Tips for running?
June 22, 2008 8:25 AM   Subscribe

Tips for running?

I run (interspersed with some walking) 3-5 miles about 4-5x/week.

1. Other than getting good shoes, what do I need to do to protect my knees? Is getting knee and joint problems from running inevitable?

2. How bad is it to run on a decline? In the area I live it's really difficult to avoid running downhill.

3. Even though I'm quite fit I seem to be really slow about building up aerobic endurance. Is there something I can do to speed this up? I get out of breath after maybe 1/2 half mile and then walk for a bit and start running again. How long before I should be able to go the whole distance without stopping?

Any other jogging/running tips are welcome.
posted by mintchip to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (22 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
 
Fartleks! Fartleks are essentially sprints followed by periods of lower exertion. Some people like track training for this because your distances are more consistent but on some runs I'll just pick landmarks and run between them.
posted by bitdamaged at 8:35 AM on June 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


A little resistance training can go a long way to protecting your knees.
Try mixing up your running routine. Do a little interval training one week, next week go at a constant pace on a treadmill.
posted by munchingzombie at 8:38 AM on June 22, 2008


Stay off concrete as much as humanly possible. Best bet, actually, is a paved *flat* path - regular roads have a camber that gave my less-experienced knees fits. THat, or run down the middle of the street on the crown of the road, moving over for cars.

If you're running that much per week, but still having to slow down to walking, then you're running too fast. Drop the pace back some, so you can keep at it constantly. Then start adding little bursts of speed.
posted by notsnot at 8:43 AM on June 22, 2008


1. Run on asphalt, grass, or dirt trails. Avoid concrete sidewalks if you can.

2. I'm not sure.

3. Consistency is key. Your endurance will improve with consistent running. It's perfectly okay to run/walk. I found my endurance greatly improved when I was doing other exercises on off days. Particularly this DVD. You don't need to buy a DVD. Jumping rope, some weight training (move quickly from one exercise to the next), stair climbing, etc. will do the trick.
posted by LoriFLA at 8:49 AM on June 22, 2008


Even though I'm quite fit I seem to be really slow about building up aerobic endurance. Is there something I can do to speed this up? I get out of breath after maybe 1/2 half mile and then walk for a bit and start running again. How long before I should be able to go the whole distance without stopping?

You could try adapting the Couch-to-5K running plan, it starts off with short distances of jogging and walking, with longer and longer periods of running as the weeks go on. If you're currently jogging about half a mile before walking, you could perhaps start off at about week 5 of the plan and see how it goes.
posted by bjrn at 8:51 AM on June 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


Are you running the same route all the time? I personally find that if I am used to stopping to walk at the fire hydrant, I really want to stop at the fire hydrant -- even if I haven't run in three days and shouldn't be tired at that point. So possibly changing up your route might help if you are associating particular landmarks with walk breaks.

Also, try listening to music if you don't already. I can run much faster much longer if I have a good playlist going. I think, in part, if I can't hear how hard I'm breathing, I don't know how out of breath I am and that the psychological i-need-air distress (which precedes actual physical distress) becomes a non-issue.
posted by bluenausea at 8:55 AM on June 22, 2008


To prevent runner's knee, run on softer surfaces, keep mileage increases less than 10 percent per week, and gradually increase hill work in your program. Visit a specialty running shop to make sure you're wearing the proper shoes for your foot type and gait. Also, strengthening your quadriceps will improve patellar tracking, and stretching your hamstrings and calves will prevent overpronation.

At the first sign of pain, cut back your mileage. The sooner you lessen the knee's workload, the faster healing begins. Avoid knee-bending activities, canted surfaces, and downward stairs and slopes until the pain subsides. As you rebuild mileage, use a smaller stride on hills. Consider orthotics if new shoes don't fix the problem. Pay attention to your body and run at a level that's appropriate for you.
posted by netbros at 9:02 AM on June 22, 2008


Courtesy of my fiancee:


It's hard to know what you're talking about when you say knee/joint problems because that can mean a lot of different things. In general, cross training helps. I like the elliptical trainer. If you find that you're still in pain after cross training you probably have a repetitive stress injury like shin splints in which case a physical therapist can help you. Sometimes physical therapists will take a look at you for free to see what you can do to improve your running.

Hills are great! I think Frank Shorter once said that hills are speed workouts in disguise. I personally like hills because while everyone else is slowing down on the hill, you can pick a lot of runners off by merely keeping a constant pace. When you're running downhill, lengthen your stride to make the most of it and when you're running uphill, lean into the hill and use your arms to help pull yourself up the hill.

