Knowing when to hold or fold em’ is a life lesson. We’re all walking the line of losing battles to win the war. It’s always easier looking in too. We all lend advice of ‘rest’ and ‘recovery’ when talking to a friend, but our own battle is force fed self-assurance and justification. We justify everything about an injury. Statements like “It’s not that bad,” “maybe I’ll just run easy today,” and “I just need a day or two of rest” lay the foundation for denial. We truly are our own worst enemy. Looking beyond the injury includes encompassing self-doubt. A mental war is forging on all fronts and you’re convinced that for every run missed offsets months of training. Chillllllllll.
Running is highly addictive. Don’t believe me? Spend a day in my office. Go ahead and talk to someone who has been sidelined for a few days, weeks, or months. I see it everyday. Mood disturbance quickly can quickly evolve into varying levels of depression. Observing behavior removes any doubt that the addiction is a catalyst to breakdown and further injury. It’s simply not sustainable. Sure, it’s healthy to be active, but where does the line become drawn? At what point do we suck it up and simply say, “Well, I have to bag this one.” I see runners limping themselves through miles with that “tougher than nails mentality.” Are you really tougher than nails or are you simply afraid–afraid of what others will think? Maybe you’re afraid of posting a DNF. “I’m weak.” “I’m a failure.” “Everyone will see that I DNF’d or DNS’d.” There’s a saying that a DNF trumps DNS. Really? Does it? Is it worth the weeks or possibly months required to offset DNF (did not finish) damage?
Although #1 will be beyond annoying, while #4 is annoying for your family, #2 and #3 is where the damage comes. Boredom breeds impatience and annoyance, which inevitably leads to rushing an injury. Find a way to fill the void. Find a way to sweat with some well needed cross training. Spend time with your family and friends, but please, stop freaking out and rushing the process.
I know the difficulty associated with skipping a planned event. I, like you, are not immune to injury. After a full week of minimal running I had to make the difficult decision of logging my first DNS (did not start). The entire week was a mixed bag of emotions. Early in the week I knew the right call. I convinced myself that I was out. Simple as that. Easy, right? Packet pick up with my wife and friends was a tough pill to swallow. That big race jive gets you itching, not to mention questioning your decision. A few trots down a hallway and some running in place opened inner dialogue. “I have no pain, maybe I can run.” The trots became progressively longer (yes I was that guy trotting down the sidewalk in jeans to “test it out”). I still knew I shouldn’t run, but the ‘what if’s’ circled the wagon. See! We’re all a little crazy. When push came to shove I stuck with my gut, which ended with the right decision. I toured DC on foot and began to feel my Achilles at mile 5, which most certainly would have been sooner and to a greater intensity if I was racing. At the time of this post, I’m nearly 95% recovered and most certain that I would have missed Boston if I raced at DC.
Now, this all needs to be put into context. The DC race was a ‘B’ race with an overall goal of prepping for Boston. If it were Boston I would have run and dealt with the consequences. You’ll need to weigh the situation, too. Never let a B, C, or fun race jeopardize your A race. This is a frequent topic of conversation with my patients. Refrain from arguing the cost aspect, too. I don’t want to hear it. Eating a race fee is nickels compared to what you could possible spend in copays and deductibles when seeking treatment.
As runners we’re consistently pushing our upper limits, often stroking bad habits of training and racing. Worst yet, we get away with it when were younger and more resilient–it sets the expectation. As we age and healing slows, we fall back to said expectations. Athletes reminisce of better times: pairing hard workouts or two-a-days was all in a day’s work. Runners consistently log miles when they know it’s against their best judgment. Maybe it’s a fear of appearing weak or simply being afraid of losing fitness? We all have our own reasons and most of us live in denial. Eventually it will catch up with you.
Since when did seeking help become taboo? “I’m afraid to get treatment because they’re going to tell me to not run.” I hear this quite often, but when a knee, ankle, hip, whatever, has been beaten for weeks, what else can you expect? Be proactive and be attuned to your body’s signals. Most injuries begin minor and can be fixed quickly with minimal down time and treatment sessions. The longer you wait, the longer the process.