Racing toward a goal, but you get injured? Here's what to do.

I'm going to talk about me for a little while (again!), but most of you know I've got my first half-marathon looming at the end of October. I've been strictly following my training plan and playing it safe with slow mileage increases, but sometimes the muscle tweak and the bone twinge are inevitable. Mistakes happen, products fail, or we get a little carried away. (I blame moving furniture, running on sidewalks, and OLD sneakers for this sore foot.) Now with four weeks left before the Big Race, I'm left with a decision to make: do I run through the pain and hope it goes away? or do I take a break and risk being out of shape and struggle-busing through the race? 

I think it's a knee jerk reaction for most runners and athletes to power through the pain of an injury. We all chase after our sport and our goals for the same basic reason: it brings us some level of happiness and satisfaction. We're reluctant to abandon those good feelings even if they're starting to get a little painful. There are times when this is totally okay. And there are times when...well...not so much.

It was the best of times...

If something doesn't feel right, the easy answer and the one you'll probably see most often on the internet is "call your doctor." But now you're forking out a co-pay to either be told you're fine or you're done. And who wants to pay money for bad news?! Unfortunately, there are times when this is all that's left to do. But here are some instances when you might be able to take matters into your own hands!

1. Experiment a little.

Okay, so be careful with this one, but it's also good to know what you're dealing with. Try taking a small break—skip the workout today and try a light one tomorrow. If you feel fine after this, you're most likely okay to start ramping it up again. If there's still a little bit of that aching left over, try sticking to a lighter training regiment for a few more days. If you can make it through your run without needing to stop and take an aspirin, stay on those easy runs. Keep the distances a little shorter than you may prefer and definitely skip those speed days for a while.

2. Try a new exercise.


Swimming is a great, no impact workout! Courtesy of

If one bone or muscle group is hurting, strengthen the others! Take some time off from the track and hop into the pool! Or hit up that yoga class you've been wanting to try. Low-impact work will protect your body and allow any potential injuries to heal while you continue to stay in shape. Stretching works out kinks and keeps your muscles working properly. Your muscles are there not only to pump you through your workout, but also protect those bones, so treat 'em nice every once in a while!

3. You MUST keep running? There's a strategy for that too!

I'm not sure how well this works because I haven't personally tried it myself, but changing up your stride could help you out, too. Apparently, short steps and fast feet, as opposed to those long, loping strides, helps give your joints a little break. Who knew?!

It was the worst of times...

cast on foot

Uh-oh! Courtesy of

Sometimes we can't avoid it no matter how much we may want to. You have to call the doc when ...

1. You literally can't move.

Stuck in bed, on the couch—or worse—on the trail. Who you gonna call? The doctor. Sorry, but if you're incapacitated, there's literally no way around making that appointment. 

2. You're popping those pills.


I know many runners who have gotten stomach ulcers from taking too much ibuprofen just to get through their training regimen. Courtesy of

If you can't get through the day (never mind a workout!) without stocking up on those over-the-counter painkillers, it's time to schedule with your doctor. I know too many runners that tried to power through the pain by taking copious amounts of ibuprofen to mask their injuries so they could keep running and training for those races. And you know what ended up happening? They ended up at the doctor for more serious injuries AND stomach ulcers. No thank you.

3. There's swelling.

Sorry, but swelling is the sign of a serious injury. If you twisted your ankle, you may not need to hit up the doctor's office (ice should do you just fine!), but you will definitely need to take more than a day off. A lot of times though, you may need to do some physical therapy to get that ankle, muscle, or joint back in working order. 

Luckily, if you get injured with plenty of time left before your race, you can probably ease back into training and get back after your goals. That being said, move slowly. Training too soon, too hard, or both is a recipe for injuring yourself again. If your race is right around the corner, fingers crossed that you'll only need to miss a maximum of a week of training. That won't set you back too far and you'll probably still be able to participate in your race. It may not be at the level you were hoping for, but it's better than having to sit this one out.

Good luck and stay safe!

The Run-Around is a weekly feature, focusing on fitness in and around Annapolis, MD.