Injuries can be a real problem for the beginner or advanced runner. Because there are many causes of injuries, you can save yourself some time and money if, before you self-treat, you accurately assess what you are experiencing.
The athlete should first observe the problem with a few things in mind. When did the symptom begin? Did the pain come on suddenly or gradual? How long does/did it last? Have you had it before? Is the pain in the same location? I find that if patients will focus on 3 things; Frequency, Intensity and Duration (FID) it will really help them determine if they are getting better or worse as they work their way through possible solutions. I strongly suggest people write these things down or log them in their phone. It’s too easy to forget or misinterpret problems 3 days after the situation began. Tracking the changes will help your thinking brain create an anchor for your emotional brain so you can make effective choices on whether to continue running, try something new or validate your improvement. Too often we humans go to one extreme or the other; “It stills hurts!” or “I’m all fixed!” We tend to think in absolutes not percentages of change. As difficult as it may be, try and rate the changes from day to day and see what direction you’re headed in.
Think positive but be realistic. If you start experiencing pain less than 4 weeks before your big race you have some options:
- Take a few days off and see if the problem resolves itself.
- Continue to run and hope you don’t injure yourself further. (My feeling is that if you are willing to take responsibility for the outcome, experiment if necessary). This approach is a little easier to employ if you don’t have any races after this event so you can recover fully.
- Self-treat with Epsom Salt soaks, ice, magnesium spray, RockTape, Trigger Point therapy.
- Seek professional help from a sports medicine therapist or doctor.
I suggest you make your decisions based on the feeling you want AFTER the event is over. If you can’t get over being disappointed if you don’t run, then maybe run but don’t hold yourself to a specific outcome, just focus on completion. I did this last year at the Salt Lake ½ Marathon. I missed most of my training but didn’t want to “bag” the race because emotionally and mentally I really wanted to set a new direction for the year. So I decided to run it and not worry about my time and just tough it out. Even though I hurt like crazy afterward, I felt great inside. Another idea: Make a commitment to a new race so you can keep your fitness base.
The dialogue that we have with ourselves in these moments becomes a fine art of internal negotiation where we can learn a lot about what we’re made of. Life is never linear even though we so want it to be. As an athlete you can enjoy the ride more if you spend some time looking out the window and taking a few notes during your journey.
Dr. Michael Cerami is an avid runner, cyclist and triathlete. He is available for a no charge consultation one Saturday per month at The Salt Lake Running Company (700 East store) by appointment. He can be reached at 801-486-1818 or online at www.utahsportsandwellness.com