Friday, September 10, 2010

Rehabilitation, flagging confidence, and the monkey brain

Confidence is a fickle friend. Sometimes we have it. Sometimes we don't. Sometimes we have an overabundances of it and drive ourselves to injury. Sometimes we don't have enough and later regret quitting early or holding back during some challenging activity, like a long hilly run or a tough race. Sometimes, we don't have much of it, and still feel obligated to push too hard. That's what happened to me at the GTIS Half Marathon, when the injury to my knee really became apparent.

Since GTIS, I have lacked confidence in my running. I can run shorter distances now, and my speed/pacing has even picked up (bonus!), but I still experience a lot of trepidation when I consider longer runs. I fear a major blowout of my knee that will require surgery I can't afford or end my running days. I'm afraid of long runs.

So, I find myself at a crossroads now, which ironically is the name of the next half marathon I was planning to run before I hurt the knee (Crossroads Half Marathon). You see, longer runs (>6 miles for me at this point) are the next stage of my rehabilitation. Fear and confidence battle within me for supremacy. If fear wins, I might hold myself back too much or talk myself into quitting or failing on the longer runs too easily even when my body is ready for them. Proceeding with caution is one thing. Not proceeding out of fear is what I am talking about here.

So far, my approach has basically been the recommended one. Increase mileage gradually, and cut runs short at the first sign of trouble, then ice after runs. I haven't had to cut a run short, but I'm fully prepared to do that if pain or excessive discomfort erupts. The problem is, I'm hypersensitive to anything in the injured knee at this point, because my memories of the injury are still vivid.

Now, a keen sense of he body can be very important for maintaining form, but a recent injury can draw too much of our focus to one joint or muscle, sap our confidence in the injured area, and lead us to overcorrect aspects of form as we obsessively seek ways to alleviate the symptoms of the injury. It is therefore critical to rehabilitate sensibly. With confidence flagging and the pain and debilitation from the injury still vivid, rehabilitation can remain a psychological challenge long after we have vanquished the physical ones.

If we want to return to our former glory after injury, we must also vanquish the inner demon that stokes the fires of self-doubt within our fearful monkey brains. The flight responses that sends us running instinctively from anything that has, in our experience, caused us pain. We must rebuild confidence in our bodies, gradually, one step at a time.

1 comment:

  1. Amen, brother. Your description is apt, and the experience all too familiar. Best of luck finding the right balance of caution, courage, and confidence.

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