What is traumatic disappointment and what kind of effect can it have on delayed healing in an injured runner? Well, that’s what we’re talking about today on the Doc On The Run Podcast.
I was just on a call with an interesting runner who I’ve been working with who was an elite athlete, and he’s been injured. And he was talking about how he had one particular injury in his foot and then started having a completely different injury as soon as that injury in his foot was starting to heal.
We were talking about the ways that your brain can actually sort of accentuate an injury to prevent you from doing more activity and ways to be protected. And while we’re on this call, we were just discussing the neuroplasticity, sort of the way that your brain takes input, like pain, and then basically focuses on it and start strengthening this connections and how you can wind up with chronic pain and how if you actually perceive that a treatment is working, or you perceive that you’re actually healing that same process of neuroplasticity, actually really does sort of weaken those pain connections. It strengthens all the connections where you sense that you’re getting stronger, more fit, you feel like you’re running with better form all those kinds of things. And they’re completely the same process as one of them seems to be positive one seems to be negative in terms of your fitness.
We were talking about how sometimes when you’ve had disappointment or you’ve had an injury, it can lead to more and more setbacks. For example, we kind of talked about when somebody is on a winning streak where they just keep doing the right thing over and over. When somebody’s on the losing streak, they’re just not winning any races or doing poorly. They continue to kind of accelerate in the wrong direction, or part of that has to do with psychological progress.
He used the phrase I have never heard that actually really struck me and he said, “I think it might be traumatic disappointing.” Now I thought about this when a really good friend of mine who was a really high level, elite triathlete who was trying to qualify for Hawaii, had trained unbelievably hard. This guy was super-fast.
The story was that he was married. He had a baby on the way, and they found out while he was training for Ironman Lake Tahoe that he had a baby on the way. I was doing the same race and I was super excited for him because I knew for sure he was going to qualify for Hawaii and in fact would probably win in his own age group. But what happened that day was that the race was canceled while we were standing on the beach, waiting for the start.
So, he had trained basically for a year, and we were told the race was going to happen even though there was tons of smoke from all the wildfires in California. There’s a lot of smoke in Lake Tahoe and they kept telling us that the words would shift, and all this stuff and the race would still go on. But the morning of the race, about half an hour before the race started, they announced that the health department had shut down the event and we would not be able to proceed. The race was not going to happen at all.
He was crushed, understandably, because he also said, “Well, that’s it. That was my shot for Kona” because he knew he was going to have a baby and there was no way with work and having to do with the baby and all that, he was not going to be able to maintain his fitness and do a different race later, just wasn’t going to happen.
That sort of thing, a traumatic disappointment not only happens when a race is unfairly taken away from you, but it can also happen when you simply have things go sideways in a race. If you happen to eat the wrong stuff or drink the wrong stuff and you wind up getting sick to your stomach and you completely blow your race, well, that can be really, really disappointing and if you do it can affect you negatively because your brain doesn’t want to experience that kind of disappointment again.
If you’ve been training, training, and training and you get another stress fracture right before a big race, it can be really traumatic to you psychologically. And you have to pay attention to those components of running injury if you’re not getting better, if you’ve had to hit a plateau.
If you want to check out more about those unconscious self-protected mechanisms, there’s a short thing I put together. It’s the runners mindset reset. You can get it at www.docontherun.com/mindsetreset.
If you enjoyed this episode, please like it, please subscribe, if you think that some of this might be affecting you and I’ll see you in the next training.