To run or not to run? That is the question


One subject we runners frequently chat about – our injuries? Is it a tweak, a pull, a tear? We often remark how “it doesn’t hurt when I run but I find I can hardly walk the next day” or “my right knee is always sore when I run but now I am starting to feel a pain in my left hamstring” or “I’m training for a specific race and cannot afford to stop my training, I will lose so much fitness it will take ages to get back” – sound familiar?

It does to me, and to be honest, when I was a lot younger I would be running every day to or from work, pack in three high intensity club training runs a week, race every other weekend and thought I was invincible. I would chat to fellow runners about my injury problems and whether they have experienced the same, and what measures did they take to get over their injury, how long did it take? What I should have done is seek professional help or at least stopped running for however long it takes for the pain to completely disappear. Maybe it takes a severe injury that stops us in our tracks for us to assess our running habits, what are we doing right and what are we doing wrong and more importantly how do we change those habits of a lifetime. It’s not easy to change and it takes time but if it prolongs our running life surely it’s worth looking at.

There is a lot of information out there on the internet, some good and some bad and you need to trawl through it and decide what works best for you. Here are a few suggestions which I hope you will consider when you start to feel that niggle.

Over-training and how it can lead to injury

Over-training in running refers to a situation where a runner engages in too much training without giving the body enough time to rest and recover. While regular exercise is essential for good health, over-training can be counterproductive and lead to injuries. Here are some reasons why over-training is not recommended in running:

  1. Increased risk of injury: Over-training can cause physical injuries such as muscle strains, stress fractures, and joint pain. When you engage in too much running without adequate rest, your muscles, tendons, and bones are subjected to continuous stress, and they may not have enough time to repair and recover. This can lead to micro-injuries, which can escalate into more severe injuries if not treated in time.
  2. Decreased performance: Over-training can also lead to decreased performance instead of improving it. When your body is fatigued and not adequately rested, your running form and technique can deteriorate, leading to slower times and decreased performance. Additionally, over-training can cause mental burnout, decreasing your motivation to run and train.
  3. Weakened immune system: Over-training can weaken the immune system, making you more susceptible to illnesses and infections. Intense training places significant stress on the body, and without sufficient recovery time, the immune system can become compromised.
  4. Mental fatigue: Over-training can also lead to mental fatigue, making it harder for you to focus and stay motivated. The continuous physical stress and lack of rest can lead to feelings of burnout, mood swings, and decreased mental alertness.

In conclusion, over-training in running is not recommended as it can lead to physical injuries, decreased performance, weakened immune system, and mental fatigue. It is essential to find the right balance between training and recovery to optimise performance and minimise the risk of injury.

Running on consecutive days

Running on consecutive days can be a good or bad thing depending on several factors. Here are some points to consider:

  1. Fitness level: Running on consecutive days is generally not recommended for beginners or people who are not used to running regularly. If you are new to running or have not run for a while, it is essential to give your body time to adapt and recover. Gradually increasing your running frequency and duration can help avoid injury and burnout.
  2. Running intensity: Running on consecutive days can also depend on the intensity of your workouts. If you are doing high-intensity interval training (HIIT) or long-distance runs, it may be best to alternate running days to allow your body to recover. On the other hand, if your runs are shorter and less intense, running on consecutive days may be feasible.
  3. Injury history: If you have a history of injuries or are currently recovering from an injury, it is generally not recommended to run on consecutive days. This can increase the risk of re-injury or delay the healing process. It is important to listen to your body and give it the rest it needs to recover fully.
  4. Running goals: Your running goals can also determine whether running on consecutive days is appropriate. If you are training for a race or have a specific fitness goal, your training plan may require running on consecutive days. In such cases, it is essential to balance training and recovery to avoid injury and burnout.

In conclusion, running on consecutive days can be a good or bad thing depending on various factors such as fitness level, running intensity, injury history, and running goals. It is important to find the right balance between training and recovery to optimise performance and minimise the risk of injury. If you are unsure whether running on consecutive days is suitable for you, it is best to consult a qualified running coach or a healthcare professional.

How much fitness will I lose if I stop running

The amount of fitness you lose when you stop running regularly due to injury will depend on various factors such as the length of time you are unable to run, the severity of the injury, and your fitness level before the injury. Here are some points to consider:

  1. Length of time: The longer you are unable to run, the more fitness you are likely to lose. If you are unable to run for several weeks or months, you may notice a significant decrease in your fitness level.
  2. Severity of injury: The severity of the injury can also affect how much fitness you lose. If the injury is severe enough to require complete rest, you may experience more significant fitness loss than if the injury only required a reduction in training volume.
  3. Fitness level before the injury: If you were highly fit before the injury, you may have a higher baseline fitness level, which may help you maintain some fitness during the period of reduced activity.
  4. Cross-training: Engaging in other forms of exercise, such as swimming or cycling, can help you maintain some cardiovascular fitness and prevent complete loss of fitness.

In general, it is challenging to estimate the exact amount of fitness you will lose when you stop running due to injury. However, it is important to remember that fitness is a relatively transient state, and you can regain lost fitness with time and training. Once you have recovered from your injury, it is essential to gradually ease back into running to prevent further injury and rebuild your fitness level.

Running through an injury – a good or bad idea?

Running through an injury is generally not a good idea as it can lead to more severe and long-lasting injuries. Here are some reasons why:

  1. Worsening of the injury: If you continue to run with an injury, you risk aggravating the injury further. Running can cause increased stress on the muscles, tendons, and bones, making the injury worse and delaying the healing process.
  2. Delayed healing: Running through an injury can delay the healing process and prolong the time it takes to recover fully. Rest and recovery are essential for the body to repair damaged tissues and heal from injuries.
  3. Risk of further injury: Running with an injury can increase your risk of sustaining further injuries, particularly if your running form is affected by the injury. This can lead to more severe and long-lasting injuries, increasing the time it takes to recover fully.
  4. Chronic injuries: Running through injuries can increase your risk of developing chronic injuries, which can affect your running ability in the long term. Chronic injuries are more challenging to treat and can lead to prolonged pain and discomfort.

In conclusion, running through an injury is not a good idea as it can lead to worsening of the injury, delayed healing, increased risk of further injury, and chronic injuries. It is important to rest and allow your body time to heal fully before resuming running or other physical activities. If you have sustained an injury, it is best to consult a healthcare professional to assess the extent of the injury and recommend appropriate treatment and recovery plan.

I hope this information is helpful in understanding how your body works relative to running, or indeed any form of physical activity, and helps in preventing prolonged injury. One last thing to mention is cross-training, particularly strength and balance. I recommend every runner to incorporate these into their weekly regime as both strength and balance will improve your ability to offset injuries.

Paul Rea