Learning to listen to your body

There is a delicate balancing act to be had in terms of listening to your body. If I were to stop running every time something was uncomfortable, I would probably not even make it out of the door. With that in mind, I make the basic assumption that my body is a whining little baby and I run by the wisdom of Jens Voigt:

“shut up legs”*

I am for the most part a glaring contradiction. I assume as a given that I am probably going to struggle with every training session, but also though I believe myself to be exhausted, it’s ‘only 8 miles’ say and I can probably get through it. I may even have some sort of dignity left at the end of it

I’m definitely guilty of getting carried away, and starting to believe that I’m bombproof. I am also a creature of habit. I do certain things on certain days, and I find it difficult to change those routines. Add to that the guilt that comes with missing a session, that daft Strava challenge which you’ve already decided how you’ll inwardly celebrate and you have a potent combination to get me over the score. I do genuinely need my wife to tell me periodically to sit down and keep still. That it’s OK to have a day off during the week…

The feeling that you get when you overreach yourself is all part and parcel of training. With marathon training plans, you knock the mileage down every 4 weeks to give your body some sort of a chance to recover. If you’re not in a focused plan like that, it’s very easy to just hammer every week. You’re feeling good as well, since you can see yourself progressing in the training sessions. All your club mates are doing it too, if not more – though it’s rare you remark to yourself that maybe they’re younger or have been running for far longer. No matter how good you are, I bet there is someone on your Strava feed who’s running further, faster, more often. It’s difficult not to feel you should be pushing harder to catch up…

So far in my running career, I have only ever managed to heed the voice of my body saying ‘enough’ in hindsight. When my back went ping a few weeks back, I’d had a pretty epic week, and on the first lap of that parkrun I knew I was shattered. I had upped my mileage that week and previous a fair bit, and on the Wednesday in a handicap race had knocked over a minute off my 5k PB… looking back now I really should have sat that one out. I went down to the start line because I wanted to see my friends, because I wanted that perfect end to a running week of the festive parkrun, because it was a nice day outside… but mainly because I was awake and it was Saturday

As I now start to get back into things after a pretty short period out of action (no more than 10 days) – I’m doing my best to pay attention to my body. I’ve done three runs so far, all at fairly steady pace and mainly just for the simple joy of being outside in shorts and lurid colours. On all three nothing has felt all that normal, and I’m hoping as I progress with the exercises Mr Physio has given me that things settle down and I feel more like myself again. I’ve certainly noticed that I’m fatigued more quickly, and have taken the decision to have today off meaning I miss parkrun. I could go the NYD special tomorrow before the Promathon, but that would be silly

This year I’ll be starting a Pilates class. I’m really excited about it, cross training is dead important for injury prevention, and maybe it’s a night during the week I won’t do any running. It may even get me better in touch with my body so I can understand when it really means it when it says ‘stop, please oh please stop I’m begging you stop’. I think though the best I can hope for is to spot the red flags next time, and have the wherewithal to step out of the training cycle and do something about it


*Apparently now a cycling gear brand, go Jensy! : https://www.shutuplegs.com/eu/en/


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