How you feel after a run affects your potential to continue running longer. It makes sense: We do things we enjoy doing. Honestly, how many of us would keep running if every single run left us practically crying in the living room, laid out on the floor? Sometimes, you feel like a rockstar during the run only to go completely 180 and then proceed to fall apart.
Here are a few common — and thankfully, easy-to-fix — culprits behind running aches and pains:
The Cause: You’re dehydrated or you bonked.
The Fix: Fuel your runs properly. That means making sure you’re eating enough throughout the day and hydrating during and between meals. Around an hour before you head out to run, have a small snack (and a glass of water). Then, during your run, eat and drink appropriately if it’s a long one. Most runners can go for an hour without food or water, but there are plenty of people who start feeling dry after 30 minutes. Start adding small amounts — a few sips of water and a single gel over your run — and add or subtract until you finish runs feeling like you could snack, but you wouldn’t fight someone over it.
The Cause: It’s just exercise-induced bronchoconstriction, where your lungs constrict as your heart rate rises, and they don’t expand fast enough as your heart rate drops.
The Fix: After a hard race — either a dry, dusty 5K; a sub-freezing mile-run; or a brutal 100-meter sprint, you might catch yourself hacking like a hardcore smoker. Don’t panic. There are going to be times when you just have to deal with the cough, like after that 100-meter sprint, but when it’s environmental, you can make some changes. For dust and the cold, wearing a thin neckwarmer pulled over your mouth and nose or a balaclava can block dust or keep your breath warmer, helping avoid the need to cough when you’re done. One last note: If you feel like you’re going to hack up a lung every time you run, talk to your doctor. You might have exercise-induced asthma.
The Cause: Not timing your eating right, or fueling incorrectly. When you’re running, your blood is being shunted to your legs to make them work. Once you’ve slowed or stopped, your body focuses on other points of need, like your gut.
The Fix: Plenty of athletes suffer from gut issues like IBS, and one of the unfortunate symptoms is the occasional urgent need to rush to the bathroom. Shift your runs to earlier in the day, ideally after going to the bathroom, so you have an empty stomach. If you need to eat, have a small breakfast an hour before you run, but avoid a lot of fruit, veggies and even oatmeal, since fiber can make you need to “go.” After your run, get back to normal meals. If that doesn’t work, you might be eating or drinking something during your run that doesn’t agree with you. Note what you’re consuming and make changes as necessary.
The Cause: Doing too much too soon.
The Fix: Ah, the dreaded DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). The good news is it isn’t all bad. The other good news: the more you run, the less frequently you’ll be dealing with it. It’s caused by your muscles starting to repair after a strenuous workout, and it’s actually not a bad thing. Numerous methods, from ice baths to massage, have been researched as ways to deal with muscle soreness, but none have been proven to actually stop DOMS in its tracks. Your best bet is to let it play out, and opt for active recovery like walking or yoga to get some blood flowing.
The Cause: Your shoes might need to be broken in.
The Fix: Most blister issues come from two sources: Doing long runs in new shoes, or swapping out your socks. New shoes often take some work to break in, especially if you have blister-prone feet. Buy new shoes before your old ones are completely worn out, so you have time to go on short walks and runs to break in the new ones. Try to stick to one style of socks, whether that’s a thin one or a thicker version. Pro tip: Wear your go-to running socks when shoe shopping.
The Cause: It’s likely a warning sign you’re overtraining.
The Fix: Sadly, overtraining happens to even recreational-level athletes, especially those under high loads of pressure with family or work. Even a few hours of running each week can be overtraining if you’re also not getting enough sleep, eating poorly or are stressed to the gills before you start the run. If running seems more like a chore and you’re just not feeling peppy these days, take a week off. Go on walks or do a gentle yoga practice, and most important, catch up on your sleep. Then, ease back into running with a couple of lighter weeks before diving back into your normal routine.