Let’s face it, we’ve all tried to train with a niggle or two. Sometimes it works, but other times it blows up in your face and you end up with a full blown injury. In this article I’ll share my method for deciding when to rest and when to train.
I’ve spent quite a bit of time thinking about this article in the last week and I’ve come to the conclusion that I use a combination of 4 factors to decide when I can train vs. rest.
Here's the video from the livestream I did in the Sports Injury Group:
1. Amount of pain/discomfort
This is likely the most obvious factor that dictates my training. If what I feel falls more into the pain/ache category rather than “I can just feel something niggle”, I would usually opt for cross training.
The activity that I choose to do instead of my normal training will be something that doesn’t put a lot of strain on the sore bit of my body. E.g. if my calf is hurting, I may opt for cycling or swimming instead of running. Both of those activities still uses the calf muscle but not nearly as much as running. Or if my shoulder is hurting I may opt for running rather than swimming.
2. Test it
You have to be willing to adapt your training when you have a niggle. Test it out with an easy training session. How does it react within the first kilometre of an easy run?
Is it getting worse? Consider turning that run into a walk and going cross training instead.
Is it easing off? Great, but check how it feels in the 24 hours after the run. If it’s absolutely fine, then all is good and you should be able to continue light training until it has fully recovered. If, however, it’s more uncomfortable or keeps coming back, I would consider cross training instead and seeing a physio for injury advice.
3. Identify the cause
Knowing what structure in the body you’ve annoyed and how you did it can help you mix up your training so that you can allow that bit to recover while maintaining your fitness.
Here’s an example: My other half had a knee injury a few weeks back. Typical runner’s knee (patello-femoral pain) which was brought on by a lot of downhill running. Lucky for him his girlfriend decided to take pity on him (he was moaning my ears off) and give him some expert advice 😉. I suggested that he stuck to flat ground and keep his strides short (increasing step rate decreases the force through your legs) which meant that he was able to run pain free and allow his knee to recover at the same time.
How can you mix up your terrain, speed/intensity or style to decrease the load on your niggly body part?
4. Learn from every niggle
Every injury and niggle you get should become a learning opportunity. If you’re going to have to take time out from training, you may as well gain something positive from that experience!
Think about the factors that may have combined to cause the niggle: Training volume, terrain, frequency, time of day, mental fatigue, warm-up etc.
Think about previous times that you’ve felt similar niggles – how did you adapt your training then to get rid of it? Did it go badly wrong when you trained through this before? If you’ve never felt this niggle before, apply steps 1 to 3 above and make notes for the future.