Lately I have been haunted by a strange sensation in my calves. It feels like a small electrical spark under my skin. I can’t say that it is a sharp or deep pain . . . just a mild twinge now and again.
My brain had me convinced that my calf muscles were ripping apart. Maybe these strange twinges were microscopic tears? Maybe my muscle fibers were cleaving with each awkward foot strike?
Soon I was running on my tip-toes in order to save my calves from utter ruin.
I’ve heard of runners who rupture a ligament and hit the pavement face first. Everything is fine then all of a sudden “snap”! Perhaps it was about to happen to me!
Plausible explanation don’t you think?
Angie talks about not obsessing over each ache and pain. You must push through the discomfort in marathon training. The tapering weeks especially are hosts to “phantom pains” that make our brains fixate on a problem that is really a non-concern.
I know about fixation. Whenever I watch a movie it stays in my head for 2-3 days. On Friday I watched Pirates of the Caribean 4 (in 3D) and I’m still thinking about mermaids.
Mental fixation for runners goes like this . . .
About mile 4 you feel like you need to pee. The urge is there but not a nagging urge. If you were driving a car you wouldn’t pull over.
But as you fixate on this urge it grows stronger and you begin looking around. Now you are viewing the scenery with a different frame of mind. Each tall shrub is a possible pee shelter.
You really don’t need to stop but somehow your mind has brought your bladder up on the center stage and given it a mega phone.
What if we could identify mental fixation and shift the direction of our minds at will? Psychologists say we can! They call it cognitive shifting.
- According to Wikipedia
Cognitive shifting is a method used in awareness management describing the mental process of re-directing one’s focus of attention away from one fixation and toward a different focus of attention. This shifting process can be initiated either by habit and unconsciously, or as an act of conscious volition.
I have long known about the method of cognitive shifting but my technical term for it is, “STOP FREAKING OUT!” also called SFO or STO-FRO.
When my brain is fixating on a problem (which sometimes is not even a real problem) I can awaken myself from the fixating trance through STO-FRO therapy.
So, now that I’m officially on the hook to run a Fall Marathon I will be doing a lot of training this summer. I’m sure I will have my share of soreness and real pain. So, I really don’t want to waste time with “pseudo pain”. I’m gonna have my STO-FRO gun ready.
The Real Cause of My Strange Calf Pain
After further investigation on my long run (12 miles) yesterday I finally figured out what I was feeling in my calves. You’re not going to believe this . . .
Uhem (clearing throat)
Drops of water from my water bottle were hitting the back of my calves. (I feel like such a nymph)
You might be wondering, “How can drops of water be painful?” Well, they were painful because I THOUGHT MY CALF MUSCLES WERE RIPPING APART!
Wouldn’t YOU be in pain if you believed your lower leg was hemorrhaging?
It wasn’t “real pain” but my brain was interpreting it as pain and freaking me out.
So I hope I have furnished you new runners with a valuable lesson. Keep your mind occupied with positive things during you run. Never ignore a sharp nagging pain that causes you to alter your running form. That last sentence came from Angie.
. . . But bring your STO-FRO gun on every run. You can holster it next to your water bottle.