01 May 2022
No matter how hard you try you can’t outrun niggles. A niggle? A small injury/pain that seems to hang around and disrupt your training. For runners this is often pain around their feet or Achilles, or a hamstring that keeps tightening up. It might even be a stiff lower back.
Runners are notorious for trying to push past this – but that doesn’t work. It will almost certainly worsen your issues until they are so bad that they force you to stop for a prolonged period. That’s every runner’s worst nightmare: not being able to train.
So, what should you do?
The overriding principle is to realise that pain is a signal. You shouldn’t just have some painkillers and ice up and then run on. In fact, there is a danger to anti-inflammatories when you’re doing endurance training as they thin your blood, making it even harder for your heart to pump enough oxygen and nutrients around your body.
That’s every runner’s worst nightmare: not being able to run.
Instead, listen to that signal. The pain is warning you that you’re doing something wrong. It could be that you’re overworking something, which is often the case if you develop extensor tendinopathy (where it hurts to move the top of your foot). If it’s a niggle on 1 side of your body (i.e. 1 leg) then your running technique is probably uneven, leading to that issue. In that case the pain is telling you that 1 leg is working harder than the other and that you should address this before it becomes a bigger issue.
Unless the pain is signalling that you are working too hard, it’s likely a technical issue, or maybe a strength issue. How do you know which it is? I wrote a previous article on the volume of your run training. If you stick to those guidelines then it’s unlikely that you’re doing too much. Strength is easy to identify but you need to spend some time on it: there are some basic tests to do to see if your body is strong and robust enough to handle the volume of your running. These are things such as a MAX rep single leg calf raise – can you do 20 on each leg? I will look at those tests in a future article.
For a detailed look at the strength work get in touch at www.max-performance.co.uk as strength work for runners is what I specialise in.
If it’s not those things then the focus should be on your technique. If you’ve never had someone film you run then that’s a start. All you need is to see a 10 second clip from behind, seeing your full body. Ideally this is outside, but you could do it on a treadmill too. A side-on clip would also be useful. You will have seen enough top-level runners to instinctively know what ‘good’ technique looks like, so take a look at yourself and you can hopefully identify some easy technical work-ons. Again though, if you want more help here then get in touch and I’d be happy to look at your technique.
Remember: pain is a signal, not something to push past.