When Challenging Yourself Becomes Dangerous: 5 Signs You Should Stop Your Run

What makes you stronger apparently could kill you. Find out how to protect yourself on your runs.

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Nobody likes to be that guy who slows down the entire group or breaks the pace. The thoughts of being a ‘burden’ or quitting a race in full view of everyone are enough to make many of us lose sleep at night. That’s why we tell ourselves to buckle up and pound harder in between of catching our breath and trying to feel our legs (even if it means all the pain in the world, no?).

But putting mind over body can also cause long-term injuries, or worse, lead us to the finish line (and I’m not talking about the kind where we receive medals). So, how do we know when we’re pushing just too hard?

When You’re Short of Breath

“Wait, what? But that’s how I feel every time I run,” and we agree. Except that we’re not talking about panting and higher breathing rates here. The shortness of breath that we’re talking about is the kind that makes you feel like you’re being buried 10 feet under the ground and when you have to force air into your lungs.

Shortness of breath can be caused by exercise-induced asthma. Some of the symptoms are coughing and wheezing during exercise and last for about 10 minutes post-exercise. Difficulty of breathing may also be a sign of heart problems. If we suddenly cannot catch a breath while doing the same running routine we usually do with ease, it’s time to call it a day and visit the doctors.

When You Get Dizzy

Many of us can turn superhuman while running, such that no throbbing headache can slow us down. On one hand, that kind of determination deserves a standing ovation; on the other hand, we may be ignoring serious health alerts.

Dizziness can be symptoms of more serious problems, such as tumours or bleeding, within the brain. Also, with the soaring temperatures here in Singapore, dizziness could be caused by the onset of a heatstroke, which definitely isn’t to be ignored.

This doesn’t mean that we’ve got to rush down to the A & E department every time we have a headache while running since most headaches are trivial and can be resolved easily. These are usually caused by a lack of sleep, a lack of fluids consumed, or even just a lack of quietness because of those booming ‘pump it’ songs.  Therefore, we should pay careful attention to the level and frequency of pain to determine whether this is something that warrants any worry.

When You Feel Chest Pain

This is the most obvious sign among all. Our chest area should be a pain-free zone. If we feel any discomfort around the chest, it is likely that we’ve worked ourselves too much. The smartest thing to do then is to rest and look for help.

Dr Martha Gulati, editor-in-chief of Cardiosmart, said that chest pain is never normal or expected during or after exercise. Discomfort in the upper body that is followed by sweating, dizziness, and shortness of breath could lead to a heart attack.

Chest pain is like our body standing on a mountain top screaming warning with a loudspeaker. The signs cannot be clearer: Stop. Your. Run.

When You Feel Severe Muscle and Joint Pain

This area is in all shades of grey. After all the point of working out is to make micro-tears in the muscles, which would then be repaired with rest and made stronger. Sometimes our muscles may feel sore, but we still can run with it and most of the time, we come out alright. So, what’s the big fuss?

Some of the tears in our muscles are neither small nor harmless. The general rule is if something hurts so much that we cannot let our feet touch the ground without wincing, forget about running. Severe muscle tears and swollen joints, if not treated within 48 hours, can cause serious injuries. Damage to the ligaments around the ankle also makes us more susceptible to sprains. Worse still, acute tendon tears can put us in a plaster cast for weeks and prevent us from running for months. So, is it really worth it to run that extra 1 km or try to shave off 10 seconds off your personal record when you’re having severe muscle pain?  Only if you enjoy limping for the next few months, we say.

When Your Heart Skips a Beat

When we think of our heart skipping a beat, we usually don’t think of a health emergency, thanks to generations of rom-com and cheesy love songs. But, when we experience this during a heavy run, we really shouldn’t shrug it off.

Heart palpitation is a condition that describes irregular heartbeat. The surge of adrenaline is the most common cause of the pounding and skipping of our hearts. Heart palpitation can cause stroke, hyperventilation, and heart attack when our heartbeat goes off the chart. When trying out a more intensive running workout for the first time, it’s best to target 40 to 50 percent of the maximum heart rate to prevent this condition.

"But putting mind over body can also cause long-term injuries, or worse, lead us to the finish line (and I’m not talking about the kind where we receive medals)."


Yes, many of these signs are normal things that would present themselves during a run, except chest pains. The only distinguishing factors that can tell us if we’re pushing ourselves too hard are the intensity and frequency of the pain. There’s nothing wrong with challenges, but we’ve got to know our body and listen to it too. 


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LIV3LY Editor
LIV3LY Editor

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