How to baby an injury for a newbie runner?
November 11, 2013 8:58 PM   Subscribe

I'm midway through a 13-week beginner's running program. Today was supposed to be a run day for me, but I noticed a little twinge in my ankle last night, and the soreness has persisted. Skipped the run for today, but I'm wondering how long I should rest the ankle before attempting to run again? Spent the day reading about high ankle sprains and freaking myself out, need some advice from experienced runners.

More details, if it matters: The program is C210K. I'm fat, so I've been being pretty cautious about injury --- I was getting a bit of soreness and stiffness in my knees in the third week or so of the program, so I began stretching it out a little bit, taking two recuperation days in between each run instead of one. Up to now that's been working quite well --- no knee pain, feel fine wind-wise post run. A little stiffness the next day but nothing killer. I have been fitted for shoes at a proper running store, though that was a while back, might have put 100 miles on them, maybe? And I have sprained each of my ankles in the past --- classic trip and roll out.

The last run I completed was on Friday morning. Did my usual amount of walking around the remainder of that day and the next. Definitely didn't twist my ankle or anything that I remember. Sunday I was actually quite lazy --- and it was Sunday night I first felt this twinge. I can stand and walk on the ankle, it just feels a bit off, and there's a dull ache. So I think that I must have just a very slight sprain, though it seems odd to me that it'd take two-days to kick in like that.

So, Dr. Google tells me to RICE it, which is fine, but how will I know when it's okay to run again? I really don't want to get too far off track. But on the other hand, esp. considering my history, I want to make sure I'm not turning a slight injury into a permanent disability. Are there stretches I should be doing? YANMD, etc.
posted by Diablevert to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I prefer to baby injuries too -- I once kept running when my calf was hurting and ended up hobbling around for three weeks. Oops... It's always hard to tell, especially when you're starting running (or re-starting after a longish break), whether something is a normal ache and pain from your body getting accustomed to the activity, or the first sign that something has gone Terribly Wrong. In this case, going by your description, I would probably be inclined to go on my next run, but stop immediately if running made the ankle hurt.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 10:20 PM on November 11, 2013

Best answer: I'm on week 13 (15 in reality since I repeated a couple of weeks) of C210K, and I've had weird ankle soreness too in the past couple of weeks. Well, actually, it felt more like stiffness combined with soreness. I've actually ran through soreness before, to no detrimental effect.

The stretches I do during my cooldowns are calf stretches and ankle rolls. Point your foot out (like a ballet dancer, to put it one way) for 5 seconds, then arch it up, then roll your ankles, like draw circles with your toes, clockwise and counter-clockwise. Five seconds each. Repeat with other foot. Wiggle your toes too.

So basically, the key is loosening up your feet so they're not so sore and stiff the day after a run. Rub your calves and ankles at night too.

Of course, if it gets super painful while you run, stop and rest for a few days. And don't feel bad about repeating easier weeks too.

posted by curagea at 10:42 PM on November 11, 2013

Best answer: I've run on and off for ten years and also get joint pain.

Any running will throw up the odd niggles. Some of these you can just run through. But if you're getting persistent pain in the same place then stop and address it.

I would look at the following: your shoes, your stretching, your muscles. I know you say you've had your shoes properly fitted, but don't 100% rule out that they did not get it right.

Stretch properly after every run - this is crucial to avoid muscles tightening up and also to aid your recovery. You should be doing it comprehensively - calves, glutes, quads, groin, hamstring.

If you've still got problems then see a sports physiotherapist - you may need to strengthen particular muscles to give you more support or stretch out muscles.
posted by MuffinMan at 12:53 AM on November 12, 2013

Best answer: I'd say let it rest for 3-4 days first.

It may be a good idea to work on strengthening some of the muscles used in running too. One of the things my physical therapist did for me as I was coming off a pretty bad injury was have me do a lot of wall sits, squats, 1 legged squats, calf raises, and balance exercises to strengthen everything I used for running so all the joints would be happier and more stable when I ran again.

Other things that might help with overall soreness/tightness:

Foam roller your entire lower body: Hips, quads, glutes, hamstrings, calves. This might hurt pretty badly at first when you're tight, but it'll eventually help loosen out all the knots and kinks that accumulate in your muscles.

In addition to the exercises other people have suggested, you can also use a golf ball on your feet. You can start with sitting down then putting a golf ball beneath your feet. Apply pressure to give yourself a pretty good foot massage.
posted by astapasta24 at 2:04 AM on November 12, 2013

Best answer: I don't understand what's causing your injuries. How hard is the surface you run on? How flat? How far can you trust your shoe fitting?

I would always experiment when I got odd pains. Change routes, change my pace, use the elliptical machine, add various "inserts" in my running shoes. See if anything you do makes a difference.
posted by Obscure Reference at 4:44 AM on November 12, 2013

Best answer: My best rule of thumb for dealing with injuries (for this one and in the future) is this:

If it gets worse during your workout, STOP.

If it gets better or stays roughly the same during your workout, it's OK to keep going, just follow RICE protocols afterwards (plus stretching, plus rolling if applicable).

