Should You Run Through Discomfort or Pain?

PainsmThis is a question Bennett frequently hears from coaching clients.  Discomfort, aches and pains during training can be expected.  When to run through and when to stop running? When is the ache or pain a red stop light?


During a workout, it’s OK to run through an occasional muscular twinge.  If the twinge persists, worsens or forces you to alter your gait, your body telling you “this way more stress and strain than I can handle”.  Cut your workout short and head home.  Ice the affected area several times daily for the first 48 hours.  See Icing – No Muss No Fuss for tips on icing.

Muscle soreness for 48-72 hours after a hard or long run is a normal part of adapting to training, but should not be ignored.  Do not attempt another run until the soreness disappears.  Rest or cross-train instead.  Research has shown that easy running does not speed up healing. Treat muscle soreness that lasts more than 72 hours and cut back on training.

However, tendon or joint soreness and nerve pain need immediate attention and corrective action.  Ice (as above) and do not attempt running until you can walk pain-free.

Start performing running-specific strengthening exercises three times weekly to strengthen the weak link in your biomechanical chain … if the exercises do not aggravate the injury site.

If the pain persists for more than 3-4 days, get a diagnosis from health professional that specializes in treating runners.

Let’s say you’ve taken a few days off, when can you resume running? If it hurts when walking, do NOT attempt any running.  If you can walk pain-free, it’s OK to head out for a run.  If you experience a twinge at the beginning of the run, continue running for 15 minutes. If the twinge worsens in severity at any time, stop immediately. If the twinge does not get worse but is still present after 15 minutes, take the day off.  If the twinge disappears in 15 minutes, do the workout.  In all cases, ice afterwards.

What you do during the first 48-72 hours often determines the severity and duration of your injury. By listening to your body, correctly interpreting the signals and taking immediate action, most impending injuries can be nipped in the bud.  You’ll prevent pain from developing into a full-blown injury that derails your training plans.

For example, late last year, Bennett felt a few twinges in his left heel at the end of Thursday’s interval workout …… the telltale signs of plantar fasciitis.  He iced regularly during the first 48 hours and started performing foot strengthening exercises three days per week.  Two weeks later, he ran an 18K (12 mile) trail run ……… pain-free.

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