“For times when you endure pain: See that it doesn’t disgrace you, or degrade your intelligence - doesn’t keep it from acting rationally or unselfishly. And in most cases what Epicurus said should help: that pain is neither unbearable nor unending, as long as you keep in mind its limits and don’t magnify them in your imagination. And keep in mind too that pain often comes in disguise - as drowsiness, fever, loss of appetite.... When you’re bothered by things like that, remind yourself: “I’m giving in to pain.” Marcus Aurelius, Meditations Book VII)”Today’s Stoic quote couldn’t be more pertinent because there is nothing runners think and talk about more than injury.
The Phrase “listen to your body” is useful in reminding us that we must always be alert to how we are feeling and how well the various parts of our body are working. Are we fresh or jaded, strong or weak, ill or well? We should regularly scan these things and act on the feedback. It is about more than pain, for example tiredness and sleeplessness could be a warning sign of overtraining, but pain is the most dramatic indicator.
The trouble is that it can be elusive Sometimes something can suddenly hurt but then just as suddenly disappear, at other times something that doesn’t seem much of a problem on a run can seize-up the day after and be a long term problem. Between the extremes of feeling tickety-boo and lying on the floor screaming in agony, there are all sorts of grey areas and an internal debate as to whether it is a twinge, an ache, or a serious pain. This only highlights the difference between listening to your body and understanding what you hear. It can all be very confusing and we must try to stop both magnifying things in our imagination or ignoring them out of stubbornness .
The important thing to do, as the quote, suggests is to make sure you continue to treat pain rationally. Above all you must try to work out what it means and whether you want to give in just because you feel a bit meh. If you are strong and well motivated you must then look at the circumstances. If it happens during training you must think long term and concentrate on injury prevention and healing, as a small rest in the early stages is much better than a long lay-off later. If it happens in a race your main thought is about completion and getting through (unless it is something serious that would cause long term damage)
Runners are lucky in that we are unlikely to suffer a catastrophic, impact injury (though there is a remote possibility of tripping up and falling into something), our injuries are more often the result of attrition. In other words we keep on going beyond the point of recovery and so a twinge becomes an ache before becoming damage. Mostly we hurt ourselves through training errors, forcing the body too hard before it is ready and mostly we do this out of pride and unrealistic expectations. The art of acting rationally is recognising this and acting accordingly.
P.S. This post was brought on not because I have any injury at the moment (today was just a planned easy day) but because I thought the quote appropriate