Today on the Doc On the Run Podcast we’re talking about how a marathon mindset can predispose you to injury.
For runners there are really only two types of running injuries. A traumatic injury happens as result of some accident. It might be that you roll your ankle or you trip and fall. You cannot plan for trauma.
The second type of running injury is an over training injury. And I would argue that all overtraining injuries come as a consequence of a particular mindset. This you can plan for, and protect yourself against an over training injury.
Part of the struggle in training for any endurance event like a marathon is that you know you’ll have to dig deep and push yourself to stay motivated and on schedule with your training.
Before you even begin you first workout, you convince yourself that success will require pain and suffering.
As soon as you sign up for a marathon you start to think about what it will take to finish it. You know you will have to build an enormous amount of fitness to finish. You come up with a plan. You design a series of of workouts. And you realize you are going to have to suffer.
You imagine long runs in the dark. You picture track workouts in the rain. And you are prepared for the work ahead. Before you begin you already know you will have days when you feel lazy and sluggish. You will have days where you don’t want to run. And on those days you just have to suffer through.
You also know that on race day you will be running fast for a long time. And you know it will not be easy. But you’re prepared to put in the workouts to train your brain to suffer through any pain that happens on race day. You will be prepared to suffer and push through during the race.
The real trouble for a runner, that can lead to an over training injury is when you are suffering and pushing through at the wrong time.
It’s one thing to suffer at 22 miles but you should not be suffering 22 days before the race. Working hard, yes. Fighting to stay motivated, yes. Suffering, no.
As soon as you miss a workout or you get sick or something happens that disrupts your training you start convincing yourself that you need to double up and suffer more. That’s when you overdo it. That’s when you get an overtraining injury. You suffer through a little ache and pain it would go away if you just let it recover for a day or two.
In the book Be Ready on Race Day, the author talks a lot about the importance of being able to adjust your training on-the-fly. In fact he even suggests the the common routine of writing out a 16 week training plan is a little foolish and perhaps even a waste of time.
If you really just stop and think about it for a second it’s hard to imagine that you will not have some unforeseen deadline at work, a cold, or some other family issue come up that might interfere with your training over a given four month time block.
We all know that things are going to come up that interfere with training at some point.
So the author of Be Ready on Race Day actually suggests when you are designing your training plan you should only really write out the first few weeks of the training in a detailed manner.
I think this is fantastic advice!
Many of the runners I see who developed an over training injury will tell me that they knew some sort of trouble was brewing. They could feel some odd ache and pain for days, sometimes even weeks. But because they had an entire detailed four months training plan, they just could not muster up the courage to skip a work out or completely rework the rest of the training plan when they realize they should skip work out.
When you stare at that four month calendar with a very clear progression of workouts it’s just hard to imagine how you can skip some key work out and then reassemble the rest of the plan.
The unfortunate reality is that many of those athletes will simply skip one hard work out and then jam it somewhere in the schedule where really and truly does not belong. That causes trouble.
You should keep in mind that your coach’s job is to maximize your physiologic capacity for increasing strength and fitness without getting you injured. If your coach is actually doing the very best job, you are basically always hovering right underneath your threshold for injury.
Your training plan is set up and designed specifically to work your body to the point it is about to break. But your training plan is supposed to keep you from breaking.
It just stands to reason that the pre-planned periods of rest, the days off, and the weeks of lower levels of activity are all specifically designed to allow you to rest and recover and stay below that threshold for injury.
So when you take a track workout or a long run and skip it but then jam it in between a couple of other workouts you are cranking the tissue damage to redline levels. That is when athletes get injured.
Many athletes are unnecessarily hard on themselves. We do not want to feel like we’re being lazy. But skipping a work out when you are sick, injured or stressed out is not being lazy, it’s being thoughtful and deliberate.
Make no mistake, I believe when you have those days where you wake up and you just feel generally tired and somewhat exhausted you still have to put on your shoes and run out the door.
But when you feel some soreness in your calf muscle, some ache in your Achilles tendon or some vague throbbing pain on the top of your foot you cannot ignore it. Those odd sensations are your signal to call your coach and rework your plan immediately.
But if you maintain your marathon mindset and you just tell yourself you’re supposed to suffer you will suffer yourself right into an over training injury. And then you won’t have days of workouts to reorganize. You may wind up with weeks or months of completely avoidable time on the couch.
Talk to your coach, communicate every little odd sensation and don’t let a marathon mindset bully you into an over training injury.
Pain is the best tool to help an injured runner decide when run. You don’t have to figure out what to write down. We made a simple Pain Journal PDF for you.
If you have a question that you would like answered as a future addition of the Doc On The Run Podcast, send it to me PodcastQuestion@docontherun.com. And then make sure you join me for the next edition of the Doc On The Run Podcast!