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Top 20 Running Problems

Top 20 Running Problems

Published November 15, 2017, Author Paul Freary

Top 20 run problems… and how to overcome them


Problem: A small decrease in performance

How it manifests itself: Generally fatiguing slightly earlier in a race

How to rectify: Drink a sports drink; even a small degree of dehydration as low as just 2 per cent can result in decrease in performance; small but noticeable. Keep your fluid intake high by drinking small sips every 20 minutes or so. You will have done this on the bike, but try to keep that intake going on your run as well.


Problem: Lack of motivation

How it manifests itself: Missing more and more vital runs

How to rectify: Set yourself some small, easily achievable goals… and write them down. Goal setting is vital in any triathlete’s training plan and can vary from as simple as achieving three runs a week to winning the Olympics. However, personal targets you can achieve are essential for goal setting to work. They need to be tough – and therefore rewarding when achieved – but not impossible. Too hard and you’ll become demotivated again.


Problem: Hitting the wall

How it manifests itself: A sudden and virtually complete shut down as if you’ve run out of fuel

How to rectify: Make sure you regularly use energy gels and energy drinks. Roughly speaking, an energy gel or drink every 20min or so will after an hour will delay the outset of fatigue. In something like an Olympic distance race, an energy gel in the last 10min of the bike, will help; in longer events, follow this with gels after 20min and an hour and so on.


Problem: Tight calf muscles

How it manifests itself: Small and sudden cramping that feels like a pull

How to rectify: Distance running is particularly hard on your calf muscles basically because it is so high impact, especially if most of your running is done on the road. Make sure you stretch regularly but also consider a deep sports massage to really eliminate any problems. This can quickly and relatively simply cure a problem that plagues distance athletes.


Problem: Short stride

How it manifests itself: Stride turns to a shuffle, especially towards the end

How to rectify: If general lack of fitness is not a problem, consider incorporate 5min of drills three times a week at the end of a run. Work on ‘perfect’ form over very short distances (e.g. 20m) to help your muscles learn exactly the form they should take when running. Drills include high knees, very short sharp steps and a claw type action, exaggerating leg the movement you would take during a stride.


Problem: Slowing drastically

How it manifests itself: Start fast, but always fade at the end

How to rectify: Plan your training to counter this; in an interval session run hard and fast over short distance at the start, then run several longer, race pace efforts in the middle, before returning to hard and fast intervals at the end. E.g. 4x30sec hard; 4x2min efforts; 4x45sec hard. In a long run, run the first half easy, then the second half much quicker. E.g. 10miles, running second five miles, 3min quicker.VO2 Max


Problem: Racing performances aren’t up to par

How it manifests itself: Race times are always slower than training times

How to rectify: Ease back in training. Chances are you are overtired. Utilising a heart rate monitor is important here; Make sure training is never harder than 80 per cent of your max, meaning you’ll always come away from tough workouts thinking you can do more. Training for triathlon is about balancing workouts, always leaving something in the tank for another day! See this guide for tips on the best HRM's.


Problem: Results are all over the place

How it manifests itself: There’s no consistency; one day race results are great, another not!

How to rectify: Could be you need a coach. An expert eye will plan your training accordingly with pre-determined highs and lows to the season, peaking you when you want to be at your best. A coach will also set you a day to day programme, again creating consistency – one of the mainstays of triathlon success.

If you don't fancy a coach, knowing how fast you need to run at is a learnt skill. Start running the same runs at the same time each week. Keep an eye on pace and note down in a training diary. When ready to race, start with the basics and start each race with an achieveable plan. You might want to think about getting a GPS smart watch and run to your pulse rate. That way you won't get in to trouble during the race. It'll tell you what you're capable of over time.


Problem: This cold just won’t go away

How it manifests itself: Always getting ill, especially in the winter

How to rectify: Refuelling after training within 20min is vital in helping your body recover. Consider foods high in carbohydrate such as porridge, oatmeal and even combine that with a cup of coffee. Research also suggests chicken noodle soup is a wonderful immune booster and it’s quick and easy to prepare, making it simple for you to achieve that all-important 20-minute window. Oh, and make sure you're hydrated!


