Marathon Blog

Common running questions answered

It’s normal to have questions as you begin a training program. Here are my answers to some of the most common running-related questions I am receiving this year.

Q: I’ve been running for a few months and now that it’s getting warmer, sweat is getting in my eyes. What should I do?

A: Sweating is important in running – it’s how your body keeps cool. You don’t want to prevent or discourage sweating. To keep sweat out of your eyes, try a headband or an absorbent hat. There are baseball-style running hats on the market that do a good job of absorbing sweat and shielding your head from the sun.

Q: I have been running for a few months and yesterday I got a cramp in my calf while running. I had to stop. What should I do to prevent that?

A: When you get a cramp or sudden pain while you are running, you need to slow down or stop until the pain subsides. If necessary, stop or walk back to your starting point. Gentle movement (flexing of the foot in the case of calf cramp) will help it subside. The next step is to figure out what caused the cramping to prevent it from happening again. Check out the most common causes and suggested remedies:

Heat and/or dehydration. Is it warmer than it has been in recent days? Did you drink less fluid than normal? If either of these is the case, then it is likely that you are dehydrated. Next time you run, make sure you pay attention to your hydration. Make sure you drink 17-20 oz. of water 2-3 hours before you run. In the 30 minutes before you head out, slowly drink 10-12 oz. of water.

Inadequate warm-up. If it’s not warm, you’re well hydrated and you were running at a moderate pace, it is likely that you’re cramping came from an inadequate warm-up. Make sure you walk for 5 to 10 minutes and do some movement exercises before you begin your runs.

Overdoing it. If your cramping occurred doing speed work, it is possible that you were going too fast for your current conditioning or you ran too fast too suddenly. Next time, try going a little slower and/or do a more thorough warm-up before attempting the speed work.

If the cramping persists into the next day or recurs the next time you run, consult your doctor or running coach.

Q: What is the best time of day to run?

A: The best time of day to run is the time that will allow you to consistently follow your running program. Consistency is the most important key to success in running. Having said that, as your goal race gets closer, you should try to do some running at the same time of day as your race, especially when it comes to your weekend longer runs. For the rest of your runs, doing them in the evening is okay, especially if that’s the time that works best with your schedule. Generally, use your weekend longer runs to mimic the race-day experience, including the terrain, hydration schedule and time of day.

Q: I have recently started running in the morning and I am getting nauseous from my breakfast. I don’t really want to go without eating. What should I do?

A: It is a good idea to eat something before you run, especially as a beginner since beginners have a higher dependence on their food for supplying muscle glycogen for their runs. Try eating 2-3 hours before running rather than right before. Experiment with lighter amounts of food; your best bet is a light meal/snack of simple carbohydrates that are relatively low in fiber (think ½ bagel, toast, etc.). At the same time (2-3 hours before) take in about 17-20 oz. of water. Right before you head out, drink 10-12 oz. of water (you can sip some of that before you run and bring the rest with you for the early part of the run if you can tolerate it). Then eat the rest of your breakfast (or other meal) after your run. Don’t forget to rehydrate after the run as well.

Q: I have been increasing my mileage and I am getting painful chafing from my clothing. I otherwise like my outfit, but the chafing is getting worse. Help!

A: For chafing you already have, try a healing ointment such as Aquaphor. To prevent chafing going forward, try an anti-chafe balm such as Body Glide. You will need to apply this to any areas where your clothing rubs against your body (or you have body parts against body parts). Common areas include inner thighs, inside of upper arms, bra lines/seams for women, nipple area for men, etc. Apply before every run but especially for your longer runs. Anti-chafing products wash off very well in the shower after your runs.

Q: I have started following a beginner training program (Hal Higdon) that I found online. I have started getting blisters and hot spots on my feet. What should I do?

A: Since you are following a good training program, your ramp-up of work is probably reasonable. The first step would be to make sure you have a good pair of properly fitting running shoes. If you are uncertain, go to one of the local running stores (Dick Pond, Road Runner Sports, Naperville Running Company). Next step, socks. I personally prefer double layer socks (Wrightsock is the brand I wear) as they are virtually blister proof. Body Glide or a similar anti-chafing product applied to the toes and other hot spots can help prevent blisters as well. For blisters you already have, if they aren’t serious (no broken skin), Compeed or similar blister cushions provide great relief. If you have already developed more serious blisters with broken skin and/or infection, seek medical attention.

Q: I have been working on increasing my mileage and I am getting out of breath. What should I do?

A: First, make sure you warm up thoroughly before your runs as going out too fast too soon can often cause you to feel out of breath. As you increase your mileage, chances are you will need to slow your pace in order to avoid getting out of breath. Check your speed and pacing and make sure you are not trying to go too fast. If it is hot and humid, slow your pace even more. When you feel out of breath, try focusing on your exhalations rather than trying to inhale. Your body will inhale naturally if you focus on blowing out the old, stale air. If you try all these things and still feel out of breath, or if you feel as though you can’t catch your breath, seek medical advice.

Q: I want to run outside on the trails, but I am afraid of ticks. What can I do?

A: The CDC has warned of an abundance of ticks this season. Fortunately, they have great advice on avoiding them:

In addition, here are my own tips:

Wear light clothing (so you can spot ticks) but not white clothing (ticks are attracted to white clothing).

Wear bug repellent. The CDC site offers some natural options if you are not interested in wearing chemical sprays while running.

Run on paved trails or crushed gravel rather than on dirt trails. If you must walk through mowed grass, pick up your feet rather than shuffling.

Avoid running underneath trees. Ticks can drop onto you from trees as you are running. If you feel something small hit you from above, make sure you brush it away.

Make sure your socks are tight to your body. Some types of socks (like roll-down anklet socks) provide a reservoir for ticks to fall into between the sock and your ankle.

Follow the CDC recommendations to check your clothing and your body (check all the areas on the CDC site and check your feet/between your toes) and shower right away. Finally, shake out your running shoes and keep them outside between runs.

Laurie Lasseter Marathoner
ACE Certified Personal Trainer
RRCA Certified Running Coach
Edward-Elmhurst Health & Fitness