Running with improper form or worn out shoes are common problems that put excessive stress and load on the body, slowing recovery and often leading to injury. In addition, everyone has slightly different physiology, and some runners need more recovery time than others.
Even if you have new shoes and perfect form, it’s important to schedule regular rest days into your training plan. It takes time to develop a training schedule that fits your needs. But if you generally feel fatigued and sore, chances are good that you need more rest and recovery.
Your body is constantly adapting to changes like physical and emotional stress, training load or even aging. “No variable ever remains constant,” Salloum says. “Once in a while, a hiccup occurs with our body’s ability to handle ever-changing loads, resulting in injury.”
It’s how we approach these injuries mentally and physically that makes all the difference.
What to do when you feel an injury coming on
Salloum recommends that you determine your perceived pain level while running (or after a run) on a scale from one to 10, then respond accordingly. The following are her recommendations. Check in with your own physician to learn what’s right for your body.
If the pain is mild (a four out of 10 or lower):
- Reduce your mileage and intensity by 50 percent for a week.
- Skip speed work until your pain subsides.
- Use ice, massage, foam rolling and gentle stretching and strengthening as tolerated.
- If your pain resolves, build back slowly with an approximate 10 percent increase per week. If you feel soreness the day after a run, back down again.
If the pain is more moderate to severe (a five or greater):
- Seek treatment as soon as you can.
- Switch to cross training and no running (aka “relative rest”) for five to seven days.
- Opt for pain-free, non-impact or low-impact activities like walking, swimming, cycling or weightlifting, as long as they don’t exacerbate the injury.
- Avoid plyometrics such as jump roping and burpee exercises.
- Use ice, massage, foam rolling and gentle stretching and strengthening as tolerated during this time, or as advised by your doctor or physical therapist.
- When you can briskly walk the distance of your typical easy run without pain, you’re ready to progress to walk/run intervals. Start with no more than 30 minutes total for your intervals. Rest for 24 hours between runs. You should not be sore afterward.
At what point am I considered injured?
Salloum offers the three following ways to know:
- When your pain keeps you from training for a day or two. If it hurts too bad to run and a few days of relative rest doesn’t help, you likely need to seek treatment.
- When your pain is at a level of five out of 10 or greater and it returns on your next run, despite self-treatment such as icing, foam rolling or stretching.
- When pain alters your running form. This cycle is called a compensatory pattern. Salloum says there is a conscious or subconscious shift in the way your body accepts impact to unload painful injuries. It’s common for compensatory patterns to cause another injury and to hinder your performance. If you catch yourself compensating, stop running, switch to relative rest and seek treatment.
What’s the quickest road to recovery?
It’s hard to take down time when you’re in the habit of running regularly. But running through injury often means missing even more training down the line because you don’t give your body the recovery time it needs.
Take the time to listen to your body. Get properly fitted footwear and address any imbalances you may have in your body.
There is no better or faster way to return to healthy running than to address an injury early on, receive clear education on diagnosis and treatment, and to implement the strategies needed to prevent injury in the future.