Running & NSAIDs

So often I’m asked about the use and implications for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Sooner or later, involvement with athletics will lead to aches and pains. There is a wonderful article written in plain English for all of us on I won’t restate it here.

I do want to add an important point not made in the article for endurance athletes. Most if not all NSAIDs also have an antipyretic affect. They reduce fevers. Since they have an effect on our temperature regulatory system it is not wise to use them in endurance activities (i.e. marathons) or under heated conditions. “Heat” is a relative term. There isn’t a point at which we can say it is “hot” so don’t take an NSAID. The best and safest practice is not to take them under any conditions that are even “warm” to YOU. Your body heat will only increase as you exercise.

NSAIDs are also contraindicated in a number of common conditions such as asthma and allergic rhinitis, psoriasis, infammatory bowel disease and atherosclerosis. And get this, long term use can even have a damaging effect on your cartilage. That’s probably not the best thing for runners, eh?

There are also many contraindications to NSAID use in combination with other medications, prescription and otherwise. These are not as innocent as they seem even though they are over-the-counter drugs.

And for those who seem to think popping some ibuprofen during the marathon is somehow going to magically get them through the race… think again. This is just plain stupid. Get in shape and stop looking for a quick fix to “get you through” a race. If that is what you think is the difference between “making it” (the finish or a PR) or not then you need to rethink your entire training program because something is dreadfully wrong.


About Dean Hebert

I’m a mental game coach, author and speaker. I work with individual athletes, parents, coaches, and teams on sports performance enhancement. Beyond my academic post-graduate work in sports psychology - the psychology behind athlete performance – I am a certified Mental Games Coaching Professional (MGCP) and certified hypnotherapist. I’ve authored several books and hundreds of articles. “Coach, I didn’t run because…” (2008) is a seriously light-hearted look at making excuses not to workout and how to overcome them. “Focus for Fitness” (2009) and “Screw the Goals Give me the Donut” (2010) are two of my eBooks on mental game approaches for the everyday athlete. I wrote these because I believe that everyone can benefit from the powerful mental techniques that the world’s best athletes use. I have been cited in Runners World, Best Health magazine (CN), SWEAT Magazine, and the Washington Examiner amongst many other publications. I have been a featured mental games coach in Runner’s World and for the internationally acclaimed trail running resource - I also regularly appear on sports and fitness talk shows such as LTKFitness, Runnersroundtable and for more than three years I have co-hosted a weekly video series with Coach Joe English for I specialize in mental toughness training. My clients include tennis, synchronized swimming, golf, race-kart, soccer, motocross, volleyball, MMA, cycling (road, off-road, time-trialist), running, duathlon and triathlon, basketball, football and baseball athletes. I have coached world-class athletes and athletes internationally. I have a passion for working with youth athletes and helping them apply mental game skills and techniques to all areas of life. Most importantly, my aim is to have people enjoy sports and life to their fullest through peak performances.
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One Response to Running & NSAIDs

  1. I often hear my friends talk about popping a few Advil’s or whatever before their long runs and marathons. I wonder why as they may not feel the pain that alerts them of an injury. I think it makes them feel like it will help and the placebo affect does work. Also, the battles they have to go through for their really long runs are not little.

    If you look at the difference between an average marathoner and an elite one is the elite does not have to run nearly as long(time) as the average marathoner. These guys can do an E pace run of 26.2 miles in under 3 hours, so a 22 mile run for them is only 2hrs 20 minutes. Most rec runners do their long 22 milers in about 4.5 hours(assuming a 4.5hr marathon goal). They both have to do the long run of the same distance, but the average marathoner is running for twice as long. That is a lot of strain on the bodies and minds.

    So it may not help them, but it may make them feel stronger and more able to do the task at hand.

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