Just Run Through It?

Holly's beautiful running form at the end of the Mid-Mountain Marathon

Holly’s beautiful running form at the end of the Mid-Mountain Marathon

By Emma Maaranen

It is prime time running season with runners all over the Wasatch Front training for the Wasatch 100, Mid-Mountain Trail Marathon and St. George Marathon.  At Focus Bodywork we are often asked how to decide if a pain experienced during a run is okay to run through or not.  First, pain is your body’s way of letting you know that something is not okay and needs to be investigated.  Listen to your body!  I lump running pain into two categories: pain that develops while running and pain that develops after or continues several hours after a workout.

Pain That Develops While Running

Discomfort while running is part of the game; if you run you will experience pain now and then.  There are times, however, when you need to listen to your body and call it quits. When running pain causes you to alter your gait, it is time to call it a day.  Your compensated gait is a sign that there is a problem, and to run through it in this odd gait will most likely cause more problems and/or usher the painful site into full-blown injury status.  If the pain is not altering your gait, slow down for five minutes and focus on good running technique.  At the end of five minutes check in to see how the pain has changed.  If is the pain has reduced, pick up the pace and see what happens.  If is the pain has stayed the same, try another 5-minute technique period.  If at the end of this second test period the pain has increased or your gait has altered, it is time to walk home.

Pain That Develops or Persists Several Hours Post-Workout

You need a rest day! If the pain has subsided after a day of recovery try an easy run and see how it goes.  If you do not have pain while running and it does not return a few hours after rest, you can resume training.  If not, start with some good home therapy.

Home therapy:

1.)    Day 1 – Take a rest day- a real rest day!  Don’t even go to that yoga class.  RICE (rest, ice, compress, elevate) as often as you can.  Sit in a hammock (with your legs up and iced) and catch up on some reading (If you NEED to call this day a training day I recommend reading “The New Toughness Training for Sports: Mental, Emotional and Physical Conditioning from one of the World’s Premier Sports Psychologists” by James Leohr.)

2.)    Day 2 – If your pain is still hampering you, try a regiment of OTC anti-inflammatory, such as Ibuprofen.  Initially this will mask pain symptoms, but if taken as prescribed for 5 days you will reap the anti-inflammatory benefits of the medication.  RICE.  I know you are panicking about your fitness diminishing already (it is not, this takes two weeks), so try some cross-training, such as swimming or biking.  If your cross-training sport increases any of your pain symptoms, you need to try something else.

3.)    Day 5 – If your pain has not resolved, it is time to see a professional.  A sports massage therapist (like the ones at Focus Bodywork), a physical therapist or sports medicine doctor can help you develop a plan to get back to running pain free.

Endurance sports regularly require athletes to push through discomfort.  Should you “just run through it?”  It is important to evaluate your pain keeping in mind that cutting a training day short may save you several weeks of being side-lined.

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