The Stitch

We’ve all had this one, a sudden sharp pain in the side of the upper abdomen at the base of the ribs. A side stitch typically happens when you’re really pushing yourself and fades quickly when you slow down or stop. The stitch is particularly common for new runners still adjusting to the rigors of running.

Likely causes:
The pain is caused by a spasm of the diaphragm, the muscle that controls your breathing. There are a number of possible reasons for this. If your breathing isn’t controlled and disciplined, the diaphragm may be complaining. If you are running too soon after eating, your heavy stomach may literally be tugging at the ligaments connected to the diaphragm. Or you may simply be running too fast for your body’s breathing machinery to keep up.

A stitch will usually go away quickly after just slowing down or stopping. If you’re in a race or you just don’t want to stop, however, you can often make it go away by bringing your breathing into careful control. Concentrate on belly breathing, pushing your belly out when you breathe in and relaxing it as you breathe out. Take deep breaths on the intake, and exhale suddenly, even noisily. To get the diaphragm to contract in rhythm with your steps, try to inhale and exhale as you land on your left foot. Strange but true, this can help prevent spasms by encouraging the diaphragm to bounce along in sync with your stride.

If the pain is just too much and you have to stop, try bending over and raising your knee on the stitch side while pressing your fingers deep into the painful area and tightening your stomach muscles. Or just walk while belly breathing.

Tips for Blister Prevention

With a little forethought, blisters, in most cases, can be avoided and cause very little trouble.

 Signs and Symptoms

These painful, fluid-filled lesions on the outer layer of your skin–usually your feet–always have a layer of skin covering them. Their color can range from clear to red or blue if blood vessels break. If you pay close attention to your body, you’ll feel a blister before it has even formed. The area will start to feel “hot” and uncomfortable. Stop right now and the blister will never form. Keep going, and you’ll have no doubt that you have a blister. At the very least, a small blister will burn and tingle slightly. A large blister can become so painful it will force you to stop exercising.


Improper Shoes: Shoes that are too big or too small can cause your foot to move around too much, or to continually hit the side of the shoe. This friction causes blisters.

The Wrong Socks: Wearing socks that are too big or too small, or ones that are made of an irritating material, can cause blisters. Wearing no socks at all can also cause problems.

Protruding Foot Parts: Sometimes a prominent part of your foot, such as a bunion or hammer toes, sticks out and rubs against your shoes and causes friction.

Too Much Moisture: If you exercise in shoes that are damp from sweat or rain, it will cause your foot to slide around and cause friction.

Change in Exercise Surface: The friction of running on hot surfaces, such as an asphalt street in the middle of the day can cause blisters. Also, switching to a different track can be the culprit.


Drain the blister. If the blister is very large and painful, boil a needle or razor blade for 15 minutes to sterilize it. Cleanse the area with alcohol and slightly puncture the blister two or three times. The liquid will drain out and relief should be immediate. Do not take the piece of skin that acts as the roof of the blister off. This skin will protect the tender skin underneath. Cleanse the area with an antiseptic and place a gauze pad over the blister. Tape the pad around the blister. Remove the pad at night to allow air to circulate.

Do Race Winners Train Harder?

The best runners understand that the athlete who wins a race often is not the one who trains the hardest but the one who trains the smartest.  Nothing will decrease your training, fitness or conditioning like an injury especially one that may have been prevented in the first place.  Competitive runners know the fastest way to get to peak performance is not running yourself into the ground and possibly to an injury but the runner who listens to their body.

Runners stress their bodies to the limit.  Speed workouts, increased mileage, and racing add stress to the body.  Recovery is critical.  Recovery allows your body to perform to it’s  fullest potential.  Runners often become to focused on the training and improving one’s times that they ignore warning signs which could result in an injury.

One way to prevent over training is to use a heart rate monitor while you are running.  Heart rate monitors help the individual workout within the individuals target heart rate zone.  The heart rate monitor can be set to beep if you are above (to fast) or below (to slow) your target heart rate zone.  By monitoring your heart rate you get instant feed back  of how hard or easy you are running.  Most runners don’t have a problem running hard, more importantly heart rate monitors let you know if you are actually running easy on your easy days.  You can fool yourself during a run that the pace feels slow but if you have a heart rate monitor on your heart will not be fooled.  A hear rate monitor will help the individual adjust the pace for various terrains and weather conditions.  If you are running up a hill or into a strong wind your heart will have to work harder and the monitor will let you know instantly if you are going to hard resulting in the runner slowing.

