Is resting really the best thing for my injury?

runner resting his running injury and blog title

This may seem on the contrary to the beliefs of most, but complete rest is rarely the solution for optimal recovery. In fact, rest could potentially make your injury worst! So let’s learn why staying active is so important and which option is best for your injury.

Complete rest & running injuries

When you experience an overuse injury, for example a sore knee after a long run, the structures in that joint become irritated and sensitive. Once this initial phase occurs, the capacity for that structure to tolerate load diminishes. In other words, it becomes weaker in the short term. Even if irritability is high, rest should only be 2-3 days. If it extends any longer, you are resting an already weak joint. And what happens when you rest a weak joint? It becomes weaker. You then return to the same level of activity to find that your injury flares up again.

runner running while injured

Limit your rest from injury: Return to running

If after 2-3 days of rest the sensitive joint cannot tolerate your previous running load, then spend 1-2 weeks on a walk/jog program to build it back up. Alternatively (or concurrently), you can add in some cross-training sessions to kickstart the re-building phase. There has even been some research showing low levels of pain when running is good for recovery. Establishing what training level you can tolerate is an artform and can require advice from a professional. Otherwise, the good ol’ trial and error can be implemented but might take you longer to recover. Staying active is key and a prolonged injury beyond 2 weeks needs attention.

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