The 3 Most Common Problems Runners Deal With

[00:00:00] Today, I want to talk to you about challenges that every single runner faces. Often we face these challenges when we’re new to running. But even if you’ve been running for 20+ years like I have, they’re going to crop up from time to time. And I want to go through how you deal with each and every one of them.

[00:00:28] I’m Jesse Funk, the founder of and the host of this show Runner’s High, where we talk about everything running and endurance related. So if you love running, if you love endurance sports, you want to hit that subscribe button. Stick around for more episodes every Tuesday and Thursday, as well as the other show I do on this channel called The Smart Athlete Podcast, where I talk to smart athletes in various fields. We talk about life, we talk about philosophy, we talk about just random stuff like The Beer Mile, and that’s an awesome show. You’re going to check out those guests every Friday as well.

[00:00:59] But today I want to talk to you about challenges that we face as runners. Often we come across these as beginners and we’re not really sure what to do with them. But even if you have, like I mentioned at the beginning, like me, I’ve been running for 20+ years. We run into some of these challenges overtime again, even though we think, oh, I thought I, I thought I did that. I thought, I thought I got over that thing.

[00:01:23] And the reason is we’re human. Our lives change, our schedules change, all of the things around us change all the time. And it’s easy to not have constant vigilance on something into basically succumb to a challenge, so to speak. And that’s what I want to talk to you about today.

[00:01:44] So a lot of these things, if you’re a beginner, things you’re going to come up against. But even if you’re a veteran like me, it’s good. As a refresher, go back through these things and then think about how can I improve what I’m doing right now? So let’s get on to the first challenge.

[00:02:00] So the first challenge is I think a lot of beginning runners come up against and then even I guess veterans we’ll deal with our stomach problems. And that is, I’ll say GI distress is kind of my general idea about what I mean about stomach problems. They come from a lot of different sources and your particular situation is going to kind of warrant what the issue is and then how to address it. So let’s go over a few of them.

[00:02:27] Number one, if you’re beginning, you’re just getting used to running and you’ve taken on a fair amount of mileage. Even if your legs are keeping up with it, your core may not be very strong. So if you have weak core muscles, then I often find this ends up being presenting as kind of like irritable stomach or like just not feeling good GI related because of how hard your core is having to work.

[00:02:56] I don’t know the exact mechanism, but I know I went through it as a young runner. Many runners go through it when they’re young, at least in school. It’s almost a competition of like who can work the hardest and then throw up. And that has to do because your core is not strong. You’re just like pushing through this silly pain when you really should be addressing the strength issue rather than trying to make yourself throw up.

[00:03:20] But that’s a pretty common like beginning situation that alleviates over time simply through adaptation, running more, doing more core work outside of running. That doesn’t mean just like doing P90X every day and trying to like go crazy and get shredded. It does mean like solid core strength work and we’ll cover that in this video, but we cover that in another video if you want to.

[00:03:47] Other GI-related things – food. It’s got to be food, right? Easy one to figure out. Are you taking in too many fatty foods? Are you taking too much fiber, especially right before a run? Those are going to be really detrimental to the whole GI tract feeling good. Blood gets diverted to get used in your GI tract when you’re digesting and those things, fiber that take longer to digest and like simple sugars. So not only can you get that like crampy feeling because it’s taking longer to digest, it’s bouncing around inside of you.

[00:04:29] But then you’re diverting resources that blood flow to digestion you probably want to be using for exercise. The last one, which I think creeps up more as we try to like optimize our nutrition, our performance as we go into racing is GI distress through — I’ll say it’s kind of like food but through bad ingredients. So it can be you taking too much fuel, too much sugar. But sometimes you’ll take in like sports drinks that contain things like sugar alcohols or erythritol, and those are just big no-no’s for bloating and GI distress.

[00:05:11] As a side note, that’s why when we developed our sports drink series, the SYNC hydration series, we did go zero sugar so that you can control the sugar separately and more accurately for yourself. But we use stevia, which is typically going to be GI-friendly for the vast majority of people. There’s always going to be a small minority of any group that doesn’t sit well or something. So I’m not going to say 100% efficacy, but for the overwhelming majority, that’s going to be fine.

