When Running Hurts

27 Jun


I have to admit – I’ve been a little bit disenchanted with running lately.  Running and I have been in a long relationship for 10-15 years and we’ve had our ups and downs, so these feelings are to be expected from time to time.  We have moments of pure joy and ecstasy, followed by hurt and frustration.  It happens with any relationship.  At this point, I don’t let these bumps ruin what we have – but I tell you what… they are a pain!  My runner’s knee has been frustrating to no end- I still am not really running “pain free.”  Honestly, I’m feeling a bit discouraged – will my knees ever allow me to run wild and fancy-free again?

My other running frustration, asthma, has been flaring it’s nasty head lately too.  What happened to my gleeful runs of just 2 months ago?  You know, the ones where I was fast, fierce, and head-over-heels for running?  Yeah, they are gone for now.  Instead they’ve been replaced by their slower, asthmatic, heavy-breathing, painful stepsister.  It’s not a pretty sight.  Like usual I’m really trying to remain positive and be patient (key word: trying).  But it’s hard!  I want to be back to where I was… can’t I be, pretty please?

Well, since I’m not a fan of pity parties… let’s get productive.  I’ve been doing some brainstorming… what can I do when running hurts?  What can I do when I’m frustrated with running?  How can I feel more at peace about running, or my lack-of?  So instead of letting this frustration eat me up – here are some ideas for moving past the hurt in running.

What to do when running hurts:

  1. Stop.  This may seem like the obvious one… but why is it so hard to do?  As soon as I “shouldn’t” be running, it is ALL I want to do.  Taking a break from running helps your injury (or whatever hurts) recover, but also has the added benefit of giving you a mental break.  Normally when I come back at running following a break, I’m mentally fresh and recharged.  I’m trusting (and hoping) that will happen this time too.
  2. Try something new.  Noooo… I like running, I don’t want to do anything else!  I know, I know.  It’s hard.  It’s even hard for me to type it.  But, it’s possible that a little break from running might allow you (and me) the time to discover a new hobby.  And that’s exciting right?  When I trained for my first marathon I was experiencing stress-fracture symptoms and dove headfirst into swimming and biking (oh yeah, pun intended).  I essentially taught myself how to swim in a lane (a whole story for another day), but it gave me something to supplement my running.  Additionally I enjoyed the challenge of trying to not drown master something new.
  3. Stay away from running.  Sometimes when I’m really down about running, I just stay away: mentally, literally, in every way etc. etc.  I will stop reading Runner’s World (save it in a pile for later) or reading intently all my favorite running blogs or doing anything that could make me feel worse about not running.  It may sound a little extreme, but for me even a slight reduction in running related activities can be mentally helpful.
  4. Get involved with running. So in contrast to the point above… sometimes getting more involved in running “stuff” can be helpful.  Volunteer at a local race, plan for races in the future, or cheer on your friends from the sideline (or blogosphere).  I think it really depends on what particular issue is causing the pain and how you cope.  I’ve used both strategies at different times in my life and they both can be helpful.
  5. Be proactive with injuries.  The best way to avoid a serious injury is to listen to your body when you have a not-so-serious injury.  Take it as a cue to slow down, stretch more, ice more, or reduce mileage.  The sad fact is that running can cause running-related injuries.  Makes sense though.  Sometimes using your head to reduce miles instead of following your heart’s desire to run, run, run, can be most helpful in the long-run (no pun intended this time).
  6. Add in strength-training.  Want to make your body more durable?  Add in some weekly strength-training!  Getting your core and legs stronger will help your body once you do return to running.  Or if you haven’t stopped running, adding strength training now can help prevent injury in the future.
  7. Up the stretching.  This one is a hard one for me to remember.  I think it is for a lot of people.  Time is such a precious thing that spending 10 minutes to stretch after a run seems unnecessary or wasteful.  A whole ten minutes?? Well earth-to-kelly: it’s not wasteful!  It’s incredibly helpful in the prevention of running related injuries.  Can we make a pact that we’ll remind each other to do it?  Everyday?
  8. Don’t play the comparison game.  Gah – another one I stink at.  Don’t compare someone else’s running story with your own.  The reality is: I’m on my own running path and nothing anyone else does will affect my injury, ability, PRs, or races.  That’s a fact.  Try to stay away from letting your mind compare, “I wish I wasn’t injured so I could run an awesome race like Courtney.”  “It’s all because of my knees that I won’t get my PR like Katherine in the fall.”  “I’m not a real runner like Jane because I haven’t been able to run over 2 miles in months.”  It’s just a waste of time and in the end doesn’t result in anything positive.  The comparisons don’t even have to be against another person…sometimes I’m my own worst enemy/critic.  Take the names out of those thoughts and it’s still a negative comparison that doesn’t end well, “I won’t PR because of my injury” or “I’m not a real runner because I’ve been living it up on the coach for weeks.”  There is no winner with the comparison game.
  9. Stay positive!  Most running-related injuries can be overcome with proper rest, care, stretching, and fixing the root cause.  I have overcome running injuries in the past, I just need to remember I’ll do it again this time.
  10. Focus on nutrition.  One thing that often happens when I go from running 40 a miles a week to 10 is I eat the same way no matter the mileage.  This can lead to even more feelings of self pity because then I feel lethargic, and eventually a bit heavy.  This makes it even harder to get back at running when your body/injury is finally ready.  Don’t throw an ice cream pity party – save that for a real break-up.  You know you and running will make-up at some point.  Patience and take good care of your body in the meantime.

