Get Running

Coach Mary Jennings and physio Aidan Woods answer your questions

Mary Jennings, Aidan Woods Mon, Apr 14
LIVE: Get Running

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  • 20:43
    Get Running coach Mary Jennings and Irish Olympic team physio Aidan Woods will be here to answer your questions from 9pm
  • 20:59
    Julie: Have you any advice re breathing easier when running. My breathing feels laboured right from the start of my by the time I have completed 5k I feel very tired. I have been running between 5 and 10k distances approx 3 to 4 times per week for nearly 3 years. Am feeling very disheartened. Am wondering if this is physical or possibly anxiety? Any ideas appreciated.

    Mary: Hi Julie, and everyone else who has joined this programme without doing my beginners course, the one thing I really promote is managing your pace. We spent a lot of time talking about this in the beginners course. I know it may seem strange to advise you to slow down, but please just try it. If you slow a bit, your body will relax more, your breathing will also relax and you will feel more comfortable. Run your 5k at a pace where you can breathe, talk and relax.
    Also, focus on the posture tips – a good posture lengthens the spine, which also gives you more space for air and easier breathing. We cover this in future weeks too. In terms of breathing, try to focus more on breathing out than breathing in and that will also relax you. Please do not feel like you have to be running at an uncomfortable pace to be a “real runner”. Aim to run relaxed as per the homework, and then just for the last few minutes pick up your pace. You risk quitting running if you don’t enjoy it. It is so important to feel strong and comfortable and relaxed in the running. Give your body a break and pull back the pace for this week and see how you get on. You might just find you enjoy the running all the more. Plenty more time in this programme for speed, take it one week at a time. Long answer – apologies – hope it makes sense.
  • 21:02

    Sinead: Hi, after a recent run I have pain at the back of my heel. It doesn't hurt when running but hasn't gone away. Any advice?

    Aidan: Hi Sinead, pain at the back of the heel can often be due to your heel rubbing against your running shoe. The next time you are in a sports shop ask them to check to make sure that your runners are the correct size for you. Also sometimes if runners get wet the shape of the heal can change a little bit and this may cause rubbing against the heal. If your runners get wet stuff a pair of socks into the heal and this should stop any change in their shape.  

  • 21:05

    Joan: Hi Mary, firstly thanks very much for the Get Running programme. I've been doing it since January and I love it. I've just reached the target of 30 mins running yesterday, and I found it quite comfortable. However, my pace is slow and steady at roughly 100 - 110 metres per minute, so I'm only at 3 kms distance yet. From now on, should I concentrate on increasing my pace so that I get to a place where I can do 5 km in 30 mins or should I continue to increase the length of time I jog ? I haven't tried a 5km parkrun yet, but am looking forward to getting there.

    Mary: Joan, first of all Very well done on getting to where you are now. 30 minutes is 30 minutes no matter what the distance. Don’t worry how many km's you are travelling in it. If you have your eye on doing a parkrun, I would suggest you leave the 10k programme and focus on getting more practice of the 30 minutes run and gradually you will be more comfortable with it and the pace will increase. Spend a few weeks repeating the week 7 and 8 of the beginners programme, and enjoy it. Notice that the pace will get a little faster. When you know you can run 4km yourself, you will be able to take on the parkrun, as you will be carried by the crowd for the last 1km. Don’t have a number of 30 minutes for 5k in your head. Some people spend years getting there. If you could get to a 40 minute 5k, that would be a huge goal and there would be some other people in parkrun running about that pace too. Keep it up. Hope that helps.

  • 21:07

    Teresa: I would like some advice on a good running shoe. I have orthotics in both shoes and usually buy asics which are quite expensive so I would like advice on a cheaper option.

    Aidan: Hi Teresa, if you are running well with your orthotics and your asics runners I would be reluctant to change anything. Changing something small like the brand of shoe you are wearing can often have change how the stress is distributed to your feet and legs while running. It might be an option to wait until there is a sale on in the shop where you buy your runners, as the price of runners can be reduced significantly in sales.  

  • 21:10

    Kate: I really enjoyed the 5 km programme and have started on the 10 km...thanks. I don't have trouble with the distance and feel fine when I run on grass but when I run on the road my shins (especially left) get very sore while running and for some days after. Should I just stick to grass or should i try to gradually increase my distance on the road?

    Aidan: Hi Kate, the general rule of thumb among runners is to always run on the grass when you can. Whenever given the option between grass, tarmac, cement etc most experienced runners will go straight for the grass. There are some exceptions to this for example when it has been raining heavily and the grass is too wet or muddy, or if the grassy surface is too dangerous to run on eg pot holes etc. A good second option in these cases is to run on forest trails. Coillte have a list of lots of beautiful forests nationally which people can use.  

  • 21:14

    Rachel: After a certain distance when I run, my left foot gets pins and needles and after about 10 minutes more running I can't feel my leg from the hip down. It doesn't cause any pain and I'm careful to stretch before and after but it is stopping me from breaking past 6k although I've the energy to do a lot more...any advice?

