To push through… or shut it down?

“Should I run today?”

“Maybe I should take a rest day.”

“Aqua jogging is probably a good idea.”

“But I really want to run.”

“I have a race coming up…”

“But if it gets much worse I probably won’t even be able to race.”

“But my training has been going SO WELL!”

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Have you ever had a conversation similar to this with yourself? Most runners that I’ve come across have had this debate with themselves at some point, and ultimately had to make a decision. But if you’re a runner without a medical/health background, how do you know?

With any injury, its always a good idea to investigate WHY it hurts. Did you recently ramp up your running mileage? Did you switch shoe brands? Are you running on a lot of pavement? Banked surfaces? Did you trip over a root on your run yesterday? 

Keeping a running log is really important because of this! If you can look back and find some sort of trend or ‘reason’ for your pain, it can really help solve the mystery a lot more quickly.

Okay. So you have pain. If it’s bad enough to make you hobble around before you even start running, you probably shouldn’t run. Get it checked out by a professional (come see me!) and go from there. 

“It doesn’t hurt to walk.” Okay, so why don’t you first try to modify something about the run. Maybe switch from roads to grass for the day. Grab those other running shoes you’ve had success with and put your new ones aside for the day. Run in the pool. If it starts to bother you, does stretching it out help? 

In either case, the SOONER you get it evaluated, the better the outcome will be. If you have no idea what you’re dealing with, how do you know what to do about it? Should I ice it? Should I stretch it? Well, it depends. It’s really important to have a health professional in your corner that you can trust and work together with.

I really rarely totally shut people down from running, but sometimes it does happen. If you can’t run (or maybe just need to shut it down for a few days), what should you do? Well depending on the nature of the injury, you should seek out some sort of treatment (I highly recommend Active Release or ART for many of my runners with musculoskeletal complaints). Then, depending on the injury, you may be able to substitute some sort of cross training in place of some or all of your running. Pool running is excellent for most injuries – zero impact but it’s very sport specific! Unfortunately it can be quite boring, so bring a friend! Or try out something totally different, like rock climbing or yoga.

This is also another excellent time to reevaluate the ‘big picture’ of your running career. How is your nutrition – is it meeting your needs? Have you been good about doing stretching and mobility work around training sessions? Is your core strong? Are you getting enough sleep?

And don’t be afraid to take a day off!

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If you have any injury questions feel free to contact me!

Happy (and healthy) running 🙂

Dr. Jenn Spitzer (@wattsmilesandwetsuitsrochester)

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