Running FAQs

Now that you’ve taken a look at the training plans and have decided which one is for you, I’m sure you still have a mountain of questions.  Don’t worry, we all did when we started running and the more you run the more specific you’ll find your questions are and the more will occur to you.  Seasoned runners have plenty too!  I’ve included a few common questions below to help to answer some of those queries you may have.

I haven’t done any exercise for ages, can I run a 10km? The answer is a whole-hearted ‘YES’!  But if you are starting from a low level of fitness then I would recommend starting slowly and building up your distances and the time on your feet gradually until you can jog comfortably for at least 20 minutes before starting a 10km plan.  Why not try a 5km first to get your base level of fitness up before tackling the longer distance?  Don’t try to do too much too soon, remember gradual progress is better than no progress at all.

I don’t feel well, should I still go out for a run? If you’re suffering from a cold then it’s helpful to figure out if your symptoms are above or below the neck.  If for example your symptoms include a blocked nose or sneezing (i.e. they’re above the neck symptoms) then you should be fine to run, but choose a less intense workout and if you feel any worse during your run or you experience feelings of nausea or dizziness then stop immediately.  Whereas if your symptoms are below the neck such as diarrhea, vomiting, chesty cough, then it’s best to lay off the running for a few days until you’ve recovered or you risk making your illness even worse.  If you have asked your doctor the same question i.e. can you still go for a run, and they have told you no then please listen to them!

I’ve been ill and missed a few training sessions, what do I do now? Taking a few days off from running while you’re getting over an illness will not cause a massive drop in fitness, especially if it has been less than 7 days since your last training session.  If this is the case then go back to where you were on your training before you got ill and progress from there.  It’s tempting to try to cram in the runs that you’ve missed but that would be overdoing it and could lead to one of the overuse injuries we’ve already looked at (shin splints, muscular strains).  If you’ve been ill for a longer period of time and have missed for example 2 weeks of your training then it’s likely you will have lost a little stamina during that time, but don’t panic it will come back!  Go back to your training schedule but revert to a couple of weeks prior to getting ill so you’re running shorter distances and doing less intense exercise than your body had become accustomed to.  Once you’ve completed those couple of weeks your body should have adapted back into the rhythm of training again.

I’m recovering from a muscle strain; how do I get back to running? This question is a little bit like ‘how long is a piece of string?’ as it very much depends on where the muscle that you’ve strained is and also how bad the strain is.  In the first instance, it’s advisable to seek professional recommendations from a doctor or physiotherapist and they will be able to give you more specific advice related to your injury.  The rule when running after coming back from an injury is similar to coming back from an illness – take things slow.  Start running about half the distance that you were accustomed to before the injury struck and progress from there.  Cross training is also helpful to mix up the movements and muscles that you’re using, so you’re not constantly putting stress on the same parts of your body again and again.  If you experience any pain or discomfort then stop immediately and seek medical advice.

I’ve noticed I’m experiencing chafing on my longer runs, how can I avoid this? Welcome to the world of running!  Chafing is a problem common to beginners, intermediates and even elite athletes but there are measures that you can put in place to at least ease this uncomfortable problem.  Women and men tend to chafe in different areas of the body – for women the areas around the bra strap and the nipples are common problem areas whereas for men it tends to be the groin area.  A lubricant will help to keep this chafing at bay – Vaseline works wonders if you smear it into the areas where you experience chafing before you start your run – instead of rubbing you’ll find your sports bra, for example, will just slide over the area.  If you find that your nipples are particularly uncomfortable when running and Vaseline just isn’t cutting it, then putting a Band Aid over each can really help to provide a layer of protection and reduce the rubbing.

How soon before a run should I eat? Eating before a run can increase your stamina and your ability to perform well.  But eating too close to a run can cause cramps and even make you more sluggish, so when is the best time to eat?  It’s recommended to eat a light meal/snack 90 minutes to 2 hours before your run. This should allow you to start metabolizing the food and should give you enough time to avoid those pesky cramps.

What should I eat when I’m training? This is the million-dollar question and depending on what you read and who you talk to you will get a different answer.  Everyone has a different idea on the best kind of food to take in while training and to a certain extent there is no right or wrong answer.  You’ll see that a number of endurance athletes are vegans or vegetarians, some work on a low carb / high fat diet and some swear by consuming two thirds of their calories through carbohydrates. 

For 5 – 10km distances you should be eating a well-balanced diet including: fruit, vegetables, legumes, complex carbohydrates and a good amount of lean protein to keep those muscles healthy.  Low fat natural yoghurt is also a great source of protein and of calcium to keep your bones in good shape.  After running, a meal high in carbohydrates will help to replace the glycogen that you’ve lost in your muscles and will help to stave off those muscular aches and pains.

I’ll be going into more detail on diet and nutrition in the third book in the series so look out for that, but here I’ll give you some of my favorite pre-run (morning) meals: Oatmeal and banana Wholemeal toast and peanut butter Breakfast cereal (go for an organic, low GI option) and berries


Should I eat during my runs? Unless you’re running over 90 minutes / 2 hours then the likelihood is that you won’t need to eat anything during the run itself.  But you should keep yourself hydrated and make sure to eat pre-run and perhaps take in an energy drink rich in electrolytes such as Lucozade Sport, Gatorade or GU2O Sports Drink after you’ve finished.

I’m a runner, so can’t I eat whatever I want now? The answer is unfortunately no.  Although running does burn a lot of calories if you eat trying to compensate for the calories you have lost you’ll probably find that you’re overeating and you may even put on weight.  Your best bet is to maintain a healthy, balanced diet and don’t use running as a carte blanche to make your way through a slab of chocolate on a daily basis.

