If you've been running for any considerable amount of time, you've no doubt run into some of the common problems that every endurance runner faces. They're not fun and sometimes we don't even know how they happened!
For endurance runners, the best thing you can do is be aware of some of the common mistakes and injuries that plague us. It will help you know what you're up against and how you can prevent it from happening in the first place.
If you want to stay in tip-top condition, keep reading.
Conquering 5 Common Issues Endurance Runners Face
1) Plantar Fasciitis
There's hardly a runner alive who doesn't know the pains of plantar fasciitis. In layman's terms, it's an inflammation of the bottom of the foot. Felt most commonly in the heel, this condition causes a sharp, painful sensation that can range from annoying to unbearable. It may go away as you run or as the day goes on, but it's more likely to rear its ugly head the next day.
Plantar fasciitis can be blamed on a few causes. The most common culprits are overuse and overtraining (I'm telling you, don't overdo it when you train – more is not more) and bad, worn-out footwear. But really, the most common reason plantar fasciitis happens? Your feet are weak. The muscles are too tight and weakened, and thus, more easily injured.
You can prevent plantar fasciitis by getting shoes with the proper support, not straining yourself when you train, and most importantly, by stretching properly. Make a conscious effort to stretch before you run. Get those calves worked out. Pay attention to your feet. The better care you take to warm up your muscles, the more you reduce your risk of injury.
2) Runner's Knee
Have you noticed a dull, painful ache that feels like it's right beneath your kneecap? If so, you might be suffering from runner's knee. It's a condition that becomes more painful the more you exercise—so for endurance runners, it's definitely something to avoid.
While runner's knee can be traced to many different causes, such as consistent uneven running surfaces, poor running shoes, and weak hips, it ultimately comes down to the inability of the knee's surrounding tissues to recover between runs.
If you find your knees acting up, try to identify what could be hurting you. Change your route to mix up the surfaces you run on, switch out your running shoes, and experiment with different strides.
Also, remember: if your knees are consistently hurting when you run, rest! Don't keep running. You need to give your body time to rest and recoup. Put ice on it and let the inflammation go down. Let yourself recover.
Believe it or not, there are as many runners who suffer from over-hydration as those who do from dehydration. What's so bad about drinking too much water? Well, a lot. Not only do you have as much a chance as getting muscle cramps and underperforming in similar ways as you would when dehydrated, but you have the distinct discomforts of dealing with a sloshing, full stomach. In extreme cases, it can even be deadly.
It's easy to just say, "you drank too much water," and while true, it oversimplifies the issue. Finding the right balance is difficult, especially when running. Too many of us think that if we cramp, if we don't finish a race, if we underperform, then we must not have been hydrated enough. So we drink more. That's not always the case. We have to change how we think about hydration.
Under most circumstances, experts recommend 17-25 fluid ounces/hr for athletes during exercise. 17 fluid ounces will satisfy most needs unless you're under particularly strenuous circumstances. To make it visual, that's just about a single standard-sized water bottle per hour.
4) Too Many Electrolytes
Not only can you have too much water, but you can have too many electrolytes, too. We've all been guilty of it. Instead of water, we reach for the Gatorade any time we exercise, regardless of whether or not we actually need it.
Over-consumption of electrolytes can harm not only your performance but your body. It can cause dizziness, lethargy, kidney damage, heart arrhythmia, and muscle weakness, among other things. Usually, we consume too many electrolytes when we turn to sports drinks instead of water. Only athletes performing the most intensive of exercises need sports drinks: they aren't for everyone, and they aren't meant for constant consumption.
Instead of sports drinks, let water be your go-to. If you're concerned about electrolyte loss during an intensive endurance run, you can rely on a product like Endurolytes, which replenishes electrolytes in a compact, easy-to-dose, easy-to-consume form.
5) Shin Splints
Shin splints cover an array of runner's ailments. Generally speaking, it refers to pains felt in the shin whilst running: severity can range from a fracture along the tibia to something as mild as muscle inflammation. Either way, shin splints can suck the fun right out of running.
Shin splints are especially common for beginner runners, those starting new training regimens, and young athletes entering a new season. When you first start running, your lower legs take all of the initial impact as you hit the pavement. If you're not used to it, it can put a lot of strain on the body! If combined with other factors: bad terrain, worn footwear, improper form, stiff muscles, etc., you're bound to end up with a more severe case of the shin splints.
Shin splints are best prevented by training methodically and slowly. If you are careful to ramp up your regimen at the proper pace, you reduce the chance of overtaxing your body. If you do find your shins aching, give yourself a break. Elevate your legs, pack on some ice, and prioritize rest.
Ultimately, preventing some of the most common issues that plague endurance runners comes down to this: listen to your body.