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That Pain in My Butt

Blog note: I spent a good chunk of time this weekend re-designing this little blog of mine, so if you’re reading this through a reader, click through to check it out! It’s still a work in progress and I was originally planning to wait to unveil a new design next month when HOTR turns one, but…I’m not always the most patient person. Once I got things looking good enough to publish, I realized I was too excited to wait!

Knowing when to train through the pain, and when to back off…

During my career as a runner, I’ve been around the block with running injuries. Shin splints, tendonitis, muscle pulls, pinched nerves — you name it, I’ve probably had it. In high school and college, I spent many frustrated days nursing and recovering from my over-use injuries. So I think it’s safe to say that by this point in my running career, I have a pretty good sense of what type of pain is okay to keep training through, and when I need to take a rest.

As runners, it can be really hard to admit when we need to cut back and give our bodies time to heal. For most people, when a certain exercise causes pain, it’s common sense to just stop doing it. But things get a little more complicated when there’s a race on the horizon. After all, it feels better to run than to sit on the sidelines.

But some injuries can be serious business, and running through them can leave you out of commission for a long time. So whenever I feel pain, I go through a quick mental checklist to help me decide whether I should run or whether I need a rest.

Should I train through the pain? Systems Check

  1. Does it hurt when I walk? If the answer is yes, there’s a good chance it’s serious.
  2. Where is the pain? Nerve or bone pain should not be messed with.
  3. What kind of pain is it? Sharp, piercing pain is usually a warning sign that it’s something serious; dull, achey pain is a little trickier.
  4. Does running make it worse? Sometimes running can loosen things up and help the pain go away. But if the opposite happens – that the pain gets worse with each step – the smartest thing to do is stop running immediately.
  5. Does it hurt worse after I stop? Even if it feels okay during the run, you need to be careful that running isn’t going to make things worse once you stop.
  6. Where am I in my training cycle? I tend to take it easier and nurse my injuries a lot more at the beginning of a training cycle (for fear of making things worse) than I do near the end, when I just need to get to the race.
  7. Will running ultimately cause more harm than good? I’m a pretty stubborn person in general, and when it comes to running, I can sometimes be downright bull-headed. But no one run is worth my career as a runner.

It’s not a perfect system, but it’s basic common sense. Doing a quick “systems check” can help you realize whether you’re dealing with a little soreness, or something that actually needs medical attention.

But all my confidence and knowledge goes out the window when the cause of the injury is my own clumsiness. As I briefly mentioned, last week I fell hard on a patch of ice while walking. The fall was so hard that it left me dazed, and I really had no idea what sort of damage I had caused. But I was pretty sure I hadn’t hurt my tailbone, and that was all that mattered, right?

I took an extra day of rest, and went to the gym the next day ready to run. Two minutes on the treadmill and I realized a run was not in the cards for me. Every step hurt, and I started to fear that I had hurt myself worse than I realized. After checking in with the smart doctor husbands of a couple of friends to make sure that I did not, in fact, break my butt (because it sure felt like it!), I came to the realization that I was just going to have to take it easy for the rest of the week. So I waited (a bit frustrated), and I rested, and I iced, keeping my fingers crossed that I would be well enough to run on Saturday with a group of three awesome bloggers.

icing running injury

Fortunately, by the time the weekend rolled around, my butt was feeling better. Still sore, but running was only mildly uncomfortable and it did not make things worse. 12-ish glorious miles along the Charles River with friends, and I thought I was in the clear.

But…and there’s always a butt

I probably would have been, had I not decided to push it today. But I never claimed that easing back in after an injury was my strong suit. And after a week of traveling plus my injury last week, I felt like it had been forever since I had lifted. Problem is, my lifting routine includes a lot of squats, which means it works my butt. This is normally a good thing, but today it proved to be too much. I didn’t even make it through one set before warning bells started going off in my head — the exercise was clearly making it worse, and as soon as I stopped, the pain worsened into an intense throbbing.

So I modified my lifting workout and then got on the treadmill to run. Even though things still hurt, I decided to stick it out. My reasoning? My main goal now is to be ready for the marathon, so running is priority number one. The run didn’t hurt as much as lifting did, and it didn’t get worse as I went, so I told myself to keep the run short and the pace easy. But to be perfectly honest — I’m at a loss. I know that I need to take care of this injury before it gets worse. But it’s not an injury caused by running, and I’m pretty sure I haven’t done any damage to a bone — it’s just a deep muscle bruise. To make things more complicated, I’m heading into the three toughest weeks of my training cycle. Not only will I be hitting my peak mileage, but in the next three weeks, I’ll be completing a 20-mile training run followed by a half-marathon, and then a 20-mile race. I don’t have time not to run. But I also can’t afford to do more damage, or take this injury with me to the start of the marathon.

At this point, I’ll admit that I’m running a bit blind. My plan right now is to ice, cross train, and run easy. I just hope it’s enough to get me through the next three weeks.

How do you cope with running injuries? And what helps you decide when to train through the pain, and when to give it a rest?

