To the pain!
If you started the C25K programme after my last post, chances are you found yourself unable to move the next day. This is perfectly natural and good for you! Bear with me: pain is your friend!
We’re so conditioned in this day and age to accept pain as a bad thing, but actually it can be a useful part of training. Pain is your body’s way of telling you that something’s not right, but also where it’s busy reconfiguring the muscles you use to run. It’s useful to recognise the difference between them and take appropriate steps to deal with it.
Many flavours of ouch
If you’ve recently started running, you’ll have noticed muscular aches, even if you did some good stretching afterwards. Try to work out which area is hurting (not always obvious!) and find some stretches that you can make part of your post-run routine. I always know the next day when I’ve missed a stretch, and there’s an amazing feeling when you find a new, bizarre pose which stretches a hard-to-reach part. Remember you can pull too much and rip the muscle, so take each stretch gently: hold the tension for about 20 seconds or so and then let it ease.
Pain at the joints might be more worrying, but if you start gently and allow the muscles supporting it to strengthen, you should be fine. I find I get a knee niggle if I’ve not run for a week or so, which is fine the next day and I’m able to run without any problem the day after. Knee and ankle pain might also indicate that your trainers are unsuitable for your running style.
There’s also blisters, fleshy bits that chafe against each other or your clothes, which are temporary and can be dealt with by suitable application of talc (“bits”), Sudocreme or Vaseline (toes and feet). Decent running socks are cheap and should help avoid blisters, but check your trainers are not too loose when you run. Most running shops will have staff trained to advise you, and some will even offer a free gait analysis and find a shoe that fits your foot like a… er… glove. (For that matter you can also buy foot gloves!)
Most importantly, make sure you allow a day for your body to recover, and stop immediately if you get head or chest pains.
Born to run
Our physiology is pefectly suited to running, we evolved to become runners and thrived as a species because of it. We weren’t the fastest or the strongest, but we were the smartest, and able to chase down prey over longer distances, letting them get away and tire out. As we got better at this, human body structures from toe to head developed distinctly from our closest ape cousins, such as Chimpanzees and Gorillas.
Our feet are padded and shaped in just the right places to allow the rolling movement through the step. We have a huge tendon in the middle of the foot which absorbs and releases the energy, as does the achilles tendon. Our buttocks allow for fast swinging legs, even our necks are relatively long and floppy, allowing our heads to keep steady and gazing at our prey (or the finish line).
So I keep this in mind whenever I feel a pain – I try to work out where it’s coming from and whether I need to adjust to avoid it.
When I drafted the above, all was going well after the last post: sticking to the plan, and managing a fast 10km run in 53 minutes one evening. Then on holiday in August I found out my blood pressure was pretty high, had to stop for a couple of weeks until I got it checked out by the doctor but it’s now coming down. Still keeping an eye on it though.
This is one last caveat about all the above – when you get into long or fast runs, over a time it can change the way that your heart functions. It’s a muscle, and so will strengthen if you exercise it. Generally this isn’t a problem, but it would seem that other factors combined to give me high blood pressure. So it’s always worth getting this checked – many GP surgeries have a machine that will let you take this yourself, or you can schedule an appointment with the practice nurse.
That being said, I’m ready for the half-marathon in 2 weeks’s time: had a slow 18km run last weekend, and a great 20km run in 2 hours last night. That was after a very hard couple of days of garden labour, so 9am start on Sunday 6th should be good. Sponsorship is at £327, so 2/3 of the way to my £500 target.