Is your ego writing cheques your body can’t cash?

Did you ever watch Top Gun back in the day?

At one point in the movie "Maverick" and "Goose" fly by the control tower when they were ordered not to. Stinger (the boss) calls them into the office for a dressing down and says to Maverick "Son, your ego is writing cheques your body can't cash". Here is the video clip.

I have been meaning to write a running-related article about this for a long time because it is a problem that has been filtering into the endurance running world over the past two to three decades.

Are you choosing events / goals that your body can cope with?

People's expectation levels have changed a lot over the past 20-30 years. It wasn't that long ago that running a marathon was considered to be extreme. Nowadays a lot of people are signing up for 100km (or longer) events before they have even done a 50, let alone several of them.

You need to make sure that you choose goals that are realistic and achievable.

The typical scenario is someone choosing a goal of the UTA100 for example (a 100km trail run with 4500m of climbing including approximately 10,000 stairs). It is 7 months out from race day, so they put themselves together a 7-month training plan aimed at being ready to run/walk/hike/crawl 100km on race day.

This might be the perfect goal event for someone who has run several marathons, and a couple of 50km trail events already, but it might be a terrible idea for someone who has not long started running and who's longest run to date is a 20km trail run.

Most runners love ticking boxes and sticking to a plan. This is a great personality trait for achieving goals, but it is also a great personality trait for breaking yourself if you don't also listen to your body.

I recently read an article by Shawn Bearden who runs the Science of Ultra podcast. The upshot of his article was saying that you should plan forwards with your running from your current level of fitness, not pick a goal and then plan backwards.

Here is his article. It is well worth a read:

In a nutshell, you should assess where your fitness is at this point in time, and choose a goal that you can build towards safely. It will take longer to reach those really big goals if you do it this way, but you will be much more likely to stay healthy and injury-free.

I think that one of the most important aspects of my job as a 1-on-1 running coach is to help choose realistic and achievable goals for my runners. More often than not I am dialling things back a bit, not pushing them forwards.

Be patient and take your time. Having lofty goals and ultimately achieving them is a great thing. It creates self-belief and inner-strength which can have a positive impact on every aspect of your life. But, it isn't much fun constantly dealing with injuries and niggles. That can have the opposite effect on your mental health and general well being.

Make sure your ego and your body are on the same page.