Thursday, July 28, 2016

And the first injury of the year is…

…a calf strain.

Injuries, strains and niggles are often part and parcel of marathon training and when you think about it, it is easy to understand why.

I mean, marathon training can be anything from 20 to 12 weeks of pushing yourself more than you ever have before in an effort to prepare your body to run 26.2 miles. And once your body found out what you were doing, you hardly thought it was going to go easy without a fight?

However, it is important to first stress the difference between a niggle and an injury or strain.

A niggle is what I would call a general soreness that during marathon training migrates around the body to various areas in much the same way a Korean tourist might sight-see Europe. One day they’re in Athens, the next Lisbon; the day after that they’re up in Paris before getting to Berlin by the weekend. That’s a niggle. One run you’re feeling a little discomfort around your right hip. A few days later it’s your left shoulder. Then it disappears and turns up in your right shin before migrating across to your lower left buttock. Niggles you can live with and are your body’s way of grudgingly getting used to being conditioned for long-distance running. The niggle is the type of discomfort you might wish upon your neighbour because it is not really that bad and usually passes either a few kilometres into the run or by the next day. If it continues in the same spot for a few runs then best to lay off a couple of days, do some core work and ring the brother in Australia to catch-up.

Injuries or strains, which are effectively the same thing, are quite different indeed. They are painful and make you grimace. You are either unable to begin running with them or It takes several kilometres for enough endorphins to hide them, which only lasts until the end of the run before the pain comes back twice-fold or worse.

For me my first injury of the year is a calf strain, most likely caused because…

a.       I didn’t warm up before a tough running session last Tuesday. I could say I didn’t warm up properly but it would be a discredit to all the other half-arsed warm-ups to call what I did a warm up.

b.       I then continued to push myself throughout the whole session even at the end when the calf was starting to get a little sore.

However, while my first injury of the year is a calf-strain I could also have said my first injury of the year was inevitable. Now while this might sound a little pessimistic it is not a bad idea to accept that you will get some of strain or injury during 4 months of training. Because if you do accept this then you will be much better placed to deal with it. And I would say there are three distinct ways to deal with injury.

 1.       The Old Ronan Moore School of Dealing with Injuries.

This is where you completely deny you have gotten an injury at all. If the injury happens mid-run, continue running, faster even, to kid yourself into thinking that you couldn’t be injured at all. After all you can’t afford to be injured, you have a tight training schedule to keep to! Resist the urge to put your feet up, apply ice or do anything that might acknowledge the strain and continue training up the point where your fellow runners are asking you if everything is alright, because you are running like a sinking ship. Eventually, when you begin suggesting to a loved one you should sleep on the couch so incapable are you of climbing the stairs do you finally accept you are injured. Then go to the doctor/physio and hear that you are fecked and that your running season is over for this year.

2.       The Proper Way of Dealing with Injuries

If it happens mid-run, slow down or stop entirely. Realise that injuries do happen and get home and rest. Put the feet up. Apply ice intermittently for the first two days until the ‘heat comes out of the injury’ and then apply heat to encourage blood flow. Park the training schedule and catch up with some friends, file your tax returns (if you’re American) or watch Netflix safe in the knowledge that by dealing with the strain in such a smart efficient manner you will be back out again running so quickly that your training partners won’t even notice that you sat out the last few days.

3.       My New Way of Dealing with Injuries (which is not as good as #2 but a lot better than #1)

Realise that I have probably strained by calf muscle but hope that sleep will help. Then the next day check to see if it is really strained by seeing how it reacts to a light 20-minute jog at very light pace because you know, ‘it might be an injury’. Then when you get back home believe it is fine and book a 6 kilometre race for tomorrow with the worst-case scenario, ‘I’ll just jog it if it is bad’. Wake up the next morning and realise that it's not going away and accept the fact that you have a small calf strain and that you are going to do nothing but rest it for the next few days.

Today’s training  - Rest and not the 6 k race


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