Man alive, I feel better already about my little running situation.  Here’s to hoping I can listen to my own words and continue to be patient as my knees recover.  Isn’t that always the hard part though?  It’s always easier said than done.  Well, if you’re struggling with running injuries – know you aren’t alone!  Sometimes that simple fact is helpful enough.

Happy almost-Friday!


What do you do when running hurts?  How do you channel it?

24 Responses to “When Running Hurts”

  1. Josh Stephenson June 27, 2013 at 11:10 am #

    Great post. I find this applicable to many areas of fitness and perhaps even many areas of life.

    • kelly @ racesrepsramblings June 27, 2013 at 11:28 am #

      Thanks Josh! True – it’s amazing how that happens with running…it really can apply to all areas.

  2. RunningTallTails June 27, 2013 at 11:46 am #

    Great post! Since I’ve only been running for 3 months, I haven’t experienced any injuries yet (knock on wood!) But I will definitely keep these in mind. Number 8 has been the hardest for me, even as I was starting out. I’m very competitive and sometimes it will just irk me if I’m not where I think I should be. Thanks for the post!

    • kelly @ racesrepsramblings June 27, 2013 at 2:37 pm #

      Thanks so much! And yes – you are lucky to remain injury free, preventative stuff is definitely important. And I hear you on Number 8 – it’s just so tough to not be where we think we should be. Super frustrating. The nice thing is now I use those not-so-great races or runs as milestones so I can really see my improvement. That has been very empowering for me! :)

  3. Alex @ Brain, Body, Because June 27, 2013 at 11:51 am #

    Being proactive is such good advice! Many serious injuries could be prevented if we would just listen when they start out as a tiny little pain.

    It has taken me many years, but I’m finally learning to distinguish between the good pain of pushing yourself from the bad pain of pushing yourself too hard. It’s tricky!

    • kelly @ racesrepsramblings June 27, 2013 at 2:38 pm #

      Totally agree – why don’t we just listen to our bodies?? I’m always kicking myself for that one. You are spot on – I think there is a fine line between “good” pain and “bad” pain. Definitely takes a while to see the difference.

  4. PNWRunner June 27, 2013 at 1:39 pm #

    Great advice. I agree, stretching can be the toughest thing. Just because I don’t always think about doing it before and after. It is something I need to work on.

    • kelly @ racesrepsramblings June 27, 2013 at 2:39 pm #

      Thanks! Stretching is so easy, but so hard! I just need to wear a bracelet that says stretch on it or put an alarm in my phone or SOMETHING. I know it would help me out so much in the long run. I’ve made strides with it for sure, but I could stand for more improvement!

      • PNWRunner June 27, 2013 at 2:48 pm #

        That is a great idea. I’ll have to try putting an alarm on.

  5. Tubontherun June 27, 2013 at 5:45 pm #

    Can I add another? Run on different surfaces for a change. I’m terribly guilty of only running on pavements, but the hard surface can aggravate my knees. Running off road, on woodland trails, really helped mix things up and gave me a little boost of enthusiasm.

