Total Newbie needing advice

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24/03/2012 at 19:27


 I am an absolute complete running beginner. I have always wanted to run, but due to many years of bad knees where I would struggle to walk any distance, and certainly not up hills, I have never been able to run. Now thanks to 4 dogs dragging me out every day and helping me to loose two stone, my knees are much better and I am able to run very short distances.... and i mean literally a minute or two.  I compete agility with my dogs which has helped a lot and I can now comfortably run a 20-40 second course (and 5 or 6 runs a day) with no problems.

My problem now is I have started competing with my 2 year old border collie who is super quick and I just can't keep up with her, hence why I have decided to attempt running again. I started at the end of last summer with the couch to 5k podcast from the NHS. The problem I have is I get really bad pains in my calves, backs of my knees and feet. I make sure I stretch before and after, but even stretching hurts my calves. I also drink loads of water. I tried the podcast for a couple of months last year, resting for a couple of days in between sessions, sometimes for 3 or 4 days when my legs where really painful, but as soon as I start again i am in pain, it just doesn't seem to be improving.

Can anyone advise what is causing this and what I can do to over come it? I have tried resting until the pain goes but as soon as I run again I am in pain to the point i struggle to walk. When I go to agility training I can easily train for an hour or more with no problems, but running for just 5 or 10 minutes leaves me in agony.

Thanks in advance


24/03/2012 at 21:50
I'd imagine the first thing to check is that you're wearing the right shoes. Go to a proper running shop where they have a treadmill to watch you as you run. Try a few pairs on an listen to the advice of the people there.

The next thing to do is make sure you're not doing too much too quickly, maybe you could tell us at what point you're starting to feel pain, i imagine you can walk for 45 mins without pain, so what is it that is triggering the pain, is it immediate or does it start to occur after so many mins, do you think it is muscular or is it something sharper in the knees etc.
24/03/2012 at 22:24

Although I haven't been to a running shop, I spent ages last year trying to find the right shoes, I currently have The North Face Hedgehog trainers. Although i brought these with agility in mind as they have good support and grip. I can wear these all day every day and have no problems. Even when I am working the dogs either training or competing I have no problems or pain at all. Like you say I can walk for hours up and down hills, and sometimes power walk as an alternative and have no problems at all.

However when I run just for the sake of running, that is when I get the pain. I am fine when I am actually running but I can't get past the stage of running more than 3 or 4 minutes without the pain setting in once I stop, normally within about an hour or two of stopping. It then takes a few days to clear up before I can run again.

I would say it is muscular, it is worse at the top of my calves and back of my knees. It isn't affecting the front of my knees where I used to get pain years ago, it is just an ache in the back of the knee. I can "walk it off" and it eases. I last went running thursday, then yesterday and today it has been really painful. Today I was at a dog show and managed the short bursts of running and it doesn't hurt when I am doing it. It's afterwards that the pain kicks in.

I just don't know whats the right thing to do. Should I rest completely until the pain goes or work through it. I have tried resting in the past and it just doesn't help. It's really frustrating not being able to get past this barrier.

24/03/2012 at 23:13

Hi and well done for starting on a wonderful journey that is running.  There are a couple of things that come to mind straight away.  The first is your trainers.....running and walking are totally different when it comes to footwear. I suggest you go to a running shop that gives gait analysis for trainers. Most good shops have this free of charge now, either on a treadmill, or watching you run up and down the shop, or running over a pressure mat. How your foot lands when you run is crucial and can fend off injury.

Next thing is are you running too fast? When you first start, the temptation is to run as fast as you can . But the secret to running is to start by running slowly. Let your body adapt before pushing the effort up. If you can't hold a conversation you are going too fast. Even if you think you could walk as quick - slow it down. You will get faster as you go on but you need patience.

Good luck]

25/03/2012 at 09:07
I do think I might be going too fast, so I will slow down (if my legs ever stop hurting!)

Is there anything I can try in the short term other than getting new trainers? My husband isn't working at the minute so I can't afford new shoes
25/03/2012 at 10:04

slowing down and running shorter intervals will help until you can get new trainers.  Run 1 minute and walk 5 mins then repeat.  Then go on to run 2 mins etc.  5 minutes running at the beginning is actually quite a lot. I know it doesn't sound it but if you cut right back you will be surprised at how quickly you improve.

couch to 5k plan is pretty good.

25/03/2012 at 10:07
I'll give that a try.

I did the couch 2 5k podcast last year and had the same problem. I couldn't get past week one
25/03/2012 at 10:49
You are going too fast then - slow it right down. And I mean slow.  Good luck - let us know how it goes.
PSC    pirate
25/03/2012 at 11:02

definitely slow down and build up slowly.

The trainers you have look fine for short bursts but only if off road....  they are not a running shoe.  They look to me like they are a supportive trainer type shoe for multiple uses....  If you are going to be walking along trails with the occassional burst of enthusiasm to catch a wayward hound then they will be fine, but I really would get some advice on what type of shoe you need - this doesn't mean the manufactuer or style, but does mean understanding what the shoe is designed to do.  Have you read this article? Once you know whether you need a cushioned or support shoe or whatever, it is possible to get the right sort of running shoes for as little as £30 online as people sell off old stock. 

