Chickening out (and… please don’t let this be the start of something)

It’s a fine balance between listening to your body (and stopping) and pushing yourself beyond your (perceived) limits, so that you get better, stronger, faster….

This is particularly apposite right now, unfortunately. But it is actually something that has been close to home for a long time.

When I was in my teens, I studied at the Royal College of Music. My life was music: every day was filled with practice, orchestra rehearsals, choirs, music music music….

Then, I developed tenosinavitus in my wrists. This basically means “crippling pain in your tendons. Espeically when you do things you love…. like… playing the flute… playing the piano… writing, even….”

What do you do when you’re a teenager and it hurts to do the things you love doing? You carry on, of course! Until you physically cannot pick up your flute any more. Then you give up, you cry tears of frustration, and you stop playing the flute for… well… 6 months or more.

(you also have to dictate all your GCSE exams to an amanuensis, as you can’t write them, either)

So… I learned at a relatively young age that it is not worth pushing through pain. You have to listen to your body. You have to stop. Doesn’t mean I always heed this. I had to dictate one set of university exams, too, when wrist pain reared its ugly head later on. But I know, from bitter experience, that you just have to stop sometimes.

On Thursday, I was due to go swimming. I haven’t swum for ages. Weeks? Months? I’m not sure. But a long time. So, I guess I was nervous about re-starting. The first week back is always the hardest. I had a sore throat. I was tired. I rang J and told him I wasn’t going to go swimming. I wanted to have an early night, instead.

“What do you mean? You don’t sound like you have a sore throat. You always “have a sore throat” when you don’t want to go swimming. You’re chickening out!”

J is always more blunt than tactful! But he was right. Tired or not; sore throat or not, the main reason I wasn’t going was because I was “chickening out”.

So I went swimming, and I had a great session in the end. And I was so glad I’d gone. The chickening out thing was a bit of a theme that night, as I also chickened out of swimming my nemesis-stroke, butterfly, during the first set. It was my first week back, after all! I never learned how to do it as a child, so I have had to learn it as an adult. It’s not graceful, and I feel shattered after a couple of strokes. And I’m still learning how to do it.

The coach picked me up on it. I stuttered some excuse about not being able to do it.

“What do you mean you can’t swim butterfly? Do you mean physically? Or mentally?”

Well… both…. people laugh at me when I do it. Really!

So, he watched, and told me it “wasn’t that bad” and he’d “seen worse”…. I took a deep breath, carried on, re-tried, and did a few lengths of it. At one point, I did 25m without stopping!! So, again, it was worth pushing through, and not chickening out.

But here comes the inevitable footnote. And please don’t let it be the start of something.

I’ve increased my mileage and frequency of running over the past couple of weeks. I have been cautious. I’ve slowed my pace. But I have been going out of the door more often to run.

J has been making the odd comment “are you sure you need to run this often?” “why don’t you just increase your long run, and stick with fewer runs each week?” I didn’t react well! He manages to run marathons on 2 or 3 runs per week, and very low mileage. And he runs sub-3 hour marathons on that! I just see this as a sign that he’s a natural runner. So I didn’t see how he could apply anything he does to me! I just told him I was being cautious, and that I knew what I was doing. Famous last words….

I have pain in the base of my leg. I’m not sure if it’s my achilles, or not. But it might be.

I have listened to my body. I have binned my crazy idea to run 4 times per week. I have re-done my Asics plan, and inputted a 3-times-per-week frequency. There’s no need for me to increase the number of runs I do yet. I’m not doing the marathon til next year. My main aim right now is to just keep running, to stay injury free, and to prepare a good base for next year when I WILL have to increase what I’m doing. Also, I am always doing lots of cycling. And I’m determined to get to the swimming pool at least once per week… So overall, that is enough.

The pain in my leg started after I ran on Wednesday, but it had eased off by this morning, and I ran (5 miles). However, it’s sore again tonight. I have to keep an eye on it, don’t I? I don’t want to stop. I don’t want to stop….. Not yet….

