Know Your Body, See a Doctor
Athletes, especially runners, are known for ignoring or running through illness and injury. While not all illnesses or injuries require a runner to stop running, it is important to determine whether or not you could be making things worse. Just because you can run, doesn’t mean you should. More importantly, you can’t treat an illness or injury without a diagnosis, which you can’t get from the internet.
Listen to Your Body
We all need to be in tune with our bodies. Aches, pains and fatigue often come when starting a new training plan or increasing the intensity of training. New athletes are likely to feel some extent of discomfort known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). DOMS occurs when we use muscles in new ways or with increased intensity such as added weight, increased mileage or faster paces. It’s a normal muscle reaction to the stress applied in the workout. Muscles might feel achy, sore or tight. DOMS is normal, aches can be normal too, but pain is an indication of something else.
All athletes, runners in particular, need to know their body well enough to distinguish between post-training soreness and the pain of a potential injury. Aches can easily develop into pains through overuse or increasing intensity too soon. The constant stress on muscles and connective tissues (tendons and ligaments) can lead to more persistent problems. Any aches that can’t be obviously explained by recent workouts should be noted and investigated further. It’s important that these issues are addressed early enough to keep a potential illness or injury from progressing or getting worse.
See a Doctor or Specialist
Going down the internet rabbit hole or seeking advice from non-medical friends or family will only delay diagnosis and treatment. It’s far too easy to self-diagnose a situation and be completely wrong. Why waste any more time than needed in this diagnosis and recovery process?
Take your concerns to a doctor, physical therapist or another expert. The faster you can get a proper diagnosis, the faster you can treat the illness or injury and get back to running. I completely understand the difficulty in scheduling appointments and paying co-pays or incurring other costs associated with a doctor visit. However, a small investment early on can save you more money in treatment costs if you wait too long.
Follow the treatment plan designed for you by the doctor. If you aren’t seeing improvement, then go back for additional guidance. If you reach out to friends, family or fellow runners for advice, use a great deal of judgement before accepting it and run it through your doctor for guidance. Diagnostics and treatments aren’t one-size-fits-all. Everyone is different and treatments for one person may not be the same or as effective for another.
Don’t Ignore Aches or Pains
Runners are particularly known for ignoring aches and pains. The runner’s high or other benefits we get from running easily outweigh the physical discomfort. To an extent, it’s a widely accepted part of our sport. However, aches can quickly progress into injury which can keep us away from the activity that we love. Know your body and take action when things are off. Seek treatment early so that minor aches don’t become major pains.
I’m a RRCA Level 1 Run Coach and NASM Certified Personal Trainer. I’m not a doctor and I can’t diagnose or treat injuries. I can do a lot with a training plan to work around known injuries, but prevention is the best medicine. The bottom line is know your body and see a doctor when the usual aches aren’t going away.