Problem: Sagging

How it manifests itself: You start to ‘sit down’ or slump forward towards the end of a race

How to rectify: Core strength plays a huge role here. Stronger core muscles in your stomach will help you maintain form, especially towards the end of a run. Maintaining perfect form will mean you’ll move easier, use less energy and ultimately run a faster time. It’s as simple as that!


Problem: Fatigue

How it manifests itself: Hunched up shoulders

How to rectify: Research has shown that tight, stressed shoulders will indeed slow you down, quite simply because you’re using more energy to move. Keeping a relaxed upper body is therefore important – and simple. Pop on a pair of sunglasses to take away that frown and your shoulders will relax as a result.


Problem: Lack of motivation

How it manifests itself: Missing runs you know are essential

How to rectify: Find a training partner. Running with somebody makes it much more likely you’ll meet to get that all-important run in. It also works well in that, as long as the partner is of a similar ability, training becomes much easier and much more rewarding. Training groups almost always improve quicker than individuals.


Problem: Low anaerobic threshold

How it manifests itself: Can’t maintain pace

How to rectify: Make your threshold run a training regular, perhaps once every ten days. Run about 20min (no further) at a speed you imagine you can maintain for about ten miles (but remember you’re only running roughly three). Using this method will bring you on in giant strides. But don’t go mad, once a fortnight is fine.


Problem: Lack of pace

How it manifests itself: Can never compete with any rival at the end

How to rectify: A short, sharp hill session once a week is a great way of improving speed and at the same time, increasing leg strength. Sprint up about 80-120m on not a too steep hill about ten times; walk recovery. Once you’re fitter, you can run three or five miles hard to the hill and do the same workout. Great distance runners have used exactly this workout to great effect. Running a marathon? Check out how to run a fast one here. Check out our short and sharp sessions here.


Problem: Fatigue

How it manifests itself: Feel bad the day after a tough workout

How to rectify: Consider the 15min after a tough workout as part of your training. Get fluids and fuel back in – chocolate milk is the best! Do some stretching to ease off any inflammation that will have occurred. Don’t overstretch, think about loosening rather than lengthening.


Problem: Cramping

How it manifests itself: Muscles tighten for no apparent reason

How to rectify: Could be diet-related. Hydration is a factor here; but along with that think about potassium: bananas are a good source; lack of calcium can cause cramps so obviously milk is a good solution for some and finally don’t forget sodium. As triathletes we may have a very low sodium diet, but don’t allow those levels to dip too low.


Problem: Injury

How it manifests itself: Knees and quads sore after a race

How to rectify: Potentially shoe-related. Choosing the correct race shoes is hugely important. Many of us opt for light is best, forgetting that we’ve already been competing for something like two hours before we even get to the run. Cushioning and support are therefore vital, especially as pronation increases with fatigue. Consider a shoe you would favour for a long run rather than an out-and-out racer. Your legs will thank you (as will your performance).


Problem: Missed vital training

How it manifests itself: Illness

How to rectify: If you’ve missed up to about ten days then simply rejoin your training programme where you left it; more days missed means a revision. Go back about a month in time and return to the type of training you were doing at that point. After a fortnight, jump that load up to where you were if you are nearing race time, if not take your time and increase in the usual 10 per cent increments e.g. 20miles a week, then 22, then 24 and so on to your usual high.


Problem: Plateau

How it manifests itself: No matter what, no improvements occur

How to rectify: Vary your training slightly. Just because it worked previously doesn’t mean it’ll work forever. Don’t go mad, but tweak small elements here and there to make sure you don’t go stale and become bored. You can’t simply work the same muscle group in the same way over and over again and hope to improve or indeed even stay the same. Doing the same thing will result in a decline eventually.


Problem: Fatigue

How it manifests itself: Erratic speed throughout the run

How to rectify: Learning how to pace yourself is essential for great running. Establish exact speeds you want to run at and maintain them for the entire workout be it a long run or intervals. Start with a slower than hoped for base and slowly evolve it e.g. eight minute miles for ten miles for a month, then move onto 7min 45sec and so on.

Jargon Buster

Threshold run: A run at about 80 per cent of your max heart rate for no more than 20min

Drills: Exercises that exaggerate a perfect running motion

Anaerobic threshold: The point at which you can maintain a high pace

Pronation: A runner’s natural knee protection. However, some over prontate excessively, often when tired

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