Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Commit or Quit vs. Quit to Commit

There's a phrase I use quite often when I'm running: "Commit or Quit".

The context is usually when I'm deciding whether to cross the street when cars are coming or not. Either you go, and do it fast, or stop, to avoid certain peril. A lot of times I'll be running in a group, so half of us might 'commit', while the other half 'quit' and dutifully wait for the cross-walk light to come on, but in the end we're all just taking care of ourselves.

I think this phrase is easily applicable to a lot of other circumstances in running as well. Like, in a race, you need to give 100%, otherwise you shouldn't even toe the line (in my opinion). I disappointed myself by not following that mantra earlier this year at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix. The race went out slow, and rather than taking charge, and making it a worthwhile trip to Boston, I ran a slow time in a slow race that had a blanket finish of many runners within a second of each other, with no one happy about it.

On the opposite side of that token, I've adopted another phrase when it comes to my running: "Quit TO Commit".

I've realized that sometimes less is more, and actively showing my commitment to running might mean NOT doing something.

Exhibit A: This past December, my job as a personal care assistant was becoming quite stressful. My client was severely understaffed, and as her lead PCA, I thought it was my job to pick up the slack. I'd receive a call from either my client, or the office at the company I worked for, to hear that my client has been all alone with no one to even take her to the bathroom for hours. As a compassionate human being, I would drop everything to help her whenever I could- oftentimes sacrificing time that I should be working out, to help her out. As this problem continued, I began to feel as if I were more concerned about her life than my own, was constantly wondering when I'd get another call, and just felt unhappy in general about the situation (which is unlike my usual demeanor). After a long time of trying to "commit", sticking it out because I genuinely like and care about my client, I realized that I had to abandon this sinking ship to save myself. If I intend to make running my Career, then it needs to be my primary focus, especially when I've only got a limited amount of time to do it. (As a side-note, my client is doing well, is staffed for more properly, and I get to see her every now and again when I fill in for someone!) :)

Exhibit B: Last Sunday night, I got an email from my coach describing the workout plan for the week, this is what it said:

Mon: a.m. 1 mile wu, 4 mile LT p.m. 4x150, 3x300, 1x400
Tue: 2 easy runs
Wed: a.m. 1 mile wu, 4 mile LT p.m. 3xmile with 2:00 rec.
Thu: 2 easy runs
Fri: a.m. 1 mile wu, 4 mile LT p.m. 8x400 with 1:00 rec.
Sat: 2 mile wu, 10 miles at sub LT
Sun: light jog or off

Citius, Citius, Citius

Whether you know his lingo or not, that's three treadmill workouts, three track workouts, a long run, and two runs on every 'recovery day'. In addition, I was meant to keep up my supplemental weight lifting and plyo's in there too. Maybe this is what other professional athletes do every week, I don't know, but for me, when I saw this, I was stunned. I don't generally do that many two-a-day workouts or runs EVER, so having 5 in a row was a shock. I joked with a friend that I don't know how I am ever going to get through this week, but I'll let you know how I feel on Saturday after my long run.

That should have been my first clue.

I know my coach wanted to get a big week of workouts in because I am not racing again until April, but I should have talked to him about my trepidation to ramp it up this much so fast. Instead, I stupidly posted my week of workouts to the world as a way to 'Commit' to it. I figured if it's out there in the world, I will have to do it. I looked at it as a challenge, and I was getting excited about how all my hard work out pay off. I approached each run individually, checking them off in my training diary, and things were going well!

Or were they?

I had been having a little bit of knee pain even leading up to this monster week, but it had been at such a low pain level, I figured it'd be gone soon and I wouldn't worry about it. As I went from one workout to the next, to the next day of more running, etc, the knee was getting worse. After my morning run on Wednesday, I could barely bend my knee high enough to put on a pair of pants, but then it was getting looser as the day went on. I went to do my track workout that afternoon, and it seemed more sore during the warm up (before it only hurt after I run). I didn't say anything (again!), and completed the workout, even though my knee would get super tight during the rest, hurt for the first full lap of the next mile repeat, and then tighten up again afterwards.

Finally, I decided it was at least worth mentioning to coach. After the workout, I described the pain I had been experiencing, and Dennis said we should back off and just run easy for a couple days to get it settled down. I did that, and things seemed to be improving. Saturday, I decided I'd try my 13 mile long run- the run went decently well, and my knee didn't hurt quite as much afterwards. I thought I was out of the woods.

Unfortunately, come Sunday, and especially yesterday's run, the pattern changed. My knees became incredibly tight and hard to bend from the very first step of the run. I made it 11 minutes yesterday and decided to walk home it hurt so bad. It is especially frustrating how this injury changed symptoms, now it hurt while running instead of afterwards. It was time to re-evaluate, see a doc, and rest.

AKA- Quit, to commit.

So that's where I'm at now, I think we've nailed down a possible diagnosis (nothing career ending, as far as we can tell!), but I'm just going to have to commit to allowing my body to heal, and in the meantime, NOT run. Instead, I'm heading over to swim for cross training/my sanity, and we're seeing if the RICE method plus a magic taping job makes me better soon! Hoping to be back "getting after it" in running again soon, but as always, I'll be a little bit wiser due to this bump in the road.

I know a lot of people, runners especially, are hard to talk down from training even when they're in pain, but I'm hoping this story might save someone from making a similar mistake!


  1. Hi Heather,
    I love your blog. Thank you for writing it.
    I would like to request an interview with you for Bigger, Faster, Stronger magazine (also known as BFS). Would you please email me?
    Thank you!

  2. Mam your an inspiration . . . Keep up d gd work . . . hope to see regular updates from u