Running When Injured is Stupid

Running When Injured is Stupid

Running when injured is stupid…

Why? You aren’t going to recover, make the injury worse, be miserable, and you probably won’t run faster.


Running When Injured is Stupid

The doctor told me yesterday at my first follow up appointment that I was healing appropriately.  In fact, X-rays also confirmed I had a small stress fracture.  My stress fracture to appear on an X-ray!  The doctor had to squint a few times through his glasses, but it was there.  Personally, I couldn’t see anything except that I had a foot and that it had been x-rayed …but once again, one of the many reasons I’m not a doctor.

He said if everything heals appropriately, I could be running in early October (Roughly 6 weeks after the initial “break”).  t first, I said running when injured is stupid. I followed it up with a joke and said I would run today, rebreak my foot, or worse (and a high possibility )shatter the bone.

Just kidding, I have no interest in doing that, and running when injured is stupid.  I said this yesterday, but I have nothing to train for.  My race schedule is as clear as someone who doesn’t run.  I don’t need (or want) to run injured and force a fast recovery only to get more injured later on.

Call me old-fashioned, just plain old, or paranoid, but there are no benefits to running in pain and running while injured.  (Working hard pain is different…but that’s really not fun either)

So Why is running when injured is stupid?

  • You won’t enjoy running when you are in a lot of pain.  I do not enjoy anything when every step is painful.  How on earth is that fun?  You are forced to think about your pain, not how much you are enjoying the run.
  • You are probably slower when running when injired.  You can’t run your normal pace when you are in pain.  So is the run helping you the way a pain-free run is?  No…you probably aren’t preserving that much fitness.
  • Third, the more you run on an injury (especially a stress fracture), the worse it will probably get.  A small stress fracture (as I have now) will only worsen if you run mediocre and painful runs on it.

So in short, running when injured is stupid because you are running in pain, slow as molasses, and not preserving much fitness. If you don’t slowly make the injury worse by running on it, you run the risk of shattering the bone.

An injury that takes a month to heal (in my case) would now take 6+ months and possible surgery.

So say you need surgery because you were too stubborn to rest? You would end up taking months off instead of weeks. Catching an injury early saves you months.

Running while injured is stupid and pointless.  It has taken me a few tries (tries of being injured?) to get to this point, but I’m here.  When I was in college, I believed the collegiate races at the end of the season were going to define me…they haven’t.  Not showing up to Wineglass because I’m two days recovered from a stress fracture won’t define me.  In fact, no single race defines you because your life is not a one-race definition.

Unless you are in the highest tier of elite athletes (or a college scholarship athlete), then chances are you aren’t getting paid to run.  Running doesn’t pay your bills, and not running isn’t going to cause you to be unable to survive in the real world.  The world moves on while you rest and recover from an injury.  You move on while you rest and recover.  Once you are recovered, you begin training again, and in a couple of months (or faster), you are back to training regularly.

Maybe I’ve become a paranoid old woman, but I enjoy this rest time.  I enjoy finding hobbies that don’t lead to surgery. So when you are hobbling along due to an injury remember running when injured is stupid.

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Question for you: Have you been guilty of running when injured? If you don’t train through injuries, what do you spend your time doing? 


  1. To me, the decision not to run when I was injured was out of my hands. The doc said no running, I wasn’t going to run. Even before I went to the doc, my foot hurt. I’m not going to run when it doesn’t feel good. There was no question for me… but you wouldn’t believe that people suggested I walk races I was signed up for (Yes, I could walk for daily activities but 3.1 miles isn’t exactly like walking from my car into a store or to my mailbox). Some even suggested I run the race but do it easier, like staying with my husband! Even if I could’ve run sooner, I didn’t push it, I’d rather take an extra week or two off just to be safe, I was still able to cross train and I’m almost 100% now. So it sucks not being able to run but in the end it’s just not worth it to risk hurting yourself again. I still take days off if I need it or if something just feels weird.

  2. I’ve been running for about five years now. I ran through injuries (including both times through marathon training; hip and ITB issues, PF, as well as a possible stress fracture), but I know when to STOP now. My alternative is swimming, which I’m happy to do. I think my stubbornness would come out again if I were injured in the middle of race training (*knocks on wood*), but hitting the water ASAP would be my plan of action, in hopes of getting back to it before race day.

    Time off depends on the injury. I’ve taken a month off. I’ve taken two weeks off.

  3. I’m totally with you. I won’t run while hurt (we seem to be the minority.) I appreciate reading your perspective because it seems so much more well adjusted than the norm 😉

  4. I love the balance of the title and the open possibility for discussion! Open minded post 🙂

  5. Agreed! I’m so with you on this one! I think I’ve always said how important I think rest is and how stupid it is to work on when injured! I’ve talked to so many people about resting when they complain of pain while doing anything. Just wait till it’s gone and then go back to working out! I still don’t do certain lifts, 1 year after my thumb injury! I notice it feels different with things like overhead squats cause of the stress, so now I don’t do them anymore. There’s a high risk for reinjury with what I did so what’s the point of risking it? I think I’ll live a healthy, active life without overhead squatting EVER again, or without lifting 100lbs on cleans. For reals.

