What to Do When You Get Running Cramps

The dreaded running cramp. It’s probably already happened to you, and if not, consider yourself lucky. Cramps, or side stitches, are maybe not the worst thing that can happen to you as a runner, but they can be pretty bad.

The best thing you can do is try to prevent them from happening in the first place:

  • Don’t eat or drink too soon before running. For most people, this means no more than 1-2 hours before heading out, but see what works for you.
  • If you take hydration with you on the run, bring one bottle of plain water and one with electrolytes. Sometimes cramping can occur because of an electrolyte imbalance in your body.
  • Take small sips vs. big gulps when you are out running.
  • Try to keep your breathing even. Beginners often get nervous or run too fast and breathe irregularly.
  • Stay hydrated throughout the day, instead of chugging water before you run.
  • Warm-up properly. Get your whole body ready to run!

But even the most careful (or experienced runner) can still get a side stitch. If that does happen, the first thing you should do is check your breathing. Most of the time, focusing on and regulating your breathing can ease the cramp.

Walk for a minute and put your hands on your stomach. If your stomach isn’t moving in and out with your breath, your breathing is too shallow. Focus on deep breaths (also called lower lung breathing). It can also help to press on the side that hurts when you breathe in and release when you breathe out.

Another strategy that can help is to breathe in for two steps and out for one, always on the same side. For example, breathing in for two steps as you land on your right foot, exhaling as you step with your left foot.

If you get a side stitch, walk as long as you need to regulate your breathing and ease the pain. Then continue your workout while being mindful of your breathing.

If all else fails, keep a running log. After documenting for awhile, look for patterns. Do you cramp after eating certain foods for lunch? In certain weather? Certain distances/workouts?

Feature Photo Credit: Greatist.com

7 Tips for Choosing the Best Running Shoes

Finding a good pair of shoes is arguably the most important component of your running. It’s not a decision that you should make lightly, and be prepared for an investment (anywhere from $50 on clearance to $120+). Whether you are a new runner or have been running awhile, these tips will help you find the perfect match for your feet!

1. Go to a running store.

We always suggest to support local stores, but if for some reason you can’t find one, at least go to a running-specific store, like Road Runner Sports or Fleet Feet Sports. Never go to a discount or department store for your running shoes (unless they happen to have your brand and style on sale or something). Any running-specific store will ask you some questions, check out your form and then have you try on a few different pairs of shoes. You should be able to run around in them and see how they feel. Take as much time as you need – don’t rush this decision.

2. Go to the store prepared.

This means go at the end of the day, when your feet are a little swollen (like they would be during a run), and bring your own socks. Bring any orthotics with you, or put in the insoles that you plan to use, if at all.

3. How much padding do you want?

Some people love cushioning, while others prefer a more minimalist design. While most brands have options that are in between both – some cushioned options, some lower drop options – there are brands known for each. Hoka is a brand known for cushioning, and Vibrams are super minimalist.

You may be asking, “what the heck does “drop” even mean?” It’s basically the difference in height between the ball of your foot and your heel. The difference in running shoes used to be between 12-15mm, but now most shoes are somewhere between 4-10mm, with some even advertising no drop (0-4mm). If you decide to do a lower drop than you might be used to, go for less mileage and take it easy while your achilles and calf get adjusted to the difference.

4. Do you have any “special needs”? 

Some of us (many of us) pronate while we run, which means our foot rolls inward when it hits the ground. Over time, this can lead to injury, so if this is something that your foot does, you will want a shoe with support. While a running shoe expert will watch you run in a neutral shoe and check your foot strike, if you look at the bottom of a pair of shoes you wear often, and the inside is more worn than the outside, you likely pronate. If the outside is more worn than the inside, you may supinate (roll your foot outward).

Other “special needs” include a high arch or a flat foot.

5. The fit. 

Personally, I go anywhere from a half size to a full size bigger because I like to have room in the toe box (about a thumb’s width). Even if you don’t want that much space, your toes should not touch the front of the shoe. The shoe should be snug, but comfortable around your foot. Your foot should not slide around or feel constricted.

6. Ignore the colors/design.

The way the shoe looks should not be more important than the way the shoe feels. Think function, not fashion. That being said, you can usually get both. Shoe companies usually make a particular shoe in multiple colors, so if the store doesn’t have any colors you like, try checking another store or online.

7. Don’t (always) listen to your friends.

While your friend may have found the perfect pair for her, that doesn’t mean it’s the perfect pair for you. By all means, ask friends for brand recommendations, but keep in mind that you may have entirely different needs and that brand may not work for you.

Now that I’ve picked the perfect pair, how often do I need to replace them?

Generally speaking, every 300-500 miles, depending on how quickly you wear them down. If you run a few miles a few times a week, it’s about every 4-6 months.

Feature Photo Credit: LifeFitness

6 Mistakes to Avoid as a New Runner

We’ve all been a newbie runner, and trust us – even the most experienced runner makes a mistake every once in awhile. If you don’t have anyone to ask for advice (or might be too intimidated to ask), we’ve got you covered. We have a project in the works that will be much more comprehensive than this (coming soon!), but here are a few of the most common mistakes new runners make and how you can skip the learning curve.

1. Choosing a shoe based on color or price.

While most shoes have better color options these days than just boring white with a few accent colors, this should not be the biggest reason why you choose a shoe. Oftentimes, a particular model will have several colors to choose from, but the most important thing to consider is the fit. With that, we aren’t saying you have to buy the most expensive shoe, but plan on an investment of $70-120, unless you get lucky and find your shoe on clearance. Personally, the most expensive shoes I own are my running shoes because I need them to have the right fit, the right support, etc. If you find a model you love, check online for the previous version of the shoe, which is usually cheaper, and usually not all that different as far as features go.

2. Going too far or too fast too soon.

We know you’re excited, especially if you are trying to keep up with a friend who has been running awhile, but you have to take it slow. Don’t add more than 10% of your weekly mileage t your next week (i.e. if you run 10 miles total one week, don’t add more than one mile next week). It’s okay if you walk and run, and try to find a running buddy who is also a newbie so you can challenge each other appropriately.

3. Not hydrating.

Staying hydrated can make or break a run, and not just while you are actively running. Drink water before and after your workout, and then take a bottle or pack with you on the run if it’s hot, or if you are going out for more than 30 minutes. This varies for everyone, but it’s better to take the water and not need it, than realize that you are super dehydrated midway.

4. Not wearing the right clothes.

When it comes down to it, definitely wear whatever makes you feel comfortable, but investing in some technical sports clothing is probably going to make you feel more comfortable. The fabric is designed to wick the sweat and keep you cool, whereas a fabric like cotton just gets wet and clings to your body.

5. Pushing through the pain.

There is a difference between pushing through feeling crappy because running is hard, and continuing to run when you are in pain. Pain is not a good thing, and generally only gets worse. If you feel something painful, walk for a couple minutes, then try to run again. If it continues to be painful, or you did something that could cause an injury (i.e. tripped and fell), then consider walking the rest of the way back, or even calling someone to pick you up. Even if it is a false alarm, you can always run tomorrow.

6. Trying anything new before a race.

This should probably be number one, because it is the Golden Rule of running – never (ever!) try something new before a race. This means no new shoes, no new clothes (especially not socks), no new gels, no new foods… you get the picture. Race day is the culmination of weeks or months of hard work, and you don’t want to ruin it with an unexpected blister, stomach distress, or anything else.

Feature image credit: RunnersWorldtr.com