That Pain in My Butt
|February 15, 2011||Posted by Lauren under Marathon Training, Running|
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
- Does it hurt when I walk? If the answer is yes, there’s a good chance it’s serious.
- Where is the pain? Nerve or bone pain should not be messed with.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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?