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Runner in Evanston

Kaitlyn Zufall/MEDILL

Go ahead and push through the Chicago winter weather as you train, but professionals say that you shouldn't do the same with your pain.

Pain may not be gain when running

by Kaitlyn Zufall
Feb 07, 2013

Upcoming Half Marathons


Chi Town Half Marathon

March 24

Start time: 8:15 a. m.

1750 N Stockton Dr.


Get Lucky Chicago Half Marathon

March 16,

Start time: 9:07 a.m.

Soldier Field


If you’re training for one of the two half marathons in Chicago next month, you may want to reconsider “pushing through the pain” on your way to the finish line.

“It’s like they say in football, there’s a 100 percent injury rate,” said Al White, local runner and the president of the Evanston Running Club. “Everyone gets hurt running … [and] having the opportunity to keep going is everyone’s first priority.”

Chicago fitness professional Annie Padrid, owner of The Space, a micro-gym that focuses on functional training, said that trying to continue running through pain is “absolutely not” a good idea.

“You do your body a tremendous disservice if you continue that stress,” she said.

Padrid said that there is a fine line between discomfort and pain, and you are really the only person who can make distinction for yourself. A certain amount of soreness is to be expected as you train. But sharp pain can be a reason for concern.

If you experience pain, Padrid recommended putting a temporary hold on your training regimen. Taking a short break can save you in the long run by preventing injuries that would require a long rehabilitation period.

“The rehab process is much, much quicker,” she said. “Usually only about 24 to 48 hours if you stop.”

If you try to “push through the pain,” you could end up with an injury that sidelines you for much longer.

One such example is a stress fracture.

According to Dr. Norman Verhoog, an orthopedic surgeon in Redding, Calif. who treats sports-related injuries, any discomfort in the lower extremities can be the sign of a stress fracture. And ignoring the signs of a stress fracture can be detrimental to your health.

“The more you keep running, the more likely it will become a full fracture,” he said. “We as bone surgeons don’t believe in  ‘push through the pain.’”

Groin pain can especially be cause for concern, as it can signify a stress fracture of the hip. If the injury progresses it could develop into a full fracture that could lead to the necessity of hip replacement surgery in extreme cases. 

“Groin pain is always a reason to stop running and have it medically examined,” Verhoog said. “People don’t know you can break a hip by too much running.”

He said that the most common stress fracture is in the long bone in the second toe. Foot pain in middle of the foot is reason to stop and give it a chance to heal.

By stopping training temporarily and then starting back up again slowly, Verhoog said that runners give their bones time to become stronger.

“Human bones are very sensitive to the forces applied to them,” he said. “Bones are constantly remodeling according to stresses.”

Three of the most common injuries in runners--plantar fasciitis, achilles tendonitis and iliotibial band syndrome--can all be treated with stretching, said Verhoog. But stretching is critical even before problems occur.

He recommended stretching to prevent injuries.

Padrid expressed a similar opinion.

“The single best way to avoid injury is to train properly,” she said. “Flexibility and weight training are absolutely fundamental to people who are going to be long-distance runners.”

Though most people think of running as a cardiovascular activity, Padrid said that there are four other important components in training: flexibility, muscular strength and endurance, joint stability and balance.

She emphasized that weight training and stretching are essential to developing these areas in order to prevent running injuries.

Even after your body develops the strength and endurance it needs to perform effectively and safely, form is critical.

“I think the most important thing to avoid pain is to have someone take a look at our running gait to see how we can run more comfortably and safely,” White said.

Bad form in running can lead to pain that requires icing, stretching or massaging to treat. If continued, more serious injuries can develop.

Even if precautions are taken, injuries can still occur. Padrid cautioned new runners in particular to always err on the side of caution. When a person first starts to run, he or she may have a harder time distinguishing between discomfort and pain.

In general, she said that if you do not see significant improvement in seven to 14 days you should see a doctor.

“If you have any questions go to a physical therapist, go to a chiropractor, go to someone,” White said. “Don’t be afraid to go see someone... it’s not wussing to get some advice and help.”