Tag Archives: Injury

Nobody cares how much you know…

…until they know how much you care.

That is the case with all kinds of service, from telephone companies to restaurants, from car washes to politics. Nobody cares how much you know about something until they feel you care about them.

One recent example I found in my massage therapist. From day one Anastasia proved not just to be friendly and accommodating, she also showed in many ways that she really wants to help and cares about your well being, as a client and as a friend.

She went out of her way to learn about my long distance running, to figure out what would be the the points more affected, the muscles that would require the most attention, the methods that would yield the most results. She took the time to run with me, to learn barefoot running herself, to figure out how to make her massage sessions much more effective than they would be otherwise.

That is a quality, a human quality, that we should bring to every aspect of our lives: Kindness. That is the one quality that will make you a better professional, a better friend, better at anything you put yourself into.


Anastasia has been stalking me… ughhhhnn… welll… hum ham… she has been following me online during these four months I have been on the road and her support, encouragement, and good humor have been fabulous.

I seem to have an amazing capacity to locate and connect to the best people, the most generous and loving ones, and they always become great friends. Here is one of those great beings!

Air pollution

Running along the roads, near heavy automobile traffic, adds the risk of being struck by a vehicle and also exposure to air pollution emitted by those vehicles. Ground-level ozone, particulates, and hydrocarbons. All that damages lung tissue and cause a variety of respiratory problems.

It is very important to avoid that air pollution in general, and essential to keep an eye on traffic to avoid being hit. Even though it is customary and, in most places, defined by law in America that bikers and pedestrians travel in the same direction of traffic, I can’t get myself to do it. I prefer to travel against traffic so I can keep an eye on it and will always have a chance to jump out of the way if a distracted driver gets too close. With the traffic coming from behind I would never have that chance.

Lack of recovery

Failure to recover properly can result in chronic dehydration, accumulating muscle damage, systemic inflammation, depressed immune function, and changes in hormone levels.

In the short term insufficient recovery causes muscle soreness, fatigue, and poor performance. If a runner neglects recovery continuously more damaging effects occur like loss of muscle tissue due to excessive muscle fiber breakdown, diminished immunological capacity and, worst of all, permanent damages to joints and other structural damage.

Runner’s knee is considered to be an overuse injury, as are many other types of common running injuries. As the term suggests, overuse injuries involve the gradual breakdown of body tissues resulting from repetitive motion over long periods of time. These injuries are quite different from acute injuries such as ankle sprains.

Beginning runners (like me) suffer the most overuse injuries per hour of training because their bones, muscles, and connective tissues are not yet well adapted to the new lifestyle.

Abrupt changes to training pace or style, like suddenly increasing duration, frequency, or intensity of workouts, can make those problems flare up. The solution for that is to instead ramp up conservatively as the body adapts.

An easy way to measure your recovery status is to take your pulse at rest one day that you are fully recovered and rested, and then again first thing in the morning of every running day. A pulse rate that is much above your reference number suggests that your body is still working on recovering from the most recent workout.

The human body has remarkable capacity to adapt, with proper training, resting, and nourishment. But you must keep an eye on the signs it gives you to know when to push forward and when to let it relax and recover.

Pain is a language

Pain is a feeling triggered in the nervous system. Pain may be sharp or dull. It may come and go, or it may be constant. You may feel pain in one area of your body, such as your back, abdomen or chest or you may feel pain all over, such as when your muscles ache from the flu. Pain is part of the body’s defense system, producing a reflexive retraction from the painful stimulus, and tendencies to protect the affected body part while it heals, and avoid that harmful situation in the future. It is an important part of animal life, vital to healthy survival. Without pain, you might seriously hurt yourself without knowing it, or you might not realize you have a medical problem that needs treatment. Once you take care of the problem, pain usually goes away.

There is no such thing as one kind of pain. Pain is not something that either is there or it isn’t. Pain is a language, a full spectrum of physiological information, full of nuances and details. When we resist pain and don’t try to “listen” to it, we miss the many layers and insights being expressed. Pain is one of the voices of your body. Pain defines the current limits and edges of strain and injury. Some painful sensations tell us to stop, while some others are saying that muscles are being worked in ways they weren’t used to, and that is great, so proceed carefully.

