The Run Smarter Series

Is there a link between my personality & injury?

Runners are classically the type A personality consisting of common traits. For instance, self-motivation, internal drive & competitiveness. All these traits shine a positive light on personal ambition, race preparation and a physically active lifestyle. However, do these traits have negative associations? For example, if the vast majority of running injuries are due to training errors, aren’t these traits more likely to push us beyond our capabilities? And even once we are injured, might personality traits lead us to return too early, causing another injury? I think this topic is worth debating along with some scientific findings.

Is there a correlation to personality and injury?

An article published in 2018 by Messier et al, followed 300 non-injured runners over the period of 2 years to investigate a link between injury and certain characteristics. They found that elements like flexibility, foot shape, pronation, running distance strength and footwear didn’t have any predictive value. They did however, find a link with poorer mental health questionnaires, more specifically negative states such as being jittery, irritable, and nervous. Also, if you score high on questionnaires regarding ‘concerns over mistakes’ and ‘doubts about actions’ you have an increased risk of injury.

How perfect is perfectionism?

A few studies defined perfectionism as:

‘Striving for flawlessness and setting exceedingly high standards of performance accompanied by tendencies for overly critical evaluations of one’s behaviour’.

In other words, perfectionists are more susceptible to making poorer training decisions, ramp up too quickly & refuse to take rest days. Additionally, several other studies have shown a link with perfectionism and running injuries but Madigan, et al went one step further. They broke the definition down into two sub-categories:

Perfectionistic strivings: Defined as ‘personal standards and a self-oriented striving for perfection’

Perfectionistic concerns: Defined as ‘Concerns over mistakes, feelings of discrepancy between one’s standards and performance and negative reactions to imperfection’.

Following this, they found runners ranking high on perfectionistic concerns were 17 times more likely to suffer an injury!

Perhaps self-reflect on your own training

In conclusion, perhaps it is time to self-reflect on this information and look back at our injuries which were obviously due to training errors. What was driving that decision? This in an important step, because if we cannot see the error in our ways, then we cannot possibly expect to see a change in our future. So use this as another ‘injury prevention’ tool. Make adjustments in your training schedule and regularly touch base with your internal drive and think, is it working for you, or against you.

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