In running, there are plenty of unexpected little things that can pop up on a training run or in a race. If you’re wondering about something, ask—no matter how silly or embarrassing it may seem. I enjoy meeting runners at race expos and answering quirky running questions, such as:
How do I get rid of a side stitch?
Typically, the dreaded side cramp or “stitch” is an indicator that you’re running too fast or too far for your current level of fitness, causing your diaphragm to work too hard. To alleviate some of the discomfort, ease up on your pace, stay relaxed, and concentrate on pursing your lips and exhaling fully with each breath.
What is “chafing” and how can I prevent it?
Chafing refers to an irritation of the skin that generally occurs under the arms and between the thighs. It can also be an issue along the bra line for women and around the nipple area for men. The culprit is the salt in our sweat, which rubs against our skin to cause abrasions, sometimes to the point of bleeding. Luckily, there is a sport-specific product called Body Glide that provides smooth, mess-free protection to sensitive areas.
What causes a black toenail?
Sometimes viewed as a “badge of honour” among runners, a black toenail typically occurs with a sudden increase in mileage, or from running downhill for an extended period of time. The repeated tapping of the toe against the front of the shoe causes blood to pool under the toenail. If there is no pain, leave the nail to fall off by itself, but apply an anti-fungal cream to prevent infection. If the toe is throbbing and painful, visit your doctor for treatment. To prevent toenail damage in the future, increase the size of your next pair of shoes by a half or full size.
I sweat a lot. What should I wear?
Sweating is a natural part of exercise, as it regulates your temperature and helps eliminate toxins. While running, you will produce between 500 and 1000 mL of sweat every hour. Avoid cotton t-shirts, as they will absorb moisture and become heavy. Technical fabrics like Dri-FIT and CoolMax are made from synthetic fibres, so they will wick the sweat away from your skin and keep you drier.
What should I have for breakfast on race day?
On race day, don’t eat or drink anything out of the ordinary. This is not the time to experiment with something new, even if you received a free sample in your race kit. Choose a safe, familiar breakfast that you’ve eaten regularly during your training. In fact, you might want to eat a little less than normal, since any pre-race nervousness could upset your digestive system. During the race, stick with the type of fluids you’ve used in your training, such as a specific brand of sports drink or just plain water.
How do I get the same running form as a track athlete?
Every runner is unique in terms of body shape, size and gait. Your running form and style are specific to you, so resist the urge to compare yourself to others. A few basic principles of running form are:
- Run tall with an upright posture
- Hold your head in line with your body, eyes focused ahead
- Keep your hands relaxed, not in tight fists
- Move your arms in rhythm with the cadence of your legs
- Run lightly on your feet, with a quick leg turnover rate.
How can I avoid getting injured?
Be kind to yourself. Don’t push yourself too hard, too much, too often, too soon or too fast. Challenge yourself, but be patient as you follow a gentle, yet progressive program. Avoid any dramatic increases in your speed, distance and strength workouts. Listen to your body and respond with the rest and recovery time it needs.
John Stanton is the President and Founder of the Running Room. He is the author of 10 books about running, walking and family fitness.