Marathon Training Part 3: The Truth About Pain

By Chuck Finder

Listen to your body. Heed its warnings.

There is still plenty of time to repair, recover or even miss weeks of training before embarking upon more miles of preparation for the Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon May 5, physical therapist Tara Ridge, M.S., P.T., told runners at UPMC Montefiore on Saturday.

“Persistent pain leads to altered mechanics,” Ridge told the Ladies Hospital Auxiliary Society Auditorium crowd in this second of three marathon seminars sponsored by UPMC Sports Medicine, where she oversees its physical-therapy residency program. “That’s what we want to prevent, the spread of those injuries over the musculoskeletal chain.”

Good pain – yes, there is such a thing – comes in the form of joint discomfort after a workout or stiffness that dissipates when you exercise or stretch properly.  All are varieties that should go away within 24 hours.

Bad pain keeps you awake at night, worsens as you run or walk, alters how you stride or perform other mechanics. That is pain you cannot live or train with, so go see a sports-medicine specialist.

Ridge provided a wide array of tips about training while injured, and wanted the long-distance runners – many of them in their first or second marathon or half-marathon – to avoid four common training mistakes:
The simple rules for injuries: If it’s stiff, heat it up; if it’s joint pain, cool it down (or bring down the swelling) with ice. RICE – rest, ice, compression and elevation – remains the best acronym for regaining health. Ice compresses should last 20 minutes every two hours. For specific site tenderness and swelling, fill a paper cup with water, freeze it and use it as a cooling massage device.

Be careful, though. Don’t mask pain with ice and over-the-counter anti-inflammatories. If an injury or ache persists for two to three days and if alternating workouts and intensity plus changing exercises or equipment fails to pacify the pain, stop training and see a physician, Ridge advised.