Your brain is your adversary when you first start running after an over-training injury. Well, that’s what we’re talking about today on the Doc On The Run Podcast.
You and your brain are supposed to be on the same team, but there are a couple of ways this can work against you. One is that your brain that you have trained to let you run fast, works against you when you get injured and start running again. By the way, the reason I’m doing this episode is, a couple of episodes ago, I had lots of questions about it because I was talking about this thing called a charity pace and a couple of other components of this, and I want to explain that to you in better detail.
Let’s say that you’re used to running a marathon in three hours. Okay? If you run a three-hour marathon, your pace is 6:52. Now, if you run a marathon at 6:52, you know that you can easily run seven minutes a mile for a few miles, right? Put in perspective, if you’re a four-hour marathoner, that’s a 9:09 pace, and if you got injured, you would think that going and running three miles at a nine-minute pace is not a big deal if you could run 26 miles at a 9:09 pace, right? So your brain is habituated to think what’s actually safe and reasonable for you. I will tell you also that it is very difficult to see, and it is kind of demoralizing when you’re looking at your GPS watch and you see that you’re running at 11-minute miles when you’re used to running a full marathon at nine-minute miles, it’s hard to stomach, it’s hard to take, and your brain tries to speed you up.
Your brain also kind of has this general sense of what it felt like to run at a certain pace before you were injured, then you get injured. So you get hurt, you take time off, some doctor that tells you wear a fracture walking boot for a month, tells you to sit still for three months or something. Now you’ve lost all your fitness, you’re weaker, you’re stiff, or your form’s terrible, you can’t even run normally anymore, and then you go try to run.
So when people start running, I always tell them, their first runs are supposed to be what I would call a charity pace. So let’s say, in January one year, one of your friends who’s kind of overweight, kind of having a hard time losing the weight, comes up to you and says, “You’re really fit, you’re really strong, I’d really love it if you could kind of teach me how to run.” Okay. So if you’re used to running a marathon at a seven-minute pace, you’re not going to take some overweight friend of yours who already kind of has a little bit of a beat up self-esteem from not being able to lose the weight that she wants, you’re not going to go run seven-minute miles with her, right? You’re going to be nice, you’re going to be considered, you’re going to be kind, you’re going to think about what she really needs.
She really needs to run slow, real slow, maybe 12 minutes a mile, maybe 13 minutes a mile, whatever it is that you see she can do and actually continue to run. So you’re going to go out and be nice. You’re going to run at what I call a charity pace. This is not a run for you, this is run for your friend. You’re helping somebody else out of the goodness of your heart. That’s why I called it charity pace.
You need to have that same attitude toward yourself when you’ve been injured and you’re returning to running. If you do that, if you run at your charity pace when you’re first doing your test runs outside, it’s going to serve you well. It’s hard to do, I’ll admit it’s hard to do, but it’s super important. So make sure that you run at a pace you can withstand so you don’t wind up with another over-training injury.