Have you ever been driving along when suddenly a rock hits your windshield and a tiny crack starts forming at the point of impact? The longer you let that crack go, the bigger it gets, right? Well stress fractures are basically cracks in your bones that develop due to excessive and repetitive stress, and the longer you continue running with this injury, not unlike that windshield of yours, the worse it can get. In fact, eventually that crack can turn into an all-out break, and at that point you may as well kiss your running log good-bye, because you won’t be making entries any time soon!
Recognizing the signs of a stress fracture can help you know when to ease off your training and let your bone heal. Usually there is an increasing pain and tenderness along the bone with activity. It will hurt to press on it and may become swollen. These symptoms can progress until you experience them not only when you are running, but when you are simply walking, or even bearing no weight at all!
If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s important to rest. Yes, we know that is painful for runners to hear, but not as painful as the alternative! We assure you that a little rest now will keep you from having to take a lot of time off later. If you really must move, try doing some low-impact swimming instead, and practice these stress fracture prevention tips:
- Eat a nutritious diet to build strong bones
- Don’t wear worn out shoes. Be sure they fit well, have plenty of cushion and support, and you replace them regularly.
- Slowly and gradually increase the intensity and the duration of your workouts
- Cross-train to alleviate repetitive stress
- Make sure to warm up properly before you head out on your run