If you're training for your first Atlanta Journal-Constitution Peachtree Road Race or are just taking up running for the first time, you may be experiencing some of the sport's more embarrassing side effects.
Don't worry: You're not the only one whose toenails are falling off and you aren't the only person chafing in areas we don't talk about in polite company. We've all been there, and we're here for you. Below are seven questions about running you've always wanted answered, but were too afraid to ask.
1. Is it considered a sign of weakness to take walk breaks?
According to Runner's World, walk breaks are not only an effective way to keep from becoming fatigued, but are proven to help prevent injuries like stress fractures, tendonitis and shin splints. Even the most advanced marathoners take walk breaks during their training runs.
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Taking a 30-60 second walk break after every mile can help decrease fatigue, increase your endurance and aid in your post-run recovery. Never feel ashamed for slowing down or taking a brief walk break to catch your breath.
2. Is it normal to have days where I don't want to run or even hate it?
"Runner's rut" is a completely normal part of training. Many runners experience a high from hitting the pavement and cranking out a few miles when they begin training. But as the days and training wear on, the monotony of the schedule can be a real downer.
As Jenny Hadfield advises in Runner's World: Mix up your workouts with swimming or cycling for extra cardio and make sure to add some weight training in a couple of days a week and a core class, like Pilates or barre. But if even the thought of working out is too much, take a day or two off from exercising. Taking a break for a few days won't affect your fitness level and could help you regain your running mojo.
3. Is it normal to chafe there?
Chafing is something few runners avoid and all runners despise. Anti-chafing formulas, like BodyGlide, are a runner's best friend. They prevent irritation from rubbing and moisture during high endurance activities like running and they are applied to your skin like deodorant.
Before you head out on your run, especially on warmer days, apply your BodyGlide (or preferred brand) to the places you think you're going to experience chafing — around bra straps and waistbands, the soles of your feet, even in those unmentionable areas.
4. How can I prevent bloody nipples and black toenails?
For gentlemen runners, bloody nipples are one of the most painful and messy results of forgetting to BodyGlide. Many men will use an anti-chafing formula and then cover their nipples with Band-Aids or anti-chafing rash guards, which are specifically made for sweating (making them less likely to fall off during a run).
Black toenails are another lovely side effect of running and according to Runner's World are usually the result of too small running shoes, tight running socks, repetitive trauma on the feet and even the way your feet hit the ground when you run.
It's ugly and it can be gross, but most of the time it's harmless and something you just learn to ignore. You can prevent most black toenails simply by sizing up socks and shoes. See a doctor if you're experiencing pain which isn't relieved with rest and ice.
5. How do I avoid "runner's trots"?
Diarrhea and intestinal cramping are never fun, and they're even less so when you're out on a run. Runner's trots are most frequently found in beginners who are still fiddling with their pre-run diets. As you increase your fitness level, the trots typically decrease.
Sometimes the lack of blood flow to the intestines is the culprit and you have to continually play with your pre-run diet to prevent these bouts of discomfort. Avoid high-fiber foods like fruits, vegetables and coffee before you run, according to Active.com, and make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day.
If you do need to eat before running, nibble on toast, bread or a banana. Give yourself about two hours to digest to avoid stomach upset. Lastly, plan your routes around water and potty stops.
6. Do I have to wear underwear under my running shorts?
This is a matter of personal preference. Most running shorts have built-in undies, but many runners prefer to wear one more protective layer between them and those built-ins.
For men, a simple pair of spandex bike shorts underneath keeps everything tucked in place. For women, moisture-wicking underwear built specifically for running, like Runderwear, is a great option to help prevent chafing and keep you feeling comfortable.
7. Why don't I look like [insert runner's name]?
Runners come in all shapes, sizes and ages. There is no "typical" runner's body. Remember what your mama used to say: It's not what's on the outside that counts — it's what's on the inside.
Running has numerous health benefits beyond the superficial: your heart, liver and kidney function, the lungs, even the largest organ in your body, the skin, can benefit from running. It's about keeping your whole body fit, and that includes your mind and soul, too.