Rest and recovery can go a long way in avoiding injuries.
Written by: Linzay Logan
Back in February my right glute started to hurt every time I ran–not “call-911” pain, just a little discomfort here and there. It was clear something was not right, even though the pain went away once I was warmed up. Then the pain started to last a little longer into my run and then it would creep up later on in the day even though I had finished running hours earlier. When this happened I’d just give my glute the little awkward butt massage as I walked down the halls at work and the pain would go away. Little did I know this little pain in my butt would become a long, drawn-out, big pain in the ass.
The story of my injury is not uncommon. Some lucky runners run through small bouts of pain and the problem eventually just goes away. However, many runners also run through pain that starts out as just a small ache that soon turns into a debilitating injury.
Listening to our bodies and knowing when a pain requires rest and possible medical attention is one of the keys to being a successful runner, but it’s also something runners all too frequently ignore. This is the biggest mistake runners are making, says Kristina Pinto, a running coach based in the Boston area. “A lot of runners try to distract themselves from discomfort when running instead of using it as feedback to make smart adjustments,” Pinto explains. “It’s a big mistake.”
Making smart adjustments such as backing off or taking a couple rest days is sometimes all the body needs to ward off potential injury. However, most runners know how to ignore pain and continue to push harder. “Runners love to run so more often than not they will disregard the discomfort and pain so they can continue. They feel compelled to stick to a training plan so they don’t lose fitness, or believe it’s a tight muscle they’ll loosen up by running,” Pinto says. “As a result, they can face an injury that benches them with weeks or months of recovery, falling short of their race goals, and missing races.”
Knowing when to stop and rest can be difficult to determine, but Pinto has simple guidelines she has her athletes follow. “In general, stop running if the discomfort builds over the course of a run, or if it’s a sharp pain instead of the ache of fatigue,” Pinto advises. “If an ache or discomfort or minor pain isn’t loosened up by stretching and still hurts noticeably on the next run, take a couple days off. See a doctor if the pain persists beyond a week of rest.”
Pinto’s philosophy of recovery can be applied not just during training, but also in races. “Slowing down for 30 to 45 seconds when fatigued can recharge you enough to resume the pace you want,” Pinto says.
Avoiding pain and injury in the first place, though, is ideal. One way to prevent initial injury is, again, by resting. “Every runner should incorporate rest into their training so that fatigued bodies don’t become injured bodies,” Pinto says.
Frequently when runners’ muscles are fatigued they will overcompensate with other muscles, which can lead to stress points and other problems. Resting can help to avoid these problems completely.
Ultimately, listening to your body and making the necessary adjustments–be it resting or just slowing down–should never be overlooked. Disregarding what your body is telling you can be the biggest running mistake you ever make and the effects of doing so can last longer than you would have ever imagined. Had I listened to my body and rested when I first started having pain it’s likely my injury wouldn’t have lingered for as long as it has. Now, after months of missed training, several missed races, far too many visits to the chiropractor, doctor, massage therapist and physical therapist, my injury will hopefully soon be a thing of the past. One thing is for sure: I will never make the mistake of not listening to my body again.