Aches and pains! I did a big run the other week. It was a reminder that over the full distance of the ultra marathon, I’m going to enjoy a smorgasbord of physical complaints. If anything falls apart during the main event, it’ll be my body, not my fitness. Physical pain will be the biggest test of my resolve.
How to protect myself against the pain? Here’s what I’m thinking.
1. Suck it up.
Accept that there will be pain. It will ebb and flow. It will moan, groan, shimmy and swerve from one part of my body to another.
My mental challenge will be to not panic. Most of this pain is a reasonable result of running a very long distance. It’s my body saying: “Hey, this is a bloody long way!” Which is quite different to: “Yo! Stop! I have an injury!”
The trick will be to understand the difference, zone out, and keep on moving.
2. Recover well.
Training is not all run, run, run. I’m learning that what I eat before, during and after a run will aid or impair my recovery. There’s also stretching, foam rolling, gentle recovery runs, and days off. Oh, and sleep. Each aspect is as important as time on feet.
As I learn more about recovery, it’s giving me confidence that pain during the run is inevitable, temporary and manageable.
3. Strength work.
Every step, particularly downhill, exerts at least several times my own body weight onto my joints. How can I give my legs the best chance to cope with this load over a long distance?
Enter the Hulk. Stronger legs will carry me better to the finish line. If I want to run like the Flash, I need the strength of the Hulk to endure the punishment that my legs are going to take over 102km.
Yeah, yeah, I know I’m mixing my superhero metaphors because the Hulk and the Flash are from two different comic book universes. And yeah, yeah, I also know Hulk doesn’t need to train because he got his power from a gamma ray accident. Okay, geeks? Meanwhile, us ordinary folk need to work on our strength if we’re at all serious about running.
My training programme includes a weekly strength class: weights, squats, core, targeted for runners. When I signed up to Foundation Run, they focused on strength from the very start. In fact, for my particular situation they didn’t let me run at all for the first three months but sent me to the gym instead.
I prefer fresh air. I hate the gym. I don’t want to be trapped indoors with pop music and huge dudes who keep trying not to look at their own muscles in the mirror.
I’m glad I put in those three months, though. The gym was a necessary evil for me that set me up solidly for the rest of my training.
And our strength class turns out to be a fun and essential part of my week. Activate those glutes. Bring on them calf raises. Train like the Hulk. Run like the Flash.
Foundation Sports and Rehabilitation Clinic
78 First Ave, Tauranga, 3110