Thanks Aimless. Coach and I had another discussion a couple weeks later. Perhaps a second example will emphasize the point.

A Painful Experience

“Gary, you had a rough couple of weeks. What happened?

“Coach, my right knee started hurting a little, but at first I thought it was nothing. Then it started hurting more, and I had to take some breaks. I took a whole weekend off. During the next week I cut my mileage in half. The knee gradually started feeling better, and now the pain is gone.”

“Gary, did you make a mistake allowing the pain to continue so long when it started?”

“Coach, I think it was a learning experience. At first, when I started walking, the pain would disappear after a mile or so. I thought it was fine, so I kept walking about 10 miles a day.”

“Gary, what do you think caused the pain?”

“That’s my Coach – always asking for the cause instead of the effect. I found my speed was naturally increasing, and since I was walking 10 miles in a shorter time, I decided to add to the mileage at the same time. Oh, and I ignored the pain in the early stages. Coach, what do you think I should do next time?”

“Gary, you made the mistake of increasing your speed and distance at the same time. You may have been making more additional effort then you thought. I’d suggest increasing either speed or distance, but not both at the same time.”

“You know, I think that’s it exactly. That was one cause, and the second cause was ignoring pain in the early stages. Do you remember once telling me ‘Experience is recognizing a mistake when I make it again?’”

“Why yes, that is one of my favorite sayings. Why do you ask?”

“Coach, I could be on the verge of making the same mistake again. I’ve been increasing my mileage lately, although I’ve kept the speed constant. My arches are tired, but not hurting. Maybe I should take a day off. What do you think?”

“Gary, why don’t you cancel your five mile walk tomorrow morning? You can make a decision about your short walks later in the day.”

“What if I feel good and ready to go in the morning, Coach?”

“The decision is yours, Gary, but sometimes it’s best to go with your first instinct. Tell me, did the break for your knee make it harder to walk when your knee recovered?”

“No, in fact, I felt stronger than before. Are you telling me that if I take a break tomorrow I’ll feel stronger afterwards?"

“That’s right, Gary. It will be better for your foot muscles to fully recover. Meanwhile, your other muscles will also continue to develop. Did you know muscles strengthen for about two weeks when you stop training?”

“No, I didn’t, and that doesn’t seem possible to me, Coach.”

“Well, back in 1984, I was watching the women’s Olympic Marathon. Joan Benoit took the lead shortly after the start and never looked back. I think she led the entire distance. Want to know the rest of the story?”

“Don’t tell me she took two weeks off before the marathon.”

“That’s it, Gary. She had knee surgery about 14 days before the marathon. Laparoscopies were new then, so the incision wasn’t big. Still, it forced her to take two weeks off.”

“Ok, I get the message. Rather than repeat the knee experience with my arches, I’ll cancel my five mile walk in the morning. I know, I can work on writing this book instead!”

“One more thing, Gary.”

“What’s that, Coach?”

“I’ve been looking at the goals set on your Fitbit dashboard. I think it’s time to change them.”

“Coach, I’ve been beating them every day for the past few days.”

“That’s the problem, Gary. Maybe it’s time to change them. You have been aiming for 10 miles and hitting 11 to 12 miles. You have a goal of 20,000 steps, and have been getting 23,000 steps a day. You don’t have a plan to limit your walking each day. Once you exceed your goals, you want to beat them as much as possible. Let’s fix that so you don’t walk your way into an injury again. OK?

“Sure Coach. Why don’t I make some rice and steamed vegetables while you formulate a plan. We can discuss it over supper.”

Next morning:

“Gary, good job on skipping your long walk this morning. How do you feel about missing a day?

“Coach, I wanted to go out the door and walk, but I thought about the possibility of missing more days later if I walked today. Besides, I thought about the new goals you set for me last night.”

“Gary, did you decide to use the new goals?”

“Why yes, I did. I think 10 miles a day is still a reasonable target, but I’m going to change how I feel about the target. Ten miles will be a maximum that I will hit most days, but I will stop when I reach ten miles. Ten miles is about 21,300 steps, so I’ve set that as my new goal. I’ve already changed the goals on Fitbit.”

“Gary, won’t you keep trying to exceed these goals like you did before?”

“You know how I am. I like to set goals I can exceed as that is more motivating. I’m changing the way I think about them. Now I am setting goals that will prevent injury instead of setting goals that will give me the most steps.