Q I’m in the last week of tapering for my first half marathon, my problem is that I did my last long run three days ago, and over the next few days at work I strained my legs lifting. After this, I did a few shorter runs (6km, 7km and 12km), but I’m still sore and stiff. My race is in four days and my instincts tell me to sit it out until race morning and take it easy until I’m good and warmed up. What would you suggest? – DAVE
A It seems like you were injured while lifting during your taper period, but sometimes it is difficult to say what caused the injury. Was it your long run manifesting over the next few days or a work-related injury from lifting? In either case, allowing the injury to resolve before hard workouts or racing is prudent. Since you were already in the taper phase of your training plan, rest is easy to do and not working out in the few days left before your race is probably the best strategy.
Being in the taper phase makes this decision easy, but what if this happens 3-4 weeks prior to your race? What is the best strategy to make it to the start line and finish your race? These questions have no easy answer, but the safe answer is to back off from activity and let the injury heal before pushing the muscle during training and racing. Part of this is learning the difference between muscle soreness from training, especially eccentric type exercise like running downhill, and muscle pain from injury like damage to the muscle tissue in the form of tissue tearing (muscle strain).
When faced with leg pain after workouts, the sensible approach is to let the muscle heal. That does not mean that you go to bed rest, but rather that you work other muscle sets away from the painful area or you do pain free activity that can involve the affected muscles. Many runners I care for move to strength activities or aerobic activities that do not cause pain in the affected muscle group like biking, rowing, or the elliptical exercise machine.
Falling victim to the “sirens” of the race can land you in more serious injury territory. From my perspective, it is better to miss a race than to miss several weeks of activity due to worsening injury. – BILL