How lucky do you feel?
Struggling over the decision to back off in training is an issue that, if taken to the extreme, could come up every time you head out for a run. Your quad is a little sore, your nose starts to run, or you definitely heard something pop over that last interval. All of these issues come up at one point or another, but how often should you pull the plug on a run or workout?
“This would depend on the payoff, but I think that most high level athletes…gamble all the time,” observes Al Kupczak, massage therapist to elites out of Boulder, CO, who formerly worked with Ritzenhein and the Nike Oregon Project. “Of course, I hate seeing people get hurt, but I also realize that it’s part of the sport…it’s learning to distinguish good and bad pain; pain that is just a barrier to your immediate experience versus pain that can lead to serious injury. Side stitches and blisters are one thing, but stress fractures and plantar fasciitis are quite another.”
The truth is that running often hurts; we will be sore more often than not, and some of your toughest workouts will hit the point of being excruciating. If you took a rest day every time you were sore you’d be hard pressed to get much consistent running done at all. Under many circumstances a standard dose of “suck it up” will be just what the doctor ordered.
On the flip side, running through bad pain or an obvious injury isn’t going to do you any favors. Finessing that fine line is a tricky battle. It’s about being smart enough to distinguish normal, running pain from the pain of an injury, then, deciding when it’s worth risking it.
“I have converted to the idea that the kids should consistently run but it’s OK to occasionally ride the stationary bike or elliptical. In the grand scheme of things, taking a day off from running will not hurt that athlete but trying to continue to run with an injury could potentially set them back significantly,” states Albert Caruana, coach at Crystal Springs Uplands High School in California. “That means that you may not be pushing the envelope on any given day but you will be able to come back the following day and be able to run and train once again.”