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May 27, 2012 / elodie kaye

Better Health Through Hypochondria

I prefer honing my skills of denial, but one of the things I did right this spring was to step away from my training plans and logs early.  At the time, I didn’t have pain during the day, I didn’t have pain on every run, at the end of a run, or even every time I ran fast.  I did have pain that came and went, and over weeks seemed to come more often than it went.  It was a level of discomfort I’m used to ignoring without consequence, and backing off at the time seemed wasteful, even a little lazy.  If it had been another, less vulnerable, body part I might have noted the subtle trend, and probably would’ve let it play out a little longer.  That left hamstring however, has a tear in its past.  Complete healing took 18 months and involved crutches and canes.

But why is that other voice so loud?  The voice that says you’re a baby overreacting to a little niggle?  Even with a healthy fear of pain and physical therapy, that voice wouldn’t be silenced.  I had to cut hills, intervals, long runs, and slash my mileage by nearly half, but I could keep running without pain while my leg healed.  It strikes me now as pathological: the fact I could run pain-free made me wonder whether I should be training harder.

In the end, a month at 60% mileage, and a tempo run or a short race each week hardly had any impact on my race times.  On a perfect day, I might have run 90s better on a 10K.  I don’t think that’s insignificant, a 90s PR is an accomplishment to be proud of, but it’s surprising how little running it takes to maintain the training you’ve banked.  I don’t have much natural speed; I expected that 10K pace to decay from only tempo runs at half-marathon pace, but on race day it slipped out smooth as a stream.  I think a two week break with no speedwork would’ve been an imperceptible loss of fitness.  A little more laziness and hypochondria a month earlier might have saved my final race.

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2 Comments

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  1. Anne / Jun 7 2012 8:15 am

    You make a well-sounding argument for throttling back when injury is imminent. Too many of us ignore the messages our bodies send to the brain and suffer a deeper loss than a few days or weeks of rerouting plans and staying put.

    • elodie kaye / Jun 7 2012 11:43 am

      I’m pretty good at listening to my body’s signals, or so I thought! I was surprised at how emotionally difficult it was to throttle back, and I learned that my idea of “imminent” is too late. I stepped back for my hamstring much earlier than I normally would. I also overestimated the fitness loss I’d suffer. It makes me happy to still be learning, though! 🙂

      I do think the almost-injury lay-off has consequences eventually. It’s now a month since I last raced and I’ve lost a bit of speed and endurance. A lot of it is surely mental because I’m not expecting to race, but I notice that I have to build up gradually again to the 50 miles/week + tempo, speed and hills I had been doing before. Observing how long it takes to decline with less running has been interesting.

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