To train or to rest?
That’s the big question when you feel a niggle developing. Do you back off from training, or push on through? Here’s how you know...
Few of us get through training for a marathon without having to take time off for an injury or illness at some point. ‘The more time you have off, the more gradually you need to get back into your training,’ says physio Alison Rose. ‘For example, if you’ve had two or three weeks off, I’d suggest running only alternate days for the first week back. Then increase to a training-to-rest ratio of 2:1 days and then 3:1 days.’
Start back with a few short easy runs, to start to increase the load on the body again, and to check the injury has healed before starting to push yourself. If you cross-trained during your time off, you’ll have lost less fitness, but it’s still important to reintroduce running gradually. Runners who have lost a lot of time – particularly during the key weeks, when mileage is ramping up – may need to reconsider their goal. Far from copping out, it takes bravery to adjust a goal, or indeed to decide it’s wiser to cut your losses and save your marathon for a later date.
If you get a niggle, ice it as soon as possible, says Rose. She offers these guidelines to help you decide how to proceed thereafter.
Train if... it’s more of a small ache than a pain and movement is not affected. ‘This should be fairly safe to train on, or to ease by cross-training or taking a day or two off,’ says Rose.
Rest if... it’s a sharp pain that doesn’t ease when you slow down. ‘Rest and ice for 24-48 hours,’ says Rose. ‘If possible, rest the injured area but cross-train to stay fit.’ Don’t simply rest for weeks. ‘If it goes on that long it’s an injury; there’s a reason why it’s not going away,’ says Rose. ‘A physio can tell you how to manage the issue and what training you can do.’
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