Running Injuries – When your body talks, stop and listen

by admin on August 1, 2011

Well, the Missoula Marathon concluded just a few weeks ago with record-breaking times and record turnouts.  For many of us locally, it was our first marathon/half-marathon and possibly the beginning of an easy, inexpensive, and fun form of recreation that can last a lifetime.  It is well-known that distance running has healthy cardiovascular benefits, but only those who have been running for a long time know how it brings you more in-tune with your own body.  Our body is constantly giving us signals that, in the modern world, we learn to ignore.  Got a headache?  There’s a pill for that.  Never mind that your body is likely trying to tell you you’re stressed or dehydrated (or worse.)  Find yourself dragging in the afternoon?  Time to pick up another coffee, or Coke, or the new 6-hour energy drink!  Forget that you’re not getting 8 hours of sleep.  Too busy to fix the problem, we instead look for the right “band-aid” to keep us going without even thinking about it.

In running, however, we don’t have that luxury.  For running injuries, there is no pill or supplement that will make things all better (although companies may claim their product does.)  Most beginning runners get in the habit of popping Tylenol or ibuprofen and icing achy areas at the end of a run.  This is fine to combat the general aches and pains associated with long runs in a training program or race, but beware the pains that are specific, ones that last more than a few days, or that happen with every run.  Putting a “band aid” fix on these can be disastrous, as they typically get worse if you continue to run without correcting the problem.  Soon, the injury will slow you down, and by that point it will probably be weeks before you can get back to normal.  In rare cases, running on an injury can cause lasting damage, and endanger your ability to participate in this new and rewarding hobby.

Keep this in mind; almost every runner experiences an injury at some point in their running career.  Talk to a seasoned runner and they can usually tell you as much about musculoskeletal injuries than many medical professionals.  Why?  Because they’ve experienced it.  The difference between the running veteran and the newbie is that the old pros know their limitations; they know when they can push it, and they know when to stop. Beginners, like most of us in the modern world, are so focused on the goal that if an injury happens they try to ignore it or medicate it for as long as possible.  Ignore what your body tells you and you will learn the lessons that a lot of the veterans had to learn the hard way; weeks or months of rest/rehab/re-training for an injury that was preventable, or easily treatable if caught soon enough.

So, if you’re new to running, make note of the aches and pains that you are having, and keep track of them instead of just popping a pill or ignoring the pain.  If you keep a running journal, add it to your notes.  You can get in tune with your body without suffering a major injury, and be a happier and wiser runner as a result.

In the next blog posts I will talk a little about what to do if you do notice a problem, as well as how to prevent a lot of the more common injuries.  Happy running!

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