Apart from running-related injuries such as sprains, and stress fractures, runners – especially those new to the sport or those who run more leisurely – also deal with a host of less threatening ailments. And these, as anyone who has suffered from stitches or bleeding nipples can attest to, are capable of causing much pain and discomfort. Get some relief at your next run with these tips.
These sharp, stabbing pains just below your rib cages are usually caused by muscle spasms of the diaphragm. Our lungs are filled with air when we breathe deeply, pressing our diaphragm downwards. Eating just before the run or starting too suddenly at too high an intensity traps air below the diaphragm, causing it to cramp and making the run seem impossible to complete.
1. When you feel the onset of a stitch, try slowing down first (stop if you’re completely out of juice). Space out your breathing.
To prevent the diaphragm from tensing up even more, take in long, relaxed breaths instead of sucking in short choppy ones. Try breathing with your belly by expanding your stomach as you breathe. This allows the diaphragm to lower itself and make space for the lungs. Head back to slow, deep and even breathing.
2. Stop running, press your hand against the painful area and exhale forcefully, as if you were blowing out a candle.
What you’re doing is relieving the tension and strain on the diaphragm.
To beat stitches, try consuming liquid substitutes or easily digestible options before you start your run. Ensure also, that you warm up thoroughly: Getting your muscles warm will help relax your diaphragm. And because the fitter you are, the more relaxed you’ll be even when you are running at a higher intensity, train progressively to ward off stitches.
Muscle cramps can occur for a variety of reasons during your run. If you’ve over-exerted yourself because of a too-enthusiastic start to your running session, your nerve impulses will overload your fatigued muscles, increasing the possibility of cramps.
A shortage of sodium and potassium – caused by a drinking session the evening before your run, for example – may also trigger cramps. Sodium stores deplete further as you become increasingly dehydrated during your run, further increasing your risk of cramps.
Stop running and stretch the muscle as far as you can: Straighten the leg as much as possible and bend your toes up.
Your cramped muscles will be forced out, helping it to relax. It is easy to trigger the cramp again because the muscle is still fatigued. So let your muscle rest for a while before resuming your run. If the cramp keeps recurring, try pinching your upper lip. Experts don’t understand why this acupressure point works, but it often does.
Make sure you’ve done enough training before you try to impress that runner-babe. If there is a need to, increase your pace gradually during your run. Do not change your pace suddenly. And to make your pre-run stretch more effective, spend four to five minutes jogging to increase your body temperature and blood flow: ‘Cold’ muscles are not easily stretched.
If you’re going for a long run, try hydrating yourself with carbonated sport drinks first. These drinks are high in sodium and will help to prevent cramps when you run.
Related: Make Your Own Sports Drink
Runners’ Trots (Diarrhoea)
Swedish researchers found that during training, runners hit the loo more often. Your body bumps up and down as you run – a possible explanation for food moving more quickly through your bowels, says study author Hans Strid, PhD.
Also, running may raise secretions of intestinal fluid, thereby loosening stools, he says. While such information may be music to the ears of those who suffer from constipation, it spells bad news for runners who are unable to find washrooms in the middle of the Bukit Timah nature reserve biking trail.
Unless you have access to the gents, there really is no other choice but to stop because any further bumping up and down may result in a nasty ejaculation from your rear.
If you’ve gone beyond the point of no return, your sanitary training during Reservist outfield exercises will come in very handy. Just remember to be discrete.
Monitor your diet so that you can isolate the foods which trigger runners’ trots. For some people, these could be dairy products, high-fibre foods such as beans, vegetables and wholemeal bread products, or even energy gels.
If you are unable to avoid such foods, give your body adequate time to digest your meal before you head out for a run. And test out your energy gels during your training sessions before you use them during your race – you’ll get a better idea of how your digestive system takes to them.
And because there is no ready solution to runner’s diarrhoea, pick a training route along which you can find washrooms. Portable toilets are thankfully, readily available along race routes and at the starting and ending points.
Related: Why Coffee Makes You Poop
Bloody Nipples And Thigh Chafing
The repeated action of skin rubbing against fabric or against skin during long-distance running causes chafing. The areas commonly hit include the inner thighs, nipples and armpits. Runners who are wearing unsuitable running-attire, overweight, or not adequately hydrated during the run, are most susceptible. The result: The affected areas turn red, tender and painful. Nipples which have been chafed bleed – staining the running top and making the condition visible even to other runners – and become stingingly painful.
While a common cause of chafing is sweat-soaked running attire, a dehydrated runner is also at risk of chafing: Perspiration flow slows down, and dries up on skin, leaving scratchy salt flakes which exacerbate the situation. Overweight runners, on the other hand, tend to have more exposed skin, especially at the thighs.
There is very little you can do: When you start feeling the pain, you’ve probably already completed a good part of your run. If the inflamed skin, especially at the arm-pits and thighs, causes too much discomfort, stop the run.
To prevent painful chafing, comfortable, good-fitting clothing is essential. Opt for running-attire made of lighter, sweat-wicking material – the raggedy old cotton t-shirt tends to become very heavy when moisture-logged. You may also want to purchase anti-chafing cream for areas most prone to friction. To prevent your nipples from bleeding, stick a band-aid, or apply the same anti-chafing cream, on each nipple before the race begins.
Related: Are Compression Suits Worth It?
Remember also to hydrate adequately: You will want to perspire normally during your run so that you end up neither with excessively soggy attire or scratchy salt flakes on your skin because sweat-flow is drying up – both of which cause chafing. And while being overweight makes you more prone to the condition, you should see less chafing as you lose weight from all your running.