It’s easy for things to break down when training for a half-marathon. On a ten-mile training run, you are likely logging more than 15,000 strides! But when your body is hurting, it’s hard to cut back on those miles since you don’t want to give up on your hard-earned progress and your time goals.
So what do you do if something starts to hurt more than just normal soreness? Having suffered through plenty of overuse injuries myself, I know the struggle. Here are some tips for managing these problems and sticking with your training:
Give yourself as much rest as you can. When you are training every day or even every other day, you aren’t giving your body much time to repair itself. You should know when something is wrong—don’t wait until you’re limping to stop running!
- If you have more than 4 weeks until the race, you can easily take 7 days off running without your times suffering. Use the time to maintain your fitness: swim or do interval training on a bike.
- After 7 days of cross-training, try doing 5 miles at your goal half-marathon pace or a little slower. If all goes well, resume your training program.
- For injury prevention, I recommend running only two or three times a week, cross-training in between. You can still meet your time goals this way.
Don’t forget your core work, stretching, and foam rolling/massage.
- Core exercises and stretching (emphasize hamstrings, quads, and Achilles) are really important for injury prevention.
- If you are having muscular pain, using a foam roller or deeply massaging the area of tenderness after your workouts is a good idea. These techniques help break up scar tissue and bring more blood flow to injured tissues.
- Stretching and massage should be done after your workout when you are warm for maximum benefit.
General advice for healing injuries:
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and protein. Make sure you’re getting enough calories to meet your training needs.
- Take vitamin D3 supplements (1000 IU daily unless you have a known vitamin D deficiency, in which case you should be taking more). There is little downside to vitamin D, which is good for bone and muscle health and can improve athletic performance.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, (i.e., Advil, Motrin, Aleve) are effective at relieving pain but can also mask more serious injuries. They can also slow down healing. If you need NSAIDs around the clock to manage your pain, it’s probably time to see an orthopedic surgeon.
Dr. Elizabeth Cody is a foot & ankle surgeon at HSS. She has experience treating foot and ankle arthritis, foot and ankle injuries, ankle instability, and congenital and acquired foot deformities, including flatfoot and hallux valgus (bunion) deformities. As a Division I collegiate rower and lifelong athlete, she has a particular interest in treating athletes.