Trail Runner Nation podcast released an episode a late last year, in which the guest, Hillary Gerardi, spoke of courage. More specifically she spoke of the French term “Bon Courage” which is essentially an encouragement meaning good luck. Literally translated it means “great courage”. She discusses her philosophy of building courage with “little c’s and BIG “C’s”.
They use the analogy of having a bag of courage, filled with big and little “c’s”. Big acts of courage and little acts of courage. They discussed how every little action adds a little courage to the bag. During the discussion several other “c” words were added to the bag, for example, confidence.
I’ve gone back and listened to it several times, and each time I felt like there was something they were missing. Something in that grab bag that wasn’t mentioned. I finally realized that there is one huge “C” that was left out, but it is somewhat understandable. Most runners, and athletes of all sports for that matter, forget it. Maybe it’s just that they don’t want to face it, they don’t have the courage for it. It has taken me weeks to realize what was missing…
That big “C” is convalesce.
We all hate down time from injury, it’s worse than tapering. At least with a taper, there is an end in sight, a future release for all that energy. With the convalesce, there are so many unknowns, so many question marks.
It takes “bon courage” to take the time off to allow the body to recover. We just are not wired to admit that we are vulnerable humans. There is a fear of missing out and a fear of losing fitness, but constantly running hard paces puts many into dangerous territory – the injury zone.
When I experienced my first sidelining injury, it was devastating. In truth, it was only minor; only couple of weeks off. In the grand scheme of things, two weeks isn’t a very long time.
As a runner, this seemed like eternity. What had I done to bring the ire of the running gods? Oh, how my life was doomed.
Ok, so maybe I am exaggerating a little, but we have all had similar thoughts. When something you love is taken away, however temporarily it might be, it feels as though the world has conspired against you. Time suddenly drags, like an analog clock ticking off the seconds – tick…tick…tick…tick…
Roger Bannister spent months training to break the 4-minute mile. While he improved his lap times, eventually, he plateaued. His training became stagnate; faster times were not coming. Roger, his coach and his teammates knew what was needed, some down time, some convalescing. That is exactly what they did on April 22. Six days off from the strict training regiment.
On May 6, 1954 the time convalescing paid off. A rested Roger ran one mile in 3 minutes, 59.4 seconds.
Like Roger, if many of these overtaxed, exhausted runners had just taken a few days here and there, they would not need anywhere close to the time off that they are forced to take.
The body needs rest, it actually allows us to become faster and better. The body gets stronger during rest, not stress. Short rests during the training cycle, days off here and there won’t hurt you, they will heal you. Not taking these days, ignoring your body will force you to take time off.
The best advice I was given during my injury was to look at all the athletes that had taken time to heal. Their performances did not get worse, in fact, many actually improved. Their bodies had time to rest and recover properly. Instead of chasing medals and glory, they had allowed themselves the chance to breath, a chance to heal. They had pulled convalesce out of their grab bag of courage.