Q: Will I get better/faster? WHEN? I know you know the answer, don’t pretend you don’t!!! How not to get discouraged? (Slowpoke) and How do you push past the three mile slump? (mrsssg)
A: One run out of the week (only one!), push yourself, either faster or farther—but NOT both, never both. You might try one run a week with someone else who’s a little bit faster than you are. You’ll feel like you’re dying, and it’ll be embarrassing, but the next run you do on your own will seem easier. You might “bonk” or “hit the wall,” and you must not feel defeated by this. A bad run is better than no run, and some days just don’t work out.
As for WHEN … if you are running slowly enough, you will be vastly better within six months. If you keep running too fast and doing each run like a wind sprint, you might never get better.
As for not getting discouraged, just keep reading the success stories here! (This just in: a picture of Victoria in the maggot shirt she won for most inspiring story. Doesn’t she look fantastic?)
Q: Any tips for treadmill running to make it, well, not suck? (Julie)
A: Aside from varying the speed/incline and watching TV, the one interesting tip I’ve heard is to try running some intervals BACKWARDS. I’ve never tried the latter, so do it at your own risk (and maybe take some video footage, please?). (Julie’s a little busy at the moment and probably not reading this, but perhaps in a couple months she’ll be back.)
Department of Pain
Q: Any thoughts on plantar fasciitis/heel spurs? (erika)
A: First, know that the heel spur is not the problem, but rather a symptom of the plantar fasciitis—it’s a little bit of extra bone that grows due to chronic inflammation. Special stretches and exercises help a lot, as does running later in the day rather than in the morning.
Q: I have an annoying little pain in the muscles next to my right shin bone. Any good stretches for this muscle? Can it do a lot of damage if I run through it? (mrsssg)
A: These are shin splints, and can be a lot more than an annoying little pain. The advice I got somewhere long ago when I started was that I should expect to get them at some point and to run through them. I did, and I did, and it worked out—BUT everything I read about them suggests not just running through them. Running on a softer surface, maybe better shoes, avoiding hills, and not increasing the amount you’re running all seem like good advice. (Since the standard advice for all pains in runners is “stop running,” and it’s patently ridiculous most of the time—and starting to be disproven—I’m automatically suspicious whenever I hear it.) (Thanks for the link, anonymous!)
Department of Gear
Q: Do you have any favorite online stores for running basics? (Slowpoke)
A: Some places I’ve ordered from more than once and liked every time are the REI Outlet, Campmor, and Running Warehouse; I’ve heard good things about Title Nine but haven’t tried them myself.
Q: What’s your opinion on spendy inserts? good, not necessary, imperative, couldn’t hurt? (blue)
A: Depends. I never used them until this year, when my shoes felt a little too uncushioned. First I tried cheap ones—not good. Then I tried spendy ones, and they do feel good. But good running shoes shouldn’t require extra inserts if your feet are pretty average-shaped (mine aren’t). I’ve heard warnings not to use inserts as a way to try to extend the life of your shoes, and that makes sense to me.
Department of Scatology
Q: I can make it 1 mile before I have to desperately find a bathroom to defile. I’m unsure how to add much distance through potentially bathroom-free territory and there have been times that I’ve had to cut off a run to walk, clenched and desperate, to somewhere that I’ll have trouble showing my face again. (Muddy)
A: I think long ago Denise had this question, and I was flummoxed. I still am, but I think this is what I’d do: run my first mile in a little loop back to my house, then continue my run from there. Also, try stripping all milk products from your diet, as lactose intolerance can present this way. Finally, relax about the showing your face thing. Everybody shits, and everybody’s shit stinks. Look at it this way: you’re making people feel less embarrassed about themselves!
Q: I find that I can’t poop unless I run, and I find that it takes longer and longer for running to work its magic. This is how I become literally addicted to running. And like a drug, it takes more and more to get the job done. I ran 4 miles last night and my intestines just laughed. (also Muddy)
A: Muddy, you do have some issues, don’t you? It sounds like you’re an IBS sufferer, and that’s a pretty tricky problem overall. The general advice I give my patients is to quit eating any simple carbohydrates (they plug you up), quit dairy as above, and find a daily dose of good old-fashioned Milk of Magnesia that works for you.
Q: When I run I get really itchy in areas it isn’t polite to scratch publicly. I’m assuming this is because of sweat, but whatever the reason I end up with a red butt from my attempts to ease the itchiness. Any ideas? (mdt)
A: Well, I just go ahead and scratch, but I know I’m less than couth sometimes, and I could see how this might get annoying if the itch kept up. Are you wearing underwear when you run? If so, take them off (but put your shorts back on, please). Next, try some toe-vagina-butt cream—maybe you’re a little yeasty. Third, try some powder—I love Lush’s Silky Underwear.
Q: My mother-in-law insists that running is bad for the PC muscle. Is there any validity to this claim? Please put this nagging fear to rest! (Allison)
A: No. No validity. You must already know that your mother-in-law is nuts anyway, right?
Q: Is it true that women who have had children have to pee more often, or does it just seem that way? I ran a half marathon and I swear I must have stopped at 6-8 port-a-potties. Also, I just got back from a week of camping and it seemed like no matter how many times I tried to empty the bladder before getting in the tent, I always had a 2 a.m. nature call. It was worse right after I had my daughter, when I finished a 5K by truly wetting my pants. What can be done, if anything?
A: Like this question, the answer is a three-parter.
- As women get older, they can have more trouble holding in their urine. This is only slightly more common with women who have borne children than those who have not (except for the unfortunate few with really nasty tears). But this is a basic muscle-strength issue, and no matter how old you are, you can get your muscles really strong if you work at it. Here’s a tip: Kegel while you run. Not the whole time (now that would be a challenge!) but every now and then.
- Having to get up to pee in the middle of the night is not a muscle problem, it’s a drinking too much problem. Just as with little kids who wet their beds, restricting liquid past a certain time can magically fix the problem. (A lot of people just naturally wake up in the night and then assume they have to pee, too.)
- Having to pee a lot while you’re running can be due to #1 or #2. Are you peeing a huge amount when you go? If so, you’re overhydrating—try drinking fluids until an hour before you run, then stop completely, then pee just before you go. Are you peeing a tiny amount? Then you may need more Kegeling.
Q: Any post c-section running advice? (Jacq)
A: Just don’t be afraid. You won’t split open like an overripe watermelon, I promise. Follow the Slow Down rule, and you’ll be fine.
Q: Advice on a good running bra for a nursing mom? My chest is currently enormous so good support is a must but little one is still nursing enough that easy access is essential. (amy)
A: Anything with a front closure (zip or hook)—I’ll put another plug in for the Last Resort bra, because women with racks seem to adore it, and I adore the name.
Q: I’m afraid I have some kind of prolapse—I feel like something’s coming out “down there” when I run. (Rebecca)
A: This is a peculiar thing that happens postpartum, and it’s most likely due to the vaginal dryness when you’re in the non-ovulatory state. You can actually feel the rubbing together of the walls when you run, and it’s freaky. But it’s not prolapse, and it’s not dangerous.
Department of Weather
Q: Any advice on running in the heat? (Other than, “Wait until 7:30 when it’s only 85 degrees, dumbass.”) (anon)
A: Shaded paths (with company if it’s a sketchy area). Also, slow acclimation. Some of the best distance runners in the world come from the hottest parts of Africa, you know.