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FITNESS Treating injuries from running

Listen when your body talks

Personal trainer
Paul O'Brien

‘Body-talk’ – it’s the word I use for listening to your body. Listening out for and acting upon body-talk is essential for runners of all levels. In some ways, it’s even more vital for those just starting off on a new program of exercise.
Those of you who have been following the advice given in the last few articles are hopefully enjoying training towards your first 5k or 10k race. You are walking, jogging or a combination of both up to five times each week and starting to reap the benefits of your renewed exercise plan. Perhaps you notice the difference in your energy levels, or feel generally calmer. Perhaps you’re even starting to see some weight reduction and toning up. What you don’t want now is a niggling injury to interrupt your momentum.


Injuries are frustrating. They cause loss of momentum, set your progress back and hack away at your motivation. With this in mind, it’s not surprising that lots of people try to continue exercising despite injury. Don’t make this mistake. Injury is your body’s way of telling you that something is up. This is body-talk. And you’d better learn to listen. Otherwise a niggling injury could become a chronic one and affect you for much longer than it should.
Experience has taught me to listen to my body-talk. Below I’ve outlined my approach. Follow these steps and you’ll speed up your recovery process and help prevent injuries in the first place:

Tune in

Learn to take notice of what’s going on in your body. When I’m training, I periodically ‘scan’ my body to assess its state of health. This takes a couple of minutes and can also provide a timely distraction. Simply, ‘scan’ each area of your body, beginning with your legs and moving up. Scan all muscles, from your feet to you face. Notice any tension, niggling strains or discomfort. It may help to concentrate on relaxing any affected area for a few moments.

If you do notice something before, during or after exercising, accept it and relax. Don’t push yourself through a session and risk causing further damage. If jogging, slow to a walk. If discomfort persists, stop, rest and ice the affected area as soon as possible, placing an ice pack in a towel and applying to the affected area for 15 minutes.

Mix it up
Resting up does not mean you have to stop exercising. A great way to still get some exercise is to cross-train. Let’s say you have a slight niggle in one of your calf muscles. Instead of jogging or running, go for a cycle or swim instead. You will not be causing further stress to the muscle, as you have minimised the impact through cross-training with non-impact disciplines. You will also be able to maintain your progress until you’re ready to hit the road again.

Prevention better than cure
Make sure you include some strength and endurance training in your walking/jogging program. This will help strengthen the muscles and joints, making injury less likely.

Stretch it out
Stretching before and after exercise is essential for injury prevention. Stretching helps maintain normal muscle length and pliability. An occasional massage is another excellent tonic against injury.

This week, you are looking to increase your exercise volume by another 10-15 percent. We will alter a couple of variables in the coming week as follows:

Ensure you maintain a shorter distance route in your routine. Your goal this week is to complete that same route in 10-15 percent less time than you did last week.
This can be achieved by increasing the length of your faster ‘intervals’.

On another day, aim to increase the distance you are covering by walking/jogging for an extra 5-10 minutes.
Remember to keep filling in your training log and try to identify any patterns.

Paul O’Brien
is a certified personal trainer with the American Council on Exercise and a qualified life coach. He runs his own business in Westport and is the creator of Bootcamp West, an exciting and challenging exercise programme in Westport. For details of upcoming classes, visit or e-mail or telephone 086 1674515.