There’s no doubt that running can be hard on your body. Here’s what you can do to remedy these common issues and keep your training going.
Running at almost any pace can have significant health benefits for the body.
For example, a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology looked at more than 55,000 runners between the ages of 18 and 100 and found that running for even 5 to 10 minutes a day at low speed, led to a significant reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease. Your lungs will love it too. Activity has been linked to better oxygen uptake, improved circulation and increased lung function, according to a March 2016 report in the journal Breathe. But running is one of those sports that also has a bad reputation for being notoriously hard on the body, from knee injuries to pulled or strained tendons to loss of toenails. Whether you’re new to running or a seasoned runner, what illnesses should you be concerned about? And what can you do to fix it?
5 weird things running does to your body
1. Runner’s knee
Patellofemoral pain syndrome, also known as runner’s knee, tends to affect runners who try to do too much, too soon. One of the risks of running is increasing the chances of suffering some type of stress-related injury, as you put extra stress on your bones, tendons and cartilage, including your knees. Runner’s knee causes pain around or just behind the kneecap. If it’s particularly severe, you may feel pain all the time. If less severe, you may experience it after long periods of sitting with your knees bent, running, squatting, or walking up or down stairs.
What to do
You need to stop running until the pain goes away. Then, starting with a brisk walk, gradually increase the distance and speed. Try not to increase more than 10% per week for each of these variables. If the pain doesn’t go away after three to five days without a run, it’s time to call your doctor. Also be sure to warm up before you run (or do any exercise) and incorporate leg strengthening exercises into your workout routine to strengthen the muscles that support the knee. You may need to change the way you run because your stride could be the main culprit. Speaking with a running coach or physical therapist who can assess your body mechanics can often make a big difference in relieving your knee.
2. Your toenails are turning black.
Why do long-distance runners’ toenails turn black? It is actually the result of bleeding under the nail. Ill-fitting or undersized shoes are usually the culprit, as well as longer toenails. When your nails hit multiple impact points inside the shoe, it can create different force points, causing stress on that area. The excessive friction, stride after stride, eventually causes enough damage to bruise or bloody the toes. Wearing the right size shoes and not speeding up the workout too quickly can help you avoid this problem.
What to do
Make sure your running shoes are the right size, your toenails are clipped, and you’re not overtraining. If you’ve been diligent in all of these areas and are still struggling, try going to a running store that sells shoes based on your gait rating. If there aren’t any near you, look online for running stores, as they often have advice on shoe selection.
Nothing takes the fun out of a long run like chafing. This is the skin irritation that results from repeated rubbing of skin on skin or something else. This is usually a problem that gets worse when running long distances or for long periods of time. The more rubbing, the greater the irritation. But heat, humidity and certain fabrics can also make the problem worse. It’s common for men who run to experience chafing on their nipples, a sensitive area of skin. Women often have chafing along the bikini line, which is also an area of sensitive skin (thong-type underwear can make the problem worse). But chafing can also occur in other areas, such as between the thighs, under the arms, or in the groin area, where skin rubs against skin or other material.
What to do
Rub with an oily gel on areas of skin that may chafe, or protect them with bandages. To protect the skin around the underwear line, choose garments made from fabrics with natural moisture-wicking properties.
4. Overactive bladder
Need to go to the bathroom soon after running, even if you went to the bathroom just before? This may be due to several factors. The increased blood flow from cardiovascular training can speed up other bodily systems, including the production of urine by the kidneys. Also, the urge to pee may not be what it seems. If you’re dehydrated, your body can retain this concentrated reserve of urine, creating a sensation similar to the one you feel when you have to urinate.
What to do ?
Stay hydrated (especially if it’s hot outside or you’re sweating a lot). Drinking plenty of water is essential for a healthy workout. Plan for refueling stops along your route and talk to your doctor if this becomes a recurring problem.
5. Belly problems
Another potential side effect of dehydration is the onset of gastrointestinal issues. Dehydration can alter the functioning of the stomach and digestive system in a way that will make your intestines irritable when you start moving around a lot while running. Paying attention to hydration the day before a long run, as well as during it, can help. Even if you’re well hydrated, you can have stomach issues, and it’s common among runners. When you run, the body and internal organs go through a lot of bouncing, blood flow to the intestines can decrease, and typical hormone production by the intestines can be interrupted, which can contribute to gastrointestinal issues.
What to do about it
Do not eat foods new to you before or during a race, and especially not during a race. Not all protein bars or sports drinks are right for every runner’s stomach. Better find out what works before you run.
Another tip: this is the only time you can avoid filling your plate with vegetables. Vegetables, cooked or raw, tend to increase the risk of gastrointestinal issues while running.
And if you think pre-race jitters may be playing a role, try adding meditation or journaling to your pre-race routine (right before you set off or even the night before).