in your hip that you only tear if you are being an idiot and forcing your body to do something it clearly doesn’t want to do.

You see, I have this pattern. I set a goal, I work like hell to achieve the goal, I achieve the goal. Great, right? The problem is I also drive myself and those around me crazy working toward my goal and lose focus on other areas of my life or I achieve the goal and then get greedy or I refuse to amend my goal along the path of trying to achieve it despite clear signs that it needs amending.

I can give you dozens of examples of this in my almost 35 years of life, the most recent being the Insanity Max debacle. The point is that this pattern no longer serves me. If I refuse to accept that this pattern no longer serves me and I continue to allow it to repeat itself in my life, it is my own damn fault.

And you, the perfectionist, over-achieving, stubborn badass, if you refuse to identify and accept your patterns that repeat themselves and no longer serve you, you may find yourself in a similar situation.

It isn’t the modifying that is the hard part. It is being okay with the modifying that is really hard. It is the feeling of failure that we tend to associate with anything less than 100%, even though we know perfectly well that a 91% is also an A. (Well, until they introduced the A-/A+ system. That was a sad moment in this overachiever’s life).

Let’s take, I don’t know, breastfeeding as an example.

Being willing to modify your breastfeeding plan is a critical element of success. You must be willing to modify if baby isn’t getting enough to eat at the breast. You must feed the baby and protect your milk supply no matter what, even if that means bottle feeding pumped milk or formula. Most women are willing to modify and supplement the baby when necessary, even if they don’t want to. But it is the feelings that follow that decision that start to feel icky.

“Why don’t I make enough milk for my baby? What am I doing wrong? Why is my body failing me? Why am I such a terrible mother? Breastfeeding is ruined now.”

Or take the mother who finally stops latching her baby and pumps in place of breastfeeding because her nipples are so severely damaged (even though professionals told her she was doing it right) that she can no longer bear the intense pain of latching the baby. The modifier to pump in place and allow her nipples to heal while she seeks help is a relief. It is smart. It is necessary. The feelings that follow are the challenge.

“Why am I so weak? Why did I give up? Why did I cause this nipple trauma? Breastfeeding is ruined now.”

First of all, breastfeeding isn’t ruined now. This is an unfortunate mindset that seems to creep into many new mothers’ brains when breastfeeding doesn’t go 100% ideally right from the get-go. But having to modify your original breastfeeding plan does not mean that breastfeeding is ruined now, that it cannot be salvaged. Most women are willing to do what it takes to change their plans and make breastfeeding work. The bigger challenge they face is in being okay with the modifier.

Here is how I am learning to be okay with the modifier. I have modified my plan, but I haven’t changed my goal. My goal one year ago was to lose weight, build my cardiovascular endurance, lower my cholesterol, and show Lucy a healthy lifestyle and body image through example. Along the way, I picked up my favorite stress management tool: running. I was able to meet my goal from a year ago largely thanks to running. Now, I need to maintain my healthy weight and lifestyle and I have to maintain it without my newfound love of running. Although I will still run short distances occasionally, at least for the next year or two, the high impact stress that running puts on my body needs to be significantly decreased. It has taken multiple providers to tell me this, and a lot of pouting and crying, for me to accept this fact.

So, I tried my sister-in-law’s indoor bike. It isn’t running, but it sure is a damn good workout. I got the best workout I had since before my injury four months ago. In my post workout euphoria, I felt the hope that this modifier won’t be so bad after all. I am still going to maintain the healthy goal I achieved. I am still going to get a really good workout. Only now, I will do it all without putting undue stress and trauma on my joints.

So, I ask you, Ms. Goal-setting, over-achieving perfectionist, how will your modifier turn out to be almost just as good as your original plan? Or maybe even better?