Tayte Pollmann’s Tuesday Trail Tip: How to Fix Your Niggles

Tayte Pollmann’s articles are supported by American Trail Running Association corporate member Nike Trail Running. You can follow Tayte’s adventures on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

What is a “niggle?” Niggles are what I call small discomforts in your muscles that usually heal quickly without medical attention and most often don’t hamper a runner’s ability to continue training. Soreness or tightness in a particular area, such as a knot in your calf, is an example of a niggle. Most niggles occur as a result of changes in training, such as running more on roads when you’re used to trails, or increases in volume or intensity. Although most niggles will go away on their own, there are several things you can do to speed up your recovery and ensure your niggle doesn’t turn into a more serious injury. Listed below are my top tips for fixing your niggles.

Warm Up
Oftentimes niggles will be present at the beginning of a run and will slowly dissipate as you continue a run or a workout. This is especially true of sore or tight muscles. Taking the time to properly warm up your muscles with a 10-20 minute slow jog/walk or some easy core exercises may help you avoid aggravating your niggle. Here’s my recent core exercises article.

Keep the Blood Flowing
Getting blood flow to your niggles through easy exercise will help them heal more quickly. Avoid sitting for long periods of time as this will minimize blood flow and cause already tight muscles to tighten up further. If you sit at a desk much of the day, get up every 20-30 minutes and walk around, or stretch. To further increase blood flow, consider doing low-impact cross training, such as biking, aqua jogging or taking a walk. Especially after hard workouts, I like to take short walks. Check out my recent low impact cross training article.

Avoid Anti-Inflammatories Drugs and Icing
Anti-inflammatory drugs and icing may reduce symptoms, but will decrease blood flow and the body’s natural ability to heal the affected area. Although there may be some injuries where reducing inflammation is necessary, niggles do better with increased blood flow.

Use Recovery Tools
Consistently using recovery tools such as foam rollers, R8 deep tissue massage rollers, or slant boards can help fix your niggles. For muscles tightness, I find daily self massage with a foam roller to be one of the most effective methods of getting my body back to normal. I also use a golf ball to massage my feet every night or while cooking. Here’s my recent golf ball massage article.

Don’t Schedule Your Next Hard Day Too Soon
Although you may be able to train through niggles, you should avoid intense activities such as speed-work or extreme hills. This past Wednesday, I performed a speedy track session for the first time in well over a year. I noticed a slight niggle in my left calf after the workout and did only easy running until the following Sunday when my niggle disappeared. Too much intensity can turn small niggles into lingering and more serious injuries.

Recognize that even if you have an intense workout planned, it does not mean you have to do the workout on the day assigned in your training schedule. Judge how you feel the day of and reschedule the workout if you still feel your niggle. It’s safer and more effective for your training to avoid over-exerting yourself when you have a niggle. Your niggle may be your body’s way of indicating you need more time to adapt to your current stress-load.

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