2011-06-17

Hurting in a Good Way, Hurting in a Bad Way

Speaking of tangible results, I was out last night with PR, a loyal Stationary Waves reader, and our conversation inevitably found its way to running. PR remarked that the training regimen must be doing its job, since his legs "hurt in ways they've never hurt before." But, to be clear, it was a good pain. He said, "Well, they don't hurt in a bad way."

PR is in a good position because he has done lots of exercise over the years, and is very familiar with reading the signs his body gives him. I cannot emphasize enough the importance learning to understand your own body. As I previously noted,

Third, you have to understand your own body. You have to know in the middle of your run whether your muscles, joints, and bones are ready for an extra ten minutes. Chances are, they'll be fine. There is a chance, though, that they're just not ready for it yet. Don't feel bad, and don't worry too much about it. Undertake a more modest distance and then try again next week. We're still only on Week #2 -- there is plenty of time to get to 26.2 miles yet.

I also recently gave some tips on how to recognize when to draw the line. But descriptions only serve to be effective warnings if the writer is reasonably capable and the reader has some experience with the sensation. All the blog posts in the world -- even good ones -- will never replace good, old-fashioned personal experience.

Runners with less firsthand experience testing their bodies' limits will inevitably have a more difficult time recognizing what is "good pain" and what is "bad pain." People with almost no real experience doing any exercise at all will even recoil upon hearing the phrase "good pain." (Go ahead and test this out on your own. Next time you're out with friends, mention something about how you're feeling "good pain" from your workout, and observe the reactions of those who never exercise.)

There is nothing wrong with being inexperienced. It takes time to develop a good working relationship with your body. My point this morning is to underscore the importance of gaining this experience.  This is one reason why runners run. Knowing your body and understanding its messages is the absolute best defense against injury and over-exertion. We are on Week #4; by now, you certainly should have experienced some good pain at some point.

By the Way, It's Not Too Late to Start From Week #1
Just because I'm wrapping up Week #4 this week doesn't mean that you missed the boat if you didn't start with me in May. You can begin your training any time you please! You don't really even have to set a marathon as your goal. You could undertake this project simply as a stand-alone challenge to yourself. You can recruit some friends and challenge each other! There are no rules here! Join in the fun any time you like!