The dangers of working too hard, and the even bigger dangers of giving up.

Posted: March 15, 2013 in Random Thoughts

Yes…..that. That right there.

Marathon update:  It’s March 14th The Lansing Marathon is April 21stThe training has been going alright.  Not great, but alright.  I think I may be able to pull this off, not totally sold that I can do it, but reasonably sure that, within a 5 hour timeframe, I can move myself 26.2 miles down Lansing’s streets and trails and “Git ‘er done”….

However, there is a problem.  A problem that has plagued seemingly every runner throughout history……I have been be-felled (is this a word?) by injury.

I have what appears to be a strain of, or partial tear of, my Achilles tendon or calf muscle (what am I?  A doctor?  It’s my lower leg, closer to down by the heel,  and it hurts when I run.)  It doesn’t stop me from running completely, but it hurts when I run and it keeps hurting when I stop running.  It’s also forcing me to over-compensate my stride which is causing my hip on the other side to strain.  Basically, I’m hurting and every time I try to run again I cause more damage to the leg.  The people I’ve consulted with have basically said the same thing, “You’ve run too hard on it.  You need to back off until it heals and then ease back into running.  Ice it and use ibuprofen.”

I’m sure that’s sound advice.  These folks know what they’re talking about.  But…… Hello?  Marathon in 5 weeks?  There is no way I can just sit around resting and still be able to make it through the race.  I’ve been training pretty well (up to a 15 mile training run), but I can’t ease up right now.  These next 3 weeks are crucial for aerobic conditioning, muscle building, and weight loss.  No couch time for this boy!

Of course the conundrum I face is that if I stop running, I won’t be ready conditioning-wise; but if I keep running, then there is no way I will be ready because I will worsen the injury.  It’s maddening, it’s discouraging, and I hate it.


That sort of relapse right there.

It also caused me to reflect on what used to happen to me all the time at this time of year.  I would make a New Year’s resolution (usually something overly ambitious), work like crazy to attain it over the course of the first 2 or 3 months of the year, get burnt out from too much effort, take a day off, which would lead to two days off, which would lead to a relapse of behavior, which would lead to me feeling worse because I had failed to do what I had set out to do, which would lead to an even bigger relapse. (Maybe this sounds familiar to some people)

Luckily, I’m slowly becoming self-aware enough that I recognize this recurring tendency and am resolved to do something about it once and for all.  With the training that I was doing, I was pushing my leg too hard.  I compounded that damage by not resting it and pushed on even harder.  Short-term gains in fitness are being washed away by long-term injury concerns, and I won’t stand for that.  It’s times like these that the wise man finds a SMARTER way of working, not a HARDER way of working. (And since I wish to be a wise man, that is what I must do)


Seriously…I Googled “running wise man” and this is what popped up. I have no context for this awesome pic.

So I consulted the interwebs and once again pieced together a hybrid plan of what I must do going forward in order to get me across that finish line on April 21st.

A:  No running for 2 weeks.  I still need to workout, but running is off the table for a while. The pounding that 238 pounds (down 18 since I’ve started) puts on my lower leg is just too much right now.  I can take long runs aerobically, but not physically.  2 weeks ought to give my leg a chance to heal up and give the joints a chance to rest a bit.

B: Other Workout time and intensity has to go up.  I now am faced with the less-than-appetizing option of having to really kick it into gear each and every time I am in the gym.  Each workout now has urgency attached to it, because the lungs have to be ready when the legs are all healed up.  Elliptical training resistance levels and times have to go up to the max (3 hours last week for one session), bike training is intense intervals, weight training to follow a 30 minute swim session.  I need to add workouts on top of workouts in order to get ready for longer runs….without actually running those longer runs, yet.

