running is hard. running can be painful. when should you stop and when should you push through the pain?
running can be painful both mentally and physically. you may want to quit but you have to reach into yourself and find that mental toughness. if there’s anything i have learned while running, it’s that i need to address my pain head-on, assess it, and move forward. try not to linger on it.
i came across an article the other day about pushing through pain and i’d like to share some of it (6 Tips to Push Past the Pain by Christoper Percy Collier):
“As runners propel themselves forward, some measure of discomfort is normal (provided it’s not a sign of a serious issue). Muscles burn. Joints ache. Exhaustion sets in. However, research suggests that our pain threshold is not set at an unmovable level—that the mind can, to some extent, control it. “When I tell an athlete that they can adjust their pain level by using mental techniques, they’re amazed,” says Raymond J. Petras, Ph. D., a sports psychologist in Scottsdale, Arizona. “They often find that their performance increases dramatically.” The following mental tricks—recommended by sports psychologists and used by elite runners—will help you redefine your limits.”
there are various types of “pains” you may come across throughout your journey as a runner. let’s talk about a few.
THE PAIN: Feeling Sick in Anticipation of a Run
DEAL WITH IT: Remember Your Strengths
Researchers at the University of Illinois recently reported that athletes who believed they could tolerate leg-muscle pain performed better in a running test than those who doubted their ability to withstand pain. “Think of all the other challenging workouts and races you’ve done to remind yourself of how strong and capable you are,” says sports psychology consultant and marathoner Kay Porter, Ph. D., of Eugene, Oregon.
*remember how far you’ve come; this will take you even further than you can imagine
THE PAIN: Struggling Through Speed work and Tempo runs
DEAL WITH IT: Run With Purpose
Don’t dwell on how much you hurt. Rather, focus on your rationale for training. “Tell yourself, ‘I’m working this hard because…’ and then fill in your performance goal,” says Jim Taylor, Ph. D., a performance psychologist and sub-three-hour marathoner in San Francisco.
*you’re doing all these hard things for a reason- to make you a better runner
THE PAIN: Hills
DEAL WITH IT: Repeat a Mantra
“If you connect pain with a negative emotion, you’ll feel more pain,” says Taylor. “Connect it with a positive thought, and you’ll feel less.” Create a positive affirmation you can call upon during tough bouts. It worked for Matt Gabrielson, who repeated “Go!” and “Do this now!” while racing the 2008 USA Marathon Championship and the 2008 Twin Cities Marathon — he placed second at both.
*one i’ve often use WHILE racing- “you’re tougher than you think you are, you can do more than you think you can”; i’ve even written my mantras on sheets of paper and kept them tucked away somewhere on me so that i can pull them out during the race if necessary
THE PAIN: Hitting a Low
DEAL WITH IT: Know It Will Pass
Seasoned runners like Michelle Barton (100k runner) know that pain not related to an injury is often fleeting, and this knowledge is sometimes enough to help ride out the unpleasantness. “I learned that the pain comes and goes, and so at future races I was ready for it,” she says. “I could take it because I knew what to expect.” During difficult moments, put the pain in perspective. Remind yourself that the discomfort is temporary, and each step forward is one closer to the finish. Research has even shown that pain is often purely in your head and not an accurate signal of physical distress. Keeping this in mind will enable you to push through the discomfort so you can run faster or longer.
THE PAIN: Long-Run Fatigue
DEAL WITH IT: Think of the Payoff
“Don’t get too emotionally involved with the pain or get upset when you feel it,” Taylor says. “Detach yourself and simply use it as information.” Ask yourself where the pain is and why it’s happening. And if it’s not related to an injury, then acknowledge that this could be an indication that what you’re doing is going to help you reach your goal. “Some types of pain tell you that you’re pushing yourself, that you’re getting better,” he says.
*the longer your runs get, the more you’re going to deal with fatigue. you’ll have pains but are they injuries? most likely, no. learn to tell the difference
THE PAIN: Gutting out a Hard Patch
DEAL WITH IT: Distract Yourself
“Focus on something else while also staying in the moment,” says Gabrielson. At mile 18 of the 2006 New York City Marathon, Gabrielson felt a pounding in his quadriceps. “I had to find a way to channel the pain,” he says. His solution? As he ran, he studied the faces of the people on the sidelines. Most of them, he recalls, were smiling, cheering him on. Focusing on the pleasure of others around him was just enough to take the edge off.
*run with music, focus on those people around you, play games in your head, whatever it takes to distract yourself from the current pain of running
Running your best often means going all out and suffering through some painful runs, but certain pains are warning signs you shouldn’t ignore.
-Sharp, sudden foot, shin, or hip pain that worsens as you run; this is different from a dull, aching pain that creeps up as you run- this is often going to be related to a weakness or tight muscle. a sharp, severe pain that stops you dead in your tracks is more indicative of an injury. this would require time off and a possible x-ray of the area.
*some pains will go away if you just assess your form. a lot of pains will come when your form gets lazy. before stopping, try to check your form and make sure you can’t alleviate the pain. if you’re unable to, then stop.
“Any pain that causes you to change your form should make you stop,” says Lewis G. Maharam, M. D., medical director of the New York Road Runners. ; if you’re limping, you make other parts of your body susceptible to injury.
hopefully this will help you to distinguish between pains you can push through and pains you cannot. just know YOU’RE TOUGHER THAN YOU THINK YOU ARE, YOU CAN DO MORE THAN YOU THINK YOU CAN.