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21 thoughts on “Chickening out (and… please don’t let this be the start of something)

  1. I feel your pain. I have had the same issue and I am still struggling with it. Take care of yourself because once you break down it is very difficult to go back up. I have managed three threadmill runs this week, each one lasting around 25 minutes and I haven’t felt any significant pain rather than some soreness on my calves and a bit of an inkling in my inner ankle so I am feeling quite positive but I know this wouldn’t have happened hadn’t I taken my two month long hiatus why I built strength.. and rested. I had two weeks where I didn’t do any exercise of any kind and why it drove me crazy I am reaping the results now… stay strong, slow down and you’re doing fine xo

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  2. why is actually whilst…. sorry about the clumsy writing, I have been studying all day and my brain is no longer functioning as it should… Plus I am typing in two separate windows and two languages at the same time and it gets pretty confusing! Duh. Rest up xx

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    • thanks, lovely! So good that you’re back to it again now 🙂 And…wow! Can’t keep brain together in one language/ screen, let alone two!! And thanks… am so pissed off right now, but I know this is all part of it, and I jsut have to be careful. Which we all hate being…. 😉

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      • I speak both english and spanish the same so it gets a bit confusing sometimes. Gets better over time though! Hang in there, you will be better! I know I am not completely recovered because I am still mildly uncomfortable, but I am hoping for a street run next week?

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      • If everything goes according to plan wednesday will be the big day. I am hoping for 3k (have been running 4.5 on the threadmill..) and a bit of a stretch session at the gym straight afterwards. I’ll basicly just run into the gym, literally! I am going to the gym tomorrow but not hopping on the threadmill to let my ankles and knees rest 🙂 : )

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    • argh. Yes. It’s just so frustrating when this happens. Things go well. So you increase everything. Things hurt…. you slow down… you start again. Ah well. It’s all part of the marathon “journey”, I guess 😉 3 slow runs a week it is, then… 🙂

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  3. Oh wow, I can so relate – be ause I played flute, too, & I developed tendinitis in my wrist as a teenager, too. Except since we’re talking almost 40 years ago, no one really seemed to know what tendinitis was or quite knew what to tell me to do.

    And I never really learned butterfly as a kid, either. I had to do an IM in a race once & talk about not pretty – no idea how I got through that!

    4 x week is not excessive but it might be excessive for you right now. Trying to figure when to keep running & when to ease up is a very, very difficult thing to do. I hope your leg feels better quickly!

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    • wow! Ah yes. That’s right. I remember you’re a flautist. And what a shame you got no help. To be honest, all they told me to do was “radical rest” which means literally doing nothing. Nowadays, they realise that’s not a good thing, and recommend “active rest”. But anyway. It was at least dealt with in some way.
      And thank you. Here’s hoping it all gets better soon…. you’re right. You have to just do what’s right for you. And 4 times a week is too mjuch for me right now 😦

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  4. Aw sweetie (that sounds patronising, it’s not meant to be!). I know nothing about this, I’m a rubbish runner but it seems to me that stopping isn’t a good thing. There has to be a balance between physical and mental and it seesm to be like stopping wouldn’t be good mentally. Do you think you can scale back a little? Wish I had something more useful to say! You’ll figure it out. Take care!

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    • 🙂 !!! not taken that way!… and thanks. You’re right. I just couldn’t come to a complete halt now. I would literally spend the days climbing walls, I think! But yes. It’s a reminder to listen to my body. And that I’m not as young (or light!) as I used to be…. So yes- will be scaling back again and just being even more cautious. I think I’d just got a bit carried away because it was going so well…. The leg’s much better today, so I think it’s more a warning than an injury at the moment. I just have to make sure I keep it that way. And thank you. It’s so lovely to hear from people, and the support is really appreciated 🙂

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  5. Scale back definitely seems to be the key. I had a few ‘BIG’ miles weeks on October – like 40 – 50 miles per week and developed a bit of a tight and twitchy left leg. But I have been tapering for my race these past 2 weeks and the tightness is there but the twinges have gone – so yeah – just drop the pace and maybe 20% off your weekly mileage for a couple of weeks. Hope you pull through 🙂

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  6. Coming from someone who battles chronic calf strains, has battled achilles issues, and has had plantar fasciitis I want to say I am so sorry to hear of this. My recommendation is to not stop just yet but try to run slower and on flats. If it gets better you can safely resume. Also, there are some PT exercises you can do – heel drops are great. I can say one thing – really listen to your body here and take time off up front. I know that it SUCKS SO BAD UGH but I know how much more it sucks to keep trying to run through this. Hang in there!

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    • Ah thank you. I have scaled back a bit, and it all seems much better. Luckily… I live in the flattest county in the UK, so I actually have to search for hills! 😉 but I’ve been doing some calf stretches and lifting up onto toes etc to strenghten them. fingers crossed, it was just a niggle 🙂

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    • thank you! Yes- am really enjoying the swimming again. and yes… you’re right. Part of the challenge of a marathon is training without getting injured. Guess I’m not getting any younger, either… 😉

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  7. Pingback: Birthday run | 11months26miles

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