When you're just starting to run, don't worry about speed. Seriously. Don't even wear a watch or think about the time. Try to run for 20-30 minutes straight and go as slow as you need to, just keep going. Once you can run straight for 30 minutes you can try varying your workouts like running faster and running hills and trying to push yourself to run for longer periods of time. You can do it!
posted by meta_eli at 9:03 AM on June 22, 2008



re 1. no, it's not inevitable. injuries happen to people who don't wear the right shoes (and by that I mean get a fitting at a dedicated running store), who don't warm up properly (five minutes brisk walking pre-running) and who don't stretch. learn how to stretch! (my recommendation for that: runnersworld.com - also check the discussions - or a personal trainer for a couple sessions. this is invaluable.) also consider a running coach to help you set up an alternating running schedule. running full-out day in and day out without getting your muscles proper rest periods is just asking for an injury.

I know a lot of runners who consider treadmills to be boring but the surface is ideal for running and I love it.

re 2. running cross-country is generally regarded as giving you a greater workout because your feet need to balance uneven grounds. as such going downhill is part of the exercise and not at all a problem if it's part of a balanced route. besides - going uphill is the best part of your cardio program.

re 3. run significantly slower. half your speed, perhaps. start building miles first and then adjust your speed. try to do 2.5 and then 3 miles without stopping. try to do it evenly. pace yourself. once you can do roughly 5km (3.12 miles), which will probably be around 30-35 minutes in the beginning, start speeding up a little bit. use the same route so you can learn where you should be at certain times. do this daily and your times will fall. time your 5k and then continue at an easy pace until you have done your 5 miles or whatever distance you wish to cover.

this is very general advice. I don't know your age and shape and would highly recommend a personal trainer, if only for a few weeks or so...
posted by krautland at 9:33 AM on June 22, 2008


1. it truly is inevitable but some people can train hard their whole lives with minimal damage to their cartilage and others see it break down quickly. Good shoes and soft running surfaces help. It also helps to develop a fluid running style which minimizes pounding, this will also make you more efficient. Cross training to keep all your muscles strong and some stretching will help keep stuff properly aligned while you run. One of the biggest causes of pain is trying to progress too fast. Increase your speed and distance gradually. A little interval training goes a long way toward improving your aerobic ability and Fartlek is about the easiest way to do it.
posted by caddis at 9:49 AM on June 22, 2008


With 3. I am Nthing Ms Meta_eli's et als advice.

SLOOOOW DOWN. Even to the point where you are 'barely' running ie. a little faster than a brisk walk.

I run (interspersed with some walking) 3-5 miles about 4-5x/week.

Others may disagree with me, but you will probably benefit more from dropping back to 3 runs a week. Certainly most beginning running plans I have seen suggest 3 runs a week (Like the Couch to 5K plan mentioned earlier).

'Rest' Days are when your body does its rebuilding, this may be the reason why you aren't seeing the improvement in your endurance.

In my previous attempts to 'be a runner' I was a little like you, jumping head first into it, pushing myself to exhaustion and then becoming frustrated with the whole idea. A few months ago, I took the 'softly softly' approach - and haven't looked back.

I can't emphasise enough how important it is to take things slowly. Slow runs, no more than 3-4x a week. Do this while following a plan (My plan uses this site - and I heartily recommend it), and I guarantee you it will work.
posted by TheOtherGuy at 10:17 AM on June 22, 2008


RE #2:

If you are going to start running with a pre-disposed worry about knee problems, then I can absolutely guarantee you will have knee "problems".

"Runner's knee", plantar fasciitis and things of this nature are caused by something called TMS. Google TMS.

My plantar fasciitis and knee problems disappeared after I threw out my orthotics, knee bands and stopped stretching, icing, heating, etc.. (obsessing).

There's a huge foot and knee-pain industry (similar to the back pain industry) that keeps the market for "treatment" very strong. All of it serves only to perpetuate the pain cycle.

