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As a running enthusiast and coach, I see a lot of images about pain and running. Here are a few I found online in a 30-second search:

As a runner, I am saddened by these images that suggest that pain is an integral part of running and that the only way to become a better runner is to suffer. As a coach, I couldn’t disagree more with this message.

I propose a new perspective about pain: If it hurts, stop!

As a coach, I advise my clients that pain is a message from your body that something is wrong. This is basically the take-home message from all of my coaching sessions. If the current statistics are true, that up to 80% of runners are injured every year (Gent, Br J Sports Med, 2007), I believe that a considerable contributing factor in such a high percentage is the pervasive idea that one should run through pain.

When I say ‘pain’, I do not mean the soreness or fatigue of muscles that are being well used. I mean a sharp pain or dull ache that persists while running.

Some of the consequences that can result from running in pain include (but are most certainly not limited to):

  • Causing an injury resulting in a necessary break from running in order to heal
  • Exacerbating an existing injury resulting in an extended healing time
  • A change in gait to avoid the pain resulting in a compensation injury
  • Compensation that can become a new muscle memory reducing skillfull running
  • Failure to reach running goals of distance, speed, etc. because of forced time away from running
  • Perhaps most importantly: It is simply not fun to run in pain!

I encourage anyone, no matter what activity they’re doing, to stop if it hurts. If you’re running and experiencing pain, start walking. If it hurts a few hours later or the next day (and again, not the kind of soreness experienced from well used muscles), you likely ran too far for your body’s current level of strength and/or skill. Reduce your distance and/or speed, and assess your current skill level. If you need help assessing your running skill, we have an Online Coaching option that can help you with that.

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