    Aidan: Hi Rachel, a trapped nerve in the lower back (sciatica) is the most common cause of pins and needles in the foot or loss of sensation in the leg in runners. I recommend you make an appointment with your local Chartered Physiotherapist or your GP to determine if you have an underlying back problem that could be causing this.  

  • 21:18

    Brona: The website mentioned at the end of the beginners course that you would be looking at doing a maintenance programme in addition to the 10k course. Is that going to be happening? I'm getting to 30 mins but with a lot of effort and knee pain so I just want to keep the running up rather than pushing too far.

    Mary: Hi Brona, yes indeed, we are currently working on developing the maintenance course and I can confirm it will be launched in the summer! This will be a programme for people who have completed the beginners course and want to maintain their 5k, or for people who have lapsed a bit in their running and need a bit of motivation to keep up the 5k distance. I would suggest for you in the meantime to tick over with the running. I don’t think you should increase up any distance if you have knee pain. Use this time to sort out the injury so that when we start the programme you are ready to go. For anyone else who is looking forward to this programme, I would suggest you maintain three runs per week: two shorter runs (20-25 mins with a break in middle if you like) mid week, and then your long run 30 minutes at the weekend. That will keep you well ticking over. Try also to attempt a few 5k parkrun events if you can find them in your area in the meantime to keep up motivation.

  • 21:22

    Jean: My hamstring (right leg) can get quite tight when running - I stretch on a foam roller before and after run. Any advice? Thanks

    Aidan: Hi Jean, if your hamstring is getting tight on one side only then you may have an injury to the hamstring muscle. Also it is quite common for people with lower back injuries to experience hamstring tightness when they start to run. If you are unsure about the cause of your hamstring tightness you should make an appointment with your Chartered Physiotherapist and they will be able to advise you appropriately.  

  • 21:24

    Róisín: Hi, I got a knee injury last weekend running a 5k. I can run on it ok and managed a 30 min run but its quite painful going downhill or sometimes going up and down stairs. Should I keep training or wait until the pain/discomfort is completely gone?

    Aidan: Hi Roisin, pain on the front of the knee (anterior knee pain) is the most common injury that runners will get. It is usually due to inflammation in the patellofemoral joint, patellar tendon or in the structures that protect the front of the knee. Most patients with anterior knee pain will present to me with difficulty running down hill or going down stairs. Yours first priority should be to get rid of the pain. You should be able do this with a combination of rest, ice and stretching. Once the pain has gone gradually build up on your running again making sure that it is pain free.  

  • 21:26

    Fiona: Two questions: (cheeky!) I went over on my ankle badly 5 weeks ago and have been running on it with a tubigrip after giving myself 2 weeks of rest after fall. Still bit sore and nervous but should I continue with strapping or let it heal and strengthen? Also, I get blisters at top of each second toe/under nail? Nails are being pushed out and thickening. Should I get new runners? I use “footbalanc”' insoles but runners are at least 2 years old. Apologies for length of questions & thanks!

    Aidan: Hi Fiona, no problems about asking two questions. The first one re the bad ankle sprain. Most of my patients who have bad ankle sprains spend 6-8 weeks doing extensive rehabilitation exercises before their ankle is strong enough to run again. One of the reasons for this is that there is a very high chance you will sprain your ankle again if it is not strong enough. If you are still in pain and nervous about running on the ankle then it might be worth your while allowing it to heal up properly before running on it again. The second question re your second toes. Most peoples second toes are the longest toes in their feet, if your running socks or too thick or your running shoes are too small this can cause blisters and nail damage. Discuss your socks, shoes and orthotics with the sports shop before you buy a new pair of runners.  

  • 21:30

    John: How often should you run when starting out? I don't won't to lose my motivation

    Mary: Hi John, I recommend for beginners to do three runs per week spread out across the week. Take rest days between each run to allow body to recover. If you are a complete beginner, follow our beginners running programme which works off a walk/run strategy to build you up slowly and gradually to 30 minutes. Don't do too much too soon; that's a mistake a lot of newbies make - slowly and gradually and let your body adapt to running.  

  • 21:31

    Ruth: I sometimes get pins & needles in my left foot (mainly) about 20-25 mins into run... Sometimes it gets so bad, my foot gets numb and I have to walk. Any idea in how to stop this ?

    Aidan: Hi Ruth, a trapped nerve in the lower back (sciatica) is the most common cause of pins and needles in the foot or loss of sensation in the leg in runners. The best way to get rid of pins and needles and numbness in the foot is to do a stretching and strengthening programme as prescribed by your Chartered Physiotherapist. If you don’t have access to a Physiotherapist then make an appointment with your GP and follow their advice.

  • 21:33

    Jessie: Hi any advice on what I could do to stop getting nasty headaches after I finish at run (usually a 10k) have tried drinking during and before the run and also have taken painkillers before and after, any help would be great thanks. .

    Aidan: Hi Jessie, there are many different types of headaches and each one will be managed differently. The most important thing here is to get a good diagnosis on the cause of your headache from your GP. If your GP tells you that your headache is being caused by your posture when running then you should try to do some pain stretches to improve your back posture both before and after running. Your GP should be able to advise you on these.  

