How Your Relationship With Running Can Prevent Running Injuries
I’m no stranger to how disheartening a running injury can be. You’ve put in months of hard work and dedication, just to come up injured. Goodbye, marathon PR. Goodbye, first 100k.
You and I are not alone. The prevalence of running injuries is approximately three times higher than in other sports .
So where did you go wrong? Is your running form that bad? Do you have the wrong shoes?
Most likely your running injury is due to either overtraining or under-recovery .
But what causes you to overtrain or under-recover? It’s not your running form. It’s not your shoes. It’s not even out of shape muscles… it’s your mindset.
That’s right. Your mindset around running can cause you to want to overtrain or under-recover. Your mind has to tell your muscles to go out for a run. They don’t do it themselves. Your mind tells you to push extra hard when your body might not be up for it. Your mind tells your body that your training plan says today is sprint work even though your body is telling you it needs another recovery day. Your mind creates the situations that end with you being injured.
Not sure if you’re overtraining? Check out my previous blog post: Overtraining Symptoms and How to Prevent It.
What’s your running passion type?
If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably pretty passionate about running. If you happen to be a gymnast and somehow happened upon this post… Welcome!
But did you know there are two types of passion that you can have for running? And your passion type can make you either more likely or less likely to get running-related injuries. The two types of passions are Harmonious Passion and Obsessive Passion. Let’s dig in.
Runners with a Harmonious Passion for running, “feel engaged with running but remain in harmony with other important activities of life”.
You may have a Harmonious Passion for running if…
Your running rarely gets in the way of family or work obligations
Others in your life see your running as having a positive impact on their lives. It makes you a happier person but doesn’t take anything away from their lives.
You don’t worry or overcompensate if you know you’re going to have to miss an upcoming run due to other obligations.
Running is just a part of who you are and identify as. It isn’t all of who you are.
You have no problem pivoting goals if you become injured or if situations in life change.
You can have a bad run but still have a good day
You are mentally detached from running when you aren’t actually running
You know you could stop running at any time and still be okay
Having a Harmonious Passion for running means you are less likely to get injured than if you had an Obsessive Passion for running (see below).
This makes sense if you think about it. Runners with a Harmonious Passion are more likely to pull back on their training if they start to feel a niggle in their knee and less likely to push through the pain. They’re more likely to stick to their training plan and less likely to think that more is always better.
Runners with a Harmonious Passion are a mother, a wife, a teacher, a yogi, and an environmentalist that also happens to be a runner. They are not a runner that happens to also be a mother, a wife, a teacher, a yogi, and an environmentalist.
An Obsessive Passion for running, “overwhelms one’s attention, and is postulated to result from an overcontrolled internalization on an activity into one’s identity”.
You may have an Obsessive Passion for running if…
Running always comes first in your life… even above family and friends
Running rarely seems to leave your mind, even when you’re engaged in other activities.
You have little interest in any hobbies or activities outside of running
Your loved ones have come to resent your running, or it has become the topic of disagreements on more than one occasion
You have a hard time letting go of running goals if an injury is slowing you down
If you have any extra time after your designating workout time, you’re likely to keep running beyond your training plan
Further and faster is always better in your eyes
You would feel lost in life if running were ever taken away from you
You dread recovery days and just wish you could run every day
Having an Obsessive Passion for running can actually lead to higher performance… that is, if you can prevent injury setbacks. If you have an Obsessive Passion for Running, you’re more likely to suffer from chronic injuries .
Again, this makes sense. If you have an Obsessive Passion for running, you’re more likely to overtrain. You don’t have other activities in your life that motivate you like running. Running can almost be like an obsessive impulse. Any extra time in your life is dedicated to either running or thinking about running.
You’re also more likely to under-recover. If you can’t stand a day without running, or if you think that more is always better, your body will never have a chance to rest and recover properly. If you also can’t stand the thought of not achieving your next running goal, you’re more likely to push through early signs of injury. In the end, this only leads to bigger injuries that take longer to recover from.
