When your legs feel fatigued or your ankles feel stiff from a previous workout, have you ever been told: “just run through it?” Runners often incur injuries and taking time off from training is frustrating. It derails goals and keeps you from something you love. But here’s the thing, if you do not properly take care of you, pre-injury or post-injury, then it can keep you off the running trail much longer. Just run through it is terrible advice. Fatigued muscles that aren’t given the chance to rest are in danger of tearing. A sprained ankle not properly treated will only get worse, not better.
Knowing when to push your body to its limits to make progress and knowing when to rest to prevent injury is vital.
When to push through it
If you are working towards a goal of a better time or further distance, then discomfort and sore muscles are par for the course. If there is no additional stress put on the body, then you won’t improve. However, apply too much stress and you might injure yourself.
Athletes tend to have a high pain tolerance and have learned how to ignore or cope with it. If the pain you are experiencing is a tightness that goes away during the run, then chances are you simply need to increase your pre-workout routine. If it’s a dull ache, then the problem is probably more mental than physical. Assess your body as you run and listen to the clues it sends you. Sometimes all that is needed is a change of equipment, a better pair of shoes, or the support of compression. If small changes made to pre- or post-workout, your wardrobe, or even your pre-run snack make the ache subside, then yes… just run through it.
When to rest
Knowing when to rest is tricky. If you are working towards a goal, then its natural to want to push through; however, the problem is if you push through to soon, an injury you could make it worse, sidelining you for the foreseeable future. Running shouldn’t hurt. It doesn’t have to if you listen to your body while taking good preventive measures.
Pain is the mechanism your body uses for protection. It is a warning sign that something is wrong. If you are downing anti-inflammatories after every run, experiencing swelling that is painful to the touch, numbness, or difficulty moving, then you need to rest and seek medical attention. Other signs that something might be wrong include a gait change, joint pain, or sharp shooting pain.
Pushing past your comfort zone is how you make gains. Pushing through injury is not heroic, potentially costing you in the long run. If you want to stay the course, then take care of your body. Schedule in rest days and do a self-check regularly to evaluate your pain levels, your mental blocks, and your physical limitations. By simply listening to your body, you can enjoy greater gains during your training.