What do you do when you get injured? What do you do when your training and your recovery don’t balance out and you have to take time off? What do you do when you’ve found yourself hobbled such that you have to take three or six weeks off—doctor’s orders—and finally admit that hitting reset is the wisest option?
Well, if you’re really willing to take a good look in the mirror and then step back and evaluate the causes of the effects, you’ll give yourself more than ample time to recover and consider a refocusing of goals.
Most often, we—endurance folk—are wired to constantly be on the go and so we do, until we get injured, then take off just enough time to get healthy and then return immediately to the nonstop training. It’s a never-ending cycle, isn’t it? We get attached to the never taking a break type training and tend not to consider that it in itself is the problem. Instead of looking inwards, we’ll try to pick at everything outward to lay blame. The shoes are wrong. The training is wrong. But it isn’t me. No way.
The things that make us improve and achieve big things can also be the things that cause our own unraveling. We’re stubborn, we’re tenacious, we’re focused—often surgically so—and so we never actually take a step back and develop the confidence to allow ourselves time to recover, refresh, recharge and regenerate, then we end up in the gutter, so to speak.
How many of you know someone who bounces from coach to coach, always because there just wasn’t the right fit, the training wasn’t right? I know of several people who come in to the shop regularly enough that I know what the conversation will be before I see them. They’ll want to try a new shoe because the last ones just didn’t work out, or their race didn’t go quite as planned or whatever. It’s gotta be the shoes, right? The big picture answer is probably not, and it’s often times a very tough answer to get many to truly view without clouded lenses.
First, you have to assess what the problem is. Most often, we are the problem. We think we’re doing everything we can to see improvement, or to reach our goal, or to get healthy, but we fail to take overall responsibility for ourselves. When we get injured, or the race sucked, it’s easy to place blame elsewhere—I’ve been working a ton, I did the wrong workouts, whatever.
We don’t consider that the 23 hours we’re not running plays a much bigger role in how well we do than the one hour each day we do our training. We don’t sleep enough, stress about work too much, eat like unsupervised teenagers and party like unsupervised college kids. Then when we don’t measure up to our own requirements, we look elsewhere for the reason.
Second, we have to address the problem. The most successful runners tend to stay with the same coach for a long period of time, often for the entire career. They also tend to have the understanding – and the confidence – to be okay with recovery days or with workouts that seem not to be “hard” enough. They tend to see the big picture. And so they are willing to make changes to themselves at times when most of us would likely be searching for the magic bullet.
In finding the solution to the problem, are we going to the root cause or are we applying a band-aid? If we can determine that we’re simply applying a quick fix, then we should not assume that any changes last for any length of time.
A friend told me a story once about someone—a friend, probably, right?—who went to see an acupuncturist who was of the old school variety. The acupuncturist was an older Chinese gentleman who had learned the trade in his home country. This friend is a hardcore runner and was searching for anything to help his chronic calf issues or whatever the affliction was. After a couple or few visits—I forget the exact time frame—the calf problem disappeared and the runner returned to his regularly scheduled masochistic tendencies. After some time—again I forget what—the calf problem returned and so the runner revisited the acupuncturist.
When the runner explained to the acupuncturist why he had returned, the acupuncturist replied, “Yes, I know that, but why are you here, again, with the exact same problem?”