Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Don’t Give In

‘When the going gets tough the tough get going’, a saying that’s universally used. I agree with it to some extent, it does define winners from losers, however sometimes the smart people are the ones who give up today to be stronger tomorrow. Over the Xmas period I’ve been watching the World’s Strongest Man on the TV. Carole doesn’t understand what I see in it, big blokes pushing their bodies to the limits to beat other big blokes. Naturally it’s the competition that I’m interested in and seeing people lift, pull and push huge weights is pretty impressive, even if it occasionally makes me wince to watch men lifting in a way that would cause injury to most people (and indeed did to a number of the competitors). Of course the most interesting events for me involved some element of endurance and it was good to see that some of the contestants had a good deal of stamina. But the point I want to make is that on occasions one of the guys had easily won his event and then went on to showboat by lifting even heavier weights. Whilst there may be a good reason for this, to gain confidence for the final, on most occasions it was wasting vital energy that could be used in the next event and also could have led to an unnecessary injury. Those smarter blokes would just do enough to get through to the final and then just enough to win each event.

This can also be true in running with respect to giving up on racing for first, when it’s clear someone else is better, and concentrating on 2nd. Though that is something non of us athletes really wants to do, but it is better to be 2nd than 4th, despite what some people call the ‘1st loser position’. I’ve never been a subscriber to that particular way of looking at it, I do what I can to win but if I can’t win then I’d rather be 2nd than 3rd, 3rd rather than 4th and so on.

However there are many times when you just want to give in when you could go on, and the reason for this blog’s subject is to try to present an argument for carrying on instead of giving in.

We all have to start somewhere with our fitness levels and there will usually be someone fitter than us, so it can be off putting when you’re struggling to keep up with people. In my early days as an athlete I trained with guys who had been running for years and initially I couldn’t keep up with them. It was off putting and I tried so hard to keep up I ran out of breath and had to stop and walk. This is natural and is encouraged for people new to running, walk some, run some, walk some more. When you’re having to stop to walk it’s also easy to make the decision that running is not for you and give up on it, but I say persevere and in time you’ll find your running feet. Over time your body will develop and running will become easier for you, but it does take time, I remember going for 4 mile runs on my own and having to stop to walk at 2 miles, and that was some months after I’d started running, but I persevered and ran the marathon without stopping, despite wanting to at 15 miles. As you get fitter you’ll also enjoy the running more.

It’s not just beginners who have to put up with the desire to stop, good, even great runners have to battle to keep going sometimes and you’ll see many of them drop out of races, particularly in something as tough as a marathon. I have faced the call to stop on many an occasion, and at times, in training, I have decided enough was enough, usually when you know something isn’t right, e.g. a cold or a muscle tightness, and in such circumstances it’s better to live to fight another day, but I’ve never given up on a session just because I’ve found it too hard, though I may have adjusted my expectations a little. In races too I’ve had that familiar voice ringing in my ears telling me that all the pain will go away if you just stop running, it usually says that when I’m not having a good race and indeed I think if I’d listened in 1996, when I ran the Surrey Cross Country Champs with a cold, I’d have been a better runner for I wouldn’t have spent months recovering from a strained heart. I have dropped out of races on two occasions, once when I tore my calf muscle 6 laps into the Surrey 5000m Champs. I was lying 2nd and on the shoulder of the leader, poised to pounce so I wasn’t happy but there was no way I could continue, the other time was when my cross country spike disintegrated in the mud of Parliament Hill Fields, early in a 9 mile cross country event, I ran with one shoeless foot for 3 miles before I realised it was pointless and stupid to continue, it was cold and painful and I risked injury from tree debris and the fact that one foot was sliding out to the side at every step. But I’ve also had the desire to stop, on occasions, when I’m running well. I really don’t understand why but I guess it’s somewhat similar to having the desire to jump from a tall building, even though you know it will result in death. My most recent example of this was when I was running the Pennington Flash parkrun, a few months ago, I was leading by a clear margin but I suddenly had a strong desire to stop, or at least slow down. The desire was weighing me down like a 40lb pack until I realised what I prat I’d be if I followed my desires and just got on with the race. 

So I’ve yet to drop out of a race through desire alone, my reasoning is that if you do it once it’s easier to do it again, so I’d rather push through the pain, which of course is temporary, than face the longer lasting pain of facing up to your own stupidity.

So I hope this blog has encouraged you to push through the desire to give in, remember having the desire to give in is understandable, but having the willpower to continue is what sorts out the winners from the losers. However, also remember that it is better to give in than become injured or ill.

It’s two weeks from my previous blog, my busy Xmas and New Year period got in the way of my usual weekly waffle. The week before Xmas I was training really hard, once I got over the knee niggle, having the cycle in my gym has really brought a new element to my training and helped me to strengthen the knee. However on the Friday before Xmas I strained my calf whilst putting one of my marathon running clients through her paces in a big session. I didn’t realise it was strained, I thought it was just a bit tight and, having planned to take the next day off, I wasn’t bothered. On Xmas day I followed my own blog and set up a 40 minute paarlauf (I realise I spelt it wrong in my previous blog) for Carole and myself to run in a section of Bonnyrigg. It was cold and hard work running into the gale force winds and my calf tightened again. But we did it and ate our Xmas lunch without a hint of guilt. The next day was an easy run so I thought it would help to ease out the stiffness, but it wasn’t as easy as I thought as I ran 2.5 miles uphill into another gale, the stiffness got worse and I had to take the following two days off running. But that and the self massage seem to have done the trick and I’m now back on track for what is looking like an interesting race schedule for 2012. Incidentally the client I was training with, when my calf strained, just ran 1:39.06 for a half marathon, the first time she’s gone sub 1:40, so things are looking good for the Manchester marathon. We also had my Australian client staying with us around New Year, it was great to catch up with her but I had to send her out for a run with Carole as I was doing a marathon build up session with Ray.

Here’s wishing you a healthy happy and successful 2012, but an even happier and more successful one for me.

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