FAQs

1.       I always feel out of breath when I run. Is something wrong?

Feeling out of breath or shortness of breath a very common complains while running. When you start running, some kind of huffing and puffing is expected because running is a very demanding activity and your lungs are constantly working hard to provide that extra oxygen to your muscles to overcome fatigue. Breathlessness can be because of fatigue of diaphragm which is the principle muscle of inspiration. The endurance of both the skeletal muscle and diaphragm can be increased over a period of time by regular practice sessions.

Proper breathing: Shortness of breath can be managed or controlled by breathing properly. Always focus on deep diaphragmatic breathing (or belly breathing) while running which allows better expansion of lungs, allows more air sacs to open which in turn provides more oxygenation. This breathing can be practiced during warm up sessions and should be continued throughout running practice.

Warm up: It is very essential to have a warm up session for a minimum of 15 to 20 minutes before start running. It gradually increases heart rate and respiratory rate and also increases blood circulation which gives time for the body to prepare for the run.

Start running at a pace you breathe easily and slowly increase your speed. If you find yourself gasping for breath slow down immediately, incorporate walking intervals in between running which gives recovery time and allow you to catch some breaths. As you become fit your running pace will increase and episodes of shortness of breath will decrease.

Give attention to breathlessness, if it still persists after you slow down or if you have wheezing while running, you may be allergic or you may have some respiratory problem. Kindly see you doctor.

2.       I often suffer from a stitch when I run. Will these ever go away?

Among new runners, side stitch is a common complaint but you can learn to deal with them. It is not fully understood why side stitches occur but many experts believe that it occurs because of the spasm of diaphragm, chief inspiratory muscle. The symptoms of side stitches are sharp pain just below the ribs on the right side. You should stop running and massage the painful area gently with your fingers when you get stitches.

There a couple to things you should do to avoid stitch.

  • Warm up session: You should have a proper warm up session for at least 15 to 20 minutes before running. This warm up can be jogging, brisk walking or some dynamic stretching exercises.
  • Deep diaphragmatic breathing: As a runner you should always practice deep diaphragmatic breathing and not chest breathing. Stitches occur because of spasm of diaphragm due to overload of breathing and fatigue when you run. Practicing deep breathing exercise while running will eventually increase the endurance of this muscle. Regular running practice with proper breathing technique will improve your overall fitness and endurance level and reduce the incidence of side stitches.
  • Posture: Some researches indicate that stitches occur in runners who slouch over while running. Improvement in running posture has shown fruitful results in many runners. Include posture training and core muscles strengthening exercises like Pilates in your weekly schedule to reduce the occurrence of stitches.
  • Avoid eating within one hour before run, stick to water before and during running and avoid carbonated water during your run.
  • By improving your overall fitness and conditioning level, you can say good bye to stitches.

3.       Should I breathe through my nose or my mouth?

It is easier to breathe through mouth during running because your facial muscles are more relaxed. Your mouth is larger than the nostrils which allow you to take deeper breaths with more oxygen. Allow air to enter both through mouth and nose.

4.       Is stretching before a run essential? What if I skip it?

Stretching is a very controversial topic in sport medicine. Many experts believe and some researches has shown results that pre- run stretching has no role in preventing muscle soreness after running or improving sports performance. Moreover stretching cold muscles is not at all a good idea as it leads to muscle tear.

Dynamic stretching can be performed before a run. It involves controlled and repetitive leg movements to improve range of motion, increases heart rate, blood circulation and body temperature. It should be the part of your warm-up routine before your run.

Stretching does have an important role in reducing camps, joint pains and increase free movement of joints; hence skipping it totally may not be advisable.

Well, it is better to invest more time in proper warm sessions focusing running muscles and core muscles of body and reduce the time spent on stretching.

5.       How to cure calf pain during the run?

There are many reasons for pain in calf while running and the cure depends on the causative factor of pain. The common causes include calf muscles fatigue due to overloading, muscle weakness and lack of endurance; muscle cramp; calf muscle tear; muscle strain due to dehydration and compartmental syndrome.

The most common cause is a muscle cramp! When cramps start showing, stop running and massage the area of pain with your fingers gently and stretch your calf muscles. Hold the muscle in stretched position for a few seconds and bring back the foot in neutral position. Perform a few more stretches and hydrate yourself immediately. Give sometime for your muscles to relax and then start running slowly. Consume fluids at frequent intervals while running.

Calf pain can also be caused due to muscle fiber tear which gives excruciating pain, prevents running causing a limp. There are various grades of muscle tear depending on severity. Sever pain and muscle spasms are some of the symptoms that may show up. In such situations you should stop running immediately and ask for medical aid.

If the cause of pain is muscle overloading due to weakness and lack of endurance which shows symptoms of swelling and tenderness, treat it with ice and anti-inflammatories. Bandaging your calf with the crap bandage will provide relief from pain. Give your muscles some rest and if you feel fine start running slowly.

Calf pain during running can be prevented or reduced by performing stretching exercises as part of your training for the marathon. Stretching exercises should be carried out during your warm up session as well as cool down routine, without a miss.

