November 13th, 2009
I know, hate is a strong word, but think about this for a moment (especially you new runners). Our entire lives we focus on self-preservation. From an early age we’re told “Don’t touch that, its hot.” or “Don’t jump off of that, it is too high.” And, obviously, this is good advice. It saves us from harm. However, when it comes to running, or any form of exercise, you have to deal with a certain measure of pain in order to get stronger. You have to go against that feeling of self-preservation.
In other words, you have to cause yourself pain before you get healthier, stronger, faster.
I was thinking about this as I was dealing with soreness during some recent runs. As I was running I thought how odd it was that I had to put myself through pain in order to get healthier. You have to push through pain to force your muscles to heal stronger.
Friend and fellow Viddler team member Jeff Johns, who has run the New York Marathon, has an interesting approach to hills which I think is a great example of dealing with pain to get stronger. He says “I go as fast as I can and slow down on the downhill. I love hills, they present a challenge and the faster I run up them the better I feel. No matter what mile the hill comes at, I run as fast as I can up it.”
This may seem insane, Jeff says he likes the dentist too so maybe he is, but think about how our body is made. Our body is made to adjust and fit our lifestyle (within reason). For example, if you’ve never done 50 pushups in a row you’ll find it is pretty hard. However, you’ll also find that after trying to do 50 pushups in a row for a little while – you’ll be able to do them with little problem in a short amount of time. Running is no exception. That very first mile seems impossible and you may actually feel like you’re going do pass out. But, try it again two days later and you’ll be wondering what all the fuss was about. Within 1 day your body adjusts to running and is actually ready to run a bit further than the first time. Within two or three weeks you’ll be running longer distances than you ever thought possible.
This ability to adjust extends beyond pushups and running. Our metabolism also adjusts to fit our life style. Eat smaller meals more often and your metabolism sores and fat drops. Eat bigger meals less often and your body stores fat for the period of time between meals. Your body tries to do exactly what you ask it to do and then sets itself up better for the next time you ask for the same thing.
The point is, your body adjusts and very quickly.
When you’re running, even for the very first time, think of the pain as a sure sign that your body is working hard to adjust to what you are asking it to do. Obviously you want to be conscience of any injuries you could cause – and your body will tell you very quickly if you’ve injured yourself – but in general a little pain goes a long way. Waking up sore in the morning? That is your body healing itself not just back to what it was but better than it was the day before.
Within 4 runs my body is no longer sore and I’m back up to 6 mile runs at a time without thinking about it. It may take you a few more than that, and that is ok, but remember that when you feel pain you have to learn to hate yourself a bit. Push yourself through that pain knowing that tomorrow that pain will not be there and you’ll be able to do more than you did today. If you push yourself until you feel sore every time you run or exercise you will see dramatic progress.
Now, if you’ll excuse me – I have to go hurt myself. A little.