Is This Pain Normal?

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A-maz-ing lunch! 


The star of the show was the Sweet Potato and Baked Beans Wontons!


Recipe will be up on the Lunch/Dinner page shortly!


On the side, I had Orange Zest Parsnip Fries.  I used the same recipe as my Orange Zest Yucca Fries, but subbed out parsnips.  It was SO good.  Parsnips might be my favorite veg.


Plus a side:


How Can You Distinguish Between Normal Pain and Injury Pain?


This morning, I received an e-mail from one of my favorite readers, Michele!  She had been having some foot/leg trouble while training and wanted to send me an update on her condition, as well as a question that is relevant to us all.


Michelle wrote:


It’s official that I tore my Achilles tendon at the insertion point at the back of my heel.  When I saw that on the ultrasound, I suddenly saw concrete evidence of what I had already known.  I was doing too much.  I was only doing between 15 and 20 miles per week, but I was doing hills and working on speed and increasing distance at the same time.  So now I’m in Physical Therapy and am not supposed to walk/run on hard surfaces until the end of May.  I’m also supposed to do serious strength training and cross-training.  So I joined a gym and anticipate many Hot Dates with Mr. E (Mr. Elliptical, that is).

Anyway, my point is this:  I didn’t know… and perhaps a lot of people don’t really know… how to judge the difference between acceptable "no pain, no gain" kind of pain and the unacceptable "something’s wrong and I should STOP what I’m doing" kind of pain.  How do you judge the difference?  I pushed through way too much because I thought that anyone couldn’t go out for 10 or 12 miles without pain.  So I just sucked it up and kept going… until I literally couldn’t walk without tears from pain the day I finally called the doctor.


This is a GREAT question, and I want to share my own thoughts, and then I’d love to hear your opinions, too. 


As you may have heard, I ruled over a little kingdom called Injury.  Yes, I am the Queen of Injuries.  Athletic tape everywhere bows down to me.


Here’s my background:



Whoa!  Typing it all out makes my injury list look crazy – but it’s really not.  None of these injuries (except the knee issue) were enough to keep me off of exercise or daily activities for more than a week or so.  A lot of my “injuries” were really “UH OH!” moments when I could tell my body was trying to tell me something.  They never became full-blown problems because I noticed something was wrong and took immediate action (or inaction… in the form of rest) to give my body a chance to heal.


Whether you’re training for a 5K, Half Marathon, or Triathlon, injuries can flare up simply because you’re doing something NEW. 


Here’s how I distinguish between normal workout strain (also called “uncomfortableness”) and an impending injury:


  • If the sensation is generalized (i.e. normal = “My legs are killing me!”) vs. if the pain is localized (i.e. injury = “There is a certain spot right above my ankle that hurts like a little biatch!”)
  • If the sensation is uncomfortable (normal) vs. painful (injury)
  • If the sensation is present during normal, everyday activities such as walking to my car, it’s an impending injury.
  • If the sensation does not respond to exercise in a gradual manner (i.e. normal = “I just ran 10 miles and my feet hurt.” vs. injury = “I ran two steps and now my ankle is screaming.”)
  • If your gut thinks it’s an injury, it probably is.


Here’s how I prevent injuries in the first place (or try to!):


  • If you’re starting a new activity, gradually intense intensity.  Just because you can run 2.0 miles on your first go does NOT mean you should.  The rule of thumb for running is not to increase your overall mileage by more than 10% each week.
  • If you’ve been lazy and are getting back into an old activity, the first rule still applies.  Pretend like you’re new again.  When I came back from my 2.5-month hiatus this Spring, I started off with 1.5 mile runs two times a week!
  • Don’t try to achieve multiple training goals at once.  You’re either looking to increase your distance or your speed.  Doing both at one time is possible, but it’s usually a recipe for disaster.
  • Mix up your activity.  Running 5 days a week is not a good idea.  Cross-training (swimming, yoga, biking) is important, as is strength training.
  • Get properly fitted shoes at a running specialty store.
  • If something is sore, generally it’s a good idea to ice it (but ask your doctor first).
  • Don’t fall prey to the female athlete triad.  Not fueling properly can wreck havoc on your body and make you prone to injuries, especially stress fractures.
  • If something even kind-of-sort-of hurts, TAKE TIME OFF (and get checked out by a doctor).  One or two weeks off your training plan will NOT ruin your race.  You can always re-adjust your goals – here’s how to set race goals (and not drive yourself crazy).


How do you distinguish between “uncomfortableness” and “injury”?  What techniques do you use to prevent injuries?



