When Tyler and I started running we noticed some strange things happening to our bodies. There’d be a twinge here, a cramp there, something funny going on over there…
Through trial and error we figured out how to cure those little pains in our bodies, and we wanted to share those tips with you too! I’m not a doctor so the information below shouldn’t be interpreted as professional advice or absolute truth. However, we’ve been there, we’ve felt that, and what worked for us may work for you.
Here are the top four funky things that happened when we started running, and what we did to fix them:
Have you ever gotten those annoying pains in your sides while you’re running or exercising? The ones that make it hard to breath and relax? If so, then you know all about side stitches. Fortunately, the stitches often go away over time as your body adapts. There are also a few strategies that might help you in the meantime:
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day
- Slow down your pace to the point where you can have a conversation while you’re running
- Don’t eat anything substantial (over 100-200 calories) within 1 hour of starting your exercise, and try to finish bigger meals at least 3 hours before you exercise
- Squeeze it! I literally clamp my hand around my side and lightly squeeze (as I continued running) until the stitch goes away. Who knows if it actually helps, but it makes me feel like I’m doing something to address the problem!
This time I’m not referring to side stiches. Instead, I’m referring to post-run stomach cramps that feel like a big hand is grabbing and twisting your intestines. They’re super fun, trust me…
These post-run cramps have subsided through the years, but they were a huge irritant early on. I suspect that they were caused by dehydration or an electrolyte imbalance, or the fact that our stomachs weren’t used to being jostled around. Improving our eating and drinking routines made a big difference, so here’s my advice:
- Lay down with a heating pad on your stomach until the cramps subside
- Don’t bother with over-the-counter medicines
- Try drinking a combination of water and coconut water (no sugar added)
- Avoid eating a lot of fiber or fat in the hours leading up to your run
- Be patient – it will get better with time and experience
You’re Thirsty, But You Can’t Stand to Drink More Water
This doesn’t refer to those times when a cold lemonade or adult beverage sounds more fun than water. I’m talking about the days when you’re active for over an hour, you’re sweating a lot, and you’ve been drinking water consistently. You might reach a point where you can feel your body telling you, “I need to drink something, but don’t you dare give me more water.” (Sounds strange, but it can happen.) I interpret that message as my body telling me I need to replenish my electrolytes.
Electrolytes are electrically-charged minerals like sodium, potassium and calcium that keep all the systems of the body functioning. Each drop of sweat contains electrolytes, so if you’re sweating heavily for a long time you might need to reload. Electrolyte imbalance can lead to cramping, disorientation, and deteriorated performance, and that’s just not fun. You can find lots of helpful articles about hydration and electrolyte replenishment online, so I’ll leave the nitty-gritty to the experts.
I generally like to drink 60-70% water and 30-40% electrolyte drink during extra-sweaty or extra-long workouts. My favorite electrolyte drinks are coconut water (no sugar added) and mixes from Hammer Nutrition, Skratch Labs and Nuun. After the workout, I’ll drink some more coconut water.
I didn’t have trouble with this until recently, when I started going barefoot more and wearing running sneakers that were worn-out. (I also suspect that my stride is too long, which causes me to land on my heels.) I started feeling a stabbing pain in the front of my heel when I stood or walked, especially first-thing in the morning. The most painful spot was on the inside front edge of my heel.
The symptoms indicated that I had developed plantar fasciitis. Fortunately, a few cheap and easy strategies helped to reduce the pain:
- A few days without running or excessive standing
- A few days of consistent ibuprofen intake (following the recommended dose on the bottle, stopping after 3-4 days)
- Icing the arch and heel of my foot 1-2 times per day for about 15 minutes
- Always wearing shoes (or structured slippers) with insoles designed for plantar fasciitis
- Getting new running sneakers with extra arch support
- When you start running again, increase your cadence to at least 84 foot strikes per minute (42 per foot). If you’re a heel-striker like me, this will help bring your weight over the middle of your foot
I know there’s an ongoing debate about the value of going barefoot and wearing shoes with less arch support. I’m all for running around barefoot, feeling the grass between my toes. As my heel continues to recover, though, my little piggies are going to be wearing shoes with insoles.
Hopefully it’s helpful to know that your body might do some strange things when you start running. Sometimes you might wonder if you’re injured, if you’re doing something wrong, or if you should give up this running thing after all because it doesn’t always feel very good.
First and foremost, listen to your body and your doctor. But also know that some of these things are just growing pains. They may be temporary, and they may not be causing actual damage to your body. Over time, with trial and error and more experience, you’ll find a routine that works for you and your body will love you for it!