By Sam Cortes, Communications Coordinator
Running is one of the most popular sports in the world, with millions running both recreationally and competitively. Along with improving fitness, running also provides a host of other physical and mental health benefits. However, it’s not uncommon for runners to experience injury.
When is it Safe—and Not Safe—to Run?
Typically, when faced with an injury, most people feel they need to take time off running completely. The good news is that with most injuries, it is safe to continue running and running can even become a major part of your rehab plan.
Some of the most common running injuries, such as heel pain, shin splints, Achille’s tendon pain, kneecap pain, IT band pain, and hip pain can all be managed while continuing to run.
It is even possible to continue running with degenerative conditions, such as osteoarthritis. The main exception to this rule would be if you have a stress fracture. In this case, a period of rest will likely be required to allow the affected bone to heal.
Running demands a lot of our bodies, so when pain or injury occurs, we want to continue to be as active as possible to:
1. Ensure our bodies remain strong, resilient, and able to handle the demands of running.
2. Build up the tissues that are sore or injured.
But what is the best way to do that? Rest from running has the ability to decrease pain due to the demand on painful tissues being decreased, however it isn’t going to build anything back up stronger or maintain any existing strength.
Instead, taking a more active approach to rehab can be beneficial for both calming down any aches and pains, as well as building our bodies back up. Instead of stopping running altogether, it’s suggested to modify your running and use it as a key component in your rehab plan.
When I say modifying your running, I don’t mean changing your running form, but rather altering the duration, distance, or speed of your runs or the terrain you’re running on. Finding ways to keep your body moving in a tolerable way is imperative when it comes to musculoskeletal injury rehab.
Examples of How to Modify Your Running Routine
Let’s go through some examples.
When you feel pain 20 minutes into a run
Say you consistently start to feel pain at 20 minutes into a run. Initially, you could modify your running by running less than 20 minutes at a time, say 15-18 minutes.
Overall, the volume could still be maintained by running for these shorter durations two or three times per day. Gradually, the duration of running would increase as you can tolerate it.
When running faster causes pain
A second example could be running at faster speeds causes pain. In this case, the overall volume of running could be maintained by running at a slower pace initially and gradually re-introducing faster paces as your body is able to tolerate them.
The principles remain the same for the most part; remove the aggravating factor from your running, and then slowly reintroduce it and build your body back up.
If you are looking for further guidance on how to modify your running routine to manage pain or injury, a physiotherapist or other exercise professional can work with you to develop a plan to keep you running and on the road to recovery!
Running Resiliency | Greg Lehman
Physiotherapy management of Achilles tendinopathy | Peter Malliaras