Life can get crazy when you're training for a half or full marathon, and sometimes life and throw things at you the can affect your training. If you are working with a running coach, remember he has created a plan for you. Also remember that your training plan is a guide, a guide created specifically for you and your goals.
As a running coach for going on 10 years, I've come to realize there tends to be four types of race trainees—the "Sporadic", the "Checker-Offer", the "Ignorer" and the "Communicator."
The Sporadic trainee tends to use the plan as a suggestion. He'll keep his normal run routine and then decide to throw in some of the workouts in their plan. Or they use the plan for a few weeks, then go rogue for a while and then maybe get back to following the plan. This runner often wonders why they are not seeing the progress they expected.
The Checker-offer trainee is that runner that has to do every workout in the plan regardless of circumstances that might dictate otherwise. For example, if the runner can't get in his/her long run on Saturday and moves it to Sunday (which is fine) he/she will still do the speed workout scheduled for Monday (which isn't good), just because it's on the plan. The desire to check off every workout overrides common sense or what they're body might be telling them. This runner feels like a failure if every workout is not checked off as completed.
The Ignorer trainee is the runner that ignores the signs of injury. The Ignorer tends to use the not-so-useful sayings, "run through the pain" or "no pain no gain." This runner has trouble distinguishing the difference between regular delayed onset muscle soreness or discomfort and pain. And... sometimes they know the difference, but keep on running because of fear if they take time off, they'll lose everything they've gained. Often this runner will keep running through pain until a serious injury occurs.
The Communicator trainee is the runner that uses his/her plan as a guide. This person communicates with his/her coach when she has to miss a run and not sure if or how she should make it up. This runner will communicate with her coach when she's been sick, when she's experiencing pain that's affecting his running. This runner will ask questions about fueling and hydration. This runner will text, call, instant message, and talk in person with her coach.
Can you guess which of these four types have a higher risk of injury?
To the Sporadic trainee: Your plan has been crafted by your coach just for you and your goals. The plan is created with consistency as it's foundation. Doing the runs and workouts as prescribed on a consistent basis will help you safely reach your goals. Running hot and cold isn't going to help your reach your goals.
To the Checker-offer trainee: Your plan is a guide. Yes, it's important to get in as many of your prescribed runs as you can, but that doesn't mean doing every single run just for the sake of having a check mark on each workout. If you miss a run, sometimes it can safely be made up, but other times it's better to miss the run completely rather than squeeze it in just for the sake of completing it. For example, putting two hard runs back-to-back is not recommended. Keep in mind that long-and-slow is "hard" and short-and-fast is "hard." So, if you miss a long run, don't try to make it up by putting it the day before your speed workout. Maybe instead, you do the make-up long run, and then either rest or run easy on the speed workout day. When in doubt, consult your coach. He/she can help you figure out how/if you should make up the run.
To the Ignorer: Communicate with your coach when you're experiencing pain. He/she may have some initial suggestions for how do deal with your issue. Or he may say you need to check in with the doc. Better to be safe than sorry. Instead of putting off seeing the sports doc or physical therapist, schedule that appointment. Much better to find out it's nothing than let things linger until you have a full blown injury and you're off running for several months. You'd be surprised how many times, I'm not aware one of my runners has had in issue until I see them in a boot. Listen to our body. Taking a rest day is much better the plugging through a workout just to get it done. Use the following pain scale to help you decide what to do when feeling discomfort or pain.
1-10 Pain Scale for Runners
Mild Pain: Rating 1-3, is the type of pain you feel when you start to exercise but it usually goes away as you start to warm up and continue running. The pain may be inconsistent and moves around the body, or you feel it bilaterally (in both knees, for example). Mild pain or discomfort is common and considered safe to run through. Apply ice at any areas of concern after your run. A bag of frozen peas works really well.
Moderate Pain: Rating 4-6, pain that doesn't cause you to limp or alter your stride, will probably respond well to a couple days of rest, pain-free cross-training, and icing as needed. If it doesn't, go see the doc.
Severe Pain: Rating 7 to 10, requires immediate doctor attention. This kind of pain you feel before, during, and after the run. It usually starts at the beginning of a run and increases until your stride altered or you stop. Don't let it get that far.
It's not that the Communicator trainee will never get hurt, but because they are keeping in constant communication with his/her coach, they are more likely to head off possible injury. Be proactive when training. If you're in a group training program, your coach may be working with dozens of runners. Never think he/she is too busy for your questions. Also, don't assume he knows exactly what you're going through. Communicate with him. That's what he's there for.