How to Know When (or If) You Should Give up Running
Running, like all athletic pursuits, is all about dedication. Even if you struggle at first, once you persevere and learn to love your runs, stopping – for any length of time – can be a pretty difficult decision to make. Still, sometimes, you may have to stop running. At least for a little while.
But how to do you know when – or if – you should give up running? If you do have to stop, how long should your break last? Are there any situations in which you should stop running for good?
What Running Does To Your Body
To fully answer this question, it’s important to be clear about what exactly running does to your body. Of course, there’s all the good stuff.
Your heart – indeed your entire cardiovascular system – becomes stronger and more efficient. Similar changes also happen at a metabolic level that allows your body to transport and use by oxygen and fuel more effectively. All of your working muscles – which as a runner are your legs – also become stronger and more efficient.
Then there are the more subtle changes that impact your hormonal levels and cognitive function. Although the research into the exact mechanisms at work here is ongoing and relatively new, some basic facts are pretty clear. Specifically, your mood, memory and overall brain health can improve through regular exercise.
But that’s not all that’s happening. Despite it’s pretty sterling reputation, running and other forms of exercise actually can have some negative impacts on your body. The reality is that each time you work out, your muscles undergo varying degrees of damage. In an ideal situation, this damage is what causes your muscles to grow big and stronger in response.
Too Far Gone
When your body isn’t given the time and resources needed to recover, however, that damage sticks around. If that pattern of poor or incomplete recovery continues workout after workout, then the structural damage forming in your muscles will steadily increase.
Similarly, many of the beneficial hormonal changes that you experience are in response to the feelings of stress brought on by exercise. For example, levels of both adrenaline and cortisol steadily increase, giving you a boost of energy and focus, while also increasing the rate at which you metabolize fat for fuel. So, those hormones get some pretty great stuff done.
When the concentration of these hormones stays elevated for a prolonged period of time, though, the reaction goes too far. That precious mental sharpness can quickly turn into a noticeable and challenging fog. Frustratingly, the increased fat metabolism could actually reverse and cause your body to store fat – believing that you’re facing a survival situation.
Any time that this situation occurs if can be frustrating. If this continues for a while, though, a more serious condition – called Overtraining Syndrome – can develop. While Overtraining Syndrome can manifest differently from one individual to another, the most common symptoms include:
- Mood swings
- Sleep disruptions
- Digestive problems
- Loss of appetite
- Persistent thirst
- Decrease in athletic performance
- Joint pain
- Difficulty focusing
Aches And Pains
The development of Overtraining Syndrome isn’t the only thing that might give you reason for pause, though. It’s also possible that you might experience any number of aches, pains and injuries.
Of course, the most common example of athletic pain is Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) – a dull ache in the muscles that usually appears around 24 to 48 hours after your workout has ended. This pain typically goes away after a week.
But any number of pains can also occur in your joints and even your bones. This could be caused by everything from a break to a sprain or tendonitis. The exact details and severity of these pains can vary wildly on a case-by-case basis.
How Long To Wait
So, these are some of the things that might give you reason to stop and take a step back from your running. The big question, though, has to do with duration.
The simple, and frustratingly vague explanation is this: Take as much time as you need to recover. As general as this solution sounds, it really is the only way to approach the situation. A broken bone in your arm, for example, might not really have any impact on your runs.
Even a relatively minor knee injury, though, could keep you from running for months. Really, then, the exact time off that you need can only be decided through an honest discussion with your doctor.
A similar strategy can be applied to Overtraining Syndrome. When these symptoms start, giving your muscles time to fully recover is the solution. This can take a few days but many also take weeks or even weeks.
In most of these situations, the guidance of a doctor or fitness professional will be absolutely vital. Since you’re doubtless trying to perform your best, chances are pretty strong that you’d push yourself too hard.
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