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Listening to your body: When to stop and when to run through it??

Listening to your body: When to stop and when to run through it??
Listening to your body: When to stop and when to run through it??

In my teens and my 20’s I didn’t have to worry about listening to my body. My body seemed to cooperate with me and my workouts quite nicely.  Bouncing back after tough runs or races wasn’t really a problem.  Then, after I turned 30 something gradually started to change.  My body started to have more of an opinion.  I wasn’t handling workouts quite the same way.  I needed to stretch more, warm-up more, ice more- you name it.  I am 33 and I know that isn’t not “old” by any means. In fact, I feel like I’m in my running prime.  I just know that my body needs a little TLC more than it used to and that’s ok with me.

The lovely ice bath
Frozen veggies work too!

I was able to make it through my past two marathon training cycles healthy and I am very grateful for that. I think I am more thankful for that now than I was at the time.  After Houston, I was able to recover quickly and get focused on Little Rock.  I ran a 15K and a 10K during this time that helped in my training.  The Little Rock Marathon last month went amazingly well, considering it was on a challenging course. However, the hilly course and distance combined did a number on my knees.  My right knee specifically.

At mile 13 of LRM, going up one of the many hills…

For the past 7 weeks I have been nursing a bad knee.  The only other time in my life I’ve had knee trouble was after my first marathon- the one I ran in college.  I had not trained over 10 miles and randomly decided to run a marathon after cross country season.  I couldn’t have been happier with my 3:45 finish time but I had major IT band/ knee pain for about 2 months.  That was over 13 years ago.  (Ok, that makes me feel a little old…) Now, I find myself in a similar situation.  My pain is not nearly as severe and it actually comes and goes.  I don’t feel any pain or discomfort once I stop running or even walking around the house.  So do I run through it or stop??

Last spring after a 5 mile “easy run” on the treadmill I knew something was wrong.  Something was very wrong.  With every step I took I could feel a weird pain in my lower back.  An MRI confirmed that I had a sacral stress fracture on my pelvic bone.  In this case, it was very obvious that running was not an option.  I had to rest, then cross train and slowly over months start running again.  It took me months to build my mileage up safely. 

So, how do you know when to stop running or run through it?  First of all, if you have to ask yourself that question you probably need to stop- at least for a day.  A body needs rest to heal itself in the training process.  Ask yourself if it is soreness or something more. Does the pain stop when you stop running?  When I had my stress fracture the pain/ discomfort was there every step I took.  When I stopped running it was there.  When I walked around the house it was there.  When I leaned and put the weight of my body on a certain side I could feel it.  You should not continue to run if your pain is constant.  It will only make things worse.  In my current situation, my knee discomfort is annoying.  It comes and goes throughout my run.  When I stop running my knee feels fine.  I am confused.  I am trying to listen to my body but it is just being unclear at the moment.

So, I googled running through pain.  This link was a little helpful but I am still a little unsure what to do in my situation.  Basically it lists 3 different types of pain: mild, moderate and severe and how you deal with them. 

I have been praying about it and that is a whole other subject.  I must admit that many times I feel bad about praying for things like this.  Why should I bother God with little things like a pesky knee problem when other people have real health issues like cancer or AIDS? There are much bigger issues going on in the world and why should I bring something this trivial to God?  Why?  Because He wants us to!  I Peter 5:7 says, “Cast all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” (New Living Translation).  Sometimes I need to be reminded that God wants us to bring even the most trivial things to Him too.  If it matters to us, it matters to God.  

Every situation is different and as runners we need to learn what we feel comfortable running through and when we need to stop.  I’ve been running almost 20 years now and I am still learning.  Sometimes we may just need to rest a day or two.  Maybe a week.  Or in some cases, weeks or months.  I am at the point where something needs to change.  I don’t want to keep running this way.  I don’t like finishing workouts frustrated and depressed, wondering when my knee will feel normal again. 

I have a 5K on Saturday I plan to run in.  I have cut my mileage in half and am just planning to race this 5K and hopefully one next Saturday.  Then I am taking a break.  I don’t want to stop but apparently my body needs me to take a break.  Not sure how long…. a week or two or more?  I will keep stretching, icing, rolling and cross train a little.  I will definitely continue my core challenge.   I really want to start my NYC training in July healthy. 

