help me run
April 22, 2012 7:34 PM   Subscribe

Why does my body object when I run?

Why is running a problem?

I consider myself a pretty fit person- I work out 5-7 days per week. I do lots of aerobic exercise, things like zumba and Les Mills "Body Combat" and "Body Jam", if you are familiar (aerobic dance and martial-arts style classes that are fairly intense workouts). I also do yoga 1-2 times per week. I get through all these classes fine.

I also used to use the machines (ellyptical and that other one where you step side-to-side, not sure what it's called). Eventually these got easier to the point where they weren't challenging even on the highest setting. (that's when I started the classes which I am doing now).

However, I still have a hard time running. When I try to run, I am able to breathe fine, so cardiovascularly, things are ok. But I wind up stopping earlier than I need to because my shins start aching. So, the result is I can't get a good cardiovascular workout from running.

Just wondering if this is common? Is something wrong with my form? Or is it something I just need to get used to and work through? I have an hourglass figure with pretty sizeable hips. Is this a common issue for my body type? any tips?

Running isn't my main exercise, but I would like to try a little, especially for times when I can't get to the gym before it closes and want to get a good workout in.

posted by bearette to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
You might be getting shin splints. That happens when certain shin-area muscles are underdeveloped, and you can strengthen them by doing certain exercises, like writing the alphabet with your toes when you're in a boring meeting. I'm no sports medicine expert, but you might google "shin splints" and see if it matches your experience.
posted by salvia at 7:40 PM on April 22, 2012 [4 favorites]

I was unable to run for a long time, then decided to try the "barefoot" running trend that I'd been hearing a lot about (I use Vibram Fivefingers shoes, but there are other similar ones). It definitely changes your form, and it did work well for me — since then I've finished a half marathon and a marathon.

I think most of the reason for improvement was the change in form. As well as a bit of motivation from having spent the money on the shoes and the race entry.

I try to not be an evangelist for them and claim they're the answer to everyone's running problems — they may or may not work for you, you might have something else going on that's causing a problem or your body may just not be built to run well — but they did work very well for me.

Could also just be working your way up — start by walking and increase the distance, then walk and run a little bit of it, and increase the proportion of running.
posted by brentajones at 7:43 PM on April 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Running is hard! I've always been in reasonably good shape too but learning to run was a challenge for me. There will be lots of recommendations popping up here for Couch to 5k and that's because it works - both cardio-wise, and it also builds slowly enough that it's easy on your body (well, as easy as running can be). I became a runner three years ago via Couch to 5k and used it again coming back from a stress fracture injury. It's the best, really.
posted by something something at 7:47 PM on April 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Are you running on pavement? I notice a HUGE difference between pavement and softer surfaces (gravel or rubber track) in how my legs can deal with running.

(I am a female, probably not quite as fit as you, but also hippy, FWIW.)
posted by pantarei70 at 7:50 PM on April 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

could be flat feet, your form or crappy shoes. go to a good shoefitter and see if you pronator or supinator and have them recommend a shoe. i have both flat feet and picky feet. the only shoes i could run in without getting shin splints were Nike's Bowerman series. then i switched to vibrams and i love them. wear them everywhere and have no problems. just like brentajones i'm not necessarily recommending them for you or saying they work miracles but they sure did for me. worth a shot. and at the very least, get to a running shop and get fitted!!
posted by no bueno at 7:57 PM on April 22, 2012

Running is actually a form-intensive exercise. People think 'I can run! I started running when I was a little kid - everyone can run.' But that's not actually the case. Hundreds of muscles connecting dozens of bones, controlling balance, foot placement, body weight placement, arm motion, spinal loading, head position, breathing rate and volume.

Its a lot to think about, good thing most of it is handled by non-conscious systems. But I've always noticed that non-running cardio activities, specifically the elliptical machines, significantly degrades my stride mechanics.

reddit's r/running subsection has a pretty good FAQ with recommendations for shin splints

(same site) technique work will also help develop your form.

Remember, take it easy, progress when comfortable, and back off when hurting. Pain is a signal, it is important to process it appropriately.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:01 PM on April 22, 2012 [4 favorites]

Have you had your gait analysed at a running store? You seriously don't want a running injury, and they can tell you whether there's a problem with your form and/or shoes, and what you can do to correct it.

But, having said that, there are people who are not built to run long distances. I'm an excellent sprinter and very fit, but every time I have tried a running program (even a very slow one, like couch to 5k) I have injured myself - usually shin splints or ITB pain. I have tried pavement, dirt, and treadmills, and I've tried regular shoes, nike frees and vibrams, and barefoot running (my problems were worst with barefoot running). Still don't know what my problem is.

