I love running. I honestly really do. In my job I do my utmost to keep people running. I hate having to tell people they shouldn’t run but sometimes I have to for their own good and to enable any exercise therapy or treatment we do to be effective. Not everyone takes my advice and hey, sometimes people do get better with or without my advice. I can only go on what I find during an assessment and advise accordingly.
What I have found increasingly over the last few years is that with an increase in the running population has come an increased tendency for people to downright refuse to stop. They will continue to run even when there are a set of circumstances in front of them which are screaming at them to stop running, not permanently, just for a while.
I have had two cases in clinic recently where the best advice was certainly to stop running. But neither runner really accepted this. the compulsion to run was so strong that these runners were prepared to continue until any running at all was impossible. The most extreme of the two was a patient with a stress fracture so chronic that you could actually palpate the bony callus on his shin and hear the bone clicking when they hopped up and down. When I gave my diagnosis (which was confirmed by x-ray) the patient told me they had known in their gut for a few months that it was likely to be a fracture but hadn’t wanted to stop running, for fear of losing out on races and everything he gained from running. And yet the first question this person asked was ‘do I really have to stop running?’
I do sympathise because being injured is awful but I do feel that I’m increasingly in a ‘shoot the messenger’ situation when I have given advice to rest from running (that’s rest, not give up). I have had a patient swear at me because I advised them to rest for two weeks from running and to cross train instead. Actual aggressive language used because I gave a professional opinion. I may be good but I can’t speed up the natural healing times of muscle, tendon or bone. They all need their time to be appropriately treated and severity of an injury will always have a much bigger impact. Continuing to over load healing tissues will always mean things take much longer to heal, I don’t make this shit up.
Recently I have become aware of a personal trainer who is encouraging their beginners running group to run pretty much daily. Firstly, you’re going to put people off running because before long it will start to seem like a chore but secondly that is far too much for beginners who are just getting used to putting 4 TIMES THEIR BODY WEIGHT through their lower limbs. It’s making beginners over train and a study has found that training error and over training are the most common cause of over use injuries in recreational runners. In fact the most common type of injury among recreational runners is overuse injury, not sprains and strains. They are injuries that are unavoidable and yet more and more injuries like this are walking through my clinic door. (If you fancy a read that’s Taunton et al who published a study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in 2002, just to show again I’M NOT MAKING THIS SHIT UP!).
Why this obsession with running hard and fast all the time? Why are people being made to feel like they have to? Running every day doesn’t suit the majority of runners and to do that I think you have to be a runner of great experience who has built up to it sensibly over a longer period of time. That’s why I felt quite glad that I saw an orthopaedic surgeon comment that people planning on training for a marathon should have been running 2-3 times a week in the 6 months before training commenced. The body needs to be trained to train, conditioned to be able to handle the task that is given to it.
So if you’re a runner who feels like they need to keep up with everyone on social media and feel guilty about not joining in with run streaks, please don’t. Think about what your own running goals are. Be smart with your training. Give your body a rest from the pounding it gets 3- 4 times a week with some cross training, pilates or yoga. And if you get a niggle or are concerned about any pain that isn’t your usual post run pain go and ask your GP or an appropriate clinician for advice. Some things can’t be diagnosed via Twitter.