I am sure some people do genuinely have such bad knees that they can't run, but am equally sure that many poeple have sore knees becuase they are either over doing it, or are using the wrong kit.

Good luck and welcome to this nut house!    Stick with it......

26/03/2012 at 14:44

when i started running i was using a walk/jog program. If i couldnt do what was required in a particular week i just repeated the week until i could do it - even if it took several goes.

You will get there eventually - a year ago i couldnt run a half mile without stopping, now i am running 8-10 miles non-stop, long runs of 13-16 miles and am entered in the london marathon - and i would describe myself as the worlds worst improver! 

If i can do it, anyone can!

the guys above give good advice - slow down a bit and get a gait analysis done. 

26/03/2012 at 21:18

Thank you all for the advice. I've been resting my legs since Saturday and did a little training with the dogs tonight and managed to run short distances ok. I have agility training again tomorrow night, then i'm going to do some walking/running Wednesday night. Fingers crossed my legs will withstand it.....

 I'll let you know how I get on..... 

28/03/2012 at 20:28

Well I did my jog/walk tonight and feel good for doing it. I didn't do much, about 3 and a half minutes split over three jogging stints and some walking in between. I felt my legs start to cramp up a little and i'm not sure i'm fully recovered from the problems at the weekend so I didn't want to push it.

 I am now left with another question..... What is my stride supposed to be like? I have slowed my speed right down as advised but find I am doing an almost "jogging on the spot" shortened stride which makes me feel like I am cramping up again and made my knees painfull. When I lengthened my stride on the next jogging stint (not conciously, it just happened) it felt more comfortable and I didn't feel the stiffness in my knees or calves.

 Could it be my strides causing the problem rather than (or as well as) my speed?

28/03/2012 at 21:25
If the pain is as bad as you describe, i'd try another sport. What about cycling.
28/03/2012 at 21:39
Mainly because I'm stubborn and don't want to let this beat me lol! I think I am capable of getting over this, what I can do now is miles away from what I could do two years ago when I could barely jog 20 feet. Knowing I have improved make me sure I can get over this.

It's like a personal battle I have to over come, It's just knowing how to do it properly that's the problem lol!
28/03/2012 at 22:52
I'm not sure how much help this will be but regarding your stride I'd say just do what feels comfortable.  For me, artificially shortening or lengthening my stride is difficult, there is a natural stride (up hill the natural stride, for me, would be shorter than on the flat).  Just see what comes naturally.
28/03/2012 at 23:39

Hello, well done you have lost weight through exercise with your lovely dogs.  I bet you feel great, younger: I know I did. 

Running is wonderful, but please be careful, it can be hard on the knees.  You have a history of knee pain.  Please, please, please see your doctor, ask if this is right for you, do you need to lose more weight first, are there alternatives, what about swimming?

With regard to your shoes, I don't know the shoes but I suspect that as North Face sell walking gear, the shoes you bought will be too rigid for comfortable running and may well have caused some of your pains.  I would never wear my expensive (£70) running shoes for anything else, they are sacred... because they protect me from pain.  Look for cushioned running shoes, or if you want expert advise and can pay a premium and visit a running shop.  Not JJB or JD, look for the independents.  Otherwise most marathon runners wear asics.


29/03/2012 at 11:02
I'm feeling positive after my short jog last. I have woke up today with no aches or pains at all so tomorrow I'm going to do an extra minute and keep increasing it from there.

By the end of the summer I may have completed week one of the couch to 5k plan lol!!!
30/03/2012 at 13:44

Hi Rachel,

I'm new to all this too and had very similar problems after week 1 of the NHS plan.  My knee was really painful and I felt I would never get anywhere!

I started out with a pair of decent gym shows (NOT running shoes!) and having been nagged by several friends who are experienced runners, I went and got proper running shoes from a specialist shop.

 The difference it made is really quite astonishing!  I had very little pain and I also slowed right down and it has made a BIG difference.  I also had some advice about my knee from my osteopath (who is also a runner!) and he has suggested lots of additional stretches to help strengthen my inner and outer thigh muscles.  All this combined has made the experience SO much better!!!

Seriously, I cannot tell you what a difference the running shoes have made, it's like having magic feet!  And this is coming from a very overweight, very unfit beginner - if anyone told me I ould make it through even a week of this, I would have cried laughing!

Out again later today....week 2 here I come!!!

30/03/2012 at 14:10
I will definitely invest in some decent shoes, unfortunately whilst my husband is still not working I have to make do with what I have.

I think I still have the details of some stretches my physio gave me for my knees a few years ago, I'll have to look them up and give them ago.

I'm so pleased that day two post running I am still fine so I'm going to go out again tonight.

Good luck with your week two, let me know how you get on )
30/03/2012 at 14:17
What has my phone put, that was supposed to be a smiley
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