It doesn't sound like you've sprained it, I think that would be something you would notice; it's more likely (IMO) to be a slight overuse injury. I would give it another day or two and then even if it doesn't feel 100% better I would give it a try and see if the pain worsens or gets better through the course of a workout. You don't even have to go for a run to test it out-- go for a walk and try to observe if it worsens, gets better, or stays the same.

FWIW I twisted my ankle (twice during the same run) early this summer. It didn't feel like anything serious but it hurt the next day so I took the next two days off. The third day I ran on it and it was slightly painful at first but it went away through the course of the run; by day 5 I was totally fine. Obviously YMMV, and if it gets worse, stop immediately... but some aches and pains are going to be par for the course, and this may be one of those, rather than something acute that must be rested for it to get better.

One last thing--I don't know a lot about ankles, but is this pain in your achilles tendon? Is your route hilly at all? Are you wearing barefoot-style shoes? If yes to either of those questions, you may want to change that up-- achilles injuries (including overuse injuries) can be aggravated by hill running or by low-drop/minimalist shoes.
posted by matcha action at 5:02 AM on November 12, 2013

Best answer: When I have this kind of low-grade, non-specific injury I generally take a few days off from running, maybe work on strength. When you go back out again, stay local (run laps around the block, run on a treadmill, run along a bus route and bring bus fare, whatever) until you're reasonably sure the ankle is back up to snuff.

If you're not doing anything additional for core strength and stability, I'd add that. I like the Strength Running Standard Core Routine but really anything that works the core will help -- yoga, pilates, a strength routine that includes squats and lunges and planks.

For the ankle specifically, I'd give it a couple days and then start some sort of ankle strengthening exercise. If you've rolled your ankles before, you're more vulnerable to doing it in the future. I personally use ballet exercises for this, but I agree with ankle rolls, as suggested above. Also, writing the alphabet with your toes. And Runners World has additional suggestions.
posted by pie ninja at 5:36 AM on November 12, 2013

Response by poster: I don't understand what's causing your injuries. How hard is the surface you run on? How flat? How far can you trust your shoe fitting?

I run outside, mostly on a bike/run trail near my house. The trail is pretty flat, but I live at the top of a decent size hill --- I walk up and down that during my warmup/cool down phase, and also most weekdays (I try and walk part of my commute unless I'm running late --- little under under a mile and a half each way).

Shoes: I did c25k a while back, completed the program but fell off the wagon after. I went to a specialist running store to get fitted at that time, because the beat up old kicks I had been using were giving me pain. Didn't have any pain running with the specialist shoes while doing c25k or with C210k until now, the store itself was pretty popular with Boston marathon people as I recall, and the guy seemed to know what he was doing.

One last thing--I don't know a lot about ankles, but is this pain in your achilles tendon? Is your route hilly at all? Are you wearing barefoot-style shoes?

I live on a hill, but the shoes are regular. The pain isn't in my Achilles' tendon--- it's on the inside of the ankle, between the ankle bone and the foot.
posted by Diablevert at 6:30 AM on November 12, 2013

Best answer: These kind of questions are the hardest running questions to answer because there is so much variety in injuries. I have various twinges on a more or less consistent basis that don't mean anything and I've had injuries that really had to be rested. At this point, I find it relatively easy to distinguish the two. I think matcha action has a very good perspective. If the injury is more like a stiffness or twingy kind of thing that seems to get better as you go along, I think it is fine to go ahead and run through it. I'm having a glute issue like that right now, in fact. If the pain gets worse when you run, you should stop. If you would use any adjective like sharp or stinging, I'd advise you to stop. However, you use words like "twinge" "soreness" and "dull ache" which frankly doesn't sound like the sort of thing you have to stop and let recover. I'm fairly fearless about attempting to run when I have an issue like that and trusting that my body will let me know pretty quickly if that is a bad idea. If your ankle starts complaining more as you run, that is pretty much the clear sign that you need to back off.

Having said that, you also need to figure out what your goals are. If you are training for a target 10k race and you think that pushing your schedule back would jeopardize your chances to be ready, I think you could probably push through it so long as things don't deteriorate. If you are just working to build some base fitness, then why not just take it easy and rest until you feel better? You could mix in some cross training on a bike or in the pool and still keep working on your aerobic fitness.
posted by Lame_username at 9:22 AM on November 12, 2013

Best answer: (Hopeful orthopedic surgeon and current athlete here.) Get a brace and keep exercising that muscle until you're used to it. It's good to feel a moderate amount of pain especially if you've been out of shape for a while, but any bending sensation should be avoided. If you feel your ankle snapping or twitching when running, it might be a good idea to have a doctor take a look at it.
posted by lotusmish at 11:06 PM on November 12, 2013

Response by poster: Hello, y'all --- I ended up feeling much better by last night so I decided to give it a go this morning and so far so good --- some knee stiffness but it seemed to go away after I warmed up and I gotta say I feel much better having done it. Thanks for all your help, and I'll definitely be incorporating some of the strengthening exercises you guys pointed me to on my non running days.
posted by Diablevert at 6:38 AM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

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