“You Shouldn’t Run”: Understanding and Moving Past Those Words

Cat Fitzgerald PT, DPT, CSCS

“You shouldn’t run”

The dreaded words some runners hear at some point in their lives. I have a lot of qualms with these words. Not because they’re not true (they sometimes are), but because they don’t take into account so many factors. The most important of which is the consideration for that person’s quality of life.

Out of context, telling someone they shouldn’t run seems simple. It’s straightforward medical advice. But with the context of who’s hearing those words, it can be devastating. Someone is being told they can no longer do something that brings them joy, something that they’ve thought is a healthy activity. 

I’ve met a lot of people that have been told they shouldn’t run.

Often it’s the case that they’re at the end of their rope, feeling frustrated and defeated. They’ve come to Custom Performance as their last shot at doing this thing. So many times when someone has been given the advice to stop running, the medical provider giving the advice has no idea what that person’s running looks like. So I would change “you shouldn’t run” to “you should evaluate how you’re currently running and make adjustments for what you and your body can handle”.

Maybe there’s too much mileage, maybe you can handle four days and not six days of running each week, maybe there’s no periodization within training, maybe the running mechanics aren’t good, maybe strength work is needed. There are so, so many things that can be addressed! There are tons of articles describing injury prevention exercises, but the key is that everything needs to be individualized and the work needs to be consistent.

You might be thinking, but I’ve already done the strength training, the form corrections, the PT!

Then you need to assess what needs to change about the actual running. I recommend thinking about why you run and what you want to get out of it. Maybe the reality is that you’re dropping how frequently you run, or maybe you’re focusing on the half marathon distance instead of the full marathon distance. It could look like a run/walk, or more days cross training on the bike. The goal of doing this is to be able to run as long as you can, and stay healthy. Something needs to change. Your running might not look the same as it did last month or last year, but you get to keep going. Those words, “you shouldn’t run”, no longer carry such a heavy weight for you. You get to run.

By Cat Fitzgerald PT, DPT, CSCS

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