Last week I helped represent my school at the Midnight Run in Stockholm (Midnattsloppet).
It was a fantastic experience, and if you get the chance to represent your passion at an event and talk to uninitiated people about it, you should take the chance. Anyway, that’s not the point of this here blog.
I had the chance to talk to more than a dozen people about how they exercise and their injuries. As expected, this slice of people are more aware and much more fit than the average person, as apparent in the different tests we did, where most were above average.
One thing was prevailing though: a lot people doesn’t actually take precautions in their training. What I mean is that they don’t build a strong enough base around their running. Whatever you train, you need a solid foundation, but in high impact exercise such as running and ball sports the risk for injury increases much more than for example in Yoga.
On some level most people of course understand this. A man approached to talk about his shin splits (medial tibial stress syndrome) that would flare up when he started training and he could connect it with the fact that he may be increasing the amount of running too much. Of course, you can’t exactly know the true reason for pain from only one external factor, he may have had a congenital condition for all I know, but his story was far from unique.
People will exercise too hard, get the beginnings of an injury, take a pause, get going too hard again, and the budding injury will flare up. It’s like they won’t allow themselves to go slowly and do the appropriate strength/mobility/coordination exercises you need to run a long distance safely, but need permission from someone that looks slightly professional (me) to do it.
In my opinion, which isn’t fully formed yet, there should be a priority in your exercise that you shouldn’t ever override: Safety, Health, and Performance. For a healthy, long and injury free life you need to always prioritize safety first. A lot of people prioritize Performance first, no doubt cheered on by the fitness industry.
There is no better way to ruin exercise than getting an injury. It’s better to do what can feel like too little than what is too much, because the span in which you get health effects from exercise while running minimal risk of injury is quite large. The span expands as you grow stronger and fitter, but it also shrinks as you grow older.
The most difficult part in staying in the Health and Safety zone is that Performance will inevitably take a hit (in the short term). And if Performance is your main motivation for exercising that is a bitter pill to swallow. A culture bent on praising Performance at almost every turn probably doesn’t help either. This is just my opinion of course, but I think a Performance mindset ironically stops a lot of people from reaching their goals, either due to injuries or the mindset killing the will to exercise if it’s not at full capacity.
As a future physiotherapist I will make it one of my main goals to help people make exercise a part of their life, free from the pressure of performance.
Now that I bashed on performance for a while let me end with celebrating it. Because you need something to drive you forward. Goals boost your motivation and reaching them boosts self-efficacy. The gains from that should not be understated. I just suggest having smaller goals, and setting new when reaching them to avoid injuries and get the most health benefits.
Have a healthy day!
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