What to do if you have an Obsessive Passion for Running
Changing your mindset around anything can be difficult. But the first step is what you’re doing right now… recognition. The next is to take a step back and see how your Obsessive Passion is getting in the way of your running goals and of your life outside of running (if one even exists!).
Then, start to make some changes. Little by little. Promise yourself you’ll actually rest on your recovery days. The next time you have a weekend wedding to attend, don’t punish yourself by doing two-a-days during the week. Just skip a run and move on. Find one thing you’re interested in other than running… and do it.
Start small, and those little changes could help you to prevent big injuries later on.
Recovering the Body AND Mind for Injury Prevention
Remember that overtraining isn’t the only main cause of running injuries. Under-recovery is just as big of a culprit. But when you’re thinking about recovery, have you ever thought about the importance of recovering your mind as well?
Runners with a Harmonious Passion may do this automatically. If they aren’t running, their minds are resting from thinking about running form, running strategy, training plans, and future running goals.
Runners with an Obsessive Passion may need to take some more conscious steps toward recovering their minds as well as their bodies.
Why is recovering your mind important?
The Race Day Mind
When you’re training, although you may allow your mind to wander, you still need to, “run precisely, focused, and concentrated,”.
This mental focus is especially apparent during a race, where you’ll be constantly thinking about your pace, how much you’ve eaten, what the weather is doing, and what your fellow racers are doing. You may feel the pressure you’ve put on yourself to achieve this goal.
All of these little stressors can take a toll on your mental health if you aren’t allowing yourself a mental break following your big race. Or if you are constantly running and going through your day with this level of mental focus, your mind is going to need a break.
The Training Mind
But even outside of your race, not being able to recover your mind between training sessions can negatively impact your running.
Let’s say you didn’t have the best run yesterday. Your feet were heavy, you nearly tripped and fell multiple times on a familiar trail, and you eventually gave in and walked the rest of the way. You return home feeling defeated and stressed about your upcoming race.
Now, if you allow your mind to rest before today’s run, you should be able to show up to your run refreshed and ready to get in a good, positive, productive workout.
But if you spent the remainder of yesterday and the beginning of today stewing over your disappointing run, and worrying about your upcoming race, you’re more likely to show up to today’s run with a negative mindset. You’re going to notice every little thing that goes wrong on your run, assuming today’s run will mimic yesterday’s. Your run will be less productive, and you’ll continue down this stressed-out cycle.
Are you one to constantly think about your upcoming race, strategize about clothing, and obsess over the food you’ll bring? If so, you’re chronically feeling the mental stress associated with that planning.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Clothing and food are important aspects for race preparation. But if that’s all you think about, not just in a designated “race planning” time, then you’re going to get worn out. Your mind is going to be screaming at you for some rest and recovery time.
If this sounds like you, consider adding a notes or comments section in your training plan. For example, I have my training plans setup where there is a comments box for each and every day. I can then note exactly how I felt on my run, what worked well, what didn’t work well, food and water used, etc.
Taking notes helps to get these thoughts off your mind and also builds a wonderful reference for when it comes to the above mentioned “race planning” time. You don’t need to try to remember how that sammie or homemade energy ball sat on your stomach. You can now just scroll back through your plan to find the note on it and confidently plan your race.
Taking notes also pays dividends for your next race. You can go back to your old plan, and then continue this practice with the new one. Eventually, after a few races or big runs, you’ll have accumulated a library of data about you and offloaded a lot of the mental burden.
If you want someone else to be the one obsessing over how to tweak your training plan, and how to get you physically ready for your upcoming race, a coach can do that. Hey, guess what? I’m a coach! Check out my coaching services here. I’d love to help!
If you’re looking for more ideas on how to recover your body physically, check out this blog post: Running Recovery Myths.
Jillian Beckham is wife to Brent and has had her moments of “Obsessive Passion” with triathlon training. Don’t worry, she’s since recovered. She’s also a Health and Wellness Copywriter that helps her clients improve their Google rankings through blog posts and website copy. Want to find out more? Check out her website or connect with her on LinkedIn.