Beginner Runner Tip #9

Get In Tune With Your Body

Let’s be honest. Running can be painful. And beginners often suffer more muscle soreness than experienced runners because their body isn’t used to the strain. However, the old adage ‘no pain, no gain’ is certainly true with running. The hard part is knowing what pain is ok and what pain is definitely trouble.

Beginner runners often struggle with learning what their body is telling them simply because they haven’t regularly experienced the aches and pains that running can produce. It’s a sad fact that many beginner runners mistake the early warning signs of injury for ‘normal’ running pains and end up injured, undoing much of their hard work and dampening their spirits.

Starting out slowly and building your mileage and number of workouts in a controlled manner will help you learn what ‘normal’ post-workout soreness feels like. If you feel something other than regular workout-related muscle soreness, don’t run. Have a rest day and assess how you feel the next day.

If you’re experiencing pain in your knees, ankles, along your shins, or around your hips or IT Band (the strong band that runs from your hip to your knee) that is beyond normal muscle soreness STOP RUNNING, ice the problem area and elevate it if possible. You may also wish to use anti-inflammatory medication such as Ibuprofen to control the immediate symptoms, however check this with your doctor/pharmacist beforehand and never exceed the recommended dose.

If after a couple of days you no longer feel any pain, ease back into your running and pick up your training schedule where you left off. If you’ve missed a few workouts, don’t skip ahead in your plan as you will just invite further injury. However, if after a couple of days the pain is still present then go and see your doctor or sports physiotherapist for an assessment. NEVER run through the pain. This is the 100% tried and tested method to injure yourself and stop you running for a long time!

Watch out for the signs of overtraining as well. If you feel a deep fatigue, your legs feel leaden or you aren’t recovering fully before your next workout you could be overtraining and you need to take a rest. Overtraining could lead to injuries caused by a lack of recovery, the usual culprits being knee pain, ITB syndrome, plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendinitis.

Another symptom of overtraining is trouble sleeping. Up to a point extra training will leave you tired and you will sleep well as your body repairs and rebuilds. If you are training heavily and you start to notice your sleep becoming fitful or that you are having trouble getting to sleep, this could be caused by a build-up of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenalin. These stress hormones are natural by-products of exercise and in themselves are not dangerous, however in situations where stress hormone levels remain raised for extended periods of time they will start to affect your body’s processes, the easiest to detect being trouble sleeping.

The prescription for overtraining is simple. Rest. Take a couple of days off and focus on a stretching routine instead of intensive exercise. At the same time, review your training schedule. If you’ve reached a point of overtraining it would indicate you’re trying to do too much, too quickly and you need to revise your plan. This doesn’t mean you’ve failed. It simply means you’re trying to achieve too much in too short a period. By revising your plan and avoiding an overtraining related injury you will achieve more in the long term.

As you gain experience in your running you will learn your body’s capacity for exercise as well as how to read the signals it is giving to you. Getting in tune with your body will help you understand what various pain signals might mean and to determine if you’re over-training. And remember, running is a lifetime endeavour. Missing a couple of workouts because you need rest or because your body is giving the warning signs of an injury doesn’t mean you’re failing, it means you’re smart.

Happy running everyone!


Get Going, Get Running!

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