by Mbio Staff September 13, 2017


The answer to this question is unequivocally "no". Pain is your body's way of telling you that something is seriously wrong, and pushing ahead despite this warning is a major risk - you could end up injuring yourself in the process.

That said, runners experience all kinds of aches and pains. Even stiff, sore muscles can induce painful twinges when you're warming up for a run. How can you tell which pain is really dangerous? How do you know when it's okay to run through the pain, so to speak?

There's no surefire way to know if certain types of pain are precursors to serious injury, so if you're not confident, you should always err on the side of caution and hit the pause button. However, you're not the first runner to experience this conundrum, and there are certainly best practices you can follow.

While doctors and experts alike will certainly advise you never to continue with physical activity when you're experiencing pain, only you can gauge what constitutes your personal level of pain tolerance, and learn to understand when your body is grumbling about the abuse versus when it's screaming that you're risking injury. Here are a few tips to help you safely run through the pain.

Discomfort vs Pain

A good mantra to adopt when it comes to running is this: know thyself. Self-knowledge can help you to gauge the difference between pain that will pass and pain that indicates injury.

As a runner, you're going to experience all kinds of discomfort. Muscles will burn and joints will ache. Your head will throb and your skin will chafe. Breathing will be labored. And it only gets worse from there.

These physical symptoms might be classified as pain by the average person, but you're not average - you're a runner, and these forms of discomfort are part and parcel of your preferred activity. You're going to suffer fatigue and exhaustion in the course of a long run.

What you're bound to discover over time is that pain in running can be temporary. In a sense, you can run through it and come out the other side. Experience will help you to gauge the differences between mere discomfort and serious pain that could presage injury.

A good rule of thumb is to rate pain on a scale of, say, 1 to 10. At the low end are mild symptoms like muscle soreness that every runner suffers throughout the course of training. This doesn't necessarily qualify as pain, but more of an irritation or annoyance.

At the other end of the spectrum would be a serious injury that stops you from running, like a sprained ankle, a pulled muscle, a torn ligament, or a stress fracture. In the middle are a wide range of pains that range from merely nagging to verging on serious, such as shin splints, Achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, and runner's knee, just for example.

Only you can decide if your pain is bad enough that you shouldn't continue to run. Again, erring on the side of caution could save you from serious injury and months of rehabilitation in which running is out of the question. With time, training, and experience you can learn to properly gauge your pain so you know when it's safe to keep going.

Slow it Down

Pain is your body's way of slowing you down when you need a break, so you might want to take one if pushing through isn't working. Slow your pace and take stock of your body. As your breathing regulates and your heart rate drops, you may find that you're able to shake off the pain and return to your run.

Think Positive

There is a correlation between the psyche and physical pain symptoms. When you dwell on the pain you're experiencing, you're going to perceive it as being worse. If, on the other hand, you're able to distract yourself, feelings of pain and discomfort should fade - supposing your pain isn't a warning of imminent injury.

Seasoned runners learn to turn negatives into positives, using aches and pains to as motivation to push through, climb another hill, and make it to the finish line, instead of succumbing to a defeatist attitude. If your pain is of a serious nature, however, this will not help you, and that, in and of itself, is a good sign that you should heed the warning signals your body is sending.

Mbio Staff
Mbio Staff

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