Run like a kelpie!
Hey guys! Back again for another weekly blog! Over the coming two weeks I am hoping to have another two good interviews tee’d up, that I’m sure you will all enjoy! However, today’s just going to be a short one about my dog but hell, don’t let that diminish the enormity of the topic! For those whose interest just wained I assure you there is some running relevance.
I also have 30 days till I am getting married, so it’s an exciting time for me. I had my bucks day on Saturday, which was a ‘great day!’ and started with me notching up the Rosebud parkrun CR, which I was pretty proud about!
It’s also about 16.5 weeks till the Tokyo or 6 foot track Marathon, either of which I really wanted to do as my next goal. So, next Friday I am going to catch up with good mate Craig Appleby (also entered in Tokyo) to plan and implement some structure into our lead up/training.
The other two things I wanted to mention today, is firstly, I am slowly doing more and more online physio consults for runners with injuries interstate or abroad. Obviously, if you are a local I can see you face to face at Southern Suburbs Physiotherapy Centre the ‘brick and mortar’ practice I work at, however if you’re location denies this and you are keen to get the advice from a ‘running physio’ about a niggling injury let me know on firstname.lastname@example.org as I do telehealth consults. Further information will soon be on my website about this under ‘RunTherapy’.
Secondly, I am slowly trying to build an adult elite/subelite distance running group (with a marathon flavour). I understand groups form with; patience, persistence, strong results and creating a fun environment; so it will just take time. The group will be based down on the Mornington Peninsula. The idea is in it’s infancy. I have been inspired by how successful the post collegiate professionaly running groups have been in the US. So if anyone is interested or has any ideas or suggestion please feel free to contact me on email@example.com.
So yes, this week I just wanted to chat about a thing or two my young 7 month old kelpie has taught me! That’s right my dog has certainly has been teaching me more than Jess and I are teaching it!
Since Remi turned 6 months and got a bit of size about him I have been taking him out for 3 runs a week of anywhere from 4 to 8kms. Like any new runner, he started out hesitant, distractable, ran-walked, got tired, panted a lot and lay in or drank from puddles (well I hope new runers don’t do that!).
Anyway, in recent weeks he has got really fit and is now pulling me along at times running 8 kms at 4:50/km average. He’s a kelpie but actually crossed with a border collie so he’s the ultimate running dog. A ball of energy.
Initially Jess and I were having a real hard time controlling this ball of energy. He was king of the house, running amuck inside, eating everything he could outside, barking, biting, we thought we inherited an utter ratbag.
We soon got desperate, so rang the local ‘dog whisperer’. We were a gasp as within 5 minutes he had Remi relaxed and under complete control on his bed. We were soon to realise, we were the problem, we weren’t being strict or authoritarian enough. Far too much ‘babying’ and ‘canoodling’ of an otherwise smart and slightly anxious young pup. He was looking for a leader. We needed to be the leaders of the pack, show him the ropes.
So this advice was great and since this visit Remi has been far better behaved. However, this wasn’t the only sound advice the dog whisperer gave on that faithful day, he also said that dogs live in the ‘now’.
So, dogs focus on the ‘NOW’. This was so interesting to me. Does this mean dogs don’t remember? How could this be true? Remi remembers anything if food is associated with it! ‘No’ he said, ‘dogs certainly remember, they just don’t dwell on the past.’
Since this enlightening visit by the dog whisperer I have noticed this clearly with Remi. He could be starting to show signs of fatigue at the 5-6km mark only to sprint at a bird or surge away from a barking dog! He suddenly couldn’t care less if he was tired 1 second ago or how tired he will feel after the run! When we (humans) are in the hurtlocker we are often there for good, for the rest of the run.
Infact, he doesn’t know how long each run is going to be. This doesn’t stop him tearing down the path, again and again only moments into what will likely be his longest run ever! Now that’s either stupid or gutsy isn’t it? This is the last thing we would do as humans? We would leave some energy in the tank just in case as otherwise we’d worry we wouldn’t make it or we’d struggle through to the end.