  • 21:35

    Martin: Hi there, doing my first half marathon this Friday. Any advice on what I should be eating/drinking the day before hand, and on the day. Plus timing of food and drink. Run begins 10am on Friday.

    Mary: Hi Martin, best of luck on Friday - everyone is different in their race day food, the most important thing is to try nothing new. Sensible eating the day before and plenty of water is advised. For race day, I would have my normal breakfast at least two hours before the race. Most people need that amount of time to digest it before running. Stick with what you have done in your training re food and drink. It's too late to change now, or to try anything new. Trust your training. Ideally eat/drink very similar to what you did on your last long run. Best of luck!  

  • 21:39

    Phil: I can usually get 5k in 18-19 mins, my 10k in 40 ish; how would i get below those? is 4-5 days running too much? does it matter?

    Mary: Hi Phil, at your level of running, I reckon one of the best things you can do is join a running club. There are clubs all over the country, and running at the pace you are currently running at, the tips and advice you will get from other runners in the club and coaches will be invaluable. You will also have the benefit of running with a group in the club - as imagine most of your friends can't keep up with you! Being surrounded by people at your level, and a bit ahead of you will do wonders for your training. In terms of numbers of days, I'm a big believer in rest days - if you work hard on your 4 days per week, your body will benefit more by recovery and core work and flexibilty in your other days. Another thing would be parkrun - nothing like a ready made group of people to get you to push you on a bit faster on your 5k on a saturday morning.  

  • 21:41

    Fiona: I get migraine and if I run overly exert myself and overheat I have a three day migraine. Any advice re starting out? Will I ever be able to run?

    Aidan: Hi Fiona, I had a patient once who similar to you suffered migraines with over exertion/overheating. She found that by focusing on her breathing while running, controlling her breathing and not allowing herself to get out of breath she was able to avoid migraines.  

  • 21:45

    Leonard: I have a shattered disc at L2 - have it 20 years - like to do some light jogging on grass, but my lower back gets very stiff afterwards - is there any stretching I can do to alleviate the stiffness or should I be jogging in a different way ?

    Aidan: Hi Leonard, there are lots of very good stretches that you can do for your back. The main guideline I give patients with shattered discs in their back is to always do your stretches pain free. If you start with a very gentle stretch such as lying on your back with your knees bent up and rolling your knees gently from side to side most patients with lower back disc injuries will be pain free doing this and will get good relief. If you find this helpful and would like more difficult exercises then your Chartered Physiotherapist will be able to show you some progressions.  

  • 21:47

    Olivia: Any advice for dealing with shin splints? Things have improved since I changed my runners but still having some problems!

    Aidan: Hi Olivia, here are a few of the things that runners find best for dealing with shin splints. 1) Stretching the legs (particularly the calfs and shin muscles) before and after running. 2) Running on grass where possible. 3) Try to run on a flat surface, avoid running on surfaces that are sloped to one side, 4) mix up your running with periods of walking, 5) After your run bathe your shins in cold water. Hope this is of some help.  

  • 21:50

    Nuala: I ran my first 10k run in March. I had started training in January and went out 3 times each week and although challenging didn't have any significant pains or aches. I hadn't been feeling great in the few days before the 10k and although I completed it in 1hr 5 mins, I found it so difficult, my mind went and from the first minute didn't think I could do it, I felt faint and I think I dragged myself around. I had never felt this before and even when training I kept going. I injured my glut muscle and went to physio and although the severe pain has gone, I still feel a twinge at times. I am itching to get back out running but am afraid of injuring myself again. What do you recommend for me both mentally how to get back to it and physically- what stretches or exercises could it do?

    Mary: Hi Nuala, I can understand how you must be feeling. Having a race where things don’t go to plan can really impact your self belief. What you need to do now is write down everything you learnt from that race – what worked, what didn’t, positives/negatives. You cant let one bad run turn you off running. If I were you, I'd get back out there again and do some 5ks to get race practice again, but don’t put huge pressure on yourself. Have the goal of the first 5k to enjoy it, and then for the 2nd one to go a little faster. This will build up your confidence. In the coming weeks in the programme I look at mental training skills and how we can help ourselves believe we can run a certain distance/time. Remember, you have completed the 10k, in a very good time. Most people doing this programme are only dreaming of a 10k, and it’s a goal a long way away yet. You have done it, so have the experience, and its up to you to use that experience to your advantage. There must be three positive things that came out of that race...think about it! From a physical side, I think gradually building up the distance, and sticking to 5ks for a bit until you know you are pain free at that level might be best. Keep positive.

  • 22:00

    Mark: Hi Mary/Aidan. I suffered in the past with Plantar Faciitis and really dont want it to come back. Any specific tips to prevent this.

    Aidan: Hi Mark, my patients find that by exercising their feet and toes regularly they can decrease the chances of plantar fasciitis coming back. The exercise my patients get the most benefit from is: place a towel on the floor. Put both your feet on the towel. Using your toes try to scrunch the towel up underneath your feet, so that the towel is moving. I hope this helps.  

  • 22:11
    That's it for tonight. It's Easter next week so the Q&A won't be on Monday but we'll announce details in due course.