When can I keep running through an injury and when do I need to take time off?

One of the most common questions I get from injured runners who come to visit me is, “Do I need to stop running?”. Some injuries require more solid rest time from running to heal properly, some injuries can be trained through, with caution.  Here are my guidelines when determining whether an injury can be “trained through” or not:

  1. If your injury changes the way you are running, you need to rest from running. Failure to follow this rule can lead to other, possibly even more significant injuries. Here is a really gross story to demonstrate my point: I remember a time when I had a fairly severe blister covering the bottom of my big toe. A blister is something that seems silly to limit a run over, so I went ahead with my scheduled 12 mile run. That run set off a cascade of injuries because the entire time, I was running on the outside of my foot to avoid pushing off where the blister was located on my foot. The body is very susceptible to drastic changes in the way you do something like running, which delivers a lot of force over a lot of repetitions. If you can’t run normally, you should NOT be running!
  2. Many injuries will feel uncomfortable until warmed up, then the pain subsides.  The rule with this sounds something like this: Pain gets better after you start running=proceed with caution.  Pain gets worse with running=STOP RUNNING. Seems basic, but with the OCD mentality of most distance runners, it can be a hard one to follow.
  3. When you have an injury, if the first two criteria mentioned above clear you to continue running, check this final criteria.  If your pain is improving each time you run, then you can proceed with caution, but be very gradual in your progression. However, if each run is more painful than the previous run, you should take some time off running.

Hope this helps!  If you would like more information on treating and preventing running injuries, check out my ebook: Pain-Free Running!

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