[00:05:42] So check your products. If you’re using something like ours, you can check that out. We’ll leave a link in the description below or go to if you’re using ours should be good to go. But if whatever else you aren’t using, if you’re not using our hydration series. Check the ingredients. Does it have any of those ingredients that are likely to cause bloating gas or just gastrointestinal discomfort? Because that’s an easy get this out of my nutrition regimen. 

[00:06:14] And that goes for your gels, your chomps, your fuel, any of that kind of stuff. Figure out, does this bother me through the ingredient list? So let’s get on to the next challenge.

[00:06:25] Challenge number two or number four, depending on how you want to break up. That last one we just covered because that took a little bit is foot pain. And this is one again generalized but there’s usually a few good go-tos to figure out what’s going on, how do I address it? And the reason we often get foot pain is because our feet are the main point of contact to the ground.

[00:06:50] When we’re running, we apply for somewhere between six and nine times our body weight and our feet are where we start because that’s what’s applying the force to the ground. Out of the ground, apply the force back to us. So there are a lot of different things that can go wrong with feet because of the number of tiny little bones in your feet, as well as the structure of the ligaments, all the little pieces of cartilage, everything that’s in your foot.

[00:07:19] It’s a pretty complex structure which makes it very, very useful and flexible for us. But when you have repetitive stress like we do and running things can break. So something I talked about with podiatrist Mark Gallagher on that other show I mentioned the Smart Athlete Podcast comes out in front of us here on this channel.

[00:07:35] So if you want to know more about foot stuff and kind of his thoughts on injuries, stick to the end of this episode. We’ll link to that. But easy ways to kind of try to alleviate foot pain. Number one, what surface are you running on?

[00:07:52] So the softer the surface, typically, the better it’s going to be in terms of avoiding repetitive stress injuries. And that includes like stress fractures, tendonitis those kind of things. The trick here being that you also want to check how uneven is the ground that I’m running on.

[00:08:16] So I have a particular running router, a couple that run on kind of these big medians here in Kansas City. It’s down through a particular we have a like a park like street system in our town. And there are these giant walls of grass which are nice because they can get a nice soft surface as compared to running on the street or the sidewalk all the time.

[00:08:40] However, when you’re running on grass, you increase the instability in your feet. So if you’re getting like ankle issues, plantar fasciitis, those kind of things, and you do a lot of safe grass running, then that’s where you maybe go, okay, let’s dial that back and go to more of a flat surface, even if that means increasing the stiffness of the surface and you’re going street or sidewalk, trail, dirt trail track like that kind of surface is a good in-between where you can get like a more flat surface or consistent surface and also it be softer.

[00:09:22] Obviously, track is nice as well because it’s built for speed. It’s both for performance, it’s built for being soft and responsive, it’s flat, all those kind of things. But then you’ve got to run around track all the time. So that part’s not great. So checking your surface, number one, checking your shoes, big thing. And this is something that is hard to diagnose via video, but even I’m susceptible to this.

[00:09:50] So one of the things I’ve talked about in other videos is I really loved these shoes I wore for a long time. Actually, I have them on now. I still wear them around. These are four-millimeter drop shoe, but because of my increasing mileage, they actually gave me issues with Achilles problems. I would include them in feet problems.

[00:10:11] So we know that if you have a lower drop shoe like I have been wearing, it doesn’t really change the amount of injuries you’re going to sustain when you’re in lower mileage, but the higher mileage you go. Typically people who have the lower drop. You tend to get more injuries. So wearing different shoes on different days to vary the style, stack height, those kind of things can help prevent injuries in your feet as well.

[00:10:41] But on top of that, checking the mileage on your shoes. I’ve got my big whiteboard over here. You can’t see it here in the office. And I keep track of the mileage on each pair of shoes that I’m running in nowadays. Every single day I log it to know, “Hey, I’m still good.” 300 to 500 miles is about where you want to go with those.

