Athlete Journal: Julie Warren, Entry 7 – Listen To Your Body

This week’s lesson: listen to your body. If you feel pain, take a few days off and give your body the rest and recovery it needs. Chances are, you’ll come back stronger for it and be grateful you did.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Along with Andrew Read and Narisa Wild, Julie Warren will be sharing her training experiences for upcoming endurance challenges. Follow Julie as she prepares for her next adventure – the Great Wall of China Marathon! Julie’s journals will be posted on Saturdays.

Athlete Journal: Julie Warren, Entry 7 – Listen To Your Body

Last week I detailed my week of highs and lows, beginning with a couple of PRs, and ending with back spasms which had me questioning if I’d be able to participate in my scheduled weekend race. Well, I’m happy to report that 48 hours after the unwelcome spasms kicked off, they had pretty much completely subsided. I forced myself to rest, while also spending a lot of time stretching, alternating heat/ice, and kicking myself for not paying more attention to the people who’ve been telling me I really need to focus more on my flexibility.

On Saturday morning, I woke up with a lower back that was sore, but thankfully no spasms. Apparently, when your muscles have been freaking out for 48 hours, they get a little sore afterwards. Since the spasms were gone and I wasn’t in a tremendous amount of pain, I decided to give the 8 mile race a shot. I spent more time warming up than I usually do, purely out of fear that the lower-back gremlins would creep back in mid-race and I’d have some kind of unfortunate face plant situation right in front of a race photographer. After a solid 30 minutes of warming up and doing whatever yoga poses I could remember, I was ready to go. I knew that as long as my back was feeling decent, I wanted to average under an 8min/mi for the entire race. I based this off of the fact that I was able to sustain a 7:27min/mi pace for a 5k the weekend prior.

Well the gun went off, and as per my usual, I started out much faster than I intended. There’s something about that adrenaline-fueled first mile that I just cannot control. Despite my efforts to rein in my pace, I noted my time as I cruised past the 1 mile marker, 7:07. Yep, probably a little too quick, even if I was feeling really good! I decided to ease off just a bit but still sustain a hard effort as long as I could. Miles 2, 3, and 4 passed and I settled into what was working out to be just shy of an 8min/mi pace. At the 4 mile turnaround point, I felt my back start to tighten a bit and started to wonder if maybe I would be walking the final 4 miles. I consciously thought about releasing tension in my back and breathing as smoothly and easily as possible. It seemed to work. By mile 5, I was still holding my pace and starting to hit my second wind. Thanks to the Foo Fighters blasting away on my iPod for the final miles, I crossed the line in 63:33. Good enough for 7th in my age group and 24th overall female. I was nearly completely taxed, but I recovered very quickly, did some stretching and headed straight to my massage therapist.

Thankfully the back didn’t seize up after the race, as I thought it might. Looking back on how the race went, I was really happy with how was able to maintain a perceived hard level of exertion for the entire distance. I was also really happy with how I managed to overcome my moments of self-doubt. Mid-race I started having that mental moment where I start to question my ability, “Ok, I’m only half way through this, I just don’t know if I can hold this effort level for ANOTHER 4 miles.” I almost started to believe it. And then my back started acting like it needed attention That’s the moment when I chose to turn my headphone music up a little louder, took my energy gel, and just focused on each individual mile. I decided to play my favorite running game, “seek and destroy”. Basically, at the start of each mile, I spot someone ahead of me and make it my mission to pass them by start of the next mile. It’s fun and it keeps you pushing hard, a perfect distraction at that point in the race.

With Saturday’s race under my belt and feeling quite happy with my performance, I chose to take Sunday completely off. Not an easy decision. It was such an amazingly gorgeous day, and I so badly wanted to be out running the trails and maybe make a trip or two up the Incline. Instead I did yoga and worked on some of my squat range-of-motion issues. That’s right, I finally made the smart decision and rested BEFORE re-injuring myself. It paid off because I felt amazingly well-rested on Monday morning, and all week I’ve been free of back spasms.

So the biggest lesson I’m taking away from this week is that I really need to listen to my body. Taking the time to give it what it is crying out for (rest, stretching, etc.) and perhaps missing a workout or two as a result is NOT going to derail my overall training efforts. In fact, by ignoring what my body has been hinting at all along, I’m actually putting myself at risk of a major injury. That would definitely drive my season into the ditch and result in unprecedented crankiness from lack of exercise. No one wins in that scenario. So please, for the sake of your training, and those who have to deal with you on a daily basis, listen to your body and give it what it needs.

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