Every runner training for a marathon gets aches and pains, and I promise you that I am no different! Sore hamstrings, achy glutes, calves that are as tight and hard as cinder blocks… yes, my body is perpetually sore that it feels simply unnecessary to mention it every week. It’s the good kind of sore, promise! I strongly believe that consistently utilizing proper recovery techniques (sleeping 7.5 hrs+ a night, hydration, nutrition, rolling and stretching, etc.) throughout your training will serve to minimize the onset of running related injuries that force you to stop training.
However, there is a difference between sore, tight muscles from training and an angry muscle that has been overused and on the brink of injury. It’s true I’m nearly always sore. Right now my lower back is tight from the gradually increasing run volume and my glutes are tired from this yesterday’s 7 mile run on rolling hills. But do I legitimately hurt? No, not really! On a scale from 1-10 how bad is the pain? A 3 or higher? No, maybe a 1… it’s more irritating than painful. Do my sore muscles physically stop me from engaging in other activities? Not typically. Crawling up the stairs the day after long run doesn’t count! :). These are the questions I typically ask myself when trying to determine whether or not I am experiencing “growing pains” (typical soreness from marathon training) or am on the brink of an overuse injury.
While I am often sore, I rarely I feel like I am in actual pain — until recently!
Two weeks ago I noticed some pain on my right foot while on a long run with friends in Jersey. Around mile 7 I noticed a distinct soreness emanating from the right side of my right foot and it made my heel and arch tender and sore. While I wasn’t in dire pain on the run I knew something wasn’t quite right either. As I continued to log the miles the discomfort dissipated so I decided to roll with it and continue the run. It’s not unheard of for me to tweak something mid-run that ultimately flushes itself out after a few miles. We finished the 15 miler strong and I had nearly forgotten about my foot discomfort- until I stopped running. Immediately after I stopped and turned into a walk the discomfort was there and even worse- it had magnified. It hurt to extend my foot and push off on the ball of my foot while running or even just walking. In fact simply bearing weight on my foot caused it discomfort. I’m still not sure what I did to my right foot but it was seriously pissed off!! (sorry, but it was!). Ahhh!! Then I noticed that the outside of my foot into the top of my foot was all puffy and swollen. Yep, I was mildly freaking out.
What did I do? I immediately contacted coach Beth @ Your26.2!!
It didn’t matter that it was the day after Christmas, Beth was there to help!! Beth responded to my plea for help within an hour! She’s pretty awesome!! Together we discussed my foot pain and brainstormed about how to proceed with training for the following week. Beth helped keep me calm while we decided that I take a few days off to recover and reminded me to keep my eye on the long-term prize: Boston!!
I typically build my volume for 2-3 weeks and then follow these build weeks with a recovery week of lower volume. Thankfully my foot issue appeared at the end of a build week so I was able to take a few days off stress-free to allow it to right itself…. well, mostly stress free. I had planned on taking two days off in the following week; ultimately I took 4 days completely off from running. This time gave my foot the opportunity it truly needed to calm down and right itself. Was it an overuse injury? Tendinitis? Possibly. Or did I just tweak something by landing incorrectly on the long run? Also possible. Either way I did what was necessary to secure a solid training cycle later down the road: I swallowed my pride, listened to my coach, prioritized my health and took two additional days of running off than originally planned. Instead of running about 25-27 miles during my recovery week I ended with 19. In the grand scheme of marathon training this is not a loss. With Beth’s guidance and reassurance I gave my body the time and rest that it needed to right itself. How do I know this? Because I raced the Frozen 5k that following Sunday and felt GREAT and because I logged 48 miles last week with no pain. Either way I’m still monitoring my right foot and am prioritizing stretching out my calves and hamstrings even more because you can never be TOO careful! 🙂
**a big thank you to my friend and Physical Therapsist for responding to the video messages of a crazed runner and her feet in the midst of marathon training. Love you! You know who you are!!!
When I was injured I checked in with Beth @ Your26.2 and we made an action plan….
*Beth and I agreed that our number one priority it to get me to Boston IN APRIL injury free. So, a few days off in January are a drop in the bucket in regards to my training. So, I took 3 days off! Yikes!!
*I agreed to take a few days off and only run when the pain was a 3/10 or lower. If the pain was higher then I promised to stop running immediately!
*I agreed to stretch my calves and legs as much as possible. Everything in the body is connected; alleviating tight muscles in one part of the body will likely help other parts of the body heel faster.
*I also agreed to continue to monitor the foot and report in to Beth! It’s important to be honest about the pain; lying and saying that it doesn’t hurt when it does will get me nowhere!!
Do you ever tweak muscles on the run? Here are a few quick tips on how to manage your aches and pains to avoid injury…
1. COMMUNICATE with experts (coach, doctor, physical therapist) to create an action-plan that prioritizes your long-term goals.
2. REST as much as you can. Give the body time to heal properly!
3. PRIORITIZE RECOVERY: roll, ice, stretch, sleep as much as possible during this time.
4. REDUCE INTENSITY: During your first few runs back run EASY! Do not concern yourself with your pace and just get out there to find a rhythm. If the pain is a 3/10 or higher STOP running immediately!!
5. **CROSS-TRAIN. Depending on where you are in training you will need to focus on what you CAN do, rather than what you can’t do. If this had occurred during one of my build weeks or a peak week during training it is likely that I would have cross-trained (water jogging, spin, or swim) to maintain some of my fitness during this critical week.
Right now I’m feeling good! Feeling strong!! Feeling like I’ve watched approximately 362 hours of My Little Ponies last week so I’m a wee bit crazy! The mind may be mush but the body is good to go!! Bring on another load week!!