We are thinkers, we think a lot. Yes, this can be good in the way of race tactics and conserving energy throughout the race but is our thinking limiting our performance?
Are our fears, worries, stresses, pre-conceived notions, past memories, putting an unnecessary ceiling effect on our physical capacities?
Dogs have an incredible ability to not think about the future or the past but just live in the moment and seize it! Other examples, where Remi just seizes the moment is when he eats breakfast or dinner. He wolfs his meal down within seconds, impulsively enjoying ‘the now’, in a similar fashion to how my brother Sean used to eat his easter eggs. What did you say about conserving? Not a single bit of thought is given about his future self.
Look I am not saying this is always the way to approach running or life, infact it is far from the way we should. However, I do feel Remi has taught me a thing or too as to why I and I’m sure just so many other runners have had many a disappointing race.
Last year I finished my second year in my Masters in Sport physiotherapy graduate certificate. One of the subjects was about pain science. ‘Did you know that all pain comes from the brain!’ This is why, amputees still experience phantom foot pain, despite no longer having a foot.
How is this so? Please can everyone follow and watch both these links;
One of which is famous pain scientist Lorrimer Moseley’s TED talk about pain and you will see how; past experience, emotion, fatigue, preconceived ideas can all either positively or negatively influence the degree of pain we feel.
Late in a marathon, receptors alert the body that blood glucose levels are lowering, we are becoming dehydrated, internal body temperatures are rising, muscles are starting to succumb to neuromuscular fatigue, blisters form on hot spots on our feet. All these stimuli send messages to the brain, via the nociceptors (the pain nerves in our body). But they are just that, messages at this stage. It is how our brain interprets these messages in regards to past experience, emotion, fatigue, preconceived ideas which determines the degree of pain we feel. Hence, the difference in pain tolerances throughout the world. The pain we feel is irrespective to the degree of pathology in our body and the threat we are under.
Think like a dog, they seize the positive element in every situation. How can we make this current situation favour us?
Distraction has been shown to be a great way to reduce the pain someone is feeling. Focusing on the ‘now’ stops us thinking/worrying/stressing/getting anxious about the big hill around the corner or the fact that there is still 5kms to go. We are thinking positively about what we can do now to best cope; relax the breathing, focus on technique, focus on little achievable goals, sit in the pack, enjoy the moment, leave everything out there, short term pain/long term gain kind of thing.
This is what Callum Hawkins did at the 2018 Commonwealth Games marathon. He was so good at blocking the nociceptor messages and putting a positive spin on them that he was stopped ‘physically’ rather than ‘psychologically’ from achieving his goal. Yes, I agree and I am sure in retrospect as does he, that he needed to listen to the warning signs a little more than he did.
The bulk majority of the human race is so good at thinking, worrying, stressing, planning etc. All these thoughts influence our pain response. If we listen to our thoughts too much, potentially we are shielding ourselves with an ‘over protective warning system’ from ever getting close to reaching our physical best.
So one week, I am telling you all to train smart and monitor your load and listen to your body. Then, this week when it comes to race day and getting the best out of yourself I’m telling you all to, not ignore pain but reconstruct it, acknowledge it and reframe it by proactive and positive cognition.
You can see how runners get injured and get sucked in to overtraining. Training smartly often requires you to adjust, adapt, shorten or miss training according to fatigue, sickness, stress and soreness. This is smart training as it allows you to avoid injury but you can also see that when it comes to brain training for race day it could be misinterpreted by the keen runner as taking the ‘easy/lazy option’.
‘NOW’ was actually the second word I had written next to my watch at Berlin marathon for when the going got tough. I’m the first to admit there are certainly a lot of races in my past where I let my thoughts get to me on race day and they definitely limited my performance. I know I am not alone in this respect, that why it was a good topic to do a blog on! At Berlin, focusing positively on the ‘now’ and nothing else helped my performance no end. Thanks Remi!
Catch up with you all next week!
Thanks again all for your support!
Let’s all continue to….