My question for you?  When do you stop?  When do you run through it? Is it always obvious?

So there you have it.  I am not sure what to expect out of my 5K Saturday but hopefully I will be feeling good and my knee will cooperate.  I’ll let you know…

~Tia

*** Disclaimer- I am not a physician so if you are experiencing severe pain I would most definitely recommend seeing a doctor and/or physical therapist. 

14 Comments

  1. This is an excellent post and very timely for me, Tia. I especially like your prayer part. This morning on the way to work I felt foolish even thinking about praying for my back when there are so many others with WAY bigger problems. But I like what you have to say about it. Thanks for that.

    So when do I stop? Well… I was FORCED to stop on my long run 2 Sundays ago. Then, I fell into the trap of masking the pain with motrin and sort of running through it, yk? Dumb move. I could barely walk on Tuesday morning. (((sigh))) So now I am done with the over-medicating, running (even on the Alter G) and am doing pool running and weights/core until I feel no pain. Not even discomfort. I am actually going out of town tomorrow until Tuesday, so it is a “forced” vacation for me, as I won’t have access to a gym. I’ll see how I feel next Wednesday and then will take it from there.

    I am wondering if you need to hit up the weights more. I think weak quads can contribute to knee pain, no? I could be wrong. At any rate, I have noticed that when I neglect my core/weights, I get injured. And sure enough, I neglected it and here I am. Even twice per week for the weights helps keep me healthy. And I am doing my core work daily now. Thanks in part to your reminder.

    Good luck in your 5K, and I hope the knee starts feeling better.

    1. Thanks Allison. Yes, I think I may need to add in the weights… Ughhhh. But necessary! Have fun on your vacation and don’t feel guilty about not running! Your body needs a break too! 🙂

  2. Any injury stinks. Thankfully Ive not had any major injuries, but Ive had many moments of pain where I feared an injury was coming. I continued my runs when I could, but backed off when my body told me to. My “injuries” have all been related to over-use and needing new shoes so Im not really sure I can give you advice. You are way more advanced than me.

    I wanted to comment though and tell you (and your husband) THANKS for hosting the family track nights. My children have enjoyed them immensely. My littlest boy (the little guy in the wheelchair) especially loves getting to “run” with me. You guys are doing a great thing!

  3. I am sorry that your knee is not getting better. I can only imagine how frustrated you are. But, I was glad to see that you are praying about it and GOD does care! You are right.

    I have always pushed through and managed to heal everything in due time. I hope that works for you. I am sure that will come back to bite me at some point, but I hope not!

    Good luck on Saturday! “The Lord is faithful, He will strengthen you! 2Thess 3:3

    That is one of my favorites… I thought of it constantly during my marathon.

  4. Thanks for this post, Tia. I have such a hard time finding that line, too. I had a stress reaction (almost fracture) in my shin last summer, and now every time I feel a little tenderness I panic! It’s been tender off and on recently after speed work, and since I don’t have a race I’m working toward, this seems like the obvious time to back off and let it fully heal, but that’s so hard to do!

    1. It’s crazy how old injuries like that can make us so paranoid! I finally reached the one year point with my stress fracture and now when I feel like I feel something there I tell myself to get over it and I’m fine. Sometimes it’s mental..?? But I know some injuries are very real and unfortunately I think this knee thing is becoming one… It’s probably a smart idea to get some R&R now while you don’t have a big race in the works.

  5. You know I’m not a runner, but I know A LOT about listening to my body. I have found it is hard to know when to listen to what my body says and when to push through. But never feel “bad/guilty” for praying about it. How can we have a close relationship with the Lord if we don’t pour out our concerns? Big or small He wants to hear them.

  6. I ran through my post-baby back pain for so long that I’ve forgotten what it’s like NOT to have back pain. Running didn’t cause it, but it wasn’t helping. Now I’m paying for not dealing with it at the time. My verdict is to be conservative with any kind of pain.

    This was a really great post. Thank you!

  7. I’ve always gone to a friend (physio) for advice when I’ve had injuries. I’m a bit scared of doing worse damage but if it hurts and Chris says I can, I run.

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