Runners have got to be the most optimistic creatures out there. The personal drive and goal setting qualities of runners sets them apart from their peers putting them at risk of letting their overly optimistic nature cloud the apparent realities that this challenging sport puts one through. When challenged by friends or family about the toll that this sport takes on the body, the runner often digs into a defensive mode, spouting research studies and anecdotal evidence. Personally I am guilty of this too, as I see it as a natural protective mechanism to distract and dismiss because the flip side would question my future training and racing plans. I equate this to watching Clinton and Trump rally interviews with their overly devout supporters.
The realities of running injuries:
- The average runner will miss from 5-10% of their workouts due to injury
- For every 100 hours of running the average runner will sustain 1 injury. So that means at a 6 min/km pace and 40 kms/week the average runner will suffer one injury every six months.
- 60-70% of all runners will be injured in any year
- 50% of all injuries are new, the rest are chronic recurring problems
- Beginner runners have a significantly higher risk of injury versus individuals who have been running for many years.
Now I know I've painted a gloomy picture but the reality is the vast majority of injuries are due to bio-mechanical dysfunction, lack of strength, symmetry, flexibility or simply the neglect of the body's system leading it to eventual breakdown. The good news is that most if not all injuries can be avoided by being proactive which is seeking the advice and possible treatment needed before the small issue ends up becoming a major one. If we runners spent even a fraction of the time seeking appropriate assessment and treatment and doing what is necessary to avoid injury as time spent running than our chances of success goes up exponentially.
So I'm going to walk you through an exercise I do at the beginning of each year and I challenge you to do the same. It's called a pre-mortem and it goes like this:
Envision all of the races and running goals you have set out for the remainder of this season and the next. Now I want you to picture yourself at the end of the season and your whole bloody year of running was a disaster. It wasn't just a disaster, it was so embarrassing you avoid going to your running group to dodge anyone bringing it up. You feel so bad about it that you even consider hanging up your shoes and never pounding the pavement ever again.
Now I want you to grab a pen and paper and take 10 minutes to write out in point form all of the reasons why you failed. Think dark and dreary and be brutally honest about your true weaknesses in this sport. It might be mental toughness, maybe recurring injury, not enough strength work, or even lack of training or inefficient training. This exercise will challenge you because instead of celebrating optimism it gives credence to functional pessimism and this is how we create longevity. Take this list and take it to heart as you will know more of what you need than anyone else does.
-Dave Proctor is the world record holder for furthest distance run on a treadmill in 24 hours, the Canadian 24 hour record holder and a massage therapist at LIVACTIV.