The 5 Great Evils of Running

From feeling like I’ve got a cheese grater wedged between my thighs to taking a sneaky dump behind a bush in the grounds of Istanbul’s Topkapi Palace (with armed guards nearby), I have experienced many of the torments of running. So here are my top five running evils, plus some tips on how to deal with them.

5) Chaffing. Unless you’re a 40kg Kenyan, when you run you’re likely to have at least one body part rubbing against another. When it’s hot and/or wet and you’re out for a long run this rubbing can reach sandpaper, or even metal grinder, proportions.

My number one prevention is to wear tights on my long runs, as it’s my thighs that give me the most grief. On top of this it’s important to wear breathable fabric (top and bottom) that wicks the moisture from the skin. And for the very long runs try a good coat of lubricant (I find baby oil works a treat). If the chaffing comes on during a run, call into a public toilet and lather on the hand soap to the effected area.

4) Bleeding Nipples. This is a type of chaffing that deserves its very own discussion. First of all, if you are one of the unlucky few who are prone to it, wear red on race day (nothing ruins a finish line photo more than two blood stains on your moobs). Secondly, slap a couple of band-aids on-although it’s debatable what is more painful, a bleeding nipple or ripping off a well-applied plaster from a well-endowed chest of hair.

3) Cramping. Defined as an involuntary and painful contraction of a muscle, cramping can stop you dead in your tracks. The traditional explanation for it has been a lack of electrolytes (salts) as a result of excessive sweating. But the research is saying otherwise.

Recent studies suggest that the causes are one or several of the following: running too fast for your current fitness levels, a history of cramping, a previous muscle or tendon injury, or family history of cramping. So it’s not as simple as adding more salt to your chips and probably the best thing you can do is to make sure you pace yourself conservatively in the early periods of your long runs and races.

2) The Trots. Stress of any sort can set off bowel problems. The up and down motion of running, combined with its general fatiguing of the body, is ideal for getting the murky waters moving. Sometimes this can be as harmless as a comical case of the “walkie-talkies” (flatulence that runs in step with your stride pattern), but sometimes it can blow out to full on diarrhoea.

For the past three years I’ve been dealing with an inflammatory bowel disease that got so bad when running I’d often need to find a bush every few hundred metres (not ideal when running in foreign cities!). I have slowly learnt what foods and life circumstances tend to set off my condition, but it’s still important for me to know where the toilets are, to not eat within two hours of running, and to not go running if things are bad (cycling is a much less stressful option). If you have reoccurring problems, seek medical advice and take note of what conditions work for you … oh, and don’t wear white.

1) Blisters. The biggest issue here is the fit of your shoes. When buying them, if you can feel any slight pressure inside the shoe, like a finger pushing against your foot, don’t buy that pair of shoes. Seriously, don’t buy them, no matter how cool their colour or cheap their price. When 10k from home with a humungous blister, shoe colour is the least of your worries.

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Also make sure your socks are smooth, moisture wicking, and not too thick that they alter the fit of your shoes. And like anything with running, your feet need to grow accustomed to longer distances and to running in new shoes. Train them up gradually so that the skin can be toughened up to handle your increasing mileage and speed.

This is an entry from a blog Hayden Shearman writes over at Stuff.co.nz.

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