Know Your Weakness

20 January 2014, 17:58

A bit of self-evaluation is never a bad thing, but when you’re training for a big race, it’s almost essential.

On one side, it’s helpful to know your strengths so you can use them to your best advantage. For instance, I’m great at pacing – I can usually get my legs to lock into a pace and stay there for an indeterminate amount of time (provided it’s not too fast, of course), so I make sure that a few of my runs just before my race are at target race pace, so I can will my legs to “remember” that pace on race day.

But it’s equally useful to know your weaknesses, both mental and physical. I know a lot of friends have trouble with positive thinking and mentally pushing through discomfort, but my various medical traumas over the years have given me a pretty strong mental will (yes, mom, I finally found something where my stubbornness is an asset!).

My two main weaknesses are physical – my left knee (a teenaged skiing accident left it without most of its cartilage), and my immune system. It’s not my immune system’s fault it got booted out and replaced by a newer model 4.5 years ago, but it means that I tend to pick up everything that’s going round, but catch it harder and for longer than everyone else. Most athletes are concerned with injury prevention, but for me, Illness Prevention is my absolute number one priority.

Over the years I’ve become a little better at noticing the illness “niggles”, but it was only until very recently that I’d have any warning to try and do anything about it (the wonders of a newborn immune system meant I’d go from that first scratchy throat to fever literally within hours). Regular exercise, of course, is help in itself, and taking daily vitamin C and zinc has also made a noticeable difference for me (as well as being the only scientifically proven defense against colds and flu). Keeping stress to a minimum is something I strive for anyway, but I hadn’t appreciated quite how big a factor it was until I looked back over a particularly stressful time at work and noticed it coincided with a period where I was pretty much continuously ill, too.

The reason I’m pondering all this recently is because last Friday I didn’t feel well – I’d gone out and done my morning recovery run and stretching feeling fine, but by lunchtime I had a headache that Nuun wouldn’t shift (and therefore not dehydration) plus some distinctly feverish feelings. In short, I did not feel “right” at all, so I resolved to stay in bed all afternoon, cancelled my Saturday hill run, and Rest The Shit out of this proto-illness in the vain hope that I could stop it before I became full-blown ill.

To my surprise and delight, I do believe my dedicated Rest Weekend worked – by Saturday night I felt tired, but otherwise okay, and my Sunday night I felt utterly normal. I was able to run this morning’s Longish Easy Run at a normal pace, too, so I’ll carry on with this week’s training plan as per usual.

I’m just as guilty as everyone else of wanting to get out there and Go Go Go, but sometimes the best way to achieve a long term goal is to make an Adult Decision and dial things back a bit. I know had I gone out and done my Saturday hill run anyway (my favourite of the week!), I’d probably be sat in bed sniffling and coughing right now, looking at a good fortnight disruption to my marathon training.

So I guess what I’m trying to say is – know your own personal weaknesses, and never fear the Adult Decision.



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