Running in Moab, Utah last weekend (and despite being surrounded by beautiful mesas and canyons and rivers), I felt like dog crap. Not the type of crap that is speckled with colorful chunks (because your dog ate your crayons), but the icky non-rainbow stuff.
True, you would not know it from this picture below because this was probably in the first mile. The first mile of a race I can usually be counted on to look fresh as a daisy. Good posture. A smile for the camera. That is before my legs start screaming and the stomach cramps up.
Confession: I steal proofs. There is a special place in hell for me.
It is in the later miles that you can read the “God help me. I am over this - please let this be done so I can lay down and drink beer” expression on my face. That really is exactly what I was thinking. I always ball up my fists when I’m tired. Probably because I want to punch someone.
People tell me all the time that they don’t run because it is “too hard.” Let’s break this down. What does too hard really mean? Too hard on the body? Too mentally taxing? Too hard to breathe? All of the above?
Yes, running is indeed one of the most intense forms of exercise one can do. That’s why it’s been shown to be extremely effective for weight loss. You get the most bang for your buck. Run for 30 minutes and you will burn about 300 calories. That’s about 30 M&Ms! Or, 42.85 cups of raw spinach (7 calories per cup, yo!).
I remember the days (not so long ago) when I wanted to be a runner, but couldn’t get past the aches, pains and urges to puke that consumed me every time I tried.
I knew nothing about pacing, building up mileage or resting. I would simply head out the door and start sprinting like a bat out of hell. I thought running meant moving like I was being chased by the Kenyans. Consequently, my heart would come out of my chest, my legs and lungs would be on fire and the bathroom was always too far away. Looking back, I know why this happened. My body was in shock.
The truth is, I now understand why new runners feel this way. The body is desperately trying to adapt to the physical stress. And, adapt it will if you give it time.
Here are some symptoms you might encounter as your body adjusts to your running regimen:
- Itching – Your blood capillaries are waking up and filling with more blood than normal. This makes them expand and itch.
- Burning muscles – This is caused by the buildup of lactic acid in the muscles. Your muscles are letting your brain know that you are working hard.
- Urge to poop (or fart or both) – Your insides get jostled like a washing machine when you run. Your blood goes to your muscles instead of your digestion. Your body is breaking down carbs, causing you to be gassy.
- Inability to catch one’s breath – You are exhaling too fast to get all of the carbon dioxide (the “bad air”) out of your lungs. This has a snowball effect and leaves you breathless.
- Side stitches – These are most likely caused by electrolyte depletion or the overuse of your diaphragm while you run.
Although these symptoms might be more acute when you first begin a running program, for some of us they never completely resolve. There is hardly a run that goes by that I don’t almost crap myself. While I no longer get side stitches and never had the itchiness (unless I was recovering from crabs), I do still feel my muscles burning and find myself gasping for air at times. I’m pretty sure the elites do too.
The key to minimizing your suffering is to ease in slowly. If you are coming back to running after a long hiatus or are a new runner, be patient. It takes time to build stamina and to create a foundation. Try running with periods of walking. Tell yourself that you will run for 10 minutes a day (or a few times per week) and add five minutes each week. Don’t forget to take recovery days. Be sure to eat and drink in a way that supports good health. Most of all, know that if you stick with it, running does get easier.
What’s the most annoying symptom you encounter while running? Cramps. Sometimes foot pain.
Do you have funky thing you do when you get tired while running? I ball up my fists and slouch over. It is a good look.
Source of info from: “What’s Up With That: Why Running Hurts Every Part of Your Body” (WIRED 12/2014).