What are runner’s trots? This is a phrase I’ve already mentioned and you also may have heard from other books, websites, from talking to other runners or it may be something that you find that you are experiencing yourself.  It’s not uncommon to suffer from diarrhea on longer runs and the cause can be as a result of dietary choices or it may be due to experiencing a lack of blood flow for digestion as the blood flow is concentrated around your leg muscles because they’re working so hard.  Either way you can try to avoid this uncomfortable situation by giving yourself time – at least 90 minutes to 2 hours –between a meal and a run, for your body to digest the food.  If the trots are proving to be a consistent problem then avoiding foods that are high in fiber before your runs could help with the situation as well as avoiding coffee or tea.  If the problem persists then you may want to get checked by a doctor as it could be a symptom of an underlying medical problem.  Often it’s a problem that beginners experience and as your body adapts to your training regimen the trots should dissipate. 

Can I wear new running shoes for my first race? You can but you probably shouldn’t.  Running shoes need to be worn in, you will want to go on the very least a few training runs with the shoes that you’re intending to wear for the race to make sure that they’re comfortable and that they don’t cause any unwanted issues such as blisters.  Try the running shoes that you’re planning on wearing for your race on a couple of your long runs and see how your legs and feet feel afterwards.   I wouldn’t recommend wearing brand spanking new shoes when you get to the starting line, you don’t want all the weeks of training and hard work that you’ve been doing to fall by the way-side just because you didn’t break in your shoes.

Does running get any easier? This is a question that most beginners will ask sooner or later and the answer is yes, in most cases, it does.  When you start running, just like when you start any kind of exercise it takes time for your body to adapt, to build stamina and muscle.  Building cardiovascular fitness takes time and effort and, especially if it is your first time running or if you have been inactive for a long time, it can feel really hard at the beginning!  But if you can stick with it to the point where you’re able to jog 30 minutes comfortably you’ll find that you start to feel like a runner and from that point on it’s likely that your confidence will grow and you’ll start to feel better and better about training.  Running is never going to be easy, if it was then it wouldn’t be a challenge, but it should always be fun!

How should I breathe while I’m running? It can be tempting, especially for novice runners, to gulp in air while running, taking in short shallow breaths.  But this is likely to just cause a stitch.  Instead, try to take deep breaths from your belly, your diaphragm, and breathe through your nose and your mouth, you need a lot of extra oxygen when you’re running and your nose just can’t deliver enough on its own.

Can I listen to music during my 5km/10km race? Each race is different and it follows its own rules and regulations.  There are some races where headphones are either not allowed or not advised, as there is a potential health and safety risk; when a runner is wearing headphones they’re not as aware of those around them or of any emergency announcements made.  Check out the website of the race that you’ve signed up for, the information you need should be there.

If I walk during my runs is that cheating? A resounding no in answer to that question!  When you’re starting out, a combination of walking and jogging is a great way to ease you into the discipline of running.  It allows you to build up your stamina whilst avoiding injuries.  There is no shame in walking and you’ll find that as your training increases your need to walk will start to decrease.

On roads, what direction should I run in? If you’re running on country lanes where there isn’t much pavement then I would recommend running against the traffic.  You want to be able to see the cars approaching rather than having them come from behind. 

When can I wear my race t-shirt? If you’re participating in an organized 5km or 10km race the likelihood is that you will receive a race t-shirt as part of your runner’s pack.  If you don’t want to look like a beginner I would advise you to wear it after the race rather than during it.  Not only is the t-shirt likely to be made of cotton as opposed to a technical fabric that will wick away your sweat, but wearing the t-shirt at the end of the race will give you a huge feeling of accomplishment.  Pair it with your medal and wear it with pride!

Should I work on my speed or building up distance? As a beginner you should start with distance or, better yet, time on your feet.  Once you can sustain a comfortable jog for approximately 30 minutes then you can start looking at speed work and the more technical aspects of running: hill repeats, tempo runs, interval training and fartlek.  These will make you a faster runner but you do need to have a base of distance before the speed work will start to do much good.

Is strength training helpful for runners? Yes it is!  Two strength exercises of between 15 and 20 minutes a week will help to build strength in your muscles which is only good news for running.  The stronger your muscles are the faster and longer you will be able to run for.

Where should I run? Anywhere that it’s safe to do so!  You can run on the beach, on sidewalks, in parks, wherever you can without putting yourself or others at risk.  If you’re lucky you might even have a dirt running trail nearby that you can make use of. Running on a variety of different surfaces can help to keep your runs interesting and it can also help to prevent injury as you’re changing the levels of stress on your knees and ankles by mixing things up and not just pounding the tarmac and instead running on softer surfaces every now and again.

What exactly is barefoot running? Barefoot running is something that you may have heard of, it does pretty much what it says on the packet, it involves running in your bare feet or with minimal footwear.  It’s based on the idea that our ancestors didn’t run wearing state of the art technology on their feet and so it’s considered to be a more natural way of running.  I wouldn’t recommend starting out your running experience as a barefoot runner; you may want to ease into the exercise of running first without focusing on this aspect of it too much.  But if you find that it is something that interests you then the following website is a good starting point to learn more about it: 

How can I train for a half or a full marathon? This is too big a question to answer in just a short paragraph.  If you have completed your 5km and 10km races and now want to move on to the next challenge then the next book in this series will stand you in good stead.  It will include race and training advice for these longer distances and tips for those of you that may want to move on to even longer endurance races known as ‘ultras’.

Where can I go for further information? There are a huge amount of resources available to the novice runner in the form of websites, blogs, online stores etc. and I’ll be including some recommendations in the final chapter of this book.