So the last few weeks I’ve been having weird body aches and pains, which are not normal for me. In fact it has gotten so bad that I have trouble running more than 10 minutes. The other day I was ecstatic after running for 20 (minutes, not miles)! Finally I decided something needed to be done. I got a chiropractic adjustment, which was great since my body was way off balance and I was putting too much pressure on my right side when running. I felt a bit better but still terribly sore in all my lower extremity muscles, so I decided to get a massage. Again, felt better afterwards but still having difficulty running. Finally, it dawned on me that is has been over a year since I bought new shoes….waaaaay too long for the amount of distance I put on them! So I bit the bullet and went out and bought a new pair…Nike Air Pegasus, my favorite, the only kind I buy! And wouldn’t you know, after two days of running in them, I feel like a new woman! No pain, no muscle soreness, no strange pulling or tugging. It is great and I am so happy to be able to run again!!
So lesson learned-keep track of the distance and time you put on your shoes and get new ones when the old ones have wear and tear. Not doing so will subject your body to tortures it doesn’t deserve!
Not sure what type of shoe is best for your foot and running gait/stride? Most running specialty stores have treadmills and trained professionals to observe your gait and determine what shoe will be most beneficial for you. Check for one in your area.
A lot of runners think that taking an over-the-counter pain killer is a good thing to do, whether it is taken post-workout or during a race. The thinking is that because it is an anti-inflammatory, it will decrease the inflammation in the body caused by hard workouts and decrease pain/discomfort felt in the joints and muscles. While in theory it makes sense, in reality it is not a smart idea. Advil is a drug and like any drug, there are negative side effects.
One potential side effect of ibuprofen is damage to the lining of the stomach and to the kidneys. They interfere with the kidney’s ability to regulate itself. When dehydrated, which is often the case in a race or long run, the toxicity of the ibuprofen increases and can lead to kidney failure.
When muscles heal from the stress of a hard workout, they are larger and stronger. Damaged muscles release a healing prostaglandin called Cox-2, which causes muscle growth and increased strength. Ibuprofen blocks Cox-2 and therefore will delay or inhibit muscle growth. Pain medicines may make you feel better, but at the cost of interfering with the strength gains you are working to achieve. Not a desirable result to a runner or someone trying to build up muscle.
Some alternate treatments for sore muscles include ice, self-massage, rest, stretching, and holistic arnica gel. These can be just as, if not more, helpful than ibuprofen after workouts and training runs, but won’t prevent muscle growth and strength gains.
Another way to fight inflammation is through nutrition. Check out the anti-inflammatory diet.
As a runner, inflammation in the body increases after hard and/or long workouts. One of the ways to help counteract this inflammation is through nutrition. Following an anti-inflammatory diet will help decrease pain in the body as well as help speed healing.
One of the best things you can take are fish oils. Fish provide a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. I encourage all my patients to take fish oil capsules, especially if they have an acute injury, as it keeps the body in a non-inflammatory state. There are a lot of options out there for fish oils, so when choosing one, make sure it contains the following:
- EPA: Active anti-inflammatory in fish oil, mood-promoting agent
- DHA: Builds brain synapses, Increases production of Serotonin and Dopamine (ratio of EPA to DHA should be at least 2:1)
- GLA (Omega-6 fatty acid)-: Reduces inflammation and joint stiffness, helps maintain healthy skin and prevents aging and wrinkles, reduces UV damage from sun
- Vitamin E- Antioxidant, helps prevent free radical oxidation
When you increase your essential fatty acid intake, you also need to increase anti-oxidants(Vitamin E, Vitamin C, Beta-carotene) which you can get through fruits and vegetables such as citrus fruits, green peppers, cabbage, spinach, broccoli, kale, kiwi, strawberries, carrots, squash, yams, tomato, cantaloupe, peaches, apricots; also nuts, seeds, whole grains, and egg yolk.
Along with fish oil, a pain-free diet includes:
- Organic Fruits and Vegetables
- Organic Protein Sources
- Eat breakfast and lunch to prevent hypoglycemia
- Have snacks with a mix of protein, carbohydrates, and good fat
- Use healthy oils for cooking, such as olive oil and walnut oil
- Use fish oils
Studies have shown that taking fish oils eliminate the need for taking over-the-counter medication. Considering that OTC drugs also have side effects such as heart attacks, stroke, blood clots, kidney, stomach, and liver problems, as well as an increase of certain cancers, isn’t it nice to know there are natural things you can do to get the same benefit?
One major factor in having a long and strong running career is the ability to stay free of injuries.
Unfortunately, injuries are quite common and can prevent one from running at all or racing their best. If not taken care of properly, they can lead to future, nagging problems. Over the next couple of weeks we will be discussing some of the major causes of injuries, what one can do to prevent them, and how to best take care of them.
One of the main causes of injuries is building mileage too fast and/or increasing the intensity of training too much. A beginning runner often will be overzealous and start running too much too soon. An established runner, when starting to train for a big race, will sometimes add hills and speed training at the same time, which often puts too much stress on the body.
The general rule of thumb in building mileage is not to increase your mileage more than 10% every week. Also, add either speed or hills at first, not both, and when you have a good base of one, add the other.
Listen to your body
One important aspect of training is to listen to your body and if you are feeling overly tired or sore, perhaps it is time to take a break from your training, either by taking a day off or by taking an easy day. How do you know what your body is telling you? Experience is by far the best teacher. Runners with a lot of miles behind them know what their bodies need and when. Newcomers can use the following guidelines to decipher what their bodies are saying.
-Expect general discomfort at first. It takes a whole body to run so chances are you will feel soreness not only in your legs but also in your arms, neck, and shoulders. It is important to not take pain relievers before your next run. This can mask pain, which is the best indication of how your body is doing.
-Sharp, specific pain is a sign that something is wrong. A sudden localized pain, whether the pain comes on during or after your run, could be a sign of an acute injury or the beginning of an overuse syndrome. A good first step if this occurs is to take a day or two off of running and often that is all it will need to go away. If the pain returns when resuming running, it is time to figure out the underlying cause of the problem.
One cause may be your shoes and/or gait. A visit to a local running store can result in the examination of both and it may be that your shoes are causing your feet to land in an uncomfortable position.
If the pain is more serious, a trip to a sports medicine physician is in order. They will be able to let you know if you need orthotics, physical therapy, or a visit to another doctor.
-Pain that goes away while you’re running is not okay. If you have an ache or a pain that disappears during your run, don’t be fooled into thinking it is okay. It feels better because the increased motion and bloodflow decrease the tightness so pain signals are not given off. Once you stop running, however, the increased trauma results in more deterioration. These injuries are typically muscle strains and tendon inflammations and require a reduction in running to heal.
-Expect discomfort on the comeback trail. When you start running after recovering from injury it is normal to have some soreness and minor discomfort. The important thing is that the discomfort is not acute and diminishes with each day. If the pain gets worse it is necessary to cut back your running again and build back up more slowly.
-Little things matter. Don’t ignore small problems when they occur. Some runners will ignore a small blister or a little uncomfortable rubbing of their shoes. Problem is that continuing to run will only intensify the problem, which leads to compensation throughout the body and may bring on an injury in a completely different area. Take care of small problems as they occur, whether it is padding a blister, wearing different shoes, or lacing your shoes differently.
-Avoid running during the heat of the day. It takes more effort to run if you are out of shape. High temperature and humidity will wear down a body because it can no longer cool itself effectively. Because of this, new runners are more susceptible to heat illness. When it is hot out, run in the cooler part of the morning or evening. Also stay well-hydrated.