Hi SquareOne Physio team!
Here’s a question you may wish to answer.
I’ve always been a believer in ‘listening to your body’ when it comes to training. One thing I always struggle with is the fine line between a ‘niggle and an injury’. My question is this: How do you know if it’s a pain you should train through or one you should rest? (I run mainly marathons). Thanks
Good question and one that many athletes are often asking themselves
The nature of endurance sports means that you will often feel fatigued and sore during periods of heavy training. Overloading our musculoskeletal system and allowing it to recover is how we make gains and get stronger. The fine line is that if we don’t allow adequate recovery and keep training then we get injured. Your individual threshold for how much training load your body can handle before injury will depend upon your athletic history (how long you have been consistently training for), your biomechanics and your genetic make-up. The longer you have been training at a consistent level the better your musculoskeletal system will have adapted to tolerating a higher training load, the better your biomechanics are the more efficient you will move and you will have a corresponding reduced risk of injury, and if you inherited good connective tissue and bone genes from your parents you will have a lower risk of injury. Unfortunately we can’t do much about who are parents are but we can control the other factors to a certain extent.
As a general rule:
– If its general muscle soreness from a change in training program or exercise then have a couple of days easy training or rest
– If it’s a new niggle that you haven’t felt before get it checked out- you don’t want to miss anything nasty
– If it’s an old niggle that you have been able to self manage in the past with guidance from your Physio then you are OK to continue to train eg. recurring shin splints that you have been able to settle in the past with icing, stretching and massage
– If you continue to train and it’s not improving or getting worse then see your Physio
Having a well structured training plan that allows for adequate recovery between your hard sessions is essential, as is having a structured season allowing for some down time to recover and work on things in the off season like core strength and flexibility to help with injury prevention. Managing your training load on a weekly, monthly and yearly cycle will reduce your risk of injury. Having strategies in place to maintain flexibility and reduce muscle tightness post training is essential. Stretch bands, foam rollers and trigger balls are great devices you should be making use of. The nature of endurance sports means that we do a lot of repetitive motions that can lead to injury. Having a biomechanical assessment with your Physio is essential to help identify any flexibility issues, strength weaknesses or biomechanical problems that will increase your risk of injury. Your Physio will be able to design a maintenance program for you.
Being injured means that you can’t train, race or compete and all your hard work in training can be quickly lost. While you need to push to get gains you also need to recover. We don’t get stronger or fitter from the training we do, but rather how we recover from the training. Having a day or two off to get niggles treated or modifying your training program may result in a missed session or two but it will keep you training and competing in the medium and longer term.
I hope this answers your question.