Wednesday, March 13, 2013

It's All In Your Head. Not.

I stumbled on an article the other day entitled "Rethinking Running Health", I was drawn to it as it seemed fitting for this particular time in my running life. "Injury is a frame of mind," cheered the introductory sentence beneath it. My hackles rose. "Oh isn't this just like Runner's World," I thought, maybe a little cynically, "Three days to your best marathon ever and now you can think away all of your injuries! Fantastic. Where do I sign up? Will it help if I wear a hat made out of tin-foil too?"

So before even reading the article, I automatically went on the defense as I initially thought that it was going to be another sports psychology article claiming that most injuries are "all in your head" and that pain is merely a physical manifestation of stress or some other negative emotion(s) like fear, anger, anxiety, or sadness. Pyschosomatic, they call it; where the brain takes negative, repressed emotions and reproduces them as physical pain (that's the psychology major talking there). Granted, I absolutely buy into that idea to a certain degree, in certain circumstances, as it has been proven a number of times. To apply it to everything is just hogwash, but everyone's experienced it at some point, whether you "believe" in the so-called psuedo-science of psychology or not. Who hasn't at one time gotten a headache after a few hours or a couple days of being really stressed out? There you go. If you've ever taken a Sports Psych course, you know that when it comes to athletes it's been shown a time and again that more highly stressed, type-A athletes get hurt more often, and that athletes who get injured are often in a negative state of mind when they became injured, and while these two examples don't really fall 100% into the "it's all in your head" mentality, they still go to show that when it comes down to it, you really can't separate the brain from the body.

Not sure where all I was going with that. So back to the psychosomatic side of things. While there's certainly some truth to it, I guess you've got to take the idea with caution as it is certainly not applicable to every situation and can really downplay actual injuries, which are never "all in your head." Even worse, putting too much stock into such a belief can make athletes feel like total wimps, which is something any competitive athlete at any level is hardwired to never allow themselves to become. At least for myself, and I know I can't be the only one, that "all in your head" attitude really instills a tremendous amount of self-doubt when it comes to paying attention to what your body is telling you. It's like, "Geez, is my hamstring really that sore or do I just think it is?" "Does my foot really hurt this bad or am I just nervous for such-and-such race?" "Am I actually this tired or am I just imagining it?" "Well everyone I know runs 130 miles a week and they're not hurt, so I can't possibly be and I should do that too." For chronic self-doubters like myself, it's really not good.

The problems arise when you get to the point where you don't know the difference between being smart and having a strong sense of self-preservation, versus being paranoid or being a total headcase. Which is unfortunate, because who wants to be known as the latter two? I will readily admit that at this point I can't honestly figure out if you can even be "smart" in this sport without being a certain amount of both of those other things. And for the record, being aware that you have the issue of being seemingly unable to differentiate between whether you're a headcase or smart really doesn't fix the issue one bit.

Man, back in my college days I used to want to be a Sports Psychologist, but now I am pretty sure that my head would explode before my first patient even walked through the door. Maybe that wouldn't be the greatest career path after all.

Anyway, that's my rant about that, I'm getting off track here. All of this thinking went on before I actually even read the article, and that wasn't really what it was even about so I never needed to get my bunhuggers in a bunch in the first place, but that's how I feel about things, in case you were wondering.

So when I actually clicked on it and read it like the studious, well-learned person that I pretend to be, I found that in saying "injuries are a state of mind," it didn't mean that "injuries are all in your head," which is a complete insult to athletes everywhere, but basically what it was referencing was the fact that in a typical, driven, highly competitive, type-A-never-deviate-from-the-assigned-task-at-hand athlete who is unwilling to adjust training or accomadate obstacles along the way, injuries are often a result of that type of thinking. So to that end, injuries can be the result of a state of mind. That's like a two sentence summary, so if you want to read it for yourself, it's right here:

Anyhow, creativity has really been waning these days for some reason, so in other news I pierced my nose the other day and was reading the after-care instructions later on. "Mix salt and warm water in a glass," it said, "Then, simply invert glass of salt water solution over site of piercing to create a vacuum 3x daily." 'Simply invert'? 'Create a vacuum?' WTF?! Have you ever tried to "invert" a freaking glass of salt water on your face? Much less "create a vacuum"? Well I tried it and so should you. Let me know how it works out.