Beat the Burn: Expert Strategies to Conquer Muscle Fatigue in Running

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Cross Training For Runners
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David Dack

Ready to banish that burning sensation and make your runs more enjoyable? You’re in the right place!

Here’s the truth. Muscle burn is more than just a sign of hard work – it’s a whole physiological process with big implications for your performance and endurance.

We’ve all been there, pushing our limits in terms of speed, distance, or incline, and feeling that burn creeping in. It can vary from a gentle warmth to an all-out inferno that makes you question why you even laced up your running shoes that day.

Worry no more.

In this article, I’m going to share my favorite no-nonsense strategies and tactics to help you manage and even prevent that burning sensation while running. By the end of this read, you’ll have some valuable tricks up your sleeve to make your runs smoother and more comfortable.

Sound like a plan?

Let’s dive in!

Increase Intensity Slowly

The key to keeping your muscles from burning up while running is by taking it slow.

Sure, pushing your limits is key, but going too hard and too fast can do more harm than good. Running like there’s no tomorrow without allowing your muscles to recover properly can result in some serious soreness and even injuries.

Here’s a golden rule: never ramp up the intensity—whether it’s the distance, speed, or both—all at once. Instead, embrace the 10 percent rule. It’s simple: increase your weekly mileage by no more than 10 percent.

And here’s a tip: only start adding speedwork to the mix once you’ve built a solid mileage base. Aim for 20 to 25 miles per week, and sustain that for at least three months straight.

Additional Resource – Here’s your guide to the Maffetone Method.

BCAAs for runners

Drink Lots of Water

Water isn’t just a thirst quencher; it’s the essence of life itself. It keeps our muscles, brains, and organs functioning optimally, and this is especially critical when you’re logging serious miles.

Now, let’s talk about how to stay properly hydrated during your runs:

  • Pre-run: Aim to drink 16-24 ounces of water 2-3 hours before starting your run. This allows your body enough time to process the fluid, ensuring you’re well-hydrated when you hit the road.
  • During the Run: If you’re planning a longer run, especially in warm or humid conditions, carry water or a sports drink with you. I’d recommend having 8-12 ounces every 20-30 minutes.
  • Post-run: After your run, remember to rehydrate and replace the fluids lost through sweating. While the exact amount depends on your sweating rate, a good rule of thumb is to drink until your urine becomes a light yellow color.
  • Listen to Your Body. If you find yourself unusually fatigued, experiencing cramps, or your mouth feeling as dry as a desert, these are clear signs that you’re running low on liquid.

Boost Your Lactate Threshold

Imagine being able to keep a faster pace for a more extended period without that crushing wave of fatigue hitting you. That’s precisely what a higher lactate threshold (LT) offers you.

When you train at or near your LT, something magical happens. Your body becomes a more efficient oxygen-processing machine, allowing you to run faster with less effort. And it doesn’t stop there—your well-trained lactate threshold enables your body to swiftly clear out lactate, which translates to quicker recovery after your run.

Here are a few strategies to help level up your lactate threshold:

  • Tempo Runs: Think of these as sustained efforts at a “comfortably hard” pace, just below your lactate threshold. They’re not too slow, not too fast, but just right. Aim for 20-40 minutes at this pace during your tempo workout.
  • Interval Training: By pushing your limits with short sprints at a pace faster than your lactate threshold, you shock your system into making adaptations that can elevate your LT.
  • Long Runs: While long runs may not be the fastest, they work wonders for building endurance and teaching your body how to make the most of available oxygen. These endurance-building runs indirectly contribute to improving your lactate threshold.
  • Strength Training: Don’t underestimate the power of a strong core and legs. Strength training not only enhances your running form but also improves efficiency, which has a positive ripple effect on your lactate threshold.

Additional Resource – Why is my running not improving


Ever noticed runners rocking compression gear and wondered if it’s just a fashion statement or something more? Well, let’s unravel the science behind it because there’s more to these sleek garments than meets the eye.

And there’s science behind it. A study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research reported that who sported compression gear reported less muscle soreness and quicker recovery after their sweat sessions.

But wait, there’s more! The European Journal of Applied Physiology chimed in with its findings. Turns out, donning compression garments can supercharge your endurance performance.

Stretch Down

Lactic acid, that notorious by-product from our vigorous runs, takes its sweet time to leave our system. We’re talking around 30 to 60 minutes. That’s why it’s crucial to cool down and then delve into stretching right after your run.

Stretching isn’t just about feeling good (although that’s a bonus!). It helps:

  • Relax those hard-working muscles.
  • Boosts blood flow, aiding in nutrient delivery and waste removal.
  • Relieves tension, leading to increased flexibility – a big win for your next run!

I’d recommend stretching your calves, quads, hamstrings, hip flexors, and glutes. Hold each stretch for 20-30 seconds for optimal benefits.

Foam Roll

Why Roll? Ever felt like you’ve got knots in your muscles? Foam rolling, also known as self-myofascial release, is like a deep tissue massage. It helps break down those knots, improving flexibility and decreasing muscle tightness.

If you’re aiming to decrease the build-up of lactic acid in those muscles, give foam rolling a go. It helps stimulate circulation and promotes lymphatic drainage, thus aiding in quicker recovery.

Additional Resource – Here’s your guide to hydration running vests

Eat Right For Less Lactic Acid

If you’ve been battling with that pesky lactic acid buildup post-run, guess what? The solution might just be on your plate! The foods you consume can play a significant role in managing lactic acid in your body.

So, here’s the lowdown on what to munch on for a smoother, sore-free recovery.

  • Leafy Greens: Think kale, spinach, and chard.
  • Protein Powerhouses: Fish, poultry, eggs – they’ve got it all!
  • Legume Lovin’: Peas and beans are packed with it.
  • Breakfast Boosters: Opt for fortified cereals.
  • Dairy Delights: A glass of milk or a bowl of yogurt, perhaps?
  • Magnesium: The Muscle Relaxant
  • Magnesium is essential for numerous biochemical reactions in your body, including those that help relax your muscles. Get your fill from:
  • Greens Galore: Spinach, turnip greens, and collard greens are magnesium-packed.
  • Bean Bonanza: Kidney beans and navy beans for the win.
  • Seeds & Nuts: Sunflower, pumpkin, and sesame seeds, plus a handful of mixed nuts will do the trick.

Build Consistency

Would you like to become to the best runner you can be? Then you’ve to be consistent in your training. The more you run, the better your muscles become at it. With time, your body adapts, and running starts to feel like second nature.

Also, consistent training gradually enhances your cardiovascular system. Your heart becomes a more efficient oxygen-pumping machine, supplying your muscles with the energy they need.

What’s more?

As you run regularly, you’ll likely notice that you recover more swiftly from tough runs. Your body becomes more efficient at healing and rejuvenating.

Take the following steps to improve your consistency:

  • Set Clear Goals: Whether it’s gearing up for a marathon or aiming for a personal best, having a goal will keep you committed to your routine.
  • Follow a Plan: Instead of haphazardly deciding how far or fast to run, follow a structured plan. This guides your progress while ensuring you don’t overdo it.
  • Make It a Habit: Designate specific days and times for your runs, and stick to them as closely as possible.
  • Listen to Your Body: If you experience pain (not to be confused with typical workout discomfort) or excessive fatigue, give your body the break it deserves.
  • Find a Buddy: Running with a friend can make the journey more enjoyable and provide that extra push on days when motivation is in short supply.

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