Whether you’re training for a half marathon or you’re taking part in a local running event, such as those run by Vitalitys partner parkrun, these tips from co-founder and coach of Yelling Performance, Martin Yelling, should help you reach your personal best. In part one he helped you prepare for a run, in part two hes advising on how to avoid a stitch, when to refuel during a race and the golden rules for running kit.

The Run

What causes a side stitch?

We’ve all had a stitch before – the sharp, localised pain or spasm normally just below the rib cage – and it’s fairly common in endurance athletes, especially runners. It nearly always brings about a slow down, either coming on quite suddenly and halting progress abruptly or niggling away in the background. But what actually causes a stitch? It’s generally thought that eating too close to the start time of your race can cause discomfort in your stomach and a reduction or diversion of blood supply away from the stomach towards working muscles instead. Your in-race nutrition and hydration can also cause gastro-intestinal discomfort and distress that can also bring about a stitch.

What are the best methods to overcome a stitch?

Practice what and how much you eat and drink before and during your training runs to help avoid gastrointestinal distress during the race. If you do get a stitch in your run, try taking three deep breaths in and out – each time pushing the air out forcefully from your lungs as you exhale. If the stitch persists, then try the following – when inhaling, lift the arm that is the opposite side to the stitch in the air. When exhaling, lower the same arm back to its starting position and repeat. If the stitch continues and worsens then drop the intensity of your run and try a series of short, sharp exhalations. If all else fails, stop, and thoroughly stretch the stitch out before running again and hopefully it should ease off.

How do I avoid an injury?

Avoiding injuries is all about being proactive and not reactive. Better running is a delicate balancing act that we don’t always get right. When we do topple and get injured, we’re really only temporarily side tracked from our running goals and just have to press the pause button for a while. It’s just quite a hard thing to accept for runners who love to be out there running! Reasons you might get an injury are:

  • Impact force from continuous running
  • Repeated running on unforgiving surfaces
  • Failure to listen to the signals from your body early enough
  • Gradient – too much uphill and/or downhill running
  • Training error – too much, too soon, too hard, too fast, too often
  • Anatomical and biomechanical factors – foot strike, knee and hip alignment, muscle imbalances
  • Inadequate running shoes
  • An impact, fall, or trip

The key to a speedy recovery lies with speedy acceptance that the injury has reached the stage where it will not heal itself and you are proactive with appropriate accurate diagnosis, management and rehabilitation. The sooner you acknowledge the injury the sooner you will be able to get to grips with the recovery and the rehab process.

Nutrition

Should you refuel during a run? How often?

Whether you need to refuel during a run depends on a number of factors, including the speed and duration of your run and whether or not you are fat adaptive (ie, good at using your fat stores for energy). Typically it’s really not necessary to refuel during a run that is less than 90 minutes (perhaps 2 hours) in duration – you certainly don’t need a belt full of energy gels, fig rolls and bananas for a 5 or 10k! If you are running for long periods of time, then staying on top of your energy levels so you can keep running at the desired pace and effort is important. What you choose to eat on the go is personal preference so spend time practising and working out what you can carry and respond well to eating on the move.

Equipment

What would you recommend are the best things to wear on a run?

What your wear on a run depends on the distance and the environment that you are running in. For example, what you wear on a road 5k in the heat of summer is very different to what you might wear on an off road winter trail marathon. There are a few golden rules though:

  • Don’t wear new or untested kit – especially important for shoes. Instead, wear kit you have tried and know is comfortable for the duration of your race.
  • Don’t over dress – you’ll regret wearing too much at the start of a race when you get too hot at half way and halve to take it off and carry it. Instead, dress light and fast – you’ll warm up with your effort!

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