Does running have to hurt?

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It’s nearly the anniversary of when I fractured my foot and I’m thanking my lucky stars that I took the time and had the discipline to rehab my foot properly so I could run this past season.

Non-runners feel entitled to comment on whether or not running is healthy. Some of the frequent comments/questions I get when people find out I’m a distance runner are, “Isn’t that bad for your knees?” “Running that far can’t be good for you.” “Running long distance is bad for your heart. People have had heart attacks at the end of races.” “If you keep running you’re going to get hurt.”

I’m guessing they get this idea that runners get injured all the time from the research which says 45% of runners get injured each year. Part of the problem with that number is it doesn’t define injured. Whenever we participate in a sport on an ongoing basis, even high school and college level athletes, we have aches and pains, which are a result of our participation in physical activities.

But what does injury actually mean? I think this is subjective to a certain extent. Runners, ultrarunners in particular, tend to push themselves beyond aches and pains. It’s what we do to get to a finish line of a 100 mile race. If we stopped when it hurt, most of us would never finish. Even when we do have more than a simple ache or pain we continue our training and continue to increase our miles.

Is this the wrong thing to do? Now I’m no doctor, so you should really talk with them over me, but I don’t think running through an injury is always a bad thing. There are some injuries where it is better to stay active and by that I mean reduce you miles and take it easy for a few weeks. There are other injuries where it is best for you to take time off running and find some type of cross training to do. I’ve always drawn the line as a fracture or more than mild soft tissue injuries.

Sometimes it can feel like we are always dealing with some type of injury or pain, which doesn’t go away when we stop running or take a day of rest. Running is not easy and runners are a tough bunch, aches and pains and even actual injuries are going to happen to all of us at some point in our running career. We need to know before hand, where our line is in the sand and how to tell the difference between an actual injury and just an ache that can be worked through.

Acute stabbing pain is not good. You should take a day off and if it continues for more than 2-3 days see a doctor. Centralized, one particular spot, pain is also a bad sign, if it continues for more than 2-3 days, have it checked out.

Swelling, redness, bruising means ice, rest, compression, and elevation for a few days. Strained muscles and tendons, means you should warm up before running hard and watch your form. Also, look into some type of strength routine for your hips. Weak hips cause a whole host of issues.

As we head into the colder months here in the western US, our race season is coming to a close and many runners reduce their miles for the winter to rebuild their muscles and give their body much deserved rest from the hard work it has put in for the winter.

Winter or off season months are the best time to add in preventative routines to your training, such as strength and stretching.

Listen to your body, think about what it’s telling you, and do what it says most of the time.

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