The body has many levels of awareness and self-consciousness. Sharp pain usually means the brain is trying to protect some injured part of the body to prevent further damage. Att the same time, dull or gradual pain usually means a part of the body has been exercised and will grow and develop, but in our “pain-free culture” we tend to avoid that good kind of pain as well. It is only when you learn to embrace the pain and appreciate it for what it really means you will grow and improve.

During the last century or so we seem to have confused comfort with happiness, while quite the opposite is true. Running teaches you that there is a difference between being tired after working hard and feeling lousy. Product marketing and advertising all talk about “making it easier” or more convenient. A life driven by consumption is dull, predictable, and boring. Challenging you body to the point of exhaustion makes it more aware and heighten the senses. Everything becomes more alive and more intense.


The human body is capable of extraordinary endurance, but it has mechanisms to prevent self-destruction. Blacking out is one example of such self-preservation.

It’s essential to never try to run through more than a moderate pain in a muscle, bone, or joint. Toughness and determination are good qualities, but disrespecting pain altogether will lead to serious injuries that may take a long time to fix.

Dizziness, light-headedness, confusion and blurred vision are symptoms of heat illness and severe dehydration. It’s your body telling you (not asking anymore) to stop and recover.

Persistent fatigue, declining performance, lasting muscle soreness, and low motivation are signs of overtraining, and the only right thing to do in those circumstances is to take a break. It may be a day or may be more than that.

It’s now well understood that you don’t slow down because your muscles have reached their limit, but because your subconscious mind believe that you should slow down because it is worried that your muscles will be damaged soon. Anything that makes your mind believe that limit is not near will allow you to go longer. Self suggestion, reevaluation of the circumstances, new mental models can change that. I like to remember at the beginning of every run about how good I feel at the end of every run, regardless of how bad I felt in the beginning or during it.

Training strategy

Some runners may mistakenly believe they can simply scale up a marathon training program but this is not the best way to devise a training strategy. Instead the athlete should plan on increasing his weekly mileage as much as possible without making himself susceptible to overuse injuries.

Most people would assume that the normal progression would be 5K’s, 10K’s, 10 milers, marathons, and then a 50 miler. I think that is appropriate in most cases. However, I don’t think you necessarily have to run a marathon before you run an ultra. In fact, most runners won’t attempt an ultra after having finished a marathon or two. The thought of going almost twice as far, hurting twice as much, and training twice as hard, is just an unbearable thought.

You don’t hurt twice as much. In fact, ultras are easier than marathons. Marathons are much more intense and most people run the entire distance. In ultras, only the very elite are able to run 50 miles non-stop. Some elite runners (who run all the way) are beaten by other runners who mix in walking with their running.

Additionally the runner should also carefully evaluate the terrain and profile of the course and should be sure to incorporate similar hills and running surfaces into the training to ensure he is prepared for the race. Ultra marathons can usually keep high intensity speed workouts to a minimum during the training process because these workouts are not likely to be beneficial during the ultra marathon.

The key to success is time on your feet. You need to adapt to spending long periods of time on your feet and moving forward. Longer runs (>4 hrs.) can be broken up with walking breaks. In fact, learning to walk and then run again is a key to success in ultra-marathons.

New research shows that pacing in running races is controlled primarily by the subconscious brain. Throughout each race, your brain calculates the fastest pace you can sustain without endangering your life and uses feelings of fatigue and reduced electrical output to your muscles to ensure that you run no faster. The more experience you have as a runner, the more reliable these calculations become.

“Stopping briefly for walk breaks in both training and racing is the key to being able to move forward at all times,” says Buffalo Chips ultrarunner Becky Johnson, who finished her first 50-miler in 2003.

Another thing I do, this one without any scientific basis but just my intuition, is to sing. I think music is the best pacer you can have and when singing out loud while running and walking I exercise my breathing better, expand my aerobic capacity.

