Dealing With Discomfort

Believe it or not, I used to be a ballerina. Well, I guess a “dancer” more broadly. Most people fall on the “not” side of believing me [I trip a lot], but I guarantee you there are photos on walls of me in neon green tutus, cowboy hats and tap shoes. These exist.

In my late teens I opted out of the ballet corps and took to sports and music: swimming, volleyball, things that give you more muscle than most ballerinas are allowed. When I was in The Nutcracker Ballet [multiple, multiple times], I used to drool over the flautists in the Reading Symphony who got to play the beautiful music and knew that’s what I wanted to do more. My love for the water, the court, and the orchestra pit made me realize my interests extended beyond plies and the splits I literally could not master. At that time, I was convinced I’d never again feel those awful feelings in my feet that I experienced every time I’d peel off my pointe shoes – you know, those satin-y, pink, slippers with wooden toes designed to allow you to support your entire body weight on the tips of your toes?



I’m convinced there’s nothing less natural – yet nothing equally as beautiful – as the art of dancing en pointe. Pointe shoes take the phrase “breaking in a shoe” to a whole different level. You actually have to break the soles to make them pliant enough to bend. Then, you have to shove your foot into that tiny thing, lace it up, and stand on it. But when it’s done right, it looks phenomenal. Pro-tip: it hurt like hell.

I remember sitting in the bathtub, soaking my feet in epsom salt and bleeding everywhere after dance classes. I remember the moment I discovered gel inserts exist, and how I obsessively stocked up on them to soften the shoes’ wooden blow. And honestly, I thought I’d never feel that type of discomfort again. But that was before I started running.

Half marathon training has kicked up to six days of running per week. For the second time in my life, I find myself covered with blisters. My feet feel like they’ve been rammed up into the toe of my shoes, I’m a little limp-y, my knee is an off color, and I’m blowing through the soles of my Nikes much like I did my tiny pink Blochs back in the day. My toes look crushed and I feel about as inflexible as I did when I was twelve and Miss Carol would try to lift my leg higher than the barre. I actually thought to myself this week, “Am I capable of doing this?” It’s funny how this new experience is bringing back my childhood so vividly, but it’s also interesting to me how well-equipped I think I am to deal with the discomfort of training. This time, there’s no running off to the orchestra.

I never would have danced through the pain as a teenager, I would have opted to try a new trade. That’s one of the pluses of being a teenager – your options are endless. But now, as alternatives dwindle, I don’t want to let pain get the best of me. Being a ballerina taught me that pain isn’t perpetual and if you work hard enough, the result of pushing through it is beautiful. I’m hoping for similar results with running. And when I get it right, I hope it feels phenomenal. At least I won’t have to wear a tutu.

Do you find it’s best to push through the pain? How do you know when enough is enough?


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Courtney grew up in Reading, PA, and has lived in New York City (where she earned a bachelor's degree at NYU), Prague, Philadelphia, and Charlottesville (where she received a J.D. from UVa Law). Courtney and her new husband will settle in Philadelphia following a six-week Euro-trip extravaganza in September of 2012. Courtney's interests include music, writing, criticism, fitness, travel, cooking, and sports. Please enjoy the blog. LinkedIn: Tumblr:


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2 Comments on “Dealing With Discomfort”

  1. Tania
    January 17, 2012 at 5:49 pm #

    What shoes are you in again? Or alternating between, anyway. Did you say you have the Air Pegasus? All the while I was training for the half, I never lost a single toenail in those! I appreciate the large toe box. Anyway, you can do it!

    • January 18, 2012 at 12:36 pm #

      Yeah, I LOVE the Pegasus. I think my legs were getting sore because of a series of over-compensations – I wore a knee brace for a while so I think I was hitting the ground funny, hence, the blisters. Now, it looks like I might have a stress fracture in my OTHER leg… groan. So much icing, so little running this week!!

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