The Legs That Cried Wolf: Learning to decide when to listen and when to tune out your body’s messages

I didn’t ask for your comments. This isn’t exactly a democracy here, sure you’re allowed to use your voice but don’t always expect that I’m going to be listening. Don’t you know who’s running the show around here?
like a boss
With running there are so many mixed signals we must navigate through and try to decipher. What do I mean? Roll the internal monologue, “I feel like I’m not running but kicking my feet in front of me and hoping they catch me. After yesterday’s workout I knew it would be a bit of a crawl today…but am I supposed to be this tired? Hmmm, tempting to cut the run short today…no, stop being a weenie, suck it up, keep going. When’s the next hard workout going to be? I was sort of flat yesterday…am I supposed to be this tired? Maybe. Probably. Stop being a weenie.”

The never-ending internal debate. The thing is with distance running and training, you expect to be tired. You expect your body to rebel and beg you to cut it some slack. Sometimes you need to tell your legs to stuff a sock in it, then other times you need to tell the dictator in your mind that the ‘smart’ thing to do is actually ease up and rest. Decisions, decisions.

Then there is the whole injury issue, when to push it, and when to pull the plug. When you’re a runner you’re usually a creaky mess to a certain degree, there’s always a tightness here, a niggle there. The running politically correct answer is, “Always err on the side of caution,” but let’s be honest, how many of us runner runners sort of roll our eyes at that and think, “Oh, you Runner’s World, if I took a day off at every squeak I’d be a jogger.”


All that yammering on in the brain makes you feel a little crazy sometimes, no? πŸ˜‰

That said, the same runner runners have learned the trial by fire method and wound up stupidly running through points when they really should have stopped. So we’ve amended our RW barb to be, “I know my base level of ‘body squeaks’ but if there is suddenly something new I promise to really assess if I need to pull the plug.” From there any time something new DOES pop up, doesn’t everyone have a mini-panic attack fearing it is an injury? The rest of the day we kind of poke it, test it, massage, ice it, hoping it’s just some weird fluke thing that will go away as soon as it came.

Mixed signals, you see. How in the world are we supposed to get an accurate read on you, Body? Honestly…if you could just kindly shut up with all constant back and forth. If you weren’t constantly telling me you’re tired or you’re sore, and instead only dropped a comment in the box when I really did need to cut back I’d take you more seriously. You’re worse than the boy crying wolf, you’re the body calling mercy. Take your white flag and shove it.

The tug of war will always continue though. As we all age in runner years we get better at tuning out the white noise of complaining from our legs and do our best to pick up when a signal comes along that is worth listening to. Sometimes we miss them though, and other times we fall victim to the white noise fluff and should have ‘manned up.’

You live, you run, you learn.

Side Note: One reason having a coach is so beneficial is that they can do a lot of the thinking and ‘radio listening, white noise scanning’ for you. An outside observer can generally assess the situation with a more ‘sane’ mind and make the right decision in the moment for the runner. Sometimes a coach needs to say, “We’re backing off, you’re not just being a complainer or a weenie,” and other times they can be the firm dictator, “You’re doing another repeat…shut up and go, your recovery jog is over.”

1) There are tons of other back and forth instances where you have to tune out your body sometimes and learn to whip out the megaphone for others…what’s an example you have?

2) Opening the can of worms when it comes to runners and eating healthy; on one of the spectrum there are times when you’ve got to really up the energy consumption and go glutton on any form of calories then there is the other end where maybe that bag of extra cookie wouldn’t be doing you any favors. How do you try to stay on top of your running fuel gauge?

3) Do you have a coach, are you self-coached, or do you follow some kind of training plan online?

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5 thoughts on “The Legs That Cried Wolf: Learning to decide when to listen and when to tune out your body’s messages

  1. Stupid body!

    1) If my shin or knee hurts but stays at the same ‘hurt’ level throughout a run, I man up. If it gets a lot worse, I have to call it quits.

    2) I’ve learnt that protein is king, but the day before a long run, it’s carb-way or the highway. When hungry, eat.

    3) I don’t have a coach, but I use my physio and my father as pseudo coaches, running issues past them.

  2. I am going through this very thing right now. I have had 3 good solid weeks of training, and adjusting to minimalist shoes for some of the miles, and my legs are sending me signals that I’m intepreting as ‘close to injury’ rather than just the regular pain that I tend to enjoy and take pleasure in running through. Yep, my calf hurts to the touch, is one sign, and just the level of tendon screeching is another sign. I tend to think the best training is taping into your body and inching to the edge of injury, without going over, and then stepping back and letting some healing take place.

  3. Agh! I wish that when my body talked to me it used actual words!! It’s so easy for me to start feeling pain and then want to stop because I fear an injury, but I really just want to keep going.
    “The rest of the day we kind of poke it, test it, massage, ice it, hoping it’s just some weird fluke thing that will go away as soon as it came.” I have done this!!! and recently! πŸ™‚
    I know that if I don’t properly fuel my body and then try to attempt a run, I feel like there is someone setting on my shoulders and tied around my feet. I keep going, but it’s like I am carrying all of that and walking thru mud. Agh!
    I don’t have a coach and I am currently not following a plan. I just run every other day (just recently made the decision to run 4 days a week) and do some other form of cardio/strength on the other.
    This is a lameo question I am sure, but do I need to follow some form of training program? There are no races that I have thought about running, but would like to continue to build my miles. And pace.
    Thanks Cait!!! πŸ˜‰

    • oh i kno, that body can be so back-and-forth sometimes! hehe. But the fueling point u brought up is SOOO important…if you’re going to be asking your body to get out there and work for those miles you have to make sure it’s got energy. [side tangent: that’s why a while back when i mentioned maybe u should bump up the portions, it would be okay and to not feel guilty or afraid u were ‘cheating’ on ur diet. πŸ™‚ ] and u’re getting so great at reading/listening to those runner body signals…excellent learning curve girlie! πŸ™‚

      and that’s not a lame-o question at all! whether you decide to race (they are super fun!) or just want to improve and watch yourself get faster and go further, i always like a coach because then u don’t have to think about the ‘plan’…u just have to do the running. πŸ™‚ if u ever did want some help or coaching suggestions, i could help you out if u wanted, and just drop me an email: πŸ™‚

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