The Trouble and Strife of being beaten by the Wife

“Oh no he hasn’t, he couldn’t have!!” It’s my second time to change Paddy’s nappy in the last 20 minutes, Molly is downstairs in the sitting room dancing in her ballerina outfit and is adamant she’s wearing it to school. Paddy has just flung his open and soiled nappy across the room and it’s landed in the basket of clean washing. Down the stairs we go, Paddy under one arm and washing in the other. I try to negotiate with the budding ballerina, and discuss her choice of clothes for the day. Checking the clock I know if I’m not on the road in 3 and a half minutes I’ll hit the school traffic and we will be late for Montessori, not forgetting I have to get back in time for Paddy to go down for his nap. So negotiations regarding appropriate school attire continue as I wrestle with Paddy, trying to get his jacket on and feed him bottle at the same time!! I pop Paddy down to help Molly. She gives up the lilac tutu just as Paddy disappears out the sitting room door. I find him rolling with the dog, covered in hairs, and the poor dog is traumatised because Paddy has stuck his finger up his nose. Out the door and into the car to the repeated chorus of “Let it Go”…….  How my mornings have changed! But I’m happy with this role change, it was my choice. I’m a modern man, non traditional and comfortable with change or so I thoughtDog

But then Michelle decided she wanted to take running more seriously. I am the only runner in our house, I like it like that. It’s my thing.  Michelle has flirted with running on occasion. She even ran a 5km a couple of years ago. But I found it worrying when she decided that she was going to start a structured training plan. I’m not sure why, but it made me feel nervous. It took a couple of days to realise why.  If Michelle actually trains properly she is very likely to be faster than me and beat me in a race. She doesn’t realise this but she is far more athletically capable than me. I get beaten in races by women all the time, but they are not my wife! Michelle comes to the races, waits for the elites and faster club runners to pass and then claps and shouts as if I’m the first runner she’s seen all morning. She meets me on long runs with drinks and encouragement. She even lies for my benefit, telling me I wasn’t that far from the front. But I’m not ready to do that for her. I want to be the runner not the supporter!

However, Michelle like anyone commencing a new running programme faces many challenges. Unfortunately for her running-related injuries are much more common amongst novice runners than in runners with a weekly running volume of >40 miles/week (Videbaek et al., 2015). It may be possible to predict and possibly prevent running injuries in new runners and therefore prevent them (Nielsen et al., 2012). Several studies have suggest injury prior to commencing a running training programme to be the greatest risk factor for future injury. This may be due to compensatory changes along the chain, reduced range of movement, joint instability or scar tissue build up. However an awareness of these intrinsic changes may benefit  the design prehabilitation programmes  and potential reduce or even prevent re‐injury rates (Videbaek et al., 2015). Amongst novice runners, BMI has been found to be significantly linked to injuries.  A runner with a  BMI of greater than 25 kg/m2  has a 30% greater risk of sustaining an injury whilst running when compared with a runner with a BMI of less  than 25 kg/m(Buist et al., 2010).

Unfortunately with increasing age comes a loss of both muscle strength and muscle mass. Decline in muscle mass is known as sarcopenia (from the Greek for “loss of flesh”). This loss of muscle mass can be slowed with exercise but not prevented. Instead of developing new muscle fibers from exercise, as we did when we were younger, the remaining fibers merely increase in size. We also lose some of our ability to control the activation of our muscles. This can cause subtle reductions in coordination and strength. As a result, increasing age (greater than 45 years old)  is strongly associated with an increased risk of injuries in new runners (Nielsen et al., 2012)

As well as the body failing novice runners so can their personality traits betray them.  The evidence for which personality types make the best runners is mixed. Breaking a bone is a painful and definitely a physical experience. But like all experiences the presence of pain is interpreted and processed by the brain. Therefore the mind plays a crucial role in determining the extent to which a person feels injury. Particularly when considering overuse injuries. The cause of these common running injuries can often be attributed to ignoring the warning signs from the body. Injury in runners is often caused by a miscommunication between the mind and body

Understanding our own psychology can play a huge role in remaining healthy while training. Successful distance runners tend to be Type A individuals – competitive types who are highly motivated, positive, structured people. But these traits can result in a “never miss a mile” frame of mind. It also opens the door to injury.  That’s because habitual training demotes important signs, such as a tight hip flexor or sore calf, to the in favour of finishing that long run limping!

So Michelle may be far more likely to get injured than me, with a bit of luck!  But she has no pre-existing injury and has a BMI of less than 25 kg/m2. She assures me she is under 45 years of age and even though she is competitive by nature this risk factor for injury will be controlled by the graduated, flexible and coach led training programme she intends to follow. I may hang up the runners because she will inevitably beat me in the coming months and years, and I’ll never hear the end of it. But I won’t ever stop running because running,  and sport in general has given me a sense of self sufficiency and pride but more importantly humility. So rather than be intimidated by the possibility of losing a race to my wife I look forward to sharing the experience and congratulating at the end .


Barton CJ, Lack S, Malliaras P & Morrissey D. (2013). Gluteal muscle activity and patellofemoral pain syndrome: a systematic review. Br J Sports Med 47, 207-214.

Buist I, Bredeweg SW, Lemmink KA, van Mechelen W & Diercks RL. (2010). Predictors of running-related injuries in novice runners enrolled in a systematic training program: a prospective cohort study. Am J Sports Med 38, 273-280.

Nielsen RO, Buist I, Sorensen H, Lind M & Rasmussen S. (2012). Training errors and running related injuries: a systematic review. Int J Sports Phys Ther 7, 58-75.

Taunton JE, Ryan MB, Clement DB, McKenzie DC, Lloyd-Smith DR & Zumbo BD. (2002). A retrospective case-control analysis of 2002 running injuries. Br J Sports Med 36, 95-101.

Videbaek S, Bueno AM, Nielsen RO & Rasmussen S. (2015). Incidence of Running-Related Injuries Per 1000 h of running in Different Types of Runners: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Med 45, 1017-1026.

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