The Mental Mistakes of Running
The cause and prevention of many running injuries is still a mystery. The treatment of most of them is not a total mystery. To lessen the possibility of the injury returning you will need to alter your training, improve core strength, flexibility, evaluate your recovery, obtain adequate sleep, nutrition, check your stride, muscle strength and symmetry, evaluate your biomechanics, your training shoes, and check on a variety of other factors.
With all the studies that have been done on running injuries they still are reported to occur in somewhere between 24% and 65% of runners. Those numbers themselves speak to the lack of precision even in studies that measure running injuries. Studies which attempt to measure whether a slower progression in ramping up mileage have failed to demonstrate that also. Design errors and interpretation errors contribute to this lack of precision and clear information. To fill the knowledge gap on running injuries, some would find one thing to explain most injuries. Shoes can contribute to injury. So some have looked back a few million years to say we should not wear shoes. Others have gone back a few million years to say that we need a paleodiet. Or perhaps we need a paleo-footstrike.
Does it all come down to shoes, minimal shoes, no shoes or midfoot, forefoot, or “gentle” rearfoot strike? Is it a matter of the terrible too’s: too much, too soon, too fast and too often with too little rest? That seems to be a large contributor. Overuse and overtraining contributes to many injuries. Is the knowledge of all things 15 million or 500,000 years ago all we need to run outside today? That is debatable but I’ll avoid that debate at this time and look for something more practical.
Life is complex. While there is wisdom and embedded knowledge in the past, the philosophy that the past is prologue, carried to the extreme of the past is still with us, may not may not invariably tell us where we are headed with the unpredictable future of life and scientific knowledge. Let’s look at something that we often skip.
We often ignore the mental mistakes that lead to running injuries. “Too much, too soon” is a mental mistake. Overestimating your readiness for harder, faster, and more training is a mental error. Ignoring warning pain is a mental error. Failing to distinguish between discomfort and pain from healthy training versus that from bone, muscle and tendon injury is a mental error. It is often hard to tell how signficicant pain is and to interpret what it means.
There is value in some of what has been said before. George Sheehan declaring “we are all an experiment of one” is signficant and the Delphic Oracle saying “Know Thyself” is another significant statement. (Although Aristophanes in the play “Clouds” used “know yourself” in a harsher sense which I’ll skip here.). The Delphic Oracle of ancient Greece had another aphorism that is not widely quoted among runners: “Nothing in excess”. These are wise statements. In fact an entire Philosophy course is available on Coursera called “Know Thyself” with Professor Mitchell Green of the University of Virginia. The bulk of my MOOC experiences at EDx.org and Coursera.org do run a bit more to harder sciences, but being well rounded is something that most of us would benefit from.
As Barney says “everyone is special” which is another way of saying we are all alike in being a “case of one”. Luckily, sports medicine physicians and practitioners usually have a knowledge base and more than one case to draw on while evaluating a new patient’s symptoms. It is still vital that each runner take the responsibility to carefully monitor themselves. Examine on each run on you feel after you have warmed up gently, how you feel during your run, how you are progressing, how you are recovering, and what happens during and after the run.
The only way you can learn from your errors is to pay careful attention and catch them early before they result in a disaster. Improvement is something we are all looking for. Avoiding injury is another. Evaluate the changes you are making. Give yourself time to adapt. And most important pay attention to what your body is telling you. If you avoid most careless mental errors, you’ll run longer, faster and healthier.
In The Long Run: Eagles
“I used to hurry a lot,
I used to worry a lot,
I used to stay out till the break of day.
Oh, that didn’t get it.
It was high time I quit it.
I just couldn’t carry on that way!“