Running Questions answered by the New York Times

Published in Members on 18th August 2018

The running questions below were submitted by New York Times subscribers.


What exercises can I do to strengthen my legs in order to prevent shin splints?

Shin splints are common for new runners. The best defense is to take it slow. 


Is there any way to stop post-run, post-shower hour-long sweat sessions?

Try using sweat-wicking clothing to help keep you dry and lessen sweating when you run.


How do I make running feel like fun rather than a chore?

What you focus on is really going to dictate what your running experience is. And running with people is a great way for it to feel more social. 


I'm a fair weather runner, just trying to get in some miles. There is so much negativity around the treadmill, but I love it. Too hot, too cold, too dark, too scary. No problem. I can get it done without worrying. Is it really that bad?

There’s nothing wrong with running on a treadmill, but if you’re training for an outdoor race make sure you get outside, too. 


It seems no matter what level of shape I’m in, I always get a right side stitch. Any tips on how to prevent it?

Strengthen your core and hydrate properly to help prevent side stitches. 


I'm overweight. Can I run? I feel embarrassed.

Yes, absolutely. Remember, it’s also OK to start as a walk/runner.


I keep hearing that weak glutes are the source of a lot of running injuries. What strengthening exercises will strengthen this muscle group most effectively with the fewest moves?

Doing squats at the gym with hand weights or under a squat rack is an ideal way to strengthen your upper legs. 


I have a nagging hamstring pull, and I'd appreciate any suggestions you may have for getting past it, particularly in terms of what I might incorporate into my pre, during and post-run activities, as well as any targeted strength work.

Deadlifts are a great exercise to make you a stronger runner. Other good exercises include hamstring sweeps, ‘toy soldiers’ and leg sweeps.


Help! Why am I getting slower?

When you feel like you're running slowly, or slower than you should be, it is sometimes a sign of overtraining. 


I hate how running makes my lungs feel, but I want to run to improve my overall health and lose fat. How do I get from searing hot lungs to enjoyable running?

Focus on gradually building your endurance and controlling your pace. You’ll enjoy running a lot more when your pace is slow enough to go for longer. 


Any advice for triathletes on how to keep your legs fresh, and have a good run, after the swim and bike legs of the race?

It’s all about practice.


How do you organize your thoughts to help get you through the longer runs?

Visualization, mantras, podcasts and music are all good ways to help you focus. And practicing focusing your thoughts while you’re not running can help ahead of a big race. 


My busy family and work schedule allows me to run only in the early morning before breakfast. This is not my ideal time of day for exercise and I often feel drained during my runs. Any tips on fueling up before these runs?

It’s important to get a good night’s sleep the night before a run, but a small snack should be enough to get you through. 


Do you think lightweight, barefoot feel shoes provide enough joint protection for someone training about 15km per week?

When trying any new gear, gradually increase your use to be sure it works for you. 


Recently, my knees have started to hurt when running (~7km/day). I got a good pair of stability running shoes which helps. Can you suggest what else to do? I'm 42 and I'd be so sad to have to stop running due to aging knees.

First, rule out that something more acute, such as a ligament tear or tendonitis, isn’t the cause of your knee pain. If not, releasing the tight hamstrings and IT bands using a lacrosse ball may ease discomfort.


What are specific actions I can take to avoid injury when training for my first marathon?

Be sure to build up your mileage slowly and prioritize the long run each week as you do. Also, take your rest days and listen to your body.


How can I protect my toenails? I keep injuring the nail beds, and they turn purple and sometimes I lose the nail partially.

Foot care is very relevant to runners, but once you're past a certain distance, losing nails is kind of unavoidable. 


After trying to ramp up my mileage, I started to get a dull pain in my Achilles which moved to my heel. Do I need to completely stop running for some period of time, or can I cut way back and rebuild?

Rest is often the best recovery tool, but seeing a physical therapist or acupuncturist is also a good idea. 


How do I choose the best sports bra that won't chafe?

Find a well-fitted bra and use anti-chafe balm on your skin before a run to add an extra layer of protection for your skin. 


What's a good way to break through a plateau when you feel like you aren't improving?

Every athlete plateaus: It’s part of training. When you experience it, take stock and either rest up or shake things up with a more intense session to jolt you back into the training cycle. 


What is the best way to build up both endurance and speed?

Whether you're training for a 5K, a marathon or even an ultra marathon, you should incorporate tempo runs. The uncomfortable pace will teach your body how to go faster for longer.


How do you develop good technique so that your heels don't land too hard? I often develop heel and knee pain and I believe this is one problem.

Try adjusting your pace. Our form can get sloppy when we’re running either too fast or too slow, which might be contributing to the pain. 


For long distance running, marathons and half-marathons, what training exercises apart from running do you recommend?

The glutes and core are probably the two biggest things for runners. 


I have started training sprints with my kids. In one month, we have become significantly faster, especially them. I would like to get tips about techniques and drills and general tips for sprinting beginners.

There are several interval training methods that one could do to work on your sprints. Try Tabata or a simple H.I.I.T. workout.


What are the best stretches I should do post-run?

