November 22, 2020 at 8:04 pm #3033
After the last newsletter, I received a request from a reader. They asked: As a beginner, how do I know if I’m injured?
However, even as a more experienced runner, it’s not always obvious if something is an injury or just a tight muscle, so how do you tell?
When you first start out in running, you will naturally get some muscle aches. If you aren’t used to this, it may come as a surprise and you might even think you are injured.
As you get more experienced, you’ll quickly recognise this familiar feeling. It’s like a slight burning feeling, but it’s not normally localised. It is normally over much of the leg, or at least one bit of the leg, depending on what running was done. For example, fast downhill running can lead to aching quads (thighs) and glutes, while fast uphill running can lead to aching calves.
Running fast can lead to aches everywhere!
What if it feels more than an ache?
If something feels tight, it could turn into an injury, so you can’t just ignore it. And if it feels painful, it could already be an injury.
Let’s start with “tight”. What does that even mean? Runners talking about tight muscles have normally overdone it and often talk about stretching it out. Stretching is OK if it’s not actually injured – otherwise stretching would make an injury worse. Stretching is a temporary band-aid though. Why did it go tight to start with? Probably because the muscle wasn’t strong enough for the range and repetition of motion it was put through. Learn to plan your runs better so you don’t push things too far too quickly and so it doesn’t go tight in the first place.
Then “painful” – if you are running and experience a sudden sharp pain, you possibly pulled a muscle. Don’t continue the run. Walk home if possible. See how it feels when you get out of bed the next day! If you continue the run, you risk making it worse and extending any necessary recovery time.
A few easy ways to spot an injury
An easy way to spot an injury, or something that could turn into an injury, is pain that makes you run differently, perhaps with a slight limp. If you can’t run normally, it’s a good sign you need some rest days.
Then there are some static tests. Stand on one leg and raise up on to tip-toe and stay there for a few seconds. If you can’t do this at all, or it feels significantly different from doing it on the other leg, perhaps you have damaged the calf / achilles. Don’t take any risks with this.
Try some single leg squats. Stand on one leg and do a sitting down movement towards an imaginary chair behind you, but don’t bend down nearly that far. Keep it easy. If the knee hurts enough to prevent you from raising back up to a straight leg, perhaps your knee is injured.
Stay safe and sensible everyone!
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