  • Heather (Heather's Dish) April 28, 2010, 1:31 pm

    discomfort is something that is really mild, whereas an injury usually happens after a major event (USUALLY) and is a very sharp pain. or it develops into a sharp pain. i’m thankful to not have had too much experience with injuries though!

  • Anna @ Newlywed, Newly Veg April 28, 2010, 1:37 pm

    I’ve never experienced an injury, so I can’t help with this one too much. But I can say that your wonton lunch looks freakin’ yummy!

  • Tricia April 28, 2010, 1:38 pm

    Did you write this post for me? Ha! I am struggling with a hamstring injury that I feel is “not really that bad”. Everyone says to take time off but I am really trying to tone up and don’t feel that I can. I play tennis twice a week and this is when I really feel it. Running doesn’t make it hurt as bad. I just come home and ice it and it really helps. Shame on me I guess.

    • Caitlin April 28, 2010, 1:45 pm

      just remember that short term gains are not worth long term problems! it’s easy to deal with but you can focus on other stuff (pushups!) i hope you feel better asap!

    • Rachel April 28, 2010, 1:59 pm

      I have definitely struggled with hamstring injuries! Tricia, you should do some hamstring strengthening exercises. One I do is laying on the floor with my legs propped on an exercise ball. I lift my hips, and then roll the ball inwards with my feet. I do 2 sets of 10. It has definitely helped me, and I hope it helps you too!

      • Tricia April 28, 2010, 2:18 pm

        Thanks Rachel. I will definitely give this a try starting today!

  • Jessica @ How Sweet April 28, 2010, 1:39 pm

    I have never had an injury, but I am a full believer in training smart – no matter what it is for.

  • Freya @ Brit Chick Runs April 28, 2010, 1:39 pm

    This is a really fascinating post – just today, my legs were aching running and I was thinking about this exact topic! I think I go by ‘general pain’ and ‘specific pain’. Like, as you say, it’s fine for all of your legs to hurt running – but if it was a specific part, I’d start to rethink…
    But I’ve had so little experience with injuries so far(thank goodness!!) I don’t know much.
    I can’t wait to read everyone else’s ideas!!

  • Beth @ Beth's Journey to Thin April 28, 2010, 1:42 pm

    I love this post – it does look like you have an overwhelming amount of injuries when you list them out like that!

    And those sweet potato black bean wontons – those are baked right?? I’ve done them that way a few times and they’re not “slimy” at all like you said about when you boil them. I actually kind of like the wetness of them, but I love them baked, too!

  • Kelly April 28, 2010, 1:43 pm

    Booo to injuries. In my case there was no warning, my IT band wasn’t feeling tight, my knees weren’t hurting, then one day after a 6 mile run and a few hours shopping I couldn’t walk. 3 months later here I am in physical therapy building back up to 10 min runs.

  • Chloe (Naturally Frugal) April 28, 2010, 1:43 pm

    I experienced a really horrific injury to my left knee when I was 15 (tore all my ligaments, fractured my tibia, suffered nerve damage) and I think that experience has really given me a perspective not a lot of people get. When I am injured I KNOW I am injured and I take time off. I’m lucky to be able to walk, let alone compete in triathlons, take new classes like kickboxing, and live as a functional adult. My body knows what’s best for it, and I do my best to listen!

  • Olivia @ Blissful Runner April 28, 2010, 1:43 pm

    Good timing on this post! I’ve just in the last ten minutes come to the conclusion that the ache in my inner shins is, indeed the onset of shin splints! Hello, elliptical! I’m not taking any chances and resting up!

    • Michele April 28, 2010, 2:06 pm

      I’m with you on “Hello, elliptical!” I like to call him Mr. E. We’ll be getting very reacquainted in upcoming months.

      A fellow reader.

  • Catherine April 28, 2010, 1:45 pm

    I generally judge true “bad injuries” by the sharpness of the pain and whether it seems to be very localized. If you’re out running/biking for over an hour, chances are you will experience soreness and random ebbing pains here and there, but if I feel something sharp than actually changes my gait then I know to stop, go home as slowly as possible and put on some ice immediately. I love running too much to run through a bad injury, making it an unbearable injury.

  • Tonyne @ Unlikely Success Story April 28, 2010, 1:45 pm

    I always struggle when trying to tell the two apart. Thanks for the pointers!

  • Sarah for Real April 28, 2010, 1:45 pm

    Thanks for this post Caitlin. I twisted my knee while skiing a couple months back and it’s never quite been the same. Now that I am working on my couch to 5k plan, it’s been bugging me more and I am worried about it.

    After reading your advice here (and knowing my past history with this knee) I think I will make a doctor’s appointment. I was totally unsure if it was just pain/discomfort from the new activity of running, but you hit the nail on the head with your suggestions. I will make an appointment! I will I will I will!

