External stressors during a run

#1
Today’s long run had me thinking about how best to deal with stress that comes up during the run. A small group of us ran 18-21 miles today and what started out as a nice morning, turned to rain and then thunderstorms. The stress level increased as the weather got worse. One person really just doesn’t like running in the rain, so usually just ends up running faster to just be done with it. A couple others were stressed about lightning, which seemed to stay about 8-10 miles away and last for about a half hour of the run.
Does anyone know of any studies or data on how stressors such as these impact a run, methods of mitigating them, etc. like I said, it just kinda got me thinking...
 
#2
This seems to be more a natural reaction to inclement (and possibly dangerous) weather and less a response to "stress", which sounds like you’re downplaying it. Running in the rain isn’t just unpleasant for some (I personally enjoy it) but it’s also dangerous because visibility is greatly reduced and cars become a much bigger problem. This is compounded by the fact that their ability to brake is also reduced. I can't fault anyone for wanting to get off of the roads.

If your goal is to avoid this in the future then my advice is simply to look at the forecast before you set out and plan accordingly.
 
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Joe

Administrator
Staff member
#3
I'm not aware of a study focusing on this area, but from personal experience there's a few things to consider. Most coaches will advise athletes to focus on areas they can control and take ownership of. Examples are sleep, nutrition, hydration, consistency over time etc. By focusing on areas within their control, it helps prevent athletes from wasting emotional energy on areas they have no control over. The response about checking the weather before heading out is a good one. I had an athlete who represented the US at the World Championships in the marathon who really hated running in the rain. The fortunate thing for her is that it rains very little in our area. But if the forecast for the day included rain, she would watch the doppler religiously trying to determine when she would go out and complete her run or runs for the day and stay out of the rain if at all possible. She took control of when she ran taking into account something out of her control which was the weather.

Another consideration is the experience of the athlete. When an athlete is new to a sport, they are really overwhelmed by the mountain of information to be processed - what's important and should be focused on vs what is relatively unimportant and should be brushed aside? I ran my first marathon in 1977 and was a competitive runner in HS, college and after college until the late 90's, so essentially 30 years of competitive running which results in a lot of experience versus someone who is new to the sport and looking to complete their first marathon. A study looking at external stress using me and my old training buddies as the test group would likely result in much different results than those using runners with less than a year's experience. As you gain experience you tend to become more internally focused and trust your gut. You have a much better sense of what is important to long term success and achieving your goals. Inexperience generally results in athletes second guessing themselves - "Am I doing the right thing?" and using external cues to a much greater extent to guide their decisions. In the rain example above, I probably would have cut the run short if lightning was coming and try again later in the day or later in the week. If you're less experienced and the program calls for 18-20 miles on Sunday, you do it regardless of what stresses get in your way which can result in running in a thunderstorm or trying to train through an injury to continue following a program instead of backing off and addressing the injury so you can come back stronger and healthy another day.

Joe
 
#4
Today’s long run had me thinking about how best to deal with stress that comes up during the run. A small group of us ran 18-21 miles today and what started out as a nice morning, turned to rain and then thunderstorms. The stress level increased as the weather got worse. One person really just doesn’t like running in the rain, so usually just ends up running faster to just be done with it. A couple others were stressed about lightning, which seemed to stay about 8-10 miles away and last for about a half hour of the run.
Does anyone know of any studies or data on how stressors such as these impact a run, methods of mitigating them, etc. like I said, it just kinda got me thinking...
Interesting post. From personal experience and from things I've read, we can think about the effects of external stressors during runs in the same way we think about them in most other aspects of life. Specific to running: any kind of additional stress can have the effect of raising your HR. For me, a spike in HR is caused by all kinds of things: stress about the weather; GI issues; lack of sleep/hydration; career/life stressors. As in all things, when you need to get through the run and mitigate the effects of stress, it's important to only focus on the things that are in your control and place laser-focus on your running fundamentals. Your story makes a good example. If I was in that position and concerned about managing stress on my body, I would stop first and decide whether I want to push through or stop the run. Sitting on the fence and playing it by ear would not allow me to focus on what's in my control. I'd make a decision, stick with it, and focus on the run. The same thinking applies to days when I think I might have an injury after 1-2 miles in my run. When I continue the run and try to ignore it, I always put more stress on my body, experience a higher HR and have a worse run. But on days where I stop to make an assessment and then decide whether the walk home or plan our the remainder of the run, I can commit to my run and focus on fundamentals. This always leads to more certain outcomes, lower HRs, and a more rewarding training session.
 
#5
Thanks, All.
Dan, you're more along the lines of what I was thinking, although at 10 miles in to a 21 mile run on a point to point course, it's a little hard to walk it in. Definitely the HR goes up. I was also thinking about how that affects recovery, overall.

Of course we all try to plan for things, but you all apparently live in places where the weather is a bit more predictable. The forecast for the morning I posted about was 30% chance of rain for only part of the run, with an accumulation amount of < .02. No mention at all of thunderstorms. If I "planned" my runs around the weather trying to avoid rain and thunderstorms, I'd rarely get to run outside during parts of the year. Yes, it really is that unpredictable some days.

Anyway, thanks for the input. Have a great run!
 
#6
Thanks, All.
Dan, you're more along the lines of what I was thinking, although at 10 miles in to a 21 mile run on a point to point course, it's a little hard to walk it in. Definitely the HR goes up. I was also thinking about how that affects recovery, overall.

Of course we all try to plan for things, but you all apparently live in places where the weather is a bit more predictable. The forecast for the morning I posted about was 30% chance of rain for only part of the run, with an accumulation amount of < .02. No mention at all of thunderstorms. If I "planned" my runs around the weather trying to avoid rain and thunderstorms, I'd rarely get to run outside during parts of the year. Yes, it really is that unpredictable some days.

Anyway, thanks for the input. Have a great run!
Weather is hard to predict where I live, too. On a 21-mile point-to-point course, you're right it's not really an option to walk it in at 10 miles. I've been there. It has helped me to take a minute, realize that I can either call someone to be picked up, wait the storm out under shelter, or carry on and focus on the run. If I don't do that, then I have a worse run. Once I make my decision, I commit to it, and I'm better able to deal with stresses. I've realized what is in my control, I've made my decision, and now I'm committing to it. All that is left is to focus on having a good run or recovering and getting back out the next day.
 
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