Aches and Pains

After last weeks long running exploits I was not surprisingly pretty shattered on Monday so I thought it probably best to take a rest day as I hadn’t taken one in a while. The rest of the week has been pretty full on again with another big long session mid week and rounding the week off with a trip to the Lakes and getting some long days over the fells and racking up some vertical ks. Friday saw almost biblical weather conditions which was a real shame as I had planned on a super long day out but I still managed 4 1/2hrs and 2,300ms but I got soaked through and felt pretty miserable all day. Sat was better but I stayed low as I wanted to be able to run continuously, again I logged 3hrs with some good technical trails. We then had to hot foot it down to Birmingham for a charity event that evening and then drive home after. As you can imagine this wasnt ideal……long run, sit in car for hours, wear silly dress and stay up late, drive home and get to bed in the early hours. The next day I had planned to run long again but within the first 10 mins of my run I knew it was going to be horrible. My legs were as stiff as a board…..I was shuffling along at a snails pace in serious danger of being over taken by a barge. I did think about just walking home but quite often it takes me as long as 45 mins to get going if I am super stiff. Anyway, things improved and I managed 1hr 45 but that felt like forever.
So Sunday evening was spent literally lying on the floor watching Downton Abbey and Strictly. I was lying on the floor because I was exhausted and it seemed to require less energy to be on the floor watching TV than sitting on the couch. This got me thinking…..running hurts! What I mean by this is that sometimes after a run our bodies get stiff, sore or even painful. In the past I have rushed to the medicine cabinet and gobbled pain killers or sat in an ice bath or even diagnosed myself with a serious injury. But heres the thing, I wasn’t injured, there was nothing wrong with me, other than I had run a hell of a lot of miles over the last 3 days. Sometimes running just hurts!

So if you think about your own training, what you consider a long run really depends on your level of experience. For a beginning runner, 2 miles might be a long run. For an advanced runner, two 15 milers might be taxing. Either way, when we run a long way, our muscles go through a process of fatigue, recovery and rebuilding. Fatigue makes us slump on the sofa as soon as we come in from our long run. The soreness that sets in over the next 24 hours has to do with the muscles repairing the damage that’s been done during the run. And then the general fatigue over the next couple of days has to do with the body responding to that run and getting ready for new, even longer, runs in the future. This response is what allows us to go progressively further: as we push ourselves over longer distances, the body responds by building more muscular strength and increasing our aerobic capacity. That’s how we make progress over time.

What we’re doing when we get progressively longer with our workouts is adding miles. What we also have to do is to add those miles slowly over time and with enough recovery in between that we allow the body to respond. It we do too much or build too quickly, we will go from just being in a little pain to actually injuring ourselves.

There is a fine line between the normal hurt of a long run and a real injury.

Injuries result from doing too much more in those long runs than previous runs and or pushing too hard on those sore and painful muscles. Injuries happen when we do too much, too fast, without giving the body a chance to recover properly.

These are the things to consider when you are ramping up your long runs:

1) It’s normal to feel some effects of your long runs. There will most likely be some soreness, stiffness and tightness after you run long – regardless of your level of fitness.
2) Watch out for pain that is getting progressively worse in any particular area of the body. If things are getting worse, then you need to find the source of the problem and look at prevention.
3) Keep an eye on how long it takes for pain, soreness or stiffness to subside. As you get more experienced, it will take less and less time to recover from your workouts. But if it takes longer for you to recover, add the appropriate amount of rest days after those long runs to make sure that you’re recovered properly. If you are finding it is taking you longer and longer to spring back after your sessions you may be over training. This can be serious so best to take a longer block of time off or just cross train.
4) Pain during a run is more concerning to me that pain after a run. Pain during a run might indicate swelling, trauma (as with a stress fracture or rolled ankle) or a kit problem. Pay careful attention to pain that develops while you’re running. Stop and stretch if needed or correct whatever is causing the problem. If you’ve done something traumatic during a run, stop running.

Another way of keeping an eye on training and recovery is to keep a training diary. Sometimes the answer to your aches and pains are quite simple, reading back over your diary can highlight any areas where you may have over done it or have been complaining about a little niggle which has developed into something chronic!?

For now, I am taking a few days easy to try and regen and get my running legs back. Only 3 weeks to go until my next race and at this rate I may have to race walk!!

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