What is the Line that Separates Pain from Injury?

By: Coach Maleia Tumolo

October 11th 2019

You have headed out for a run and you realize that something is off… your knee feels funny or maybe your shin is burning a little.  Here is the thing beginner or Pro it doesn’t mater who you are because training for endurance sports as a runner, cyclist, or swimmer you will get injured at some point.  You just have to except it’s going to happen.   But there is no reason to panic yet!

The goal of training is to improve.  So in order to do that you have to apply stress to break down your body so that you can build it back up stronger.  The stress you are applying is minor but at some point you may take it a step too far and BAMB out of nowhere your shin is hurting.

So what’s the line that separates pain from injury?  That’s a hard question because it’s personal.  Some people feel every ache and pain while others can run on a stress fracture for months.  So with that in mind it’s always good to error on the safe side then to push through it thinking your mind or body is playing tricks on you so you try to run it off.  In the long run more rest will always be better when you are in doubt.

Here are a few points I like to adhere to

  • your default should automatically be to rest even if you think it is minor
  • If something hurts when you are walking don’t run!
  • If you start a run in a little bit of discomfort the keeps getting worst STOP and GO HOME!!!

Next you need to do a self evaluation

  • Am I injured ?  Yes or maybe
  • Go see a professional that deals with injuries.  Like a Doctor or physical therapist.
  • Understand what is wrong
  • Rest and follow any doctors orders

This is the good news unless you have a unique injury most stress injuries if caught early can heal quite quickly if you rest at the first sign of discomfort.  But because of the FOMO or becoming untrained most athletes will continue to push and test the injury.  So instead of being out for 3 days now you are dealing with an injury that last 3 months.

Here is my injury rest scale

1 day ???

3 days ???

6 days ???

10 day?? ☺

3 weeks ??? (still not a big deal your body will bounce back pretty quickly)

3 months ??? (now we are talking. About having rebuild to reach back up to your potential)

It’s the decision you make from that first on set of pain despite how small or minor you may think it is that will more often then not determine the course of your injury.   Unfortunately there is no one thing you can do to prevent injuries but there are ways to stock the odds in your favor.

  1. Check the intensity of your training go hard on hard day, easy on easy days, and rest on rest days! More often then not athletes go too hard on easy days or don’t take rest days so their bodies have no time to recover
  2. Your body can not tell the difference between training stress or life stress.  If you have a lot of stress in your life outside of training you may want to adjust your training schedule to compensate for that.
  3. Really rest!  Especially if a niggle pops up.  Get comfortable with doing nothing.  That’s where the magic happens and adaptation begins.

Your goal is to balance training load with rest.  More is not better for almost anyone.  If your training really hard with out adaptation its going to be a recipe for disaster.  Now is the time to focus more on the stuff your body needs to heel and get stronger.