  • Therese April 28, 2010, 1:47 pm

    I’ve (thankfully) never suffered from a major injury but my two best friends suffered HUGE and I’m learning through their mistakes. I began exercising to become healthy, not to get injured. If something feels strained, I cut my run short and ice, stretch and foam roll. Yesterday morning I was set to do a 7k run but just after 1k my shin hurt when it never has before. Although it was (mostly) fine by the time I got back, I still cut my run short to 4k (as I had to get back home somehow) and immediately stretched it out. Then my right quad decided to be REALLY stiff all day yesterday (related? I don’t know!). So I took this morning off and for the rest of the week I will be stretching and foam rolling. I have a race on Sunday!

  • Tracey @ I'm Not Superhuman April 28, 2010, 1:48 pm

    These are such great tips, and an important topic. My patella femoral pain is so bad that I can’t walk more than a couple blocks without pain or stand for longer than a few minutes without having to sit. I wish I had tackled the injury so much earlier. Now I’m paying for trying to power through it. All I can say from my unfortunate years of experience is that being sidelined for weeks or even a year is so worth it if it means you won’t be sidelined for, say, five years. (Like me.)

  • Claire April 28, 2010, 1:48 pm

    mmm, the baked won tons look great! I too have had an incredible amount of injuries, all from running except for one that was by accident, but still affected my running. In high school cross country I had so many shin splints but because I was the first runner for a team, I never took enough time off because I didn’t want to hurt the teams performance. This was NOT a smart idea, if you feel an injury coming on in a localized place, TAKE TIME OFF! I now do this with running and love training by (for?) myself so that I can gauge my injuries more realistically. I completely agree with switching things up and not doing too much too fast, that is the worst we can do…even if we don’t feel like it is too hard at the time, it will hurt us later.

    Great post Caitlin!

  • liane April 28, 2010, 1:49 pm

    If you are “Queen of Injuries”, the lovely Kingdom we all will visit at some point and all hope our visit will be short stays, I would be some high ranking official.
    I can give a great rundown of all the sports medicine practioners in my town 🙂

    About 9 months ago I was introduced to the foam roller. I dislike it more than words can describe, but it works like a charm.

    • Kathrin April 28, 2010, 1:56 pm

      If you like the foam roller, I can only recommend “Eddie’s Roller” (I got one last week and there are pics in this post:… It’s a stick with golf balls… I really like my foam roller, but I love this thing after trying is out just once… For me, I just can target those really tight spots much better… 😉

      • liane April 28, 2010, 2:01 pm

        Oooohhh… I will have to check this out! Thanks!

        PS. It’s kind of fun to have random injury prevention items like foam rollers, the sticks and other assorted things around the house. I entertain myself watching my friends expressions as they try and figure out what the heck it’s used for…

  • Emily April 28, 2010, 1:50 pm

    This is super helpful! I’ve been experiencing a little bit of soreness in my knees and ankles so this has been on my mind. another question i have- do experienced runners still experience the uncomfortable soreness sometimes or does it get to a point where that goes away?

    • Caitlin April 28, 2010, 1:52 pm

      as someone noted above, everyone feels twinges and whatnot from exercising. i think this is a good point! but you just want to keep an eye on it so it doesnt become something bigger.

      good luck with running!

  • Kathrin April 28, 2010, 1:51 pm

    Great topic… I agree with previous readers that sharp pain is most likely an injury… I had IT band issues last year (too much mileage to fast! DUH!) that came out of nowhere and I wasn’t able to finish up my run.

    In general, I read often (e.g. Runner’s World etc) that as soon as the pain makes you change your gait, it’s time to stop and take care of it.

    Also, when the pain doesn’t go away after your warm-up it’s better to stop and have a closer look at things and just take a day or two off before trying again.

    Have a great day!

  • Mary April 28, 2010, 1:52 pm

    I always struggle between telling when I’ve actually hurt myself or when I’m just sore. Thank you for your pointers!

  • Matt April 28, 2010, 1:53 pm

    I can usually distinguish between pain and sore fairly easily. If I don’t have a reason for the pain, I am usually very cautious about it.

  • Annie April 28, 2010, 1:53 pm

    Thanks for your advice about how much to increase overall miles each week. Just what I needed to hear!! 🙂 OH, and those wontons look divine!

  • Laura@FindingAHealthyBalance....after a 100+ Pound weight loss!!! April 28, 2010, 1:56 pm

    GREAT POST, thank you so much!!!

