There is little doubt that running is good for you and personally, I feel like it’s the most effective exercise possible. It is an intrinsic, fundamental activity that our bodies are specifically designed to do well with no assistance from tools. Although the same could probably be said about swimming, I believe that a good swim technique will eliminate a great deal of the ‘workout’ portion of swimming. There are a lot of relatively large, overweight people who can swim for long distances with relative ease. I guess what it comes down to is that swimming is a great workout – if you are not very good at it. When you swim, you are essentially laying down and when you bike, you are sitting.
Running is tough. There is no way to get from point A to point B without propelling your body100% of the time. You can’t coast and you can’t glide. That’s why I love it.
Fortunately, when I first started running about 5 years ago, I had no idea what I was getting into. I knew about blisters and sore muscles but that was about it. Now it seems like there is no end to the number of things that can go wrong. In fact, I can’t remember a time in the past three years when I have NOT been dealing with at least one or more of the items mentioned here…
Runner’s Knee – This has been my biggest nemesis. I’ve had this twice in the right knee and once in the left. It feels just like a pain in the knee joint but it is actually caused by the knee cap. It first occurred right after I began running. I started wearing a knee brace and, since I was only running a mile or two at the time, it went away after a few weeks and I went a couple of years without any problems. Then in September of 2010, my running really started to take off and I was breaking all of my personal records. I did a 18-miler then went out on another long run the next week. Bad idea. After about 16 miles my left knee was in a ton of pain and I could barely make it home. This time I stopped running for a few weeks, started climbing stairs and had a local running store analyze my running and suggest some new shoes. It took a couple of months this time before I was 100% again. My most recent bout with Runner’s Knee was last May when I did my longest run of 21 miles. The right knee started to hurt after about 12 miles but I kept going. Again – bad idea. I tried the same fix as the previous time but replaced stair climbing with biking. It took about a month this time for it to go away.
Shin Splints – I’ve only had to deal with a couple minor cases of this one but it can put you out of commission for a while. It’s basically just a pain in the lower leg caused by too much stress on a bone. The only times that I have gotten this is when I have tried too hard to increase my pace. I had to stop running for a week or so to get rid of it both times.
Cramps (Side Stitches/Aches) – Whatever it’s called, I’ve had several attempts at personal bests thwarted by this annoying ailment. What is especially interesting about cramps is that nobody really has a good idea of what they are. Although people have figured out some of the causes such as eating too soon before an activity. Personally, I think it’s related to gas. That’s right, I said it. Whenever I have had a cramp, it went away after a nice, big belch (or two). I have yet to find a single web site that mentions that but for me, it works.
Chafing – After years of running, I still haven’t solved all of my chafing issues. Feet, thighs, crotch, nipples, the list keeps growing. It seems like some of them occur early on when you first start running. Then, after you have solved those issues and start increasing your distance, new ones pop up. Just recently, after completing a routine 8-mile run, I found two circles of blood on my shirt caused by nipple-chafing. I’ve had sore nipples before but they have never actually started bleeding. I’m sure that there are places that I didn’t even know were places that in the future will suddenly start chafing. A great way to avoid chafing is with a product called Glide which is available at any sporting goods store..
Black Toes – This is a strange affliction that causes a toe nail to turn black. It is caused by your toe being pressed against either the end of your shoe or a sock that is too tight. I had two of these one summer and currently have one that’s been there for over 5 months. It’s a little painful for the first 24 hours but then, after the pain goes away, a blister forms under the nail which gives it a black appearance that takes months to go away. Just think of it as a small badge to show that you are a runner and be proud of it.
Hemorrhoids – While this is not directly caused by running, there are a few aspects involved with endurance sports that greatly increase your chances of getting ‘roids. In fact, running is by far the most common sport for getting ‘roids. The first one is dehydration which is obviously caused by not drinking enough water during and/or after an activity. The second one is – how should I say this? Well… doing long distance activities will often put you in positions in which you are a long way from any facilities so you try a little too hard to “prepare” yourself before leaving. You know that you’ve been there. What makes ‘roids especially bad is that it can put you out of commission for several weeks.
Posterior Tibial Tendinitis (PTT) – From what I have read, this is an inflammation of a tendon that supports the arch of your foot. It’s also called Adult Acquired Flatfoot. For me, the pain started in the right ankle. After running a few times on it, the pain spread to the interior side of the right foot. I stopped running and the pain started to go away. Word of advice: if you have this, wait for it to go away completely. Then, wait a few more days before running again. I didn’t wait long enough and went for a run. The next day it felt worse than ever. From what I’ve read, excessive stress on the forefoot from running up hills, running barefoot or changing to minimalist running shoes can cause this.
Blisters – It seems like foot blisters are real common when you first begin but luckily, they tend to be far less common after you have been running for a while. I haven’t had a blister for years but recently started tweaking my running style so I land less on my heal and noticed the beginnings of a blister on my right foot. Some added padding or a band-aid should take care of it. Pretty basic.
Wow. I hate to think of how many of these I haven’t even heard of yet? Listen, if you are relatively new to running and find this discouraging, please don’t let it keep you from running! Instead, think of these as challenges or tests to see just how devoted you are. If you never had to face any kind of a test, you would never really know. Each time that you encounter one of these challenges and pull through, you become a stronger and wiser runner. Also keep in mind that you are not alone. Almost every person you see out on the running trail could tell you about an experience with at least one of these things and the fact that they are out there means that they passed the test.