Are you listening to what your body is telling you?

 In Running training

Like most of us I have ignored my body many times and paid the price. Early in my triathlon days I ignored shin pain until it got so bad that I could barely walk the day after a run. I stopped ignoring it when someone told me I was limping whilst running. I should have learned my lesson then. But once I recovered from shin splints, a different pain developed in my shin. I ignored it for months until eventually it became a stress fracture and I couldn’t ignore it any longer. I wasn’t a quick learner obviously!

Since then I have been much better at listening to what my body was telling me and in the last 10 years or so have avoided any major injuries despite doubling my mileage.

I am happy to take a day off when I think my body needs it and don’t feel compelled to stick to my training program no matter what. Its not that I have become less competitive, if anything I’ve become more competitive and want more from my body but I have learnt to get the best from your body you really have to listen to what its telling you.

Unfortunately the bodys messages are quite subtle and it takes experience to interpret them correctly. Here is a chance to learn from someone else’s mistakes

When you don’t feel like running

Even though I love running, sometimes I find every excuse I can not to go for a run. This is usually my body’s way of telling me to give it a rest for a day. I used to ignore this and drag myself out only for 10-20 minutes later wishing I had stayed home. Yes there is a time to push yourself out for a run when you dont feel like it but sometimes you need to give your body a rest.If you find yourself deciding to clean the bathroom or fill out your tax return before your run probably best to take a day or two off.

A pain that goes away during your run

When you have a small niggle, ache or pain that gradually disappears as you warm up it is a warning that something isn’t quite right. Don’t increase your mileage or intensity until this niggle disappears. This can often occur when you increase your mileage and it’s a sign your body is struggling to cope with the extra load on it. Give it time and it will usually adapt.

A pain that is constant throughout a run

If the pain doesn’t go away as you warm up you will need to decrease your mileage before it develops into something more sinister. If after a week or so of decreasing mileage and intensity it hasn’t improved then seek professional advice before it worsens and you are forced to take time off.

Thinking about food whilst you run?

When your blood sugar levels drop many people find themselves thinking about food , particularly sweet food. Your thoughts will become more and more preoccupied with food as your blood sugar level drops lower and lower. I have conjured up some amazing banquets of buns, sweets, lollies, soft drink etc during the later stages of a long run.

If you can ingest some carbohydrate into you ASAP you should be able to continue your run. If thats not possible then head for home, it won’t be too long before you will start feeling nauseous, light headed and dizzy and be forced to walk home.

I once stole a couple of sugar packets from a table outside a cafe in order to give me enough energy to get my home. (I didnt have any money and I was desperate)

Legs feel tired, sluggish or sore

We all have days where the legs just don’t have their normal zip. If the legs are tired but you can maintain close to your normal pace then no need to modify your workout. If however you feel like you are working harder than usual but running slower or you simply just cant get going at all then reduce the duration and intensity of the workout.

Sore muscle on one side of the body but not the other

If a muscle in one leg is sore but not the other, it indicates either that the muscle is weak or is having to compensate for a weakness elsewhere. This can easily develop into an injury so be careful. Don’t increase the distance or intensity until the soreness has disappeared. If the muscle becomes tighter and tighter as your run progresses don’t try and run it out. Stop, walk home and apply the R.I.C.E principle. Running on it will only make it worse and mean you need to take more days off.

Feel like you are coming down with a cold

Either skip the session or modify it to an easier session. Exercise will temporarily lower your immune system and the higher intensity the workout the bigger the drop. If you are fighting of a cold then the this is the last thing you want to do.

Legs are screaming at you to slow down

This is one message you can ignore. If during a hard run both your left and right legs are telling you to slow down then do your best to ignore them and keep pushing. Most of us will crack mentally before we break physically from fatigue.

Overwhelming fatigue

If everything is a struggle and you don’t have your usual energy levels for anything (not just running ) then it’s likely you are overtrained. A day off is normally not enough to recover from this level of fatigue. Schedule a very easy week and do some other activities aside from running to give your body a rest.

A short sharp pain

A sharp pain is a big red warning sign to stop immediately and walk home. If you haven’t already injured yourself you are about to. Don’t ignore it. Continuing to run will only make it worse and delay your recovery time.

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Showing 8 comments
  • shanerunner

    excellent stuff, I have learnt the hard way myself through a number of painful injuries. But now think I am on track Thanks for these great pieces of advice

    • admin

      Thanks for the feedback Shane. It’s such a fine line sometimes between maximising your training and staying injury free. Think it’s a line we have all crossed at some stage . Hopefully the blog makes that line a little clearer to see. Good luck with your training.


  • Murdo

    Very wise words, Andy. I wish I had read and heeded them when I took up this running lark! MtM

    • admin

      I wish I had read them 20 years ago , would have prevented a lot of painful runs and weeks off running.

  • Steve

    Great read! Im only a 30-50km week runner but am suffering from PFPS at the moment. Has been fine running but got to a point where i was getting the sharp pain you were talking about just standing up from my desk! Lesson learnt, resting it up (reluctantly) technique coaching booked for Jan and slowly ramp it up again!


    • admin

      Hi Steve

      Thanks for your comments. Good to hear you are not only resting but taking steps to address the problem. The other mistake people make is thinking that rest can fix everything. Rest might fix the symptoms but doesn’t fix the cause of the problem.

      Good luck with the tech issue coaching , hopefully that will help address the cause and you can get back I to pain free running


  • Remy

    Thanks for sharing this, it was exactly what I need to hear actually. Think
    Smart is not always easy, but always a good reminder when body tell to take it easy. Even if I run ultras I will have faith in quality vs quantity:) and take some days on regular basis to rest. I have found much inspiration from your blog with many great exercise and thoughts for running. Thanks for sharing Andy. Kindly regards// Remy

    • Andy DuBois

      Thanks for the kind word Remy – good to know you’ve found the articles helpful

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