The most important stretches are ones that hit the main power center for runners: the hips, the quadriceps and the glutes.


I'm in the habit of running five miles. Seldom more, seldom less. Is there value in varying my distances?

Variety will benefit you as a runner. Even if you run the same route, running in the opposite direction can be beneficial. 


How bad is it running on pavement as opposed to running on a grass surface?

While it might be a bit harder on the body, most people are just fine running on pavement.  


How important is form? I’m training for a half-marathon and wondering if I should hire a coach to ensure I’m running with the proper form.

Running more efficiently will come naturally as you increase your distance and endurance. A coach may be more helpful later on in your running journey. 


What is the best way to prevent or eliminate post run muscle soreness?

R.I.C.E. is a good acronym to remember to help with soreness. It stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. Some simple yoga poses can also help.


How long can I safely run without re-fueling? I'm a casual runner, currently comfortable at completing 10K runs twice a week and considering longer distances. I'm not a fan of carrying gel packs or sugary drinks.

Most people can run up to 90 minutes without extra fuel. When considering fueling, think more about how long you’re out running, rather than how many miles you’ve covered.


What are good ways to keep blood sugar levels steady while running, particularly for people with diabetes?

It will take some trial and error to figure out what works for you. I recommend carrying some fuel, such as marathon goos and gels, and wearing a glucose monitoring device. 


What is your go-to pre-race meals? What are your favorites for fueling during long runs?

I really like a slice of toast with almond butter and a half a banana. 


What do you drink after a work out?

I drink a lot of water. 


Am I deluding myself that I can get faster? I'm 62, and run often, but seem stuck at my not-fast-enough-to-satisfy-myself pace. It seems so unfair that as I age, my maximum heart rate slips in the tables.

The tempo run is one of the most underutilized speed tools.  But paces do evolve and change over the years, too. 


I run 30 mins, 3x a week, and I'd like to add interval training. How should I begin?

Start off with making one of those sessions an interval-based session in a moderate 1:1 ratio, meaning you run all out for a period of time, then slow down to recover for an equal time.


I am running the Maine Marathon on 9/30 and then the NYC Marathon 5 weeks later. These will be marathons number 5 and 6 for me,and I expect to finish each in about 6 hours. I could use training advice for how much to run between the marathons.

To run races five weeks apart, you need to be prepared for both your endurance and recovery. 


What music or playlists do you listen to while you run? And are there headphones that you recommend?

What you listen to is personal — find what works for you. 


Is it bad to run every single day? I do about five or six miles per day.

The human body is certainly capable of it, but a rest day is important for the body as well. 


In terms of distance, is there a mark or mileage where the benefits of a run increase exponentially?

It depends on your objective. If your goal is a race, you will need to vary your mileage accordingly. 


How do you stay safe running early in the morning in the dark?

Wear reflective clothing and let someone know where you are headed. 


What are the best foods to eat to post run? I’m not a very fast runner and I get tired easily so maybe I also need to focus on what I eat before runs to fuel more energy.

Don’t eat too much just before a run. After a run, make sure you consume protein and a small amount of carbs.


How should I be breathing? Nose? Mouth? How much does it matter?

As long as you’re getting oxygen into your lungs, it doesn’t matter where the air is coming in from.


Can you recommend any good books or other all-in-one resources for starting and maintaining a running and conditioning program that keeps you fit, strong, flexible and healthy?

“Hanson's Marathon Method” and “Daniel’s Running Formula” are iconic, tried-and-true training bibles. Think about the vibe that you want and find a book to match.


I'm an advanced marathoner who moved to the city for work. Will doing a lot of my running on the treadmill in the gym be bad for my form?

Better to do your run on a treadmill than not do it at all.


What is your favorite interval workout? And please don't say Yasso 800's.

Yasso 800s are probably the best, or you can try Tabata intervals. 


Should I walk to warm up before jogging, or just jog slowly, build a little speed, and stretch afterward?

Walking and jogging are great ways to warm up, but try adding in some high knees or butt kicks to better activate your muscles. 


What is a good way to tell if your running shoes are shot and it’s time to get a new pair?

A good rule of thumb is to replace a pair of shoes after you have run between 300 and 500 miles in them. And if you are starting a new training regimen, it might be a good idea to get a new pair of shoes.


I'm trying to start running. I'm 58 never done this before not in the greatest shape. Any tips on how I can ease into this and make it a habit?

Use the buddy system and tell people who support you about your goals to help keep you accountable. It also helps if you make your goals very specific. 


What are the best stretches for runners? And how do you avoid plantar fasciitis?

Do exercises to strengthen the muscles in the arch of your foot to prevent plantar fasciitis. 


What is the best way to start running?

Head out in minutes, not miles, and don't go out too fast.


What's the best way to stay hydrated during a run, especially in hot weather?

Drink water. 


I’m two months ahead of a half marathon. What would you advise people like me, with little time for training over a week?

If you have been doing minimal training up to this point, training for a half marathon in two months is aggressive, but doable. Focus on prioritizing long runs, gradually increasing the distance each week, and taper off before race day.


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