    I haven’t had any “injuries” yet, but now that I am starting to hit the pavement harder (longer & faster runs) in order to training for speedier 5K’s and longer runs like 15K’s to Half Marathon’s I know I might and all your information was very informative as always. =)

  • Jenny April 28, 2010, 1:57 pm

    Thanks for the advice- GREAT post!! Your lunch looks fab, as always!

  • Angela (ohsheglows) April 28, 2010, 2:02 pm

    100% agree about your point ‘if your gut thinks it’s an injury it probably is’ The body knows…

  • Michele April 28, 2010, 2:02 pm

    I think the generalized v. localized pain indicator is one I’ll definitely start using. Had I done that a month ago, I might still be participating in that half marathon on Sunday. Now, I’ll be taking pictures and cheering my brother on.

    My PT also said to ONLY work on one thing at a time too — distance or speed — not both at the same time.

    And Caitlin – so sweet – calling me one of your fave readers! 🙂 You write my favorite blog!

  • Carolyn @ lovinlosing April 28, 2010, 2:03 pm

    Great post! I was having knee pain so I went to see an orthopaedist. He diagnosed Patellar Tendinitis and recommended Ibuprofen and a patella strap. At the time I thought his advice was crap b/c he was so hurried in the appt. But, I followed it and now don’t have any problems! 🙂

  • Bree April 28, 2010, 2:03 pm

    I ran on a broken foot – didn’t know it. A week later I went in and the Dr. said…”this has been broken for over a week.” It hurt, but I was still able to get around.

    I am the worst at working out when sick. I definitely don’t seem have the normal slow down signals that others have. That being said, I am great at cross training because I enjoy so many different activities!

    • Shellybean April 28, 2010, 2:30 pm

      I did that in high school. I just thought it was a sprain (It didn’t even bruise) and didn’t want to miss my last track meet (it was senior year). My time SUCKED haha!
      And then, years later when I had to have an X-ray b/c I’d sprained my ankle and it was black and blue from my knee to my toes- they said “Well you don’t currently have a break, but did you know you fractured your foot a few years ago?”
      The sprain had me in crutches and a boot for 6 weeks but I walked on the broken foot the whole time.
      Feet and ankles are weird!

  • Lisa April 28, 2010, 2:05 pm

    I’ve gotten pretty good at recognizing normal aches and pains from BAD pains. It’s those nagging pains that don’t go away that are hard to deal with.

  • Molly @fuelherup April 28, 2010, 2:08 pm

    Overall good advice, except running 5 days can work for certain training plans. My situation is a little different because I’m a competitive college runner, but I usually run 6 days a week, and 3-4 of those days I run twice a day! It’s all about building up to that though, and if I feel an injury coming on, it’s straight to the bike! If you do that early, it will usually be gone in a couple of days.

  • runnerforever April 28, 2010, 2:11 pm

    I think an injury is something that does not go away within a few days. Just taking care of yourself by eating right, getting your sleep etc. is the best injury prevention and often neglected!

  • Caroline April 28, 2010, 2:16 pm

    Perfect timing! I want to jump back in feet first to a training plan, but I was lazy and didn’t run for a month so I should probably hold off on 20 mile weeks for a bit. Thanks for posting this today!

  • Run Sarah April 28, 2010, 2:18 pm

    Really needed to read this post as I am feeling set back by a recent foot injury.

  • Heather ( April 28, 2010, 2:19 pm

    great post! I suffered from bad hip pain before running my first half. i took time off after and am so glad I did. granted I am not running the same long distances like I was, but no hip pain (so far)so i think ret is def. important!

  • Shellybean April 28, 2010, 2:25 pm

    I think that something that I read that really made sense to me was “if it affects your gait, then stop running.” Because often, for the first mile, my legs *scream* at me. Once I get warmed up it usually goes away. If it doesn’t I reevaluate whether it’s messing up my running and if it is, I do often feel like I’m liable to hurt myself it I keep going- or if it’s not to bad, I stop, stretch, and walk a bit then start up again to see if it gets better. If it doesn’t- I’m walking home!
    Daily stuff it just depends on the intensity of the pain. If I have a dull ache in my knee, I first try taking an Ibuprofen b/c sometimes I just get some inflammation. If the ache persists I try getting new shoes (which almost always fixes it- I don’t know why I think “These shoes can’t be that worn out- I only trained in them for months and ran a half marathon in them.”) And if that doesn’t work, then I start thinking there might be something wrong.
    I also definitely ease up if I feel like I’m starting to hurt. That usually helps as much as anything else. Skip a run or two and instead go swimming or lift some weights or ride a bike, or just take a few long walks.
    And definitely don’t bite off more than you can chew when you’re coming back from a running hiatus. I learned that the hard way when I had to walk (limping) the last mile of an 8 miler to get home. I should have just done 7.

