We are in week 8 of our 17 week training program toward the Cap City half and quarter marathons. The miles are beginning to climb, but the weather is starting to behave as well. This past weekend in Columbus was a breath of fresh air, warm fresh air. I hope you enjoyed every bit of it.
Now is a good time to evaluate how your training is progressing. How do you feel? Are you tired, but not wiped out? Are you sleeping enough and well? How is your nutrition? Running and walking is not always about everything going well all the time. Often it is about evaluating something that might be a little bit off and adjusting. This is a lifestyle and not really about this 17 weeks. We want to be fit and healthy for the rest of our lives, so really think about how your training is going. Are you seeing progress?
If everything is going well, good for you! Keep it up. If not, think about what you want to try next. Maybe that means getting a few more fruits and veggies in your diet or hydrating better before or during a workout. Maybe it means paying attention to your sleep quality and setting a bedtime that is 30 minutes earlier than normal. Maybe you can’t pin down what to do. That’s ok too. Just going through the exercise of thinking about your training is good mental work. Being aware of how you feel and thinking about why helps us tune into our bodies more and more each time. You might not know right now how sleep, water, or exercise makes you feel. BUT the fact that you are thinking about it is the first step to making that connection. Coaches talk about mental training all the time and often we think that means visualizing your race or goals or hard workouts. That’s true and incredibly powerful. However, I believe that learning to understand how the choices we make throughout the day make us feel mentally, physically, and emotionally can be just as insightful. Being an endurance athlete means taking the leap from going through the motions of doing the work to understanding how our bodies and minds adapt to that work. How it makes us feel and learning what we could do to feel better is as important as the work itself.
If you are feeling a bit overwhelmed with all that lies before you, you are not alone! Fitting training in with an already packed schedule is normal. We don’t often talk about it, but it is hard. Try and take it one week, or even one workout at a time. If you find yourself needing to skip a workout or two, that’s ok. If it becomes a habit, that’s when you have to reevaluate your goals. Life is busy and yes we need to make time for ourselves, but when it becomes more of a chore to train than a blessing step back a little. Take an extra day off for yourself or your family and then get back at it.
Listen to what your body is trying to tell you. If it is happy and enjoying the training, soak that in. Remember what you’ve been doing and keep going. If something is off, really pay attention. You know yourself best and if you think something is not right, stop and evaluate. Don’t simply push through because the schedule says to run. Take the time and make sure you are healthy, so that on race day your body feels its best. Best thing I’ve ever heard a coach say is “You cannot win if you don’t finish, cannot finish if you don’t start” so make sure you really take heed of what your body is telling you.
Over the past few weeks, I have received numerous emails, asking me about proper care and treatment for small and large injuries.
Many have written, saying they have a pulled muscle and wonder how many days they need to take off before returning to their program. Others have written, saying they have greater injuries and want to know how to ‘get through’ the half marathon.
First and foremost (you know I am going to say this)- if any injury persists for more than a couple of days, you really need to have a doctor take a look at it. So often, as individuals who are training for something, we have a very strong ability to mask pain, or even hide it when producing endorphins. We feel something doesn’t seem quite right, but it isn’t horrible, so we just continue on as-is…
Any time your body doesn’t feel right – whether it is an ache, pain, soreness, swelling, headache – anything – it is your body’s way of communicating with you that you need to slow down and take care of it.
If you do not slow down and take care of it – what was a small, very recoverable injury can become a much larger, possibly non-recoverable injury.
One person wrote me that she had a pulled quad muscle and took a few days off and thought it felt better so she wanted to know if it was ok to get her long run in.
While every body is different – I can assure you that the day your body feels better is not the day that it is healed. If you have a pulled muscle or other acute injury, you need to take some downtime, heal it with massage, good nutrition (Protein, fruits, vegetables), water, stretching, foam roller, sleep and low stress. (or whatever the best way to treat your injury is). Once it starts feeling better, I’d advise to still give it at least a few days. Perhaps take a few slow, small runs but remember that just because it feels better doesn’t mean it is.
Consider when a boat gets a crack in it and someone fills that crack with sealant. Despite the fact that in a few hours it appears dry, they advise to wait several days for the sealant to set. You wouldn’t dare take your boat out that day, even if the sealant looks dry on the outside, would you? It’s the same concept here. It takes longer to heal on the inner most part of the muscle and cellular level – so be gentle, be kind and take care of your body, so it can take care of you.
Every injury needs to be treated differently, and each person may have a different approach and timeline to healing, but remember that when something doesn’t feel right – it is your body telling you to slow down and take care of it. I’d rather see you cross the finish line with a slightly slower time than you hoped, than not cross the finish line at all – so take care of your body and listen to it!