Understand TMS (it will take a while) and you will be problem-free. And if you have occasional pain, it will only be temporary and you will be able to run for a long long time.
posted by Zambrano at 10:29 AM on June 22, 2008


Yeah that was not re #2 .. It was obviously for your first concern.
posted by Zambrano at 10:32 AM on June 22, 2008


Running downhill for me causes trouble with my hips. I haven't had knee problems, but I've had both plantar fasciitis & hip flexor problems (did XC & track in high school). The plantar fasciitis goes away & its gone, but the hip flexor problem still comes back to haunt me, and after I run downhill, I can almost feel the exact muscles I just massively stressed out.
posted by devilsbrigade at 11:36 AM on June 22, 2008


There's lots of tips and advice and motivational stories on the Runner's World website.
posted by extrabox at 1:34 PM on June 22, 2008


3. Even though I'm quite fit I seem to be really slow about building up aerobic endurance. Is there something I can do to speed this up? I get out of breath after maybe 1/2 half mile and then walk for a bit and start running again. How long before I should be able to go the whole distance without stopping?

You're running too fast. Cut back on your speed so that you are able to just continue to run. Your anaerobic threshold (the moment when your body goes from efficient oxygen use to quickly getting into oxygen debt, so that you are out of breath and have to stop) is sports-specific. Even if you're really good at jumping jacks, you may have to take time running more slowly in order to build your aerobic endurance. I write more about this in a comment here.

Others may disagree with me, but you will probably benefit more from dropping back to 3 runs a week. Certainly most beginning running plans I have seen suggest 3 runs a week (Like the Couch to 5K plan mentioned earlier). 'Rest' Days are when your body does its rebuilding, this may be the reason why you aren't seeing the improvement in your endurance.

This is rank, unfounded opinion, notably unsupported by any evidence, or any reference to the question as it's been asked. There's no indication that this poster needs to run less, none at all, and the question as written makes it clear to anyone who knows anything about the physiology of running that the trouble with poor performance is not a function of inadequate rest. Millions of people run more than the molly-coddling couch to 5k plan would suggest, and they almost all do better and run faster than that plan. The time to run less is when there is evidence that you need more recovery (injuries, generalized fatigue, trouble sleeping, irritability, a sense of malaise), not when you have some questions about running better secondary to a situation in which your running fitness is demonstrated to be poor. Suggesting less running simply for the sake of less running demonstrates a lack of knowledge about running which should disqualify the poster from being taken seriously about anything related to it. I hate this kind of bullshit. There are real, factual answers to the questions we might have about more versus less running, but this idea of running less because of "lack of improvement" shows that you don't even understand the question.
posted by OmieWise at 2:03 PM on June 22, 2008


To address this in slightly more measured terms:

There are really only four reasons to cut back on running:
1) Because you want to
2) Because you are injured
3) Because you are overtrained and about to get injured
4) Because too much training is interfering with the quality of your workouts

We can only work with the evidence presented in the question, but 1, 2 and 4 appear to not be considerations. Indeed, the poster seems to want to get better quality workouts through getting fitter. This leaves 3 as a possibility, but the poster has described no symptoms of overtraining (see my first comment, to which I would add an increase in resting heart rate of ~10 points). Overtraining has general symptoms, and does not present acutely, in the middle of a workout. It might be difficult to complete a workout when overtrained, but it doesn't radically lower your anaerobic threshold as is described in the question.

The much-loved-by-Metafilter couch to 5k program is not a training program, it's a not-training program. It seeks to coax sedentary folks to start running by removing parts of the pain and effort required to run well. It may well prevent injuries for overly eager new runners, but it does so in the same way that not entering a race prevents one from losing a race. It may marginally increase the fitness of those who undertake it, but the gains really are marginal. It's benefit is that it convinces people that they might be able to train. To the extent that it convinces people that they are training, it does a huge disservice.

It's true that rest is a necessary component of any training program, but it's only so in response to the level of stress of the program. Rest helps the body adjust to stress, in the absence of that stress, rest isn't doing anything, and isn't a part of training, it's a part of relaxing. In order to become a better runner one has to run. In order to become a much better runner, one has to train, by which I mean engage in a systematic program designed to elicit and correct the weaknesses in your running fitness by placing the runner under an increasing, but controlled, series of running stresses. Training is hard work. It's fun, too, but it's hard work. The current fashion for slow running and moderate effort produces poorly trained runners, because it's poor training. (If you doubt this, look at the rise in marathon times since the 70s & 80s. A lot more people run marathons, but where in the 70s & 80s it was assumed that training meant really working hard, now people run-walk and the percentage of people finishing slowly has risen dramatically. Notably, the absolute number of people finishing quickly has also gone down.*)

In my first comment I linked to a previous comment about anaerobic threshold. The gist is that right now you are sprinting relative to your level of aerobic fitness, even if you are running quite slowly. The way to address this in training is to run at just below the level of the exertion that currently causes you to get out of breath for as long as you can. That will most quickly raise your anaerobic threshold. A more moderate approach is to simply run more slowly, as you gain a base of running fitness you AT will tend upward and you can gradually add in more specific training to raise it further.