  • Rachel April 28, 2010, 2:25 pm

    Dang those wontons look Ah-Maz-ing!!! Im so going to make those soon. And as far as pain goes all I ever get is shin splints and I know how to treat those now after my last painful year of track, where I spent every day in the trainer before practice! But did learn a lot of useful techniques and strengtheners!

    • Courtney April 28, 2010, 6:39 pm

      Rachel, I get shin splints all the time, too! I can’t figure out the proper way to treat them though. Any advice?

  • Tay April 28, 2010, 2:36 pm

    Great tips! I would also add in foam rolling. It’s not until I recently started doing it that I noticed any improvement in my knee pain. I wish I knew about foam rolling WHILE running to prevent injury in the first place!!

  • Marissa April 28, 2010, 2:39 pm

    Great injury info!

  • Naomi (onefitfoodie) April 28, 2010, 2:48 pm

    your prevention injury tips are all of mine as well! my roomate was working out with nike shox (the kidn witht he pumps on the heels) and her knees were bothering her, I told her to switch to REAL running sneakers like asics or brooks, she did and she is 100% better! her knees feel no pain. I think proper shoes are a MUST. Also switching it up, not running everyday, but incorporating other forms of cardio as well, so there is not constant pounding on your joints! OH and use of the foam roller <3 it!!

    those parsnip fries look SO SO SO DELICIOUS!

  • Diana(mymarblerye) April 28, 2010, 2:51 pm

    I got stress fractures this past winter… Now that I’m ok again I take walk breaks during jogging, take motrin when I get home, ice my legs, and I only jog 3x a week!

  • caroline April 28, 2010, 3:04 pm

    One thing you did not address in your injury section was nutrition. Injuries (including chronic ones) can be a result of certain missing elements in one’s diet. I have seen a lot of this with athletes who have eating disorders.

    • caitlin April 28, 2010, 3:26 pm

      so true! i will add this, its super important.

  • Steph-exercise physiologist and artist! April 28, 2010, 3:05 pm

    I worked in physical therapy before my current job. The recovery from soft tissue injuries can sometimes be worse than a broken bone!
    Following your Dr. or PT instructions is so important with these injuries. Remember that taking off a week is so much better than having to take off 3 months if the injury gets worse.

    We describe “acceptable pain” to the athletes we work with in a very similar way to Caitlin’s description. Hard work should feel uncomfortable, we call it the discomfort zone. it is working hard but right below the “pain zone” which we classify as any ripping, popping, tearing, nausea, or dizziness. If you feel any of these things slow down and if you don’t feel better soon consider discontinuing the exercise and reevaluate how you feel a little while after you have stopped.

    Better to be safe than sorry. I have learned that the hard way that is for sure!! What helps me to slow down and recover is knowing there is a chance I won’t be able to work out for weeks or months if I get an injury.

  • Samantha Angela @ Bikini Birthday April 28, 2010, 3:05 pm

    Luckily I haven’t had an injury yet 🙂

  • Meredith April 28, 2010, 3:07 pm

    If the pain makes you alter your running form (i.e. limp) stop running!

  • Amy April 28, 2010, 3:14 pm

    I’m a runner and I struggle with shin problems. A little rule of thumb I use for that type of pain is if it hurts when I start running and then losens up and quits hurting, then I’m probably just sore. But if the pain gets worse throughout the run then it’s more likely an injury. I have no idea if this has medical substance or not though so go with your gut!

  • Rachel April 28, 2010, 3:19 pm

    Oh wow this was such a great and helpful post! I want to read all of the comments too for more tips.

    I am a new runner but I’ve always been active (dance, gym, etc) and have luckily never had any serious injuries.

    But I feel like it is only a matter of time, especially now that I am running and have fallen in love with it. That may be a bad attitude, but it seems like every single runner I know is dealing with some kind of injury at some point.

    I am going to take your tips to heart and not push myself over my limits to the point that I hurt myself.

    Thanks for this great post!

  • Sarah April 28, 2010, 3:37 pm

    I recently had to face this dilemma after something in my foot wasn’t feeling right. I had been exercising frequently, not overdoing it, but all of a sudden, simply walking on my foot was causing me a tremendous amount of pain. I knew in my gut that this was different from a soreness or achy feeling and immediately stopped exercising, hoping the pain would go away.

    After 2 days, the pain had not subsided and my foot was swollen which prompted me to call a doctor and be seen that same day. I’m glad I listened to my gut and immediately stopped any form of activity because it prevented my stress fracture from being anything worse.

    This is a wonderful and timely post. Thank you!

  • Cynthia (It All Changes) April 28, 2010, 3:52 pm

    I’m the queen of injuries too. I stop at the start of the pain to assess. I need to be careful so I end up in PT as little as possible.

