It’s the age old question, “When should I just tell my body to be quiet and when should I listen?” If only the answer was clear cut, distinct, and easy. I’m a firm believer that most runners lack the discipline and patience to avoid long term injury. We feel things pull, tweak, (and) or ache. While most are unable to conclude if the feeling is ‘a usual ache and pain’ or something more serious, there are some rules that can help you determine if you should keep running or not.
The verge and inspiration for this article is founded not only by multiple user requests, but my own experiences wheeling and dealing with injuries. Remember, every runner experiences some wear and tear, some just more than others. The slope to the bottom is slippery. Runners underestimate the seriousness of a gradual ache or pull. That ache or pull could be nothing, sure, but it could also be a warning shot. Your body may be telling you there’s worse on the horizon. Navigating the storm is confusing and rarely the same. I plan to link my patients and my past experiences with injuries. For some pain is only present while running while others suffer during daily activities (stairs, squatting, etc.). Your pain may oddly improve as you run while others can pinpoint to the mileage of symptom onset. This article is intended to be a blueprint to identifying the difference between a warning shot and a typical everyday ache.
Most runners are delusional, literally running on a prayer (Whoaaaa, oh! We’re half way there. –couldn’t resist.) A mixed bag of emotions circles the run. You’ll convince yourself it’s all in your head or ‘not that bad,’ but knowing when to circle back for home or call for a ride is extremely important. The structural damage that can accumulate within a few minutes is horrifying. Most of my patients have heard me say, “When you have that ‘should I still be running?’ thought, STOP. Rounding out a mile or finishing the last few driveways can offset a weeks’ worth of rehab.”
Deciphering Between Pushing Through or Pulling Up
Even in the most stubborn of individuals, I believe all runners know when it’s time to bag a workout. Deciphering between every day ache and impending doom can be tough, yes, but it’s not impossible. It really comes down to proceed with caution or a stop ASAP. Here are few things to think about when you start to translate the old tongue of injury prevention:
If you failed to bail on the run for whatever reason (stubborness, denial, or you’re too far from home), you’ll still need to apply ice and quickly. An injury is usually marked with symptoms that intensify post run. You’ll notice trouble squatting, walking, or negotiating stairs. The pain may present as being sharp, burning, or overly tight. If you experience tightness, burning, or sharp pain with daily activities you likely sustained an injury. (Note: I did not mention a dull ache.) Feeling symptoms at rest or with daily activities will be a red flag for you.
If you’re disciplined enough to stay off your feet for a few days post injury and perform the right corrective exercises your injury should heal quickly. This article will lead you through the opening stages and a quick recovery. For most, a particular sensitivity accompanies most runs after a recent injury. Generally dull aches will come and go, while a true injury only intensifies. Don’t be fooled by a pain that improves as you run, either. Read here why your pain may improve while you run.
Remember, most runners know they’re hurt, but conjure up ideas that it’s “not that bad” or “all in their head.” Don’t freak out about missing training time (easier said than done). Pushing through or being stubborn with an injury will only fail you in the long run (pun intended). Fix the problem, whether it’s your training, run form, or anatomy.