(*From Joe Henderson's column in Marathon & Beyond, Sept/Oct 2005: "American marathoners peaked in depth of times at two races: for men the 1983 Boston marathon, for women the 1984 Olympic Trials. At Boston 1983 three Americans broke 2:10, (while placing 1-2-3). Twenty-one Americans ran under 2:15 that day. In all 2004 marathons, and not just Boston, the sub-2:10 count was again three, but just 11 runners went under 2:15. The women's high-water mark came in 1984 at their first Olympic Trials. As many of them broke 2:35 there (10 runners) as ran that fast in all 2004 races combined, and far more broke 2:40 in those Trials than for all of last year [2004] (31 versus 18).")
posted by OmieWise at 3:23 PM on June 22, 2008


Understand TMS (it will take a while) and you will be problem-free.

Uh, frankly I think you would have to be crazy to think that TMS (and I believe Zambrano must mean "tension myositis syndrom", wikipedia page) is the sole cause of health problems due to running. Running is an extremely high impact physical activity that can do serious damage to parts of you over the long run if you do stupid things like run in bad shoes and so on. Sure, don't obsess, but don't assume it's all psychosomatic either.

Also, from the wikipedia page for TMS:

The TMS diagnosis and treatment protocol are not accepted by the mainstream medical community.[11][12] Even Sarno himself stated in a 2004 interview with Medscape Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine that "99.999% of the medical profession does not accept this diagnosis."[3]

Critics in mainstream medicine state that neither the theory of TMS nor the effectiveness of the treatment has been proven in a properly controlled clinical trial.[8] They state that TMS success stories could be due to either the placebo effect or regression to the mean, and that because patients typically see their doctor when the pain is at its worst, pain chart scores statistically improve over time even if left untreated. Most people (estimated at 85 – 90%) recover from a back pain episode on their own in a matter of weeks without any mechanical intervention at all.[27] Professor Thomas Stossel of Harvard Medical School argues that TMS theory is too simplistic to account for the complexity of pain syndromes.[12] Sarno himself states that "Even the majority of psychiatrists don't accept this diagnosis either."

posted by advil at 3:25 PM on June 22, 2008


Thanks for the advice, everyone!

Also, I am noticing that I'm much hungrier now that I am running on most days of the week. How many more calories do I need to eat so that I can still tone up (and/or lose a couple pounds) but still have enough energy?
posted by mintchip at 4:46 PM on June 22, 2008


try not to eat more, but that can be hard. a bit of protein, cheese, chicken, milk etc. immediately after a run is both satisfying and seems to help with recovery. That is also a safe time to take in some carbs as they will not spike your blood sugar if you have truly been running hard. Anyway, it is easy to eat more calories than you burned if you are not careful. Even so, being in aerobic shape is better than not being in aerobic shape.
posted by caddis at 6:17 PM on June 22, 2008


If you're hungry, eat. I mean... choose good food and eat a moderate amount, but I wouldn't stress about exact number of calories if you're looking to improve your fitness. That's your body telling you something... and listening to your body, that's the key to being a good runner.

If you wanna figure out the pound loss, just figure out how much you burn vs. how much you take in... but, also, your normal metabolic rate will probably increase, which is why you're hungry.

The key to avoiding injury is variety. Go out, have fun... explore your neighborhood. Mix it up. Set new goals for yourself as you feel more comfortable running / walking / whatever. Personally, I think dirt trails are better on your body than streets, but I'm sure it depends on what you've got to work with. Remember, though... slow and steady sometimes wins the race.

And, of course, if I can be your mom for a minute, make sure you bring water along or something if you're going more than a couple of miles.
posted by ph00dz at 9:38 PM on June 22, 2008


If you're hungry, eat. I mean... choose good food and eat a moderate amount, but I wouldn't stress about exact number of calories if you're looking to improve your fitness. That's your body telling you something... and listening to your body, that's the key to being a good runner.

I cannot disagree with this advice more. I mean, I agree that you should listen to your body, but you should also realize that if you are trying to lose weight and running makes you hungry, you can easily take in more calories than you burn running due to this increased appetite. This absolutely happens to me, which is why I do not run for weight loss.
posted by ch1x0r at 8:33 PM on June 23, 2008


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