Running is one my favorite things to do in the world. It burns mad calories, protects against chronic diseases, improves overall conditioning…. I could go on and on.
Nonetheless, often than not, the high impact nature of the sport can take a toll on the body. I’m not just talking about serious overuse injuries (which is a topic I have covered in depth in this article). Nuisance and irritations, such as side stitches and blisters, can also bring your training program into a screeching halt if you don’t know how to deal with them.
Take it from someone who knows. I’ve been a runner for more than ten years, and I had my fair share of running mishaps. What matters most is what you do next. That’s where today’s article comes in handy.
Without further ado, here are six common running problems as well as tips on how to handle them.
There are many theories as to what causes side stitches. Most probably, this stabbing pain is the result of an oxygen debt to abdominal muscles.
Regardless of what’s causing it, side stitches are quite common, affecting roughly 25 percent of runners, according to survey.
Have a lightweight pre-run meal that’s low in fat and fiber. Also, make sure to start your workouts with a proper warm-up. Doing so not only prepares your muscles but also aids in optimal breathing.
Dealing with a side stitch while running is quite easy. Simply stop running and take long, slow deep breaths.
If that doesn’t help, extend both of your arms into the sky, then bend at the waist, leading to the side of the affected area while exhaling and just let your arms dangle. Next, hold the stretch for 10 to 20 seconds on each side. Resume running again once the pain subsides.
You can also press your hand on the affected area and relieve the pressure while breathing.
2. Ankle Sprains
A few days ago I sprained my ankle running up the Campuhan Ridge in Ubud, Bali. It wasn’t too bad—I was able to jog on it with minimum pain but had some slight swelling and bruising after.
An ankle sprain often occurs when the foot lands awkwardly or incorrectly, forcing it to twist or roll , which damages the soft tissue and ligaments. This usually occurs after a sudden impact, landing, or twisting of the ankle. In some cases, you might feel or hear a pop followed by intense pain.
Ankle sprains are quite common, affecting both beginner and professional runners.
Following an ankle sprain, your next first few steps will be painful. But once the affected limb loosens up, chances are you’ll be able to get back to your pace with ease.
If your ankle still hurts, stop running on it. Instead, opt for the RICE method. Rest the injured ankle, ice it a few times per day, and keep it compressed and elevated to relieve pain and prevent any further damage.
As a rule, take up your training again when you’re pain-free, have a full range of motion in the injured limb, and the strength and balance in the affected limb is equal to that of the uninjured ankle.
Here’s your full guide to treating and preventing ankle sprains while running.
2. Muscle Cramps
Muscle cramps are super excruciating, involuntary muscle contractions that nearly every runner has suffered from at some point. According to my research, some runners may experience them more often as they seem to be prone to the condition.
The condition is usually caused by overuse—running farther or faster than usual or continuing to push your body to the maximum limit, especially in warm weather.
Often, cramps strike at during long distance runs or at the end of intense interval workout because exhausted muscles are more likely to contract out of control.
If you’re a beginner runner, chances are you’ll experience cramps as your body fatigues more quickly than seasoned runners. However, even if you’ve been running for a long time, running too fast or too hard can make you susceptible to muscle cramps
The best way to prevent muscles cramps while running is to stay well hydrated. Drink at least 16 ounces of water before your session. Take a water bottle with you or plan your route along water stop for runs lasting for more than an hour.
If you’re experiencing a cramp mid-run, stop running and apply firm pressure to the affected muscle for 15 seconds, then gently stretch it. Repeat the procedure until the cramps subside.
Start walking when resolved, then gradually resume running.
Chafing is skin irritation caused by friction—typically skin-on-skin or clothing-on-skin. The affected area will be red, raw, and tender.
Left unattended, the friction will ultimately cause enough irritation that will damage your skin, resulting in skin rubbed raw, and in some instances, rashes and painful blisters.
To prevent chafing while running, apply a lubricant, such as Vaseline or Body Glide to chafe-prone areas. These include the inner thighs, underarms, and the nipples.
Also, avoid running in loose clothes. Instead, opt running clothing made of high performance, sweat-wicking fabric that wicks moisture away from your skin to the outer surface, where it evaporates.
Steer clear of cotton too. This material absorbs sweat, making it wet, which can make the friction even worse.
5. Stumble & Fall
Sure, running isn’t a contact sport, yet scores of runners manage to fall and get pretty bloodied up.
I do most of my running outside, and frankly, I trip and fall at least three to four times a year. So far I haven’t broken anything. I just typically wound up with a bloody knee or elbow.
What matters most is what you do next.
Pay attention. That seems simple enough.
Keep your head up and gaze straight ahead—about 10 to 15 feet in front of you—so you can see what’s coming. Do not look down at your feet. This is particularly the case when trail running. That’s where you’re most likely to come across obstacles such as roots, rocks, logs, roots, and branches.
What’s more? Be aware of your environment and practice good communication.
To stay aware of your surrounding, keep the music volume low, or leave one earbud out. Pass on the music if you’re running at night or on hectic streets—because you never know.
Also, stay alert to other runners, cyclists, and walkers.
For more safety running tips, check these two posts.
What if everything fails? Then it’s not the end of the world.
First, get up and assess the damage. Check to make sure your knees, ankles, wrists, and elbows are all right.
If everything is all right, bring your focus back and resume running.
You can leave the wound alone until your home where you can wash it with warm water, soap, and hydrogen peroxide. Use a bit of antibiotic to keep it clean.
However, heavy bleeding requires immediate medical attention.
Most foot blisters are the result of continuous rubbing between the sock, the running shoe, and the skin of the foot, forcing the outer layers of the skin to rub together, break apart, and fill with fluid. Yikes!
Excessive moisture, wrinkled socks, sharp seams, foot abnormalities, or improper running shoes or insoles are some of the leading causes of the condition.
The best way to deal with blisters is to prevent them in the first place. Start by running in properly fitted shoes. That means leaving at least a half-inch space between your longest toes and the end of the toe box.
Also, opt for the right socks. These should be running-specific. Avoid cotton socks at all times. For more protection, consider wearing two thin pairs of socks to reduce friction.
You can put vaseline sports lube or bandages over blister-prone spots before a run—typically bony surfaces such as the toes and the heels.
If you’re hit with a mid blister run, keep going as long as the pain is not too much nor throwing off your stride.
7. Runners Diarrhea
Also known as runners’ trots, the condition covers a host gastrointestinal issues runners experience either during or after a run. These can vary from gassiness and bloating to diarrhea and urgency to defecate.
Sure, this condition is quite embarrassing—especially when you have company—but they’re more common than you think. According to surveys, GI issues affect roughly 60 percent of an athlete during or immediately after running.
Runner’s diarrhea is caused by a mix of running (the jostling motion) and restricted GI blood flow (blood is diverted away from the digestive tract to the extremities).
To avoid GI distress while running, try to at least three hours before a run. Avoid caffeine, and artificial sweeteners, or any other food that can irritate the GI tract.
Instead go for easy-to-digest foods like bagels, rice, and pasta.
What’s more? Go to the bathroom before your run.
If you have time to wait for a bowel movement before a run, then plan your route along a good stopping spot when you usually have the urge to go. In my experience, that’s typically 20 to 30 minutes in.
For more on runners trots, check my post here.
There you have it!
The above midrun issues are some of the most common problems that runners face on an everyday basis. I hope my article helps you deal with them in the future.
Please feel free to leave your comments and suggestions in the section below.
In the meantime thank you for reading post.
Keep Running Strong