See an expert to get over your running fear

First published in Sport
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This question came in this week from a member of a running club in Darlington: “Paul, I liked your recent article on the Kinesiology tape. Although continuing to train with an Achilles injury, a complete lack of confidence is a big issue now. When I run, I have it in my mind that each niggle is the old injury flaring up again.

Therefore I slow down, walk or even stop altogether even though I’m not in that much discomfort. When can you be sure an injury is completely clear? And how do you know if it is even the same one? The fear factor of breaking through that physiological wall is a big one for all runners at my club. Have you any experience of this and if so any suggestions to combat it?

Paul Gough: Let me get straight to the point and say there’s not a single athlete I’ve ever met who doesn’t fear an old injury recurring and the reality is that each person has different reasons for their ‘fear’. If you’re a pro athlete, it’s your participation in big events and the fact your career hangs in the balance. Likewise, if you’re a ‘weekend athlete’ like the person asking the question, it means just as much to you if you’re going to have to miss out on social runs or the endorphin rush that comes from running.

But how do you stop the fear from taking over? Let me explain with this story. If you got on a repaired airplane that had been fixed by company that wasn’t experienced, you would not be sitting comfortably for any part of the flight.

When turbulence comes along (the equivalent of the little niggle in the Achilles), then chances are you’re going to break out into a cold sweat from the fear.

Now, if you’d chosen to get on a plane that had been repaired by the best experts, you’d be confident that it would be fixed and you’d be in a much better position to sit back and relax as the turbulence started.

The moral of the story is this: I see so many people not giving themselves the best chance of staying active and healthy, simply because they don’t go and seek the best advice. That should include a description of exactly what you should be feeling and when. Here’s an example for a hamstring injury:

After 7-10 days I’d encourage you to start running again. I would do this knowing you will feel a degree of discomfort, but I’d explain to you that what you feel is a burning sensation. I’d tell you that this is completely normal and a very good sign of progress. However, I’d also explain that those feelings are not to be confused with ‘cramping’ of the muscle, because if you start to feel the muscles cramp then what you’re doing is un-safe and you should stop.

Every time I saw you in my physio room, aside from doing the things you’d expect like a massage or stretching, I’d walk you through exactly what you’re likely to feel at every stage of your recovery.

And if you’ve followed all of the tips, done all of the exercises, and taken note of all the signs you should look out for, then the chances of ‘running with fear’ are reduced drastically. When it comes to your health and fitness, there’s no substitute for putting yourself in a room with an expert – it’ll be worth it.

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