    And I strength train as well as training for races so I’m as strong as possible to run them.

  • Diana @ frontyardfoodie April 28, 2010, 3:59 pm

    Good advice. I had a hip injury and even when I rested for a couple days it still hurt when I ran again. After a couple WEEKS of rest and stretching I was able to come back. You just have to know when you really need to rest.

    I’m bad at it.

  • Amber K @ sparkpeople April 28, 2010, 4:09 pm

    I have experienced a few injuries, mostly because I get into these phases of only wanting to work out in one particular way. Whether it is jogging, walking, using an elliptical, etc. I find something that works and stick to it way too much. I am trying to be better at cross-training!

  • Amanda (Amanda "runs") April 28, 2010, 4:21 pm

    Never had sweet potato wontons or parsnips before! Good injury advice. I just know that when I breathe funny (asthma-like) and my spine hurts it’s time to stop ASAP- or after that last “take it easy” treadmill walk so I feel like I got something accomplished. That was only once though. I hurt my shoulder afterwards! But I’m better now! 🙂

  • kate April 28, 2010, 4:29 pm

    Any veggie in fry form is my fave!

  • Amy April 28, 2010, 4:42 pm

    this post could not have come at a better time. For the past week, I have been running in very mild pain in my “girly” area…I think we have narrowed it down to a strained ligament. I was fine doing a 3 mile run last night…just felt like I was running on a full bladder. But today is a whole different story! I have definitely decided to take a week off and let it heal up.

  • Jessica @ The Process of Healing April 28, 2010, 4:56 pm

    As you know, I’m dealing with a stress fracture right now I so I can really really understand this post. I agree, COMPLETELY, that cross-training is SUPER important. All I did was run and WAY too much with not enough rest or fuel. Enter the female athlete triad… learned about that one the hard way. I also ignored my pain and ran through it anyway. It really really sucks but I’ve learned some very important lessons through this injury. Life is short, don’t ever take small things for granted, LISTEN TO YOUR BODY, fuel it properly,.. I could go on and on. I’ve also learned that as much as I love running, it’s not the end all, be all. I can’t wait to try out other forms of exercise like swimming, biking, and yoga!

  • Star April 28, 2010, 5:02 pm

    This post is a good one. The wontons looks delicious! And the info about pain is great. With all the running I’m doing I have some pains. Good to know how to distinguish.

  • Jocelyn April 28, 2010, 5:25 pm

    I had an achilles injury a little over 1.5 years ago and it sounds like mine wasn’t as damaged as yours :(. It’s only been in the last few months that I haven’t felt ANY pain. Achilles take a long time to heal; be prepared for that. And whatever you do, don’t push it. My high school xc coach pushed himself with an achilles injury, and he ultimately had to get surgery, etc. and can only run a couple times a week now.
    Hope that helps…best of luck!

  • Lynna April 28, 2010, 5:43 pm

    Hey Caitlin,

    I was wondering, how did you know that you had strained your bicep? Just a few days ago I had some sharp pain in mine (I hadn’t even been doing anything particularly strenuous) and after a couple days there is still pain when I apply pressure to the muscle with my fingers, though I believe it’s lessening. Otherwise, it doesn’t really hurt and isn’t swollen. Any ideas?


    • caitlin April 28, 2010, 8:24 pm

      pretty much what you describe. just take time off! 🙂 i hope it feel better so.

  • Julia @ British Bride April 28, 2010, 5:51 pm

    Great post, thanks Caitlin. Very useful for my marathon training.


  • Kellie@obsessivelyhealthy April 28, 2010, 5:54 pm

    I have learned never to push myself when it comes to pain. I had to take time off just because I didn’t listen to my body. From here on out at the first sign of pain, I let myself rest.

  • Lisa @ bakebikeblog April 28, 2010, 6:15 pm

    WHat a timely post. I am nursing what could be the start of an injury which is so frustrating. I am a ‘wait and see’ kind of girl. I have a race planned this weekend and I will see how my leg holds up…..but I suspect a trip to the physio is in the near future.

  • Michelle @ Give Me the Almond Butter April 28, 2010, 6:19 pm

    This is just the perfect post for me! As a gymnast, I ruled injuries as well in high school. Pulled muscle in my back, pinched nerve, 3 sprained ankles, a sprained wrist, a cyst from the scar tissue, and a sprained a-c joint. These were obvious injuries to me, but when I started running I would hurt, but I didn’t know how much was too much pain until I actually broke down and cried when I saw the stairs at my dorm I had to go up after a long run.

    Thank you for the great post. I need to keep all of this in mind when I do my many activities.

