“Listen to your body, do not be a blind and deaf tenant.”
– Dr. George Sheehan
Everybody who has even taken even a slight interest in, let alone totally embraced, the sport of long distance running is aware of the mantra: “Listen to you body…” but I’ll wager there are a very good number of runners who don’t really know what that means and a number still who know but prefer not to listen!
I was in the latter category until Friday afternoon. It used to be the case that I would pretty much run through any niggle or pain without thinking about the likely consequence – sometimes it would work out great and the problem would disappear within a run or two (or three) but more often than not the problem would persist and sometimes worsen and occasionally lead to injury at the high end of the scale or demotivation and frustration at the lower end of the scale.
Last week marked Week 8 of 10 in my Mont Blanc Marathon training program and was following on from my highest mileage Week 7.
I covered 91.2km over 5 days and I did two yoga classes (instead of my usual 3). I decided after my Thursday yoga class that I needed to listen more closely to my body as I found I was suffering with pain in my abdominal muscles due to pursuing an intense interest in practicing yogic breathing for the past couple of weeks. I listened closely and heard my body ask me for a rest and so I decided to withdraw from my usual classes the following week and to focus my home practice on meditation without such intense breathing.
By Tuesday of Week 8 my abdominals felt much better, much more relaxed and actually quite a bit stronger and firmer – I’m due to return to taught yoga classes on Thursday of Week 9 and I’m really looking forward to it! This proved to me that making some time for rest and reflection really does have its benefits.
I had planned to run 5 days during Week 8 aiming to cover between 15 and 17km per day. After a successful high mileage Week 7 I didn’t think this would pose a problem at all!
I took my usual Monday rest day and took an extra day on Tuesday feeling that I was doing the right thing and paying attention to what my body was saying. Wednesday’s run felt great, it was fast and comfortable and I felt like I was on to a good thing for the week! I decided on Thursday to run a different route to the ones I’ve been using predominantly in this training block and as this route was far more uneven and on less solid ground I found myself using muscles I hadn’t used in my legs for some time – by the end of the run the top of my right calf muscle was very tight and I could feel the effect in my lower back and my left glute.
After feeling those niggles I thought it might be a better idea to split my Friday run into a double – 8km in the morning before work and then 8km in the evening, both at fairly gentle pace to allow the niggles to work themselves out but it became apparent at the end of my morning run that the niggles were on the cusp of potentially becoming injuries!
I took the time to reflect during my working day and then made the decision call a halt to my Week 8 plan of hitting 80km by Sunday. My body asked, I obeyed and now I’m sitting here on Monday of Week 9 feeling rested and recuperated!
I spent Friday evening foam rolling and having my legs and lower back massaged and then had a long sleep. Saturday, as I decided not to run again, was spent socialising and for once prioritising the life side of the Life/Training balance! Okay, so it’s probably not an orthodox kind of recovery plan as I went to a wedding party and drank a fair amount of beer but I woke up on Sunday morning feeling happy and rejuvenated. My right calf, after an evening spent in formal shoes (a very unusual occurrence for me), didn’t feel too wonderful so again I decided to prioritise the Life side of the balancing act and went to visit with my Ma, Nan and cousins for the day instead!
I woke up this morning and decided that I would keep to my usual Training regime of having Monday as a rest day and my leg(s), back and glutes are feeling great. As well as feeling physically refreshed I feel mentally motivated and I’m really looking forward to getting out for a run tomorrow and then to running a 5 mile evening trail race after work on Wednesday!
This week I also have a visit planned with my physio for a pre-Mont Blanc Marathon systems check and acupuncture session and I also have a date with my foam rollers every night of the week – it feels like I have finally really learned what it means to actually listen to my body as opposed to just hearing it and then ignoring it until it screams!
Week 7: 91.2km (90km planned) Week 8: 41.8km (80km planned)
Week 9: 65km (Target inc. 8km race) Week 10: 30km (Target + 42.2km Race)