Full-time track athletes will put in hundreds of hours of workouts each year to help elevate their craft. Running, recovery, biking, lifting, throwing, jumping, or sprinting workouts are all part of developing muscle-memory speed and strength. Their training does not stop for more than a few hours and is continuous throughout the year.
The most challenging part, though, is that all of the hours are held up by the same pair of feet.
When other parts of your body ache, you can stay away from them. Maybe change to a leg workout when your arms are sore. Or maybe focus on cardio when your gleuts or back are tight. But, when your feet hurt, there is little you can do to alleviate the pain while training to be your best.
Generally, a lot of track athletes feel sore or tired after each workout or specific workout. But, there is a difference between general soreness and actual pain. It can be hard to differentiate the two sometimes, but as a track athlete, it is important to stop working out or running when your feet are in pain.
What is pain?
Pain can be an indication of the overuse of specific muscles. Pain looks and feels different for everybody. When a track athlete starts to feel pain, it is important to attempt to measure the pain. If the pain is between a 1-3 at the start of the workout, likely it will go away as the warm-up and physical workout continue.
This pain is probably inconsistent and moves around your body a little bit. Mild pain is common, and can usually be pushed through. Mild pain can be the effect of a difficult workout the day before or even simply having a bad night's rest.
However, it is when your pain starts to be more than mild that it might be in your best interest to stop your workout. Moderate pain, which would be around a 4-6 on the pain scale, appears while the exercise is going on. It may be tolerable for some, and intolerable for others.
In this case, you need to listen to your body and decide if you feel it's necessary to stop. It may be smarter to just end your training session if you are feeling pain in this range. Sometimes this is a sign that the body might just need some type of resting.
How to determine what level of pain you are in as an athlete?
There is a scale of pain that will help an athlete communicate with coaches, parents, and trainers. This scale can be different for everyone, but establish your own scale as your career goes on. This will help you compare how you are feeling on different days. Below are a few examples of what different levels of pain can be compared to:
- Mild pain is common soreness or pain that doesn't take your mind off what you are doing. This would be considered a 0-3 on the pain scale, and usually, can be overcome. If the pain persists and keeps you from focusing on the activity, consult your coach or trainer, and take a few minutes to stretch out the area and muscles connected to it.
- Moderate pain is centralized pain in one area that is keeping you from focusing or performing your best. Moderate pain is an indication to be cautious. This would be considered a 4-6 on the pain scale, and can be overcome but only in the most necessary circumstances. Moderate pain in athletes can quickly worse if the area that hurts is continued to be stressed. More stress on an area that is needing rest can quickly lead to injury.
- Severe pain, the highest level of pain, would be considered a 7-10 on the pain scale. This pain is very severe and can be felt during, before, or after the workout. The pain will increase as the workout continues on, which means the workout should be stopped immediately. If an athlete would continue on, the injury could become worse than it was originally. If you notice an injury while working out, the most important thing to do is stop.
When it comes to your feet, pain should never be overlooked because injuries can take months to truly heal. The tendons, bones, and muscles in your feet are extremely sensitive. If you can change the surface that you are running on, that might help to alleviate the pain if it is not as severe. You can also slow down your run or workout, to help with the pain, and still complete the workout.
However, if you do all of these things and the pain still persists, stop the workout immediately. Continuing to run and work out through pain, is a recipe for disaster. This can establish bad habits and patterns for the athlete and makes them more susceptible to serious injury.
When one area of your body is experiencing pain, the other “normal” parts will compensate themselves to help with the painful area. This can cause the other areas of your body to overwork themselves, and put them at risk for injury as well. Some athletes struggle with stopping or reducing their workouts because of an injury. But ultimately, your health is the most important.
There is nothing wrong with taking the necessary time off to rebuild and recuperate your body.
In track, each event area has a specific body part, or multiple for that matter, that are being used constantly during workouts and competition. For example:
- Throwers are using their arms, shoulders, and backs every single time they go to throw a shot-put; they also use their legs as a balance when they throw
- Jumpers use their legs and feet to sprint down the runway and jump into the sand
- Sprinters and hurdlers run every single practice to prepare for meets, which are heavy on their legs.
If a thrower were to notice their arm severely hurting during practice, it is in their best interest to stop throwing and step out. If they can see an athletic trainer, that would be most helpful.
If a jumper or sprinter were to notice that their hamstring was really acting up and was in extreme pain during a workout, continuing to run on it would not help the athlete.
For all event areas, continuing to work out or run through extreme pain will lead to worse problems, which could keep the athlete out for a long time. No athlete enjoys being out of competition due to an injury, but it is not in their best interest to risk their career if they are hurting.
Do not run or compete through extreme pain. Get it checked out, and take your necessary rest and rehabilitation time seriously.