Lots of runners (and others) push through pain. That’s not usually a good thing but we all know sometimes sports hurt a little. I too have pushed through pain and then spent 6 weeks holding down the couch and not running, it sucks. As time goes on I am actually learning and now usually I can keep it to about a week off. If I need more time than that I take it. I have a complicated left side and I have dealt with injuries but I’ve only been out for weeks at a time once after that original injury. Largely that’s happened because at the very first sign of an injury popping up I take it seriously. It occurred to me that if you haven’t been down the injury road before then you might not know about this stuff so I thought I’d share. Here’s the thing NOT ignoring your body and taking some time leads to more running and actually lining up on race day!
What are the first signs
We all want to crush our goals, finish our training plans and collect our medals on race day. So we’re apt to ignore little pains that pop up along the way just so we can keep going. Plus it’s a pretty fine line and hard to tell which side you’re on at any given moment. You will be sore in training, but how sore is too sore? Sometimes you’ll ache but when does an ache become a pain? Runners who have had previous injuries will be a bit better at this overall and are used to taking notice of minor changes. Let’s focus on how body parts will actually feel rather than how you’ll feel overall which is more so signs of overtraining. Here are some signs you may be headed for trouble.
- It always hurts in the same spot when you’re running
- A particular body part is stiff every morning when you wake up
- When you sit/stand/move a certain way a joint gives a shooting pain
- You have lingering pain over an hour after you stop running
- After sitting for a few hours a joint aches
- It takes longer for pain or soreness to go away after a run
- A joint feels ‘hot’ and swollen even if it isn’t
- Visible swelling which may go down fast
Really if you have any of these things on their own you’ve probably got an injury developing. If you’ve got more than one it’s probably not at the very first stage of your injury and you’ll want to a take a multi pronged approach.
The best thing you can do is to rest and at the first stages of your injury you’d be surprised just how fast your body can heal itself. It may seem terrifying to skip a few runs in your schedule but if you end up fully injured you’ll be benched for 6-8 weeks. Taking a few days off leads to more running in the long run. Isn’t the long run what we’re all after in the end? So here’s what
- Slight reoccurring tinge = unscheduled rest day (extra from those in the plan)
- Any post workout lingering pain = 5 days to a week off
- Visible swelling = trip to the doctor
You’re going to do it anyway so… let’s talk about it. Telling people not to self-diagnose or google their symptoms just isn’t realistic or all that helpful. Plus it really isn’t a bad idea to get an idea of what exactly might be wrong with you. Usually this is most helpful by pinpointing exactly where you have pain and that generally goes hand in hand with the injury. Say your foot hurts you may start off with a search like “foot running injuries list.” From there doing an image search for each injury on the list will reveal your likely injury based on where exactly your foot hurts and what part of the images are red. While it’s not a perfect system you’ll more than likely get the right result if you dig deep enough and since you’re not running what else are you going to do with your time?
If you’ve got pain and are experiencing a lot of the symptoms in the first signs section it literally can’t hurt you to google some physio exercises for your injury along the way. You could also go see a physiotherapist maybe even just the once. Essentially they are going to teach you some exercises and help you with your form. Often times the exercises for injuries in a certain area overlap so even if you’ve diagnosed yourself wrong you’ll probably still be helping yourself out a bit because you’re still strengthening the muscles that support that area anyway. When ever you start a course of physio exercises you should aim to be doing 40 reps of each a day and keep it up for at least a month.
A word of caution though if you’re a practicing yogi (like me) we sometimes get the message that yoga is good for what ails you. It can be but yoga is not physio! It’s great cross training and can help to prevent injuries but it doesn’t magically heal them. In fact if you’re at the first stages of an injury yoga can actually make it worse. If you’re cutting back on running consider starting cross training instead. Great go to choices are swimming and cycling which are pretty much zero impact activities. Where I’m not so confident is in strength training. I think it sounds like an awesome idea for nipping an injury in the bud I know very little about it. So I encourage you to team up with a personal trainer who has experience dealing with injuries.
Dial back on milage
No matter what plan you’re doing not every mile is totally critical. Stepping back you milage for a few weeks and including rest days goes a long way to keeping you healthy. Long runs and that hard speed workout are what’s really pushing you forward in training. The recovery and shake out runs are negotiable. They are important but if you cut your recovery run for a few weeks you’ll still finish on race day. Which is to say if you do take a break remember to ease back into it. If you’re determined to get every run done each week against good advice shortening a couple of runs a week is a good place to start.
But also consistency
We’ve talked about running less or not at all. Would it surprise you to find out that keeping running is a good idea overall. One of the things that keeps your injury at bay, especially one that lingers or reoccurs is consistency. If I take time off my knee will 100% act up in situations it normally wouldn’t. If I run once a week at the minimum it gets a bit tricky when I return to 5 runs a week in the summer but stays manageable. Once you’re back to running avoid a complete break at all costs to prevent the injury from flaring up again. Every person and every injury has a sweet spot and with some time you’ll find yours.
Check in with your body during
Every 5 km or so while you’re running check in with your body and see if anything feels about 15% funky. Then 5 km later see if it is better or worse. It’s easy to get lost in your tunes, podcast, scenery and just running thoughts. Make it a point to come back into your body while you’re out there and see if anything feels wonky. It is not to say at the slightest twinge or soreness you need to quit that very moment. By constantly checking in you can notice trends that may develop into something more serious left unchecked.
What is the first sign that you’ve got an injury developing? How do you prevent it from developing into a full blown thing?