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"Listen to your body" can be dangerous advice.

Texas_wedge's picture
Posts: 2798
Joined: Nov 2011

It's almost always very good advice when your body tells you to back off and, if you're smart, you will. It's NOT good advice though, sometimes, when it tells you you're invulnerable and on top of the world. That's when the comment by ibinmsp on the "Getting tired" thread comes into play:

"Congratulations! BUT - remember that your body may have different plans."

Mark's account of his experience when he opened the Getting tired thread is graphic and it's good to see class endurance athletes like David (DMike) and now Rick (earnric) taking it on board.
The problem is that the feedback you get isn't always the whole story. Mark laid it on the line when he said:

"Physically I feel outstanding. No pain whatsoever and I can do all activities with no limitation. I know it's winter and I have time to get ready for all of next summers fun and games, but I am very impatient with the recovery thing. When I am awake I feel like I can run a marathon. Problem is I just can't stay awake."

I've done a few marathons and half marathons, both on the roads and rowing. My last road race was the 2000 London Marathon. I was 57 and my Wife and I were working out at Liz McColgan's lovely little gym in Carnoustie. (For non-runners, Liz is an athletics legend, world-class at everything from 1,500m to marathon, winner of the NY marathon in a world-record breaking debut marathon time, also won the London marathon and was devastating in winning the Tokyo marathon.)

With a few weeks to go my tail was up and I expected it to go well (by a non-serious, aged fun-runner's standard). It was great to have got into the heavily over-subscribed Millennium Marathon. However, I hadn't run a marathon for quite a few years and I was conscious of the fact that I hadn't put in anything like the mileage I should have and hadn't done many runs of 15m. plus since my last full marathon. Then I had been pretty fit and would occasionally play 6 rounds of golf at a weekend on a long, hilly parkland course, carrying my clubs. (This is only really on during the endless midsummer days here, in N.E. Scotland, where you can still read a newspaper in the garden at 10.30 p.m.) I always trained alone (except when I had been in university weightlifting, rowing and judo teams, many years earlier) and so I didn't consult Liz or any of the serious runners at the gym before going out on a 20 mile hill run as a final preparation before tapering off in the last week or two before the race. I ran 4 circuits of my usual 5 mile course and hit all of my mileage targets as I wanted and did the second 10miles faster than the first. On one steep downhill bend I bounded off the road because a car was coming and felt a slight twinge in my groin but finished full of running and really pleased with myself.

It was a few days later before I found myself hobbling with an uncomfortable injury. I got as much ultrasound treatment as possible and was determined to turn out whatever - possibly my lifetime last marathon, the Year 2000 London Marathon, and I'd raised sponsorship funds for a couple of charities, some of it from golf club buddies. I reached the start area barely able to walk properly and
fell back to between the 4 hour and 4 1/2 hour hordes so that I wouldn't have to push myself. After a while I got warmer and the injury began to ease but at about 8 1/2 miles out I got into an unlucky freak incident which nearly crippled me. With a few miles to go I could hardly move and could never have finished but for a little Irish male nurse who had caught me up and walked for miles with me to the last few hundred yards where he ran in so as to avoid alarming his kids who were looking out for him. I finally crossed the line at about 1 1/4 mph in just under 6 hours.

My Wife and Daughter had stood for hours expecting to see me and had become pretty concerned. Funnily enough this experience helped them last month when my lap op had to be finished with open surgery and took about four extra hours. They comforted themselves with remembering the 2000 London marathon!

To anyone who reads this far, please forgive the rambling reminiscences of an old man. The point is that my body hadn't signalled distress at the point of injury and I did more damage before it became evident. Then it told me in no uncertain terms. (I shouldn't have run of course but, hell, on the whole I'm still glad I did.)

Mark has shown that you can feel great and ready to take on the world but as ibinmsp said "your body may have different plans".

So, do listen to your body when it says stop BUT EQUALLY don't trust it when it says you can do anything, if common sense or expert advice is telling you otherwise. Follow foxhd's advice and you won't go far wrong.

Texas_wedge's picture
Posts: 2798
Joined: Nov 2011

Whoops! didn't mean to repeat myself - sorry. S'pose I could have just said remember there are bold pilots and old pilots but not many old bold pilots.

jhsu's picture
Posts: 80
Joined: Sep 2009

I think it always the head, or the emotion part of the head, that says you are so invincible and can do anything. This is quite likely to happen when the over-hyped adrenaline kicks in during a race. You actually are listening to your hyped-up emotion instead of the body signals. I know so many marathon runners fall into this pitfall and injure themselves. This is one of the many lessons an endurance athlete must learn, control your adrenaline.

To me, fighting RCC is just like another marathon run, NOT a race, I am competing with myself. Speed is not my concern, I just want to finish running the whole course gracefully. Life is so short, no need to rush it. IMHO


garym's picture
Posts: 1651
Joined: Nov 2009

I was working out in the gym when I spotted a sweet young thing,

I asked the trainer that was near-by,
'What machine should I use to impress that sweet thing over there?'
The trainer looked me up and down and said –

'Try the ATM in the lobby.'

Seriously though, this is very good advice, overdoing because you are "macho" can set your recovery way back and lead to more serious issues. Slow and steady wins this race.

Vagusto's picture
Posts: 86
Joined: Aug 2011

Gary.....you always make me laugh. :)

Texas_wedge's picture
Posts: 2798
Joined: Nov 2011

Jon, what a valuable insight - I guess you've hit the mother lode on this one. May I just check that I've picked you up correctly and you can straighten me out if not? Your thesis is that it's not so much that the body is giving duff signals but rather that one's mind has been distracted from paying attention to the warning signals the body may be giving. You go beyond that to suggest that the adrenaline rush is to blame. I don't know whether this is the case and will mull it over but I think your key point must be right. I'd welcome Fox's thoughts on this one and I don't doubt you've stimulated the grey matter of all of our endurance athletes on this forum!

It seems to me that it can even be generalised beyond endurance athletes. Long ago I used to enjoy reading exercise physiology textbooks and academic papers and something sticks in my mind. Someone did some experiments with a champion weightlifter and established that the absolute expression of explosive physical strength involved disinhibition of the body's defensive mechanisms against the incurring of pain. Some of the performance superiority is thus ascribable to mental conditioning which releases the full potential of the physical strength. (I vaguely recall that the investigation involved hypnotic suggestion to achieve the same end and it was found that while in other subjects improved performance was elicited, with the champion lifter no improvement was forthcoming and it was hypothesised that this was because his training had led to him already utilising all the safety reserve.)

With all the work going on around the limbic-hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, the biochemistry of stress and the inter-related roles of dopamine, serotonin, noradrenaline and endorphins, in all sorts of mood disorders, advances apace and will doubtless rapidly consign much of the received wisdom in psychiatry to the trashcan. I suspect that dopamine and endorphin releases in exercise may be our culprits here, rather than adrenaline, in damping down perception of warning signals.

Anyway, we seem to have the interesting idea that serious physical conditioning, be it endurance or strength/power training, has the result of learning to narrow down the acceptable safety margins that the body makes known under physical stress. In so doing, we're utilising the fight-or-flight reflex that says 'This situation is an emergency so, my body, get me the hell outta here asap, no matter what!' The body dutifully gives the adrenaline output together with dopamine and endorphins to override the pain signals to enable us to perform with no regard to the possible cost.

Unfortunately, if we've just had major abdominal surgery, this learned disregard for warning signals is inappropriate and, on this hypothesis, the trained athlete, having learnt to reduce the safety margins, is particularly susceptible to doing him/herself unwitting damage.

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