Friday thoughts #6: Niggles

Strength exercises are great injury prevention
The start of the ultra racing season is well and truly upon us. In Scotland there’s been some stellar performances already with course records being smashed left, right and centre. Abroad the big races are warming up too and the sport is growing rapidly. That means it is permeating in our every day. You can’t pick up a running magazine, phone or a tablet without seeing something spectacular and motivating. Hell, even that 2 hour marathon circus was captivating.

But in all of ‘em massively motivational mind-melting magnificent markers (try saying that 5 times quickly) being set there lurks a danger. A danger so sneaky it we ignore it. A danger so sneaky we dismiss it. A danger so sneaky it would steal the milk from your tea and come back for the sugar.

That danger is injury.

I wrote a couple of years back about the importance of being rested. Today I am going splurge a few hundred words on niggles and the difference between them and injury.

Now, if you are expecting some remarkable insight into this subject, a ground breaking revelation that will for generations define the separation of injury from niggle then you are going to be as disappointed as Louise was with the toaster* she got for her birthday last week.

But I will try and at least get you thinking about it.

Phil Maffetone says a “niggle can be defined as a twinge, ache, a noticeable feeling not quite right”.

For me the most important part is the not quite right part to begin with. Many of us will run with niggles almost constantly. I am continually working with pains and sores here and there. But importantly, I – with coach Paul’s excellent guidance – work proactively every single day, sometimes multiple times a day, on ensuring I prevent injury as much as possible.

When I have a niggle I become hyper-aware of it. I focus “bonus” stretching or strength exercises into the area. When I am running I consciously centre on any pain points. Then I need to be both sufficiently honest and tough with myself. By honest, I may have to pull a session or at the very least ease back. By tough, I need to make sure I am not too soft on myself.

In short, I listen to my body and help with the healing process. My #1 indicator is it getting any worse in session or up to a day after. If not, I will generally continue training but with a slant on recovery actions. I may also reduce intensity. If it goes on a few days longer, I will start to look at physio help and support.

Injury, well that tends to be more obvious. And honesty has to be more blunt. If you are an obstinate lover of running, the kind who becomes so angsty about missing sessions or not getting your regular fix, then this is key. Injury doesn’t ease off with continual exertion of the affected area. It gets worse.

That’s your first indicator. If you need to take pain relief to run. That’s your second indicator. If you find you are ignoring the problem in the hope that Mr Miyagi from the Karate Kid will come along and magically ease your pain. That’s your third indicator. If the realisation that your injury leaves you feeling a gnawing sense of unease in your stomach. That’s your fourth indicator. And so on.

Listen to your body and be sensible. It is after all just a hobby for most of us, so stay healthy!

This is the 6th in a series of weekly blogs I am doing on running hints and tips. The series will be as long as a piece of string. Last week’s is here. If you find it useful why not share it. If I wasted your time, let me know and I will do a requisite forfeit to make up for it! 

*This is a long standing joke between Lou and I. I’ve threatened almost every year since we moved in together to get her a toaster. One year I will. And now you are thinking, what a pair of saddos. Get a life, etc. I don’t care. I will always love her no matter how often she burns the Warburton’s super toastie bread. So there.

10 replies to “Friday thoughts #6: Niggles

  1. Terrific toaster thought to tie the training theme together today (10 reps)(alliteration a lot better than marmite on yer toast James)

  2. My OH has, in the past, bought me a microwave as a birthday present …. I’m speaking to him again, just!

  3. My ex bf very kindly bought me a gift for running my first marathon. The reasons behind it were actually very thoughtful and kind, but unfortunately he hadn’t made a rather crucial connection. I am a regular last-place/almost last-place finisher as you know, and bless his heart he had bought me…

    a SLOW cooker.

    I nearly died laughing, as did he when he twigged.

    Back to the post… that horrible feeling in your stomach is always the crucial one for me. Like you say, if you are listening and in tune with yourself, you pretty much always know when it’s something more serious.

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