I believe that running should be a joyful experience and one that is free of pain. This may sound fanciful, however I would suggest to you that this is a wholly achievable state of being. Of course when we exert ourselves there are moments of discomfort, however this discomfort sits within the normal realms of healthy endeavour. When we run through injury, signals are relayed to our brain that the nerves associated with the part of our body that is challenged are overwhelmed. This information is perceived as pain. The more we run, the more the body part is challenged, the more feedback we relay and the more pain we perceive, This is what is known as a feedback loop and is our body’s way of warning us of imbalance or physiological distress. We can then stop what we are doing, assess what is wrong and treat/rest. The feedback loop is a useful evolutionary mechanism for survival. Why then, in this day and age, do those of us that value our well being often ignore this vital feedback?
Often when I have had conversations with athletes who are literally or metaphorically limping to the start line of an event, a common reason that I hear for getting to the start no matter what is “I’ve already paid for the event”. I am of the opinion that one should get one’s money’s worth at an event in terms of enjoyment and experience, however if you were to balance the cost of an event vs. entering it with injury and reflect on the cost of months of impaired functioning and restorative assistance then I’m sure the that most people would choose the path of discretion.
I’ve spoken about how FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out, is the enemy of progress. FOMO often leads us into making short term decisions with little consideration for the long term cost of these decisions. If we asked all those athletes who entered an event with injury to avoid missing out, (and in doing so significantly impacted their ability to adaptively function going forward or to run pain free with joy) if they would repeat the experience, I am sure most people would reflect that delaying their gratification would have been the wiser choice.
Staying with this thought, if we asked those athletes to reflect on their experience of the event that they entered injured due to FOMO, I am certain that the majority of people would report a less than positive outcome. Running through the pain of injury is in itself distressing, it preoccupies us and takes away from any enjoyment or fulfilment we may gain from taking part in an event that we were looking forward to.
I would encourage us all to reflect on the idea that running, when undertaken in an adaptive manner, is an experience that we can participate in capably across our lives. By undertaking some guidance, focussing on how to run with efficiency and building structure into our training we can continue to have joyful and meaningful experiences for many decades (be those in competition or not). I would consider that sacrificing participating in a glut of events now and thus increasing our potential for injury in order to run ably into our golden years a worthy investment. I do not like to reflect on the alternative.
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