[00:11:02] From there, you start getting into kind of more specialty things where you have to decide Is it tendon or is it muscular related with most feet problems, it’s plantar fascia. So the fascia is a sheath around the tendons on the bottom of your feet or like your Achilles.

[00:11:27] Those are a little bit more difficult injuries to deal with. Ask me how I know, because the Achilles has been taken forever to kind of build back up. But if it’s not that and you’re getting pain like, say, on the top side of your foot, it can be tendon related, but often you’re probably getting a more towards stress fracture, which means stopping running.

[00:11:50] So that would be too much of a bummer, but that’s how you kind of deal with that. For the tendon-related ones, it often involves either rest or some kind of loading on the tendons because tendons respond well to load over time. Go look at protocols yourself on Google. I’ve covered them a little bit on this channel before, but again, we’re going to get way too long in this video if I try to dive into the nitty gritty of that.

[00:12:17] So let’s get on to our last challenge, I think is coming for both beginners and for veterans. In this last challenge, I think sneaks up on the best of us. And that is like just feeling sluggish, feeling heavy. Maybe when you start out your run, you just your legs are like bricks. I mean, heavy is the best way to describe it. Lethargy, just a lack of energy, everything. You know, it’s like running with cement in your shoes almost.

[00:12:50] And this is a sign, a sure sign that you’ve overloaded yourself. Now, there are times, strategic times, best plans with a coach or somebody knows what they’re doing when you want to plan overload, which means you’re going to go through some of these symptoms.

[00:13:07] But generally, if you’re experiencing this a lot, you’ve taken on too much load, which means too many miles or you’re not getting enough rest. I mean, the short version is you’re not getting enough rest, but what exactly you’re doing depends on your schedule. It could be too many miles. It could be too much intensity. It could be the frequency is too high. It could be that you didn’t have a say, a rest week.

[00:13:31] So like nowadays I go to ones I build for two weeks and then I take a rest week. Historically, this is years and years ago now I would do three one. I found I was more injury prone and did not perform as well under that kind of circumstance. So once we changed, having given me a little bit more rest, tend to perform a little bit better.

[00:13:52] But the sluggishness and lack of response is, again, just a sign that you’re fatigued. If you feel a little sluggish, maybe at the beginning of a run and then you feel great for the rest of it, you might just be a little bit sore, a little bit broken down from the previous day, probably okay, as long as you continue to feel fine for subsequent runs.

[00:14:16] But if you run after a run or just like, “Oh, I don’t… I don’t want to… I don’t want to do it”, then that fatigue, especially as it gets into kind of the mental side, probably a sign just back off. Give yourself a rest, take a day off, sometimes take a week off. It depends on how deep into that cycle you’ve gone, but it’s something that I think we all struggle with when we’re trying to get better, right? 

[00:14:44] Whether that means that we’re trying to build miles and complete our first 5K, whether it’s a marathon, whether it’s an Ironman, when we’re trying to better ourselves, we push the limits and sometimes we push a little bit too far. So this is not something specific to beginners that only beginners like to come to. I think it’s anybody who wants to push themselves to be better regardless of your level is going to run into this.

[00:15:11] And I don’t know any coach who would disagree with this statement. And if you find one, I’d love to argue with them or at least hear their opinion. Really? You are going to perform better. A little bit more rested than a little bit more worked so people would. The suggestion is I would rather a athlete go into a race undertrained than overtrained.

[00:15:38] So that’s when, you know, if you’re feeling this kind of sluggish symptoms back off, you’re always going to do yourself a disservice by continuing to work harder and then digging yourself into a hole that it’s going to take even longer to dig out of.

[00:15:52] All right. Here we are at the end. That was a long one today. Lots of little nuance, lots of little nitty gritty to get into way more than we can get into for this particular video.

So if there’s a video that you’d like to see made based on this one, say, say you’ve got a particular foot problem or you’re dealing with sluggishness and you don’t think it’s mileage related or whatever it is, leave them as comments below, as I mentioned, check out my conversation with Mark Gallagher on the Smart Athlete Podcast. Again, it’s here on this channel, so you want to subscribe and stick around and I’ll see you next time on the next episode of Runner’s High.

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