C: Ugh…Two-a-days.  Anybody remember getting ready for a high school sports season in the fall after a solid summer of relaxing?  Yup…two-a-days.  We all used to have to do them, and we all hated them.  However, the practice whipped you back into shape pretty damn quick.  I don’t have a lot of time (what with the 2 kids and 4 jobs and all) but I can usually carve out an hour to an hour and a half of time TWICE a day.  So it’s up at 5:10AM(bleech), in the pool at 5:30AM, weights or elliptical until 6:40AM, back home to get the kids off to school, and then try to grab an hour or two later in the day.  It is not desirable, but it’s what must be done!

D: (spoiler alert…biggest trouble spot here) Diet and weight loss need to become the most important thing in my life.  As it turns out, I’ve been doing OK with the eating and drinking.  True, I’ve dipped into the fast-food comfort source and danced with sweet lady beer a couple of times, but overall I’m doing OK.  Here’s the thing…OK won’t cut it if I’m not out there running.  Weight has to come down and the diet has to improve for me to have a chance at making it past mile 13.  Time to rededicate myself to reasonable dietary choices and to re-exam my relationship with food. (cue Liz Lemmon clip….)

E: Adjust expectations on Race Day.  Look, I wasn’t expecting to win this.  I’m not even expecting to finish in what anyone would deem an “impressive time”.  However, I was still holding out hope that somehow, someway, I would be able to pull something special out of my hat on April 21st and crush even my wildest expectations.  Those days are now gone.  It’s not that I’m giving up totally or anything like that, but if I really try to push this too hard I know I will definitely hurt myself and not finish at all.  I’m setting a realistic goal and trying to accomplish that. (11 minute miles…4 hours 46 minutes)  If I hit that, or even just finish without having a stretcher carry me across, then I’ll be just fine with it.

So there you go.  A younger, more foolish me would have tried to just “out work” this injury.  A slightly older, yet still foolish me would have just thrown his hands up and given up.  The wiser, more mature me knows that while I should have been more careful about over-working right out of the gate, I would be making a bigger mistake by quitting.  I’ve got a strategy that allows me to get the work I need to do done, and still allows my body a chance to heal itself before race day.  I’ve got 5 weeks left.  It’s time to buckle-down and work smarter, not harder.  Let’s do this…

See y’all on the line on April 21st in front of the Lansing Center!

Post by Tim Nester.  Father, Husband, Broadcaster, Cook, taster of many beers, lover of life. Senior Founding Member of Monday Night Hangovers.  Follow On Twitter at timnester.
  1. MiniJ says:

    I hear ya. And am facing the same dilemma, but with the half marathon. Ran too hard, injured my ankle, kept running, really injured it. Told to stay off it a week, rest and ice. Did that, still hurts, now back off it another week. So, 3 weeks down the drain, 3 weeks behind on getting my long miles in. But dangit, I will finish that half, even if I have to walk it in misery! Moral of the story…if you get hurt, take the time upfront to deal with it, or you’ll be worse off in the long run (no pun intended).

    Good Luck Tim, we’re all in this together!

  2. jade says:

    Tim, have you tried aqua jogging? You need a deep pool and a foam belt (available at most pools). The motion most closely replicates running. You might feel silly moving about 6 inches forward per minute, but you can really get your heart rate up. And…I love you comments about self-awareness…old people are so smart!

  3. Michelle M. says:

    Oh that sounds so much like my training last year for the marathon. I never made it past my 18 mile training run and up until the week before wasn’t sure I would be able to run. (Even a mile was torture.) Take the time to rest and ice now. In 2 weeks, do some runs but don’t try to ‘make up’ what has been missed. Go out there on the 21st and have a great time! Enjoy every moment! Good luck.

  4. Anna says:

    Good plan. I’ve run through minor injuries/niggles before and it’s been fine, but the Achilles is not something you can mess with. I recovered from a minor strain after rolling my ankle last spring in about five weeks, but it took rest and I had to drop out of a race I really wanted to run. I’m glad I let it heal, though. I can’t imagine how I’d feel now if I hadn’t!

  5. Rick Reed says:

    I’ll see you there, I’ll be the guy with the running shoes, and shorts on.

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