Don’t ignore what your body is telling you. If something is hurting pay attention to it, find out why, and change what is making it hurt. Rest if necessary, but if the pain doesn’t fade, don’t forget a visit to the doctor’s office if necessary.

Top ten Ways To Avoid Running Injuries

Top Ten Ways To Avoid Running Injuries:

1) Pay attention to your body.

Don’t ignore what your body is telling you. If something is hurting pay attention to it, find out why, and change what is making it hurt. Rest if necessary, but if the pain doesn’t fade, don’t forget a visit to the doctor’s office if necessary.

2) Avoid the terrible “too’s”.

Don’t do too much, too soon, too often, too fast, too hard, with too little rest.

3) Don’t change things that are working.

Don’t look for the latest and greatest running shoe or even training method. Don’t switch from slow and steady to suddenly doing an all interval workout because someone says you will lose weight quicker and with only 20 minutes of “cardio”. Shoes may be cautiously changed and training should be gradually and sensibly changed. Of course slow and steady is not the only way to train, and for most runners it will not be.

4) Increase training slowly.

The 10% rule for most people is the maximum increase per week, not the minimum. Every third week drop your mileage significantly before moving ahead again from the previous week. The recovery week will allow your body to repair while having a “relative” rest week.

5) Wear running shoes (sport specific shoes) and change them frequently

Don’t run in tennis or cross trainer shoes. Some people like to alternate pairs of shoes to retain their shock absorbing capabilities. But whatever you do, make certain to replace your running shoes every 350 – 450 miles of running. If you run over 30 miles per week, and perhaps even less, make sure you use your shoes exclusively for running, so that you do not waste them with walking miles. The walking is admittedly easier on the shoe than running, but still creates wear and tear.

6) Eat healthy: Not too much, not too little, and a bit less junk

Don’t forget to eat enough healthy foods. Make certain to have adequate calcium and healthy fats (such as the omega fats found in certain fish and fish oil capsules). Don’t forget vegetables and protein sources. Check the origin of your food, particularly check farmed fish which may come from countries which have significant issues of safety with their food supply. (In actuality there are some problems, although different problems with farmed fish from all countries and certain safety issues with fish at sea.) Make sure you don’t cut your caloric level too drastically while dieting. You need fuel to exercise.

7) Strength train two to three days per week.

Musculoskeletal fitness is one of the pillars of fitness. Strength training can be helpful for a variety of reasons. Core strengthening helps many people. And improving lean body weight by increasing muscle helps dieting indirectly and is good for your overall health. If you are a serious, competitive, long distance runner be extremely careful with lower extremity weights, and make sure to stop several weeks before a race. Carefully observe how your training sessions go, and make sure they are not slowing you down, or that fatigue from your strength training sessions are not limiting your long runs. It is probably best to do them before a rest day or an easy day. On days where you may be doing both running and strength training, run first, if you are primarily a runner.

8) Warm up gently before running, Stretch gently when finished

Stretching is not a warm up. It is a flexibility exercise. Evidence is mixed on whether it helps avoid injury, but studies of stretching before running do not show any benefit. Stretching works better after you are warmed up. Run easy for your first 10 minutes of running. Take short steps, move slowly, let your body gradually warm up and adapt to the stresses you are about to place on it. There are many changes that your body will be making to make your running go smoothly, efficiently and easily. Give it a chance to get prepared. If you are doing speed work, this 10 minutes will not be enough. You’ll need a longer and more complex warm up.

9) Use a Carb/Protein mix after long runs and after hard runs or workouts.

This can be a chocolate milk shake or a protein powder mix.

10) Enjoy your runs and workouts.

This should ultimately be fun time, and something you look forward to. Find new paths if you need them, use old favorites if you prefer. Find something to enjoy on each run. Even the accomplishment of getting through a run on an extreme weather day (cold, rainy, not a code orange day) can feel great.

Running in the cold weather

Well winter has finally arrived. Today the temperature was in the 20’s with a strong wind making it feel even colder. Most hard core runners will brave the cold rather than run on a treadmill because of the boredom of being in same spot for what seems like forever.

Mild hypothermia (below normal body temperature) can occur within minutes of exposure to frigid conditions, even while exercising. You can help offset this by following a few simple rules.