  6. nope, I don’t! Once something feels off, I step back right away. One of the reasons why my stress fracture healed so quickly is because I knew something was wrong right away and stopped running. So while waiting for all the tests, I just didn’t run!

  7. I’ve tried to run through injury in the past and it all depends on what the injury is, but this time I wouldn’t even consider it. 1) I’m in a boot, can’t run with it, 2) I don’t want it to become a full blow stress fracture or fracture. Like you said, it’s not worth it. I’ve backed out of a few October races knowing I won’t be even a little ready. I don’t want to run them just to run them slow and out of shape.

  8. Your point is well-taken. I have only had one serious injury a couple years ago. I had bursitis in my knee and the doctor said no running for at least 4 weeks. Turned out to be more like 6 weeks. Ironically, it takes almost as much discipline not to run as it does to run regularly. I desperately wanted to run, because I was training for my first Half, but I sat out and was glad I did. Never had another issue with the knee. Running in pain is foolish.

    1. I feel like also, when you are told you can’t do something you want to do it so much more!

  9. I’ve only had to learn this lesson once, and I hope to never be that stupid again. An injury that might take a week or two to heal sidelined me for almost two months. I think some times it’s hard to distinguish between normal sourness or tightness and a real injury. But when it’s obvious, the smartest thing to do is listen to your body/doctor. Pain is the way we know things aren’t working right.

    I’m glad the foot is healing!

  10. Also a lesson I’ve learned the hard way ha. Last year was the first time I really ran through an injury, and while I know it was stupid (knew it at the time too), I probably wouldn’t change anything about it because it taught me a lot about how mentally tough and determined I am to finish something that I start (plus at that point, I couldn’t stand the thought of not finishing something I spent my entire summer training for), so when I start whining about being tired this year and not wanting to go for a run for whatever reason, all I have to do is say, “Um yeah, remember when you had to walk the last 6.5 miles of your marathon last year and you did it anyway, refusing any help from the course monitors? Get your ass moving, now.” Having said that, it is not something I will be repeating for any race in the future nor would I advise anyone to do what I did because I know how lucky I am that I didn’t get more injured. These days, I’m all about listening to my body and being smart. I’m so tired I can barely keep my eyes open or I feel something more than a usual twinge that isn’t helped by stretching and rolling? Extra rest day it is. Like you said, there will always be other races and nothing is more important than health

  11. I’ve actually done both Hollie of course the running through injury was in my earlier distance running days. Now I’ve come to learn that nothing is gained by running through injury in actuality things can be lost.

  12. I’ve luckily never been seriously injured, I had an “overuse” situation about 2.5 years ago. I took a serious 5-6 weeks off and have never been better. I often remind myself that I am not an elite, I am not paid to do this and if it something I want to do the rest of my life – train smart.

  13. You’re being so smart and mature about this injury. Luckily, I haven’t sustained a serious injury from running, but during my basketball days, I played through my fair share of ankle sprains. I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t any pressure to play through it, which unfortunately seems to be normal for collegiate athletics.

    1. Ankle sprains are so painful. Personally I see a lot less triathletes injured but I guess you guys have so many different types of training between everything.

  14. I often have an ache or pain, but 99% of the time nothing that serious. I use RICE and back off on the miles most of the time. If something is bothering me a lot (like my knee last January) I will stop running.
    Running should not be our whole identity. Sometimes at work I feel that people see me more as a runner than even an employee or dad or whatever.
    No single race is worth your health. It’s smart to back off and heal properly. What would people call you if you couldn’t run anymore? 😉

  15. I love how you are so rational and logical about running, it’s so easy to get obsessed and not keep a clear head about it all. I don’t ever risk running when I can sense that something might be wrong, like you said a few days is better than a potential few months.

  16. Uh, I have to be honest. In college, as a former DI XC athlete, I ran for part of my stress fracture, from the time up until I was actually put in a boot. I used to sneak out for runs when my parents weren’t home. I think it goes back to your point about pressure. If it was nothing and I was just being a baby, did I want to be the one girl that came back to school out of shape? No! Luckily, I recovered just about as well as I could have and was back at it in 6 weeks.

    1. What kind of stress fracture? That’s interesting. I think collegiate is a lot different, although personally I couldn’t see myself running through any fracture.

  17. Running on a stress fracture is a bad, bad, bad, thing!

    Unfortunately I know from experience. What should have been a 6-8 week recovery turned into !) MONTHSSSS. I followed doctors order and returned when they said I could and it kept coming back. It was truly the most frustrating and expensive experience of my life. I finally found a doctor who ordered an MRI since my xray was clean, and he was able to properly treat me.

    I am so glad that now you officially have an answer as to what the source of your pain is! Not know was the worst!

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