3 running pitfalls and how to learn from them

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Most of the time running is a joy, but you can’t really expect every outing to go to plan. Maybe it’s pouring down, or you feel tired, or you have to dart inside every toilet you see, or that chafing is really becoming an issue… The problems may make you feel miserable in the moment, but they can help you in the long run (pun intended). ‘Dealing with different conditions and circumstances in your run can train you to be a smarter and more prepared runner,’ says Janet Hamilton, running coach at RunningStrong.com. No matter what the day throws at you, here’s how to get through it and learn from the experience.

1/ Bad weather

Runners are generally more weatherproof than most other people. That said, if there’s a biblical deluge or the wind is overturning cars as you're lacing up for your usual 10-miler, you have two choices: power on through or reschedule your run. The key is knowing the difference between simply unfavourable conditions and those that are so bad that venturing outside would be at best, pointless, and worst, downright reckless.

Survive it: If going outside is dangerous – ferocious winds, lightning, extreme heat or cold – postpone the run or head for a treadmill. If it’s

rainy or blustery and you’re training for an event, run as planned. ‘It can help prepare you for how to adjust your pace or what to wear on race day,’ says Hamilton. For example, a visor keeps rain out of your eyes, while bodyhugging clothes reduce drag on windy days and the chance of chafing on wet ones.

Learn from it: If your long run is set for Sunday, check the weather on Friday, says exercise physiologist and triathlon coach Krista Schultz. You can move the long run to Saturday to avoid the worst weather – just remember to schedule an easy or rest day between every hard or long effort.

2/ Gut problems

You and your running mates have probably swapped tales of mid-run porta-bog dashes caused by nausea or runner’s trots. In fact, research shows up to 50 per cent of endurance athletes have suffered from stomach woes.

Survive it: A sloshing stomach often starts with dehydration or an electrolyte imbalance. Take a walk break and have some sports drink or water, says Hamilton. As for the trots, find a bathroom ASAP. If you can continue the run in either scenario, that’s good practice for coping with GI issues that may occur mid-race. But if you’re dry-heaving, vomiting or making nature call after nature call, it’s time to call it a day.

Learn from it: You may need to drink more or take in more electrolytes. ‘I’ve had a few athletes take electrolyte tablets before their runs, and some say it helps prevent trots,’ says Hamilton. Also, take stock of anything new or different you ate in the previous 48 hours (not just the night or morning before) and skip the potential offenders next time.

3/ Heavy legs

If you've been building your mileage or doing more hard workouts, you’ll probably suffer from leaden legs at some point as your body works to adapt. Even with steady volume and intensity, an off day is still possible.

Survive it: Rethink your route: a loop of a few miles instead of a long out-and-back will keep you from being stranded. Then, slow your pace for a few minutes, walking if need be, before picking it up again. Still bad? Take a gel and a few sips of water – your body will absorb the carbs in just minutes, so you should feel better quickly. If you see no improvement after 15 minutes, pack it in or you may risk injury. If you’re training for a race or don’t want to skip the run, try again the next day.

Learn from it: Determine why you felt so bad, says Hamilton. Stress, lack of sleep, poor nutrition, a developing illness or dehydration will all play into how you feel. If you can’t figure it out and you continue having off days, see your doctor to rule out medical conditions such as anaemia or thyroid problems.

7 ways to boost your running mojo

Get-going tips for those times when your motivation takes a dive.

1/ Change your way

Even doing a familiar route in reverse can make a run more interesting. Or try a new park if you already know your usual route backwards.

2/ Change your pace

Add short bursts of speed to a run. Pick a landmark and run at a comfortably hard pace to reach it. Jog to catch your breath, then repeat.

3/ Change your mind

Make a deal with yourself to run for just five minutes. Once you’re out the door, you’ll probably want to continue. If not, maybe you do need a rest day.

4/ Schedule it

Instead of ‘long-run Sunday’, plan specifically: ‘breakfast, run, Sunday lunch, nap, …’ Work out how to fit your miles into your day and check them off like a to-do list.

5/ Treat yourself

A bacon sarnie sounds good, right? Or a box set? With something enjoyable, yummy or relaxing waiting for you, you’ll get out the door faster.

6/ Grab a buddy

Arrange to meet a running friend, or a few of them, at a set time. It’s harder to skip a run if you know someone is waiting for you.

7/ Take a test

Races are not cancelled because the heavens have opened, so use damp long runs to test gear for wet-weather comfort (it’ll give your resolve a workout, too).