17 Responses to That Pain in My Butt

  1. this is such a great post. i have had major problems in the past with running through pain. i try to think to myself “will finishing this run be worth it if it sidelines me for the rest of the season?” usually it’s no.
    Teri [a foodie stays fit]´s last post ..Healthy Hair Tips…in Video Form…in Makeup-less Form

    • So true!! The other thing I’ve been told: “Would you rather run today or for the rest of your life?” That’s usually enough to get me to put things in perspective…but sometimes my stubborn side takes over and tries to pretend the injury is no big deal and running through it will be fine. And that’s usually where I get in trouble.

  2. This is not the time for jokes…but I have to say, injuries are such a pain in the butt! I’m sorry that you’re still hurting. I think you have a smart plan for dealing with this injury, so I’ll see to it that you stick to the plan. No crazy workouts for now. If you start to feel pain during a workout, it would be best to stop. I know how hard it can be to do that.

    Also, try not to let this mess with your psyche. You are an amazing runner and a strong person. You will line up at the start of that race, ready to run, and crush it for 26.2 miles…after the harshest winter of your life!
    Becky´s last post ..Finding My Om

    • I’m not sure how I feel about this…between you and Evan watching over me, I’m not going to be able to get away with anything! ;)

      Thank you for the words of encouragement!! It was just what I needed this morning.

  3. aww im sorry about your injury :( hope you get better soon. perhaps you should check out my free coach bangle give away to cheer you up?! :) have a wonderful dear!

  4. Your site looks great! Very clean.
    Sorry about the injury :-( I know all about that for this marathon. We’ll hobble across the finish line yet come race day. How much do you have to run these next few weeks? I have an 18 and a 20 sometime in the future. But first and foremost take the rest you need to get better.

  5. I love the new blog look, Lauren! It looks awesome :)

    I am so sorry you’re still dealing with this injury. I have no idea what to tell you. I haven’t been truly injured recently, but I forced myself to train through my lactose issues and I had a miserable time training and a horrendous race experience. Looking back, I wish I would have taken it easy and cared for my health issues better. Of course, hindsight is 20/20.

    You’re an awesome runner, and I know you’ll do what’s best for you! Just remember, there will always be more races but you only have one body :)
    Jen´s last post ..Anticipating pain

  6. The makeover looks amazing! Great job!
    Injuries can be heartbreaking. On the bright side, since yours was not caused by running and you are sure it isn’t the bone, I do not think you will do more damage keeping up with your training. But if it starts hurting more during runs, I trust you will listen to your own advice and stop!
    Liz´s last post ..Commercial Break Cardio

    • Thanks Liz! And you’re right (and very wise!!). Though maybe your trust in me is a little misplaced…I have to admit I’m much better at giving advice than taking it. ;)

  7. The blog looks SO good, girl! Love it!

    Thanks for talking about this. It’s so hard to know when to stop and give your body a break sometimes. Sorry you’re dealing with this injury, though!
    Rach´s last post ..Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy

  8. I love your blog. I am also nursing an injury….. I ran a half on Feb. 6 with a slight pain in my shin area… finished fast/strong but couldn’t walk the next day! I haven’t ran since and still hurt :( I was planning on doing the LA Marathon but may not be able too :( Depressing, but need to get better! You will!!! I will be thinking positive thoughts for you :)

    • Thanks for the note about my blog!! But I’m sorry to hear you are nursing an injury. I actually did the same thing for my first marathon – I was so stubborn about running it that I ran with a lot of shin pain and then had to take a lot of time off of running afterward. Sorry, not trying to depress you further…hang in there! We will be icing and cross training together! Hope it heals soon and you’ll be on the starting line of the marathon next month!

  9. First of all, the blog work you’ve been doing looks awesome!! Love the pictures at the top.
    Ugh, ambiguous injuries are so hard. I pretty much use your same 7 rules of thumb, but I always feel like I have 2 competing voices in my head – one that tells me to push on and another that tells me I’m being really stupid not to rest. If you weren’t in the middle of training, my advice would be to just stop running for a couple weeks and cross-train, but it sounds like that would be a last resort for you right now. I might try running twice a week – doing one tempo run (or something) during the week and the long weekend run – plus whatever (if any) cross-training and lifting and yoga that doesn’t cause you pain. I really hope it starts to feel better soon – but remember that even if you end up needing to not run for a week or 2, you could still run really well in the marathon, you’d just need to adjust your schedule. Sending lots of good (healing) vibes your way!

    • Yes!! That’s the hardest thing about it! And I’m usually stubborn and listen to the voice that tells me to push on, even though that often gets me in trouble. I think your suggestion is a good one, though. My run today was not great. I think I need to stop being dumb and start cross training more and instead just focus on a couple of quality runs per week. Thanks for the suggestion and the healthy vibes!

  10. I think your, plan is very smart. It might also be helpful to check with a doctor or PT just to make sure its nothing more serious. I hope everything heels quickly!!!
    Lizzy´s last post ..Runner Blog Friends

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