KILDARE RUNNING LIFE: Time off due to injury won’t kill your training goals


Barry Kehoe


Barry Kehoe


KILDARE RUNNING LIFE: Time off due to injury won’t kill your training goals

Recovering from injury

They come in all shapes and sizes; some are long but others are short and stocky. Some even have lumps and bumps. Mine is long and curved from wear and overuse, and my wife cringes when I take it out in the sitting room and she has to listen to moans and groans.

But my foam roller is indispensable in my efforts to avoid injury during marathon training. The effort and hours dedicated to training can all be lost so easily due to injury breakdown. The yearly incidence rates for injury in those training for marathons are reported to be as high as 90%, according to a 2007 study. At some stage of their marathon training, most runners pick up some sort of injury. So why is the rate so high?

The body adapts to the stress and strain of training by getting stronger. But the same stimulus that makes a runner stronger and more resilient can also cause breakdown.

In this sense, training is a controlled breakdown which allows the body to adapt and strengthen once it has recovered.

The heart is the engine of the body. It responds to training and grows stronger at a much quicker rate than structural and muscular changes occur in the body. The engine outpaces the chassis and this is a recognized cause of injuries in runners of all levels.

The heart and lungs might be ready to run 17 miles in training, but the legs may not. When training exceeds the body’s ability to adapt, injury follows.

Running hurts — and sometimes it hurts a lot. We’ve all experienced the agonising point when the brain convinces the body that it is no longer possible to put one foot in front of the other. In order to resist the urge to give up and slow down when feeling miserable, the limits of suffering tolerance most be broken in training.

Suffering is something you have to practice if you want to run longer, farther or faster, because improvement lies at the blurred margins of pain and agony.

So, unfortunately, adaptation and injury are dance partners. There some runners who apparently never get injured and the reality is that they are either genetically gifted, not training hard enough or are just incredibly lucky.

Injury does not just cause pain and have a physical impact on runners; it causes anger and a sense of injustice. It is potentially detrimental to the mental wellbeing of a runner, as they feel their fitness and hard work melt away slowly. There is practically no drop in fitness as a result of missing up to five days of running. After that, conditioning drops more sharply.

Studies show that with two weeks of not running, fitness decreases by 6%. If the injury results in nine weeks of missed training, a 19% reduction in fitness results. However after 11 weeks of no running there is 26% deterioration from peak running fitness.

The withdrawal symptoms from running due to injury tend to be more psychological than physical in nature, and include guilt, irritability, anxiety, tension, restlessness and depression.

Many use running as a coping strategy, to regulate their emotional state and buffer their moods. Daily exercisers refused to participate in a 1970 study which offered to pay them to discontinue exercising for only one month. When the same study was conducted in a less addicted group of people (who exercised three times per week),the participants were found to suffer from poor sleep, became sexually frustrated and complained of a sense of loneliness.

The two main injury risk factors during marathon training are increasing training load too quickly (going too far or too fast), and continuing to train with a previous injury. The most common injuries include achilles tendinitis, plantar fasciitis and patellofemoral syndrome (knee pain. These tend to be ailments that develop over a period of time but athletes continue to run well beyond the initial signs of their presence.

The key is to recognise and address small niggles early. Stop training, take a couple of days off, get the grumbles treated or allow them to settle before they become bigger issues and days turn into weeks. An extra rest day or two has never harmed any marathon training plan, but injury has. Time off due to injury allows reflection; running is not the only way to relieve stress, keep fit or to enjoy exercise... apparently!

Local physio and Newbridge AC member Barry Kehoe offers advice to runners of all levels. See