Niggles: Run Away, Keep Running

Niggles.  The name sounds dirty (at least in my corrupted mind) and reminds me of fight club.  The first rule of fight club is you do not talk about fight club. The only corollary for niggles is that you may mention it but without specifics.  You can say “I have a niggle,” but never mention the where and what. If you name the niggle, who shall not be named, it is a karmic guarantee that you will pass from niggle into a full-blown injury.

So what to do when you have a niggle develop?  My protocol now:

  1. Stop the workout.
  2. Take the next day as a rest day from that training area (running or swimming or cycling).
  3. Resist the urge to stretch it to death.  
  4. Foam roll the area if possible and one to two joints above and below.  Just a short ten to twenty minutes.
  5. Resist the urge to foam roll it to death.
  6. Do something fun and different with your time.
  7. After your rest day, if it is a training day in that area, keep it short, easy and flat.
  8. Build your training back from there.

Yep, you guessed it.  I got a niggle after my race last weekend.  A crampy hamstring in the race turned into a twinge on my run yesterday.  Notice I haven’t advanced to the niggle stage? The state of denial accepts all applicants.  Including me.

And what if the niggle turns into a full-blown injury?  Don’t stop training. What? Seriously. The biggest mistake people make when injured from running is stopping.  This has been a radical shift from the old days of RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation). I love that MD’s and physical therapists now embrace continued movement for treatment*.

If your niggle becomes an injury, how do you keep moving?

  1. Water running or gravity treadmill or water treadmill.
  2. Walking and working towards walking fast.
  3. Walk run method.  Perhaps you walk 10 steps and run four very easy.  Over time you will walk less and run more.
  4. Elliptical or similar trainers.  They can keep your muscle groups active without the impact force.

I have watched too many friends let an injury lead to a false conclusion that they can no longer run.  Friends don’t let friends stop doing activities they love. We may get slower and our runs get shorter, but I believe a runner lives on in each of us.  And our lives and health are better for it.

No easy way.

*I am not an MD or a physical therapist or anything else.  Get great help from qualified professionals and then get a second opinion.  Listen and recover as hard as you train!

*Easy run today.  No niggle!  Whew.

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