When you start running it’s not unusual to be a bit sore.
Some things afflict newer runners more than they do regular runners. Stitch is probably the most obvious one. Shin splints another.
Stitch is one of those things that is difficult to pin down to a single cause but strangely enough while it’s fairly common for beginner runners get stitch, it’s rare for veteran runners.
For newer runners, poor pacing seems to be the thing that will set off a stitch. If you’re not used to running and you head out too fast then it’s not uncommon to get a stitch. Why this is the case is something that research isn’t entirely clear about and it’s something that may have different causes in different people.
One theory suggests that as you breathe more deeply the increased range of movement of the diaphragm into the abdomen causes discomfort and a cramping of the diaphragm. The theory goes that as you get more used to running more, your diaphragm gets used to the greater range of motion, adapts and no longer cramps.
Another theory suggests that it’s the core and structures within the abdomen along with the digestive system which start off unconditioned that initially cause cramping and stitch. Again, over time and running these structures toughen up, get conditioned and then no longer cause a problem. For regular runners, eating too near a run or glugging down water, and trapping air in the stomach is the most likely cause. Eating and drinking can also affect new runners.
So how do you avoid stitch?
Firstly don’t eat just before a run and when you drink, drink slowly to avoid taking in air. If you’re a new runner and you’re prone to stitch, simply slow down! Start slower than you would normally and build your speed over the course of the run. After a few weeks or regular running, whatever the course of your stitch, you’ll find it becomes a thing of the past.
If you’re consistent with your running stitch does go away in just a few weeks. It’s a temporary condition and you can work though it. Don’t let it put you off running!
Shin splints is a catch-all term for multiple conditions, some of which are fairly minor and some of which are quite serious.
If You’re a New Runner
(or a fast walker) it’s likely that it’s as simple as muscles soreness. When you start running, (or walk faster) you’ll use muscles in a way they’re not used to being used when you just walk normally. In running (or fast walking) you’ll lift the toes of your feet higher by using the muscles in the front and sides of your lower leg. These muscles need time to adapt and with consistent running over a few weeks they will.
If you pull up with minor shin soreness stretching by doing a series of heel raises and heel drops may help. Some gentle and light self massage may help. Ice or cooling on the shins immediately after a run may help. Don’t run again until the shin pain and discomfort subsides.If you have really painful shins, or the shin pain doesn’t subside over a couple of days have it checked out by your physio.
If You’re a Regular Runner
and you start to get shin pain it’s likely been caused by the cumulative effects of doing too much or by introducing something different into your training (likely to be more hill running).
For regular runner the advice is, do not try to run through it as you could make it much worse very quickly. Get to your physio and get it checked out.
Running is a great activity that anyone can do but as with any new form of exercise there’s a process of adaption that you need to get through first. If you’re consistent and patient with your running, your body will quickly adapt to the new stress and allow you to meet with your ambitions and goals.