A 30 mile run is by no means easy no matter how you look at it. Even if you walk most of it, it is still a really long walk. You can’t control what happens after 20 miles or so. That is when most of the pain and suffering happens. It takes a lot of discipline and determination to finish the last part.

You can, however, control the pace of the first 20 miles to make the last 10 much easier. The most important is to resist the urge to start faster than the ideal pace. Now I make sure I keep a speed during the first 20 miles that is very comfortable and at points even feels really easy, because I know that if I push it hard in the beginning it will feel like hell at the end. I also make sure I keep drinking fluids and eat small portions along the entire way.

Training plan

My initial training began August 25th, as soon as I arrived in Miami, and will last three months.

During the first month the goal is to just run and walk as far and as fast as I can without injuring myself and without turning this into [unnecessary] self-torture. I don’t want to change my attitude. There is a very clear distinction in my mind between pain and suffering. I welcome pain, because pain is the body telling you that it is doing something new, telling you that it is improving and becoming stronger. Suffering is when your mind is freaking out about it. So I push myself, I go further every day, I have a great time doing it every time, and I catch myself laughing and singing very often.

During the second month I will focus even more on distance because I want to reach the 20 mile distance quite often. By the end of the second month of training I want to be able to do it at least a few times, in a combination of easy jogging and fast walking.

During the third month I will not be adding distance, just make it more constant, more smooth, and more predictable. Then during the last two weeks I will make it closer to 30 miles instead of 20 and see how I manage it. I expect to be able to do it well at that point and then at the end of three months I will do 30 miles and then 30 miles the next day. That is the final test that shows I am good to go.

Benefits of running barefoot

In terms of pure physics you can measure the barefoot benefit by less weight and drag. Typical running shoe can weigh anywhere between 10 and 16 ounces. Take off the weight and you remove a bit of resistance. Assuming that you take 1,800 steps per mile (that’s roughly 3 feet covered in each stride length), you can expect to move a 10 to 16 ounce shoe about 47,000 times during a full marathon. Granted this can fluctuate depending on the runner, however you can expect well over 30,000 strides for just about anyone who runs a marathon. With a bit of simple math it’s easy to see how taking off 10 to 16 ounces of weight can add up.

For most runners though it seems that the primary motivation for trying barefoot running stems from a history of chronic running related injury. In a quest to run injury free runners are willing to try just about anything. Some turn to yoga. Others see sports therapists and/or chiropractors on a frequent basis. The majority of runners with injury turn to top of the line running equipment that’s coined as being the cure-all for maintaining a healthy running lifestyle. Our options include Custom orthotics, stability control shoes with massive heel and arch support, and the list goes on.

It’s not an entirely one-sided story though. I have noticed that my feet and calves get very sore. After my first 2 mile run barefoot my calves felt like they typically would do after a 10 mile run in shoes. I also occasionally felt a burning sensation in my left heel. Those problems disappeared after a few weeks of training.

Despite the unique soreness in my feet and calves I viewed it as a positive experience. The soreness told me that I was making them stronger and building them back to a natural state of incredible strength and dexterity.

See also:

Barefoot running
Are running shoes a waste of money?

Making it possible

I will leave Miami towards Los Angeles through a route that will avoid the Interstate Highways and cross the country at the shortest distances possible, while passing through New Orleans and Houston, and not coming too close to the Mexican border, so I will be passing North of El Paso. That is a 2700 mile route.

The plan is to run an average of 30 miles a day and when necessary take a day off or make a much shorter distance. I will focus on recovery, take ice baths nearly every day, have massages as often as possible, and monitor myself carefully for signs of building injuries.

During days off I should just leisurely walk about 10-15 miles to prevent my legs from seizing.

Heat is the runner’s enemy. Running generates tremendous internal heat and forces the body to work extra hard to keep the muscles cool. When outside temperatures rise, the stress on the body is multiplied. So I decided to run during Winter. Starting date is set for December 3rd.

Researchers from the US Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine performed statistical analysis to determine the effect of air temperature on running performance. The results showed a clear trend towards faster times under colder temperatures. According to that analysis the ideal temperature for running is just 41 degrees!