  • julia April 28, 2010, 7:39 pm

    I think your list was really comprehensive. I would also note the duration of pain too. If it doesn’t go away in two weeks, most likely something is up. Also, I try not to ignore any bone/nerve pain. Those are kinda scary! I think resting and ibuprofen have been my two injury savers. Also the foam roll. Oh how I love the foam roll!
    I think it’s really important to switch up activities (ie cross train) so the same muscles aren’t working all the time.
    Great post!

  • John April 28, 2010, 7:48 pm

    Great post about injuries. I usually distinguish between pain and injury this way…if I wake up the next morning and it’s gone it was just pain. If it’s still there after two days then it’s possible I’m injured. Depending on the body part I take no time to 10 days off before trying again. Almost always works for me.

    Your reader should be glad she just tore her achilles. My cousin’s husband had the tendon completely detach and they say it rolled up the back of his leg like it was spring loaded. It HURT just a little 🙂

  • Sonja {ActiveFoodie} April 28, 2010, 7:52 pm

    Streching!! My downfall was lack of streching. Woops! But it is hard to tell the difference between injury and over-training. Now, as soon as I feel something is off I rest, because 1 week of rest saves much more time than 1 month of rehab with countless dr appts. Hope your reader gets better soon!!!

  • Sarah (Running to Slow Things Down) April 28, 2010, 7:57 pm

    This post must have been written for me. :mrgreen:

    Honestly, I’m a queen of injuries as well. They always seem to rear their ugly heads when I’m least expecting them..until I think about it a lil’ more and realize that I was totally setting myself up for it. 😀

    I’m glad you mentioned that taking a couple weeks off from an activity is not such a big deal! That’s helped me avoid some more serious injuries, for sure. 😀

    Right now I’m getting over a knee and a foot injury, and simply keeping in shape with other activities has kept me sane and happy (i.e., biking, elliptical, etc.)

    • caitlin April 28, 2010, 8:25 pm

      we can share the kingdom 🙂

  • Jaya April 28, 2010, 8:02 pm

    Caitlin, thank you so much for this post. It is a great topic to address and evokes so much great comment-conversation! Like others, I have dealt with loads of injuries (everything from broken nose to stress fracture and a herniated disk) in my 10 years of high performance sports. Something I have learned in reading a lot of blogs and speaking with others is that many, many runners avoid/are unaware of the consequences of progressing in speed/mileage without performing proper prehab exercises. There is SO much you can do to keep your body healthy from the onset. I think everyone who is fairly active should own a foam roller, a band (or bands of varying tension levels), a yoga mat and a kitchen full of the best food they can afford.
    When I really made the switch to performance (rather than recreational) – based sport, I was really amazed by how much more time we had to invest in keeping ourselves healthy to train! Warm ups were at least 10 minutes before we did any running, lifting, etc. Most importantly, I learned to prioritize training goals so that training for speed and strength or distance at the same time. This also helped me maintain lots of variety in what/how I was doing things and balance training with recovery. If I can recommend anything, it’s to sit down in a quiet space and let your mind wander into your pain so that you can get really in tune with what’s going on. Intuition is your most powerful tool in deciphering aches from injury. My intuition told me to stop, and by the time I finally did, I found out that I was within atoms of having a broken pubic bone. Oops. My appetite is always somehow a great indicator of overtraining and injury. I wish I could elaborate, but it’s kind of mystery to me too!

    • caitlin April 28, 2010, 8:26 pm

      great comment!

  • Katherine April 28, 2010, 8:17 pm

    oh no! no pain is normal! hope you keep the injury bug away for a while!

  • Ali April 28, 2010, 8:30 pm

    You are such an inspiration! Keep it up!

  • Kath April 28, 2010, 8:35 pm

    Great post!!

    I think I got injured because I increased my distance on time but added hills and speed simultaneously. Or because I started a new job requiring me to be on my feet all day the week before my half marathon! Regardless, I stopped running in my tracks and it’s feeling much better1

  • Nicole April 28, 2010, 8:54 pm

    Great post Caitlin. I think we all get stuck in this rut of not knowing and not wanting to be a wuss. Especially when you get into the middle of your workout program and you’re starting to see improvements-and you don’t want to take time off because you think you’ll lose out on all the work you’ve been putting into it. We tend to forget that rest is our friend!

  • Kristina April 29, 2010, 12:43 am

    I agree with what so many people say about the “sharp” pain as an indicator of something more serious.
    Also, something I experienced personally and then also read in the NYTimes – in regards to knee injuries – if the knee seems to shift and to be unstable, that indicates that it is something more serious than just muscle strain and regular wear and tear! When I finally went to the doctor last spring (about a year ago today), he couldn’t do the “easy” test to see if my ACL was torn because I couldn’t relax my knee enough for him to “play around” with it. Happily, I have a new ACL and I just ended a multi-month PT stint. SO HAPPY about that – and I feel like I have my life back because I will be able to run, ski, backpack, play frisbee…. Yeah!