Things you can try: sprinting (high intensity interval training), running stairs, and hills. The more repetitive the running motion, the more strain it puts on your body, so running flat at a constant pace is bad news bears - the more you change it up the better. (This is why I can still play sports well, but can't run a 5k.)
posted by ke rose ne at 8:02 PM on April 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think it probably is shin splints, as salvia suggests:
One of the most common injuries that are experienced in Track and Cross-Country is know as shin splints. As a high school runner I constantly suffered from them. My races and workouts were always curtailed. I was only able to do half of the workouts and races. My junior year in cross-country was a difficult year. I suffered from shin splints the entire season.
Excessive overpronation is a major cause for shin splints. Pronation is the motion of the foot once it lands. For most people the outside of the heel touches first and then the foot rolls inward. The amount of inward rotation should be between 4-6 %. Too flat of a foot or too high of an arch can bring on a number of leg and knee injuries. Once the foot lands it flattens out, and the ankle rolls inward or pronates. The tibia (shinbone) is forced to twist slightly in the opposite or outside direction, stretching on the calf muscles. Too much twisting can lead to a stress fracture of the tibia. In other words, too flat of a foot results in the foot rolling inward too much transferring much of the pounding into the inner portion of the lower leg resulting in shin splints. Research shows that females are more likely to suffer from shin splints than males because their hips, on the average, are wider than mens. Because of the wider hips, a women’s foot strike the ground at a greater angle resulting in overpronation.
[my emphasis]

And, as you figured out for yourself, the width of your hips is probably a major factor.
posted by jamjam at 8:21 PM on April 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Nthing going to a good running store and getting analyzed/fitted. Shoes that work just fine on the elliptical or in a class can suck for running, as I found out when I first made the transition.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:41 PM on April 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: This is all very informative, thanks!

I think my shoes and hips are definitely issues :).

I don't have flat feet, but rather a pretty high arch, which as someone said could be the issue as well. Maybe I will try some sprinting combined with walking.
posted by bearette at 8:43 PM on April 22, 2012

Running is very hard on your body, especially when you haven't been doing it. It could be as simple as, you increased your mileage too fast. If you're in good cardiovascular shape, it's very easy to outrun what your body can handle.
posted by J. Wilson at 9:03 PM on April 22, 2012

Yeah, sounds like shin splints. I got these really bad when I first started running after a long time of being a slug. Eventually it stopped. I think I needed to be more in shape to actually get "in shape"

I'm not superstar, but I was able to get through it. Don't have a medical explanation either. Maybe try an elliptical machine for a while? That helped for me, and I enjoy the arm workout that goes among with it. Good luck.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 9:28 PM on April 22, 2012

Where are you running? The pounding of your feet against the hard, hard ground is one of the reasons you can get shin splints. Consider running on a track with a rubberized surface (local high school or college?) until your lower body gets used to the pounding.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 6:34 AM on April 23, 2012

I can't recommend enough going to a good running shoe store for gait analysis. They'll help you figure out if you over or underpronate, if you need a wider shoe, or any other footwear specific problem.

I also had this pain problem pretty bad when I restarted running recently. What I've done is make sure to stretch ahead of time, and run every other day instead of every day so that I don't exacerbate the pain. I've found that as I continue running (but not running through the pain) that It's gotten much, much better over time. My research says that a lot of shin splint pain can be due to muscles in your shins and calves not being strong enough for all the shock absorbing you're asking them to do. So as time goes by, they get stronger, and the pain goes away.
posted by garlic at 6:49 AM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Running is hard. If you stick with it, shin splints go away. My strategy is to warm up and run as long as I can before it hurts too much to keep going, then stretch the shins and calves real well, take a 5 minute break, and then run again. The second part of the run the pain usually goes away. If you keep running a couple of times a week, you'll be able to last a little longer each time before the pain becomes unbearable, and then eventually the pain will go away. So just stick with it until the shins become strong enough to not hurt. Don't give up!
posted by at 6:49 AM on April 23, 2012

Thirding (or fourthing?) looking into new shoes. If you're on a treadmill and the shin splints start, up the gradient so it feels more like you're running up a hill. Gradually decreasing the gradient over a few months helped me with my shin splints.
posted by stompadour at 8:53 AM on April 23, 2012

Good thing you do yoga. There are a zillion "things you can try" for shin splints, but the only thing that will assuredly work, without doubt, is vrasana.

Follow the instructions carefully in the link above (alignment is critical, or you could hurt your knees). Practice it before and after running, and whenever you think of it. This is one yoga asana that's recommended even with a full stomach, so no excuses!

You will very likely need to put your butt on a block at first (or else the pain will be excruciating). That's fine. The point (as in all of yoga) is not to complete the pose, but to gradually, gently, open up your body in the places it's constricted.

If you do a few mins per day, your shin splints will be gone in weeks, perhaps days.
posted by Quisp Lover at 12:29 PM on April 23, 2012

Form could be a issue, shoes could also be an issue but I think the main problem is your body haven't adapted to running yet.

It's wonderful that you have done a lot of aerobic exercises and yoga; that made you very cardiovascular fit. Unfortunately, none of these exercises transfer into running because fundamentally they are different exercises. Running puts a lot of stresses on your lower body (and to lesser extend your upper body) if you haven't run much before you didn't give the joints and ligament in your lower body a chance to cope with those stresses. One of the most common mistakes new runner makes is doing Too Much Too Soon. Cardiovascular fitness usually develop faster than joints and ligaments could cope with stresses.

I'm also reasonably fit because weightlifting but I am also absolutely suck at running for first two months because my body just aren't used to running.

My advice is do thing slowly. Treat running as a new sport. Let your body slowly adapt to running. Do a program such as Couch to 5K. I suspect majority of your problems will go away if you do it slowly.

Running is a very wonderful exercise. Good luck!
posted by Carius at 8:15 PM on April 23, 2012

Response by poster: I think the main problem was the shoes actually- today I tried some running with more appropriate sneakers and it was MUCH better. Not really any shin pain at all!

Thanks guys.
posted by bearette at 6:25 AM on April 26, 2012

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