One of the trickiest things about running is it’s wrought with ambiguities. So many fine lines: how hard is too hard, what is too easy, when to push rather than pull-back, and differentiating between what kind of pain requires you to put your big girl/boy pants on and suck it up versus the kind of pain where you need to stop. That’s not even the full list of running ambiguities.
For a runner that’s training, in order to improve there are plenty of times where it just plain hurts. Part of training becomes callousing your mind to that pain, using mental tricks to dull the complaints from your mind and muscles, and getting used to the discomfort. But then we also are told of the importance of easy days, recognizing the signs of burn-out, or days when the legs just don’t show up and the workout needs to be adjusted.
Paramount of all kinds of pain for runners to be able to correctly identify are the ones signaling an injury. Catch that pain early enough and you could avoid a chunk of time off and lost training, or push through that pain, keep running, and wind up going until you’re literally broken.
The conundrum only goes further as no one can really EXPLAIN all these wrong pains and fine lines. Tired versus lazy, too easy versus too hard, etc. because everyone interprets pain differently and has a different pain threshold. When one runner says their leg hurts, depending on the person that could mean their calf is sore or their hamstring was torn and it’s balled up down near their knee.
Sometimes a runner needs a swiftkick in the butt, other times a runner faces an even harder reality and they need to cut themselves a break. Get doing this running business long enough and the word ‘day off’ reads as a death sentence.
Times for the Kick in the Pants VS. the Death Sentence (aka when a runner needs to ease up):
* Tough Love: It’s just a day where you’re feeling ‘meh’. You’re tired, you’d rather sit down, go out with your friends, the run just isn’t the most enticing thing. Motivation lulls happen, TIPS HERE, you just have to lace up and get going. The first mile will be the hardest, then you get into it.
* Corny Tender Lovin’ Care: It’s been a string of days where you feel ‘meh’. Your legs are more than tired, they’re heavy…every.single.time.out. Time to assess your training, your workouts, health, etc. What’s up? Are you digging yourself a hole?
* Tough Love: The workout for the day plain scares you. The first mistake is dwelling on that fear; it’s even risky admitting to yourself you’re scared of it. NEVER out-think yourself from a workout before you even start. Be confident in yourself, but sometimes you need to just fake that confidence, every runner does that too…but they don’t tell you. The pain, times, workouts can be scary if you really think about them…so you don’t. We play the ignorance is bliss card and just START. Then take everything as it comes.
* Corny TLC: You’re running the workout and the times are horrible, like deplorable. The conditions are just as heinous, you feel like you’re running on the sun, or into a headwind, or through a snowstorm. Don’t take the times at face value here, go off of effort. Numbers can’t tell the whole story, and if you start berating yourself for the slow times then you’ll wind up sandbagging the workout and not getting the benefit. It comes down to EFFORT…conditions are not an excuse, they really do affect the times. Still put in the effort, and the workout will give you the benefits intended.
* Suck it Up: You just got passed in a race. Rather than let your mind tell you, “Welp, we’re tired anyways, so who cares…let them go.” You need to FIGHT. Leach onto that runner, get right on their butt, and use them to tow you along…tuck in. A race isn’t over until you cross the line; you can gather energy behind them and surge later.
* MAJOR Corny TLC: Bam…you’re running and you step wrong, your quad lights up. You know that pain…a mile later and the pain hasn’t diminished. You’re tempted, “It’s okay, I know I can just finish this workout, I can get through it.” But that knot in your stomach knows the truth; if you push it until the end of the run you’ll probably be limping all day, if walking at all. Rather than running until you’re broken, be SMART and STOP. Hit up the injury rehab and cross-training for a little while now, rather than being chained to the da** cross-trainer for months.
Good pain, bad pain? Too hard, too easy? So many lines, so many ambiguities, so many decisions to be made on the fly. The longer you run though, the better you get at recognizing the differences and when you need a kick in the pants versus cutting yourself a *gasp* break.
1) What’s a time when a runner needs the kick in the pants?
2) Give an example of when some corny TLC is in order?
3) Lessons are often learned the hard way, share a story of a lesson you learned as such.