You need to stay warm and dry and limit direct environmental exposure to your skin. Dress in multiple layers of thin, wicking materials (shirts and pants) with an outer shell that will serve to trap the heat inside. The colder it is, the more layers you need. Wear light gloves, if it is extremely cold wear a outer layer of mittens over your gloves. In the more extreme cold weather you may need to cover your entire head (i.e. with a balaclava). You could also uses Petroleum jelly on the parts of the face that is left uncovered.

The symptoms of hypothermia include feeling a sense of disorientation, lack of coordination, garbled speech, no shivering, weak pulse and a drop in blood pressure. After any run in the cold, once you are inside, put on dry cloths and eat something warm.

Achillies Tendinitis

The Achilles tendon is the band of tissues connecting the muscle in the back of your leg (gastrocnemius-soleus) to your heel bone.  Achilles tendinitis is an injury that occurs when your Achilles tendon  becomes inflamed or irritated.

The signs and symptoms of Achilles tendinitis often develop gradually.   You’ll feel pain and stiffness in your Achilles, especially when you first get out of bed.   The pain lessens as you warm up, and may even disappear as you continue running.   Once you stop, the pain returns and may feel even worse.   You may also notice a crackling or creaking sound when you touch or move your Achilles tendon.

When you place a large amount of stress on your Achilles tendon too quickly, it can become inflamed from tiny tears that occur during the activity.   Achilles tendinitis is often a result of over-training or doing too much too soon.   Excessive hill running can contribute to it. Flattening of the arch of your foot can place you at increased risk of developing Achilles tendinitis because of the extra stress placed on your Achilles tendon when walking or running.

If you’re just getting started with your training, be sure to stretch before and after running, and start slowly, increasing your mileage by no more than 10% per week. Strengthen your calf muscles with exercises such as toe raises also low-impact cross-training activities, such as cycling and swimming, into your training.

Use the R.I.C.E method of treatment when you first notice the pain.
R= Rest
I= Ice
C= Compression
E= Elevation
Rest is a key part of treating tendinitis, prolonged inactivity can cause stiffness in your joints. Move the injured ankle through its full range of motion and perform gentle Achilles tendon stretches to maintain joint flexibility.
If self-care doesn’t work, it’s important to get the injury treated because if the tendon continues to sustain small tears through movement, it can rupture under excessive stress. A ruptured Achilles tendon usually occurs when inflammation has been chronic. One often needs surgery if the tendon ruptures and is very painful.  Your doctor may suggest a temporary foot insert that elevates your heel and may relieve strain on the tendon.   Physical therapy may also help allow the tendon to heal and repair itself over a period of weeks.

Minor Problems Every Runner Deals With

Runners have several minor problems that they may have to deal with while training.  The following problems effect the novice runner to the elite runners.  The problems are usually more irritating that painful.

Blisters are really minor burns caused by friction.  They can be prevented by wearing properly fitted shoes.  At the first sign of a blister, cover the skin with moleskin or a bandage.  The individual should release the fluid by slicing the side of the blister, treat it with antiseptic, and cover with a band-aid.

Muscle soreness usually develops 24 hours after running.  It occurs in the muscles involved and may be due to microscopic tears in the muscle, connective tissue, or muscle fibers.  Muscle soreness usually occurs at the beginning of the season,  after a harder than usual workout, or a longer than usual workout.  I have experienced muscle soreness after running with someone who is significantly slower than me.  You can minimize the soreness by gradually increasing runs and stretching before running.  If you develop muscle soreness lightly stretch the area.

Muscle cramps are powerful involuntary muscle contractions.  Normally we tell our muscles when to contract and relax.  Cramps are the result of a muscle not relaxing.  Relief comes when the cramped muscle is stretched and massaged.  However that doesn’t remove the cause of the contraction.  Salt and calcium are both involved in the chemistry of a cramp/ contraction.  Cold muscles cramp more often so it is important to warm up properly before running.  During hot weather it is important to keep replacing salt and potassium.

Bone bruises usually occur on the bottom of a runners foot.  These bruises can be prevented by careful foot placement and  buying quality shoes.  A bruise can delay you running for several weeks.  There is no instant cure for a bruise, so preventing one is  best.

Ankle problems such as ankle sprains should be iced immediately.  If you ice the ankle immediately you have a better chance of running the next day.  Ankle wraps, lace up supports of tape help runners return after an ankle sprain while giving the weaken ankle support.  First aid for a sprained ankle in ice, compression and elevation.