    Take it easy Kelly – you’re in this for the long haul, so short term pain (by not being able to as much as you’d like), definitely longer term gain!

    • kelly @ racesrepsramblings June 28, 2013 at 5:47 pm #

      Of course you can add another! And you are so right about that one. I share your guilt on this one – soft surfaces definitely make a big difference! And the variety is fun too :) Thanks for the words of encouragement – I really need the remind to not push it for the short term… it isn’t worth it!

  6. traveltrekkr June 27, 2013 at 7:01 pm #

    Fantastic post! Being proactive and stretching are important pieces to keeping health enough to run. I easily spend an equal time per week running and stretching/physio exercises (3 hours per week of each). It sounds excessive, but it keeps my body balanced and ready to run.

    • kelly @ racesrepsramblings June 28, 2013 at 5:48 pm #

      Thanks so much! Your dedication to stretching and prevention is inspiring!! It truly can be done I guess :) It’s a hard one to remember, but I’m guessing that now you’re in the habit of it, you couldn’t imagine life without it!

  7. jojo922 June 27, 2013 at 7:02 pm #

    Boooo runner’s knee! They are truly the worse :(

  8. megbek June 27, 2013 at 10:19 pm #

    I can totally relate to this girl. I really can’t imagine being patient in a situation like this. It’s hard to confess this kind of thing, for sure, and it’s so reassuring to read. I absolutely would take the route of staying away from running things, including blogs. It’s hard to not run but constantly read about happiness from everyone out there who is still running pain free. I have my ups and downs with running and when I’m down, I’m the most discouraged human in the world. And, unlike you, I don’t keep things classy and I throw myself a pity party and invite anyone who will listen. It’s pathetic. Anyway, these are all great tips, and I hope you can practice what you preach – this is all so very crucial to a successful recovery. :) I’m keeping my fingers crossed for you and especially because we need to run a race together!!!! Keep your head up – it sounds like you’re already doing a great job with it. <3

    • kelly @ racesrepsramblings June 28, 2013 at 5:51 pm #

      Yeah you’ve found out my trick – I write these posts to preach to myself so hopefully something gets through my brain!! It also keeps me somewhat talking about running when I can’t really enjoy it fully – so that’s good! And I feel you on the staying away from blogs or Runner’s World. This time I’m not totally out for the count (I’m still allowed to run short distances), so I haven’t totally gone cold turkey on all that stuff, but I’ve definitely reduced it. I think it helps. And next time you have a pity party – I’m in. I’ll bring the froyo and we can complain all night :) Thanks for the warm thoughts and encouragement!! Fingers crossed I’ll be back to normal soon!

  9. Brittany June 28, 2013 at 1:07 am #

    OK I swear that the time anyone wants to run the MOST is when they can’t. It’s like having your security blanket yanked from you! I had a case of runners knee RIGHT before my last half marathon, and was so worried I wouldn’t be able to run it. I took a week off of running (which drove me MAD) and I got a patellar tendon strap that was GREAT!!! I was able to thankfully run the race and wore the brace until my knee felt better!! This list is great, and I hope you heal up soon!! Stay positive and DEFINITELY don’t compare!

    • kelly @ racesrepsramblings June 28, 2013 at 5:53 pm #

      I know, right?? I almost need someone to tell me not to run when I really need to train hard or something – I think that would motivate me super well! :) And thank goodness you could run your last half – hallelujah! I hope it went well! I’ve used the patellar strap before – but maybe I should get more serious about wearing it regularly, at this point I’m willing to try anything! Thanks for the kind words and encouragement :)

  10. Catherine @ A Two Storey Home June 28, 2013 at 8:05 am #

    Ugh, I’m sorry :-/ Do you think it’s the heat? My knee started acting up this week too. What the heck?! I am trying to remain positive as well and do other activities to stay fit! Great list of how to handle injuries!

    • kelly @ racesrepsramblings June 28, 2013 at 5:55 pm #

      You know – I don’t know what the deal is! I’ve had knee issues for the past few months even in the cold, so I’m not sure I can entirely blame the heat. But I’m looking for a scapegoat and that just might do! :) I read about your knee pain too!! Gosh darnit! I hope that it starts feeling better, literally I feel your pain :(


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