Today on the Doc On the Run Podcast, we’re talking about how failure to trust causes running injuries.
Before I went to medical school, I raced motorcycles. Specifically, motorcycle road racing. That is the type of racing on an asphalt track where riders fly around curvy tracks at high speed dragging their knees around corners.
My first year racing motorcycles I won a championship. Not because I was naturally fast. Not because I was talented. And certainly not because I had the fastest machine.
I won, because I trusted Motorhead Fred.
Fred Provis was way faster, way smarter and way better at racing motorcycles than me. Fred is a nice guy, a kind-of Yoda-like motorcycle mechanic and, for reasons I still don’t understand, he took me under his wing. Although he probably doesn’t really think he did anything special, he taught me everything there was to know about racing.
The single most important lesson I ever received about trust, the most formative trust exercise of my entire life, took place one hot day at Memphis International Raceway.
Fred and I had driven all night, from Houston, Texas to Memphis, Tennessee in a duely diesel pick-up truck pulling a Hi-Pointe trailer. In the foggy early morning with dew still on the infield we unloaded our motorcycles from the trailer and geared up for open practice.
Memphis is a fast track. The font straight-away doubles as an NHRA drag strip. So when you reach the end of the front straight you are going as fast as your motorcycle can go. You then enter a high speed 180 degree hairpin, before slowing for turns 3 and 4.
When you exit turn 4, you accelerate hard and pick up speed before you enter a slight dogleg to the left. The problem is, that racetrack feels awfully narrow when you start drifting out of turn 4.
When I came back to the pits after my first practice session, Fred was standing in the back of the truck. He’d been watching.
When I took off my helmet Fred asked, “Hey, Bub, what gear are you in when you exit 4?”
I said, “4th gear. Why?”
“Listen, Bub, when you exit turn 4 you need to be in 5th gear. Now, that bike will break loose and you’re gonna slide all the way across to the far side of the track. It’s gonna scare you. But stay on the gas. Wide open. I promise your tires will catch just before you run outta track. And you’ll carry that speed all the way down the back straight. You’ll be haulin’ ass, and it will be the best place to pass.”
Fred was right. Every lap I was terrified. Every lap I thought I was going to die. But I never ran out of track. And we drove back to Houston with a trophy on the dash of Fred’s truck.
Fred knew exactly how far to push. He knew when and where I was going too slow. He knew, better than I, when I was riding beneath my potential.
Fred knew how fast was too fast. He knew how far, was too far to slide. Motorhead Fred was the ideal coach. The prefect mentor.
Fred had faith in me. Faith I lacked in myself. And I trusted Fred.
Your task as a runner in training is to push to the very edge of your physiology. You need to run when you don’t want to run. You to push when you are afraid.
But you need to make sure you don’t cross that threshold for injury. An overtraining injury is nothing more than running out of track while your are on the gas.
You need a coach to help you stay on track.
Some runners think of a coach as a paid workout accountability partner. Many runners think a coach is there to plan your workouts. Some expect a coach is supposed to manage your schedule of workouts like some sort of personal assistant. Others think a coach is someone who barks and yells and occasionally berates you out of a slothful state.
But I think a coach is someone who has your back. Someone who can quiet your fears when its time to push the limits. Someone who truly know the difference between fear, pain and real danger.
But you have to trust your coach if you want to ride that line.
He have to trust you will get faster when you run slower. You have to trust that you will recover from your speed work before the next set of punishment your coach placed on your calendar.
My personal belief is that most running injuries are the result of failing to trust your training plan and your coach.
You don’t feel strong. So you run too fast on your long runs. Because of that you hijack your base training and later in the season your aerobic fitness will suffer. Then you have to run harder and work your muscles more to perform at your best. That puts you at risk of an overtraining injury.
You feel weak, so you add a couple of extra mile repeats to your speed work session. You do more tissue damage than your coach planned for, so you actually fail to fully recover before your next workout. That puts your under-recovered tissues straight in the path of an overtraining injury.
All overtraining injuries are the result of too much tissue damage, without enough recovery to fully heal, before the next workout “causes” a running injury.
You simply fail to trust the process. It is a process that you likely do not understand as well as your coach. That’s why we all need mentors, anyway.
You have to believe your coach is on your team. Your coach has a plan that requires execution without additions or deletions. Even when you are scared.
If you want to get faster, run longer and get stronger, go find your Motorhead Fred. Trust your Fred. But hang on when you exit turn 4…
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!