There is a popular metaphor in the rehab and fitness world that talks about injuries being like a cup of coffee. The idea is to compare the capacity of a particular tissue of the body (the cup) and the demand we are placing on it (the coffee). If the cup is able to hold the liquid, all is good. If the liquid is greater than the cup, we might have a problem. I think this is a great way of explaining running related injuries and helps runners conceptualize why we often need to improve their capacity or place less demand on the problematic area.
However, it’s a little too peaceful for me.
I love coffee. A good cup of coffee on a nice day is one of my favorite things. I could be spilling coffee all over myself and still be pretty at ease.
A House in a Storm
Running is inherently stressful. Anyone who has ever trained for a race has felt some level of discomfort when training. Your knees are sore, your feet feel tight, and sometimes your legs feel like lead. Running is not always a comfortable experience. This is especially true if we are building a lot of mileage or progressing into harder workouts we aren’t accustom to.
If you are training for a race, it probably is not going to be a comfortable stress-free experience
How sturdy is your house?
Whether you have been in a bad thunderstorm, blizzard, hurricane, or tornado, storms are stressful. When we analyze a running injury, I think it is a lot like looking at a house in a storm. The image below depicts some of the variables that go into analyzing the sturdiness of a runner’s house.
Have you been training consistently without injury for an extended period of time?
Do we have a checkered medical history with multiple running related injuries?
Do we have a diverse history of sporting experience outside of endurance sports?
Do you have a good relationship with food?
All of these are important to consider when we are figuring out the sturdiness of a runner’s house.
What kind of storm did you face?
It is vital that we understand what kind of situation a runner has put themselves.
Was their mileage and workouts the same as they have been for the last twenty years, or did they double their training volume and add two track workouts? Did they have a tent for shelter and expect to withstand a hurricane? Are they dealing with 80 hour work weeks, stress at home and still trying to crush their interval workouts?
We need to figure out what kind of storm you tried to face.
Don’t focus on the shutters when your foundation is junk
Runners often want to focus on very trivial things when analyzing why they are dealing with an injury.
“I switched from an 8mm to 10mm drop. Do you think that caused my issue?”
“My hip feels tight. I’ve been foam rolling an stretching for weeks and it never gets better?”
“I was told I have 2 degrees more pelvic drop on my left and a .5cm leg length discrepancy. I feel like that’s causing me to miss my workout splits.”
These are shutter statements.
This is not to minimize why a runner believes a problem is occurring. People and injuries are complex. Runners often want to focus on very minuscule things that most likely play a very small role in their injury and recovery. The goal is to help them re-conceptualize how they arrived in their current situation.
Focus on building a sturdy, resilient house that can withstand a hurricane. This means paying attention to your body, gradually building mileage/intensity, getting adequate sleep and making sure life outside of training is going well is vital for both your short and long term running goals.
Thanks for reading!
Nathan Carlson PT