    • caitlin April 29, 2010, 9:41 am

      yay im glad your knee is back!! 🙂

  • emma-kate April 29, 2010, 3:54 am

    This was such an informative and helpful post, thank you. I’ve had trouble distinguishing between normal discomfort and pain, and have now strained my one calf muscle and have to take time off running. So, I’ve done some damage, but hopefully your guidelines will help me to prevent further damage in the future.

  • Nadine April 29, 2010, 5:00 am

    You are SO right! I just finished up 6 weeks with a running coach and one of the most important things I learned was to listen to an injury before it gets too loud. I trained for and ran a 1/2 last October and ended up with a strained achilles. I wanted it to be ‘normal’ soreness, but my head knew it wasn’t. The other important thing to mention is — go to a sports medicine doctor. Don’t expect your regular doctor to understand how important your activity is to you. A sports medicine doctor was likely an athlete at one time, and will understand that not running (or whatever it is you do) is really not the option you want to hear!

  • Katherine April 29, 2010, 7:57 am

    This post really spoke to me. Listening to my body when it is injured is still something I am trying to do better.. at 26 I am just a few short days away from my 8th knee surgery. Yes, you read that right, 8th. Doctors have been trying to impress upon me the importance of slowing down, and giving up some of the sports I love since college. Because of my history with injuries, I fluctuate from panic at every little twinge, to downright denial of injury even when I can barely stand up. Listening to your body, and knowing when training discomfort is different than the pain of an injury can be such a tricky thing. I think its so important to take the proper steps to avoid an athletic the training research, start slow, seek out a physical therapist or running coach to help guide you through your training and/or pain. Its always better to be safe, than sorry!

  • Susan April 29, 2010, 8:44 am

    Great post!! I usually go with the 72 hour rule. If the pain persists past 72 hours, then I know something is wrong. Especially if it is interfering in my everyday movements. When I injured my hip last year, I couldn’t put my pants on without wanting to cry in pain. THAT is a problem.

    I also think it’s important to NOT race if you get injured. I know, that’s awful advice. But I injured my hip last year two weeks before race day and stuck it out because I wanted to do that damn race. I couldn’t run for months after crossing the finish line. Had I just taken a rest after the first sign of pain, I may have had to skip that first race, but I could have done all the other ones that followed that I ended up having to back out on.

    And of course REST. A couple weeks off activity to heal an injury at first sign of pain is better than a couple months, or couple years, because you were too stubborn to do it in the first place.

    • Susan April 29, 2010, 8:46 am

      Oh yeah, and tearing my achilles tendon is my worst fear in life – I hope it heals quickly Michelle!!!

  • mrschelles April 29, 2010, 12:46 pm

    This post came around at just the right time for me. I’m just getting back into working out, and my body is not in the same shape it was when I used to be active. I have dealt with back issues off and on. Now that I’m back to working out, I’m having to get used to what is “push through it” pain and what is “STOP IMMEDIATELY!!!” pain. Sometimes that means I may not push as hard every workout. I might walk at a faster pace rather than jog for instance. I’m at the stage in my fitness journey that I would rather be able to workout more consistently with less intensity, then take the chance of getting injured and get off my routine. Once I get off my routine, it becomes easier and easier for me to stop working out all together.
    Thanks for the great post!

  • Amisha April 29, 2010, 12:54 pm

    You should try using tofutti in your wonton raviolis to give it a creamy taste!!

  • Jennifer April 29, 2010, 6:00 pm

    Thank you so much Caitlin for this awesome post on injuries. I tend to be an All or Nothing type of girl when it comes to running or workouts. If I can’t go the distance I have scheduled to run I can’t help but feel weak. So a lot of times I will push through the pain. But..that’s how I hurt my knee last time and I have learned that slow and steady is better for me because my knees have endured a lot of wear and tear on them because of my 15 years of dance training. I need to just completely get rid of that All or Nothing attitude because most of the time it does way more harm than good.

  • Amy March 25, 2011, 9:55 am

    So excited to find this post…which in turn led me to other very helpful posts! Thanks Caitlin! 🙂

  • Nubia June 28, 2012, 4:35 pm

    Im so glad I’m not the only one confused about soreness and injuries. I’m on day four of rest and have a race on Saturday I may have to walk. It sucks but I bet a knee replacement would be worse! Thanks for the post 🙂

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