5 Big Running Challenges, Solved
Want to avoid side stitches? Fix iffy form? Here's what you need to know to make your next jog even better.
Getty ImagesI tend to hunch over when I run. How can I correct this?
Hunching is often a sign of fatigue, and the weariness may come from the core. If your center is weak, your lower extremities generally have to do more work, which can lead to overuse injuries, such as runner's knee and IT band syndrome. And when you're stooped, your breathing becomes more difficult, so you get tired more easily. Incorporate front and side planks into your weekly workout routine to strengthen your core. When running, think about keeping your shoulders loose and low. To find the right spot, raise your shoulders to your ears, then drop them. Try to keep them where they land.
Â—Kelly Flynn, running coach for Team in Training/Leukemia and Lymphoma Society
I'm using a treadmill to train for a race. Is this a problem?
Although it's not an ideal replica of the road, a treadmill can still offer a great workout. Start by adjusting the inclineÂ—set it on at least a 1 percent grade to mimic the natural variations found outdoors. Then create an interval workout by manipulating incline, speed or both. After warming up, give yourself a challenge period (say, two minutes at 6.6 mph, or a nine-minute-mile pace, on a 3 percent incline) followed by a recovery period (two minutes at 5.8 mph, or about a 10:20 mile, on a 1.5 percent incline). Make two of your weekly treadmill runs interval workouts; keep the rest at a steady pace. But do try to go on a few runs outside before race day so that your body has a chance to acclimate.
Â—John Honerkamp, New York Road Runners training coordinator
I keep getting side stitches. What am I doing wrong?
No doubt about it: Side stitchesÂ—which are basically just a cramping in the diaphragm muscleÂ—stink. And as with any other muscle, some strengthening (in the form of just getting out and running) is in order. Poor posture is another culprit. The diaphragm sits above key organs, and stooping forward can trigger some pain. Also make sure that you're hydrated and have enough calcium in your diet (think fat-free milk or fortified orange juice)Â—this is important for muscle contraction and preventing spasms. Finally, before your run, stick with easily digestible foods, such as a banana or some toast with peanut butter. To treat a side stitch when it strikes, exhale forcefully while dropping your shoulders. Slow your pace (or walk) until the cramp subsides, breathing with an inhalation for two strides and an exhalation for two strides.
Â—Michele Olson, PhD, exercise physiologist at Auburn University at Montgomery in Alabama
How can I make jogging-stroller runs less awkward?
For many moms (and dads!), the only time to get outside and run is when taking along a little one or two. Luckily, today's jogging strollers make it easy to keep your stride. Remember that your pace will likely be a little slower than when you're running solo, since pushing a stroller adds weight (especially when you're going uphill) and requires some extra effort. Stand tall when you're running and use the wrist safety strap so you're not squeezing the handle too tightly. When running downhill, don't be afraid to let the stroller gain a little speed. Keep chest up and shoulders down, and try to stay relaxed. [Editors' note: We love the Bob Revolution SE single stroller ($315; amazon.com), which switches from a swivel front to a locked-in wheel and has a very smooth ride.]
Â—Kara Goucher, Olympic marathoner and mom to Colt, age 3
I've been running for a few months and can't seem to break the three-mile plateau. What gives?
In general, plateaus are more a result of mind-set than conditioning. If you always run the same route for the same amount of time, you can get used to the idea that you can't go any farther. To increase your distance, start doing intervals. Warm up at a slower pace for about 10 minutes or one mile, then do one-minute speed bursts at a higher intensity followed by one or two minutes at a slower pace to recover. Do 10 to 12 of these and finish with 10 minutes of easy jogging. Keep it up and you'll likely go well past the three-mile mark. In addition, it can help to rethink your running course so you're not stuck in a rut. Or get a friend to join you on your next outingÂ—while you're chatting away, you'll cover far more ground than you realize.