6.       Should I Eat Before or After the Run? Why?

As a long distance runner you definitely need to fuel your body before you set out for the run. Your stomach should not be empty or too stuffed before running. Running with empty stomach is not at all recommended because of the following reasons:

  • Running is a strenuous activity where skeletal muscles need constant supply of energy. The energy sources should be available from the beginning of the race for a good start.
  • Pre run high carbohydrate snacking is the last chance to fuel the body which can be consumed before an hour and half of running. This provides continuous source of energy to body while running.
  • Glycogen can be depleted overnight. A small quantity of food before running helps maintain your blood sugar level and prevents hypoglycemia and fatigue.
  • There is secretion of stomach juices which causes problems like acidity if the stomach remains empty for prolonged period of time especially in the morning. Having a pre run snack helps absorption of these juices and prevents gastrointestinal discomfort.

For sure, you will feel hungry after a long run; your muscles need fuel too. You should definitely eat something within 30 minutes after finishing your run as it helps reducing muscle stiffness and soreness. These 30 minutes are considered as recovery window where muscles are more receptive to rebuilding glycogen store. Some reasons to eat after a long distance run are given below:

  • It promotes repair of muscle tissue and replenishes glycogen stores.
  • It helps in rebuilding your muscles faster.
  • It maximizes the efficiency of immune system.

7.       Do I Need to Eat During My Runs?

Glycogen (which maintains normal blood sugar levels) is very important for a long run, like half marathon. Unfortunately, glycogen reserves lasts only for 60 to 90 minutes while running and then muscles uses stored fat in the body. Hydrating yourself at frequent intervals while running prevents you from dehydration, burring of vision, headaches and undue fatigue. Fueling with carbohydrates helps maintain blood sugar level which constantly provides you energy and enhances your performance. There are many energy drinks, energy gels and sports bars available in markets which are high in carbohydrate and available in different flavors. You can pick them and start using them in your practice sessions to know what will suit you on the day of your run. Do not experiment on any new product on the day of your run.

8.       What Should I Eat After a Run?

Congratulations on finishing the race! It is a great accomplishment to finish half marathon and if you have managed to reduce your previous run time, it is even better. Now it is the time for treating yourself with some nutritious goodies.

Replenishing glycogen and electrolyte stores which are lost during the run is very crucial. A long distance run like half marathon consumes all your energy sources, so having them in right proportion after the run is very important. Experts say a meal or snack combining carbohydrates and protein in ratio of 4:1 with dietary fibers is ideal to consume after a long run. Let us see a few options for the same.

  • Protein shake with banana
  • Cold chocolate milk shake with almonds
  • One serving of chicken breasts with steamed rice and lime juice
  • Salad consists of lots of veggies and sprouts with orange juice
  • Yogurt with banana or apple
  • One serving of grilled fish with some steamed brown rice
  • Oatmeal with some strawberries, banana and almonds
  • A bowl of fruits with peanuts and orange juice

9.       How Can I Avoid and Treat Muscle Cramps?

For many runners, muscle cramp is the most common reason for failure in marathon and for the poor performance.  Calf muscle is the commonest site of cramps while running. Muscle cramps can be prevented by performing enough warm up and specific pre run stretches for a minimum of 20 minutes before the start of run. In fact stretching exercises should be a part of your warm up sessions on regular basis. It is very essential to keep a check of your diet and hydration level a few days prior to your run.

When you get a cramp, for instance calf muscle cramp, stop running and massage the area of pain with your fingers gently and stretch your calf muscles in opposite direction, which is in dorsiflexion. Hold the muscle in stretched position for a few seconds and bring back the foot in neutral position. Perform these stretches a couple of times to relieve the cramp and hydrate yourself immediately. Give sometime for your muscles to relax and then start running slowly. Consume fluids at frequent intervals while running. If camps appear repeatedly and at short intervals causing severe pain, then you may consider discontinuing the run to have it checked by a medical team.

10.   How Long Will It Take Me Run a Half Marathon? How to set Goals?

An elite runner usually takes an hour and little more to finish the race. For an experience runner, it usually takes an hour and half to forty five minutes and slow runners or walkers take more than 3 hours to finish the race.

There are many factors which determine the time duration to finish the run like your fitness level, earlier experience of running half marathon, weather conditions, course terrain and your physical and mental status at the day of run.

The setting of goal should be realistic and should fit your ability to perform. Goal Setting is in itself a challenging task. A runner must consider various factors while setting goals in preparation for a Half Marathon. Example,

How much time will I be able to dedicate for practice in a week?,

My current fitness & endurance levels,

Time available before the Half marathon,

Diet plan and its management etc….

When all such questions are answered, a progressive increase in strength and endurance training with a distance chart needs to be prepared in consultation with an expert/doctor to approve the set goals. We highly recommend first time runners to get guidance before setting goals especially when these training session demands a lot of output from your cardio-respiratory and musculoskeletal system.

If you are new runner, it is better to focus on finishing the race which in itself an incredible achievement, than thinking about time. Running 21 Km is no child’s play, it requires a lot of determination and hard work which should be the goal by itself.

 

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About the author: procamrunning

 

"procamrunning.in" is a new website created by Procam International, the makers of Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon, Airtel Delhi Half Marathon, Tata Consultancy Services World 10K Bangalore and Jamba Cloud Hyderabad 10K

 

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