Get Running

Tonight’s Q&A is with running coach Mary Jennings and chartered physio Bláithín Brady

Mary Jennings, Bláithín Brady Mon, Feb 10
LIVE: Get Running

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  • 20:46
    Tonight's hosts are our running coach Mary Jennings and chartered physio Bláithín Brady, who led the volunteer physio effort at the Airtricity Dublin City Marathon last year.
  • 21:03
    So how's your running week been? We'll start answering questions shortly but in the meantime just leave a comment if there's something you would like Mary or Bláithín to address
  • 21:06
    Marie Murphy Hi Folks, getting pins and needles feeling in both feet when walking in my cool down, I've checked that runners and socks aren't too tight and I do cold down stretches-starting to annoy me now any tips or hints?? Thanks

    Bláithín: Hi Marie, it sounds unusual when it is just coming on at the end of your run. If you have already checked your footware then maybe have a think about how you are doing your cool down? Are you doing enough static stretches and are the pins and needles staying after you have stretched? If you are doing all of your correct static stretching after the run then I would advise to go along to see your Charted Physiotherapist to get assessed fully.
  • 21:09

    Elaine Duncan: Help please please- just finished week four plan and everything was fine up until last 2 runs. Think I'm getting the start of shin splints! Had them before a long time ago and I don't ever want them again. Do I have to stop running and let them heal or what should I do? It's fine until I got about 8-9 mins and if I do really really slow it's ok but I don't know what to do.

    Bláithín: Hi Elaine. Don't worry, this is quite normal for novice runners to sometime suffer with. First of all I would make sure that you are stretching adequately especially your calves-they really contribute to shin pain. Then I would pull back only slightly on your runs-do them slow and if the pain comes on do a walk/run. I would not quit running altogether especially when the pain is only coming on a few minutes in. You also should be icing along your shin to ease any of the inflammation. I would ice every day using an ice cube and ice massaging along the shin can help with the pain. Good luck!

  • 21:13

    Mary: A few of you have been asking about good running Apps and ways of tracking the time and distance on your run. Here are a few options:

    1. Stopwatch on Phone: On your phone there will be a stopwatch you can use. It is quite large and easy to read, so its a good basic options (that's the one you see me use on the iPhone in the video)

    2. Time and Distance Apps: There are apps such as MapMyRun and RunKeeper which not only allow you to track the minutes, but also allow you track your distance and upload results to your computer/Facebook etc.

    3. Running Interval Apps: If the start/stop clockwatching is driving you mad, you can programme various different Running Interval Apps to beep when you should stop and start running. (However now you are up at 10+ minutes, there is a lot less clockwatching and you will only occasionally need to check your time.)

    4. Simple Watch: You dont need a phone at all, you can buy a very simple digital watch, or coaches style stopwatch in somewhere like argos with a large screen for about 10 euro.

    5. Fancy Watch: If you do want to invest in a 'fancy' watch, which has the functionality of all of the above, I like the Garmin brand, and for about 100 euro you can get a watch which will tell you more info that you ever thought you would need to know about running.

    6. Delegate: Final option is to get one of your kids/friends involved, get them to run/cycle with you and to shout out when to stop and start!  

  • 21:16

    Mary Regan: I am 56 and am a virtual starter at running thrilled with myself so far - my knees are sore particularly when I start running - I hope I am not doing any damage?

    Bláithín: Hi Mary, firstly well done! Having pain in your knees is quite common but can usually be easily controlled. If your knees are not used to being loaded in this way with running then they will start to get a little irritated but it usually is the muscles that can be giving out. Make sure that you are stretching your quads and each day use ice for 10 minutes and heat for 20 minutes on the knees and that should help ease out some of the pain. If you are still having pain then I would see your Charted Physiotherapist to ensure that there are no arthritic changes giving bother. Good luck!

  • 21:17

    Michelle: Hi, sticking with the programme and although I have a really busy schedule I run at lunchtime on the treadmill at a slight gradient... Trouble is the aches and pains, my legs feel weak and my back is very sore in the evenings, is this normal? It's been years since I've run right enough but oh boy!! Will this subside? I'm working on my posture but still bad, any tips?

    Bláithín: Hi Michelle, if you are still sticking strictly to the program than running on the treadmill should not be a huge difference. First of all I would take the gradient aspect out so just focus on the distance. Ensure that you are stretching appropriately after the run and warming up adequately. A lot of people that run in the gym tend to skip warm ups and cool downs and they are vital to stay injury free. It would be a good idea to do some Core Stability work too to ensure that you are strengthening your back as well as we require good strength in our back to keep upright when running-the gradient is probably causing some of your issues here. There may be a foam roller in the Gym that you can use also which would help ease out some of the tension in your muscles. Also keep an eye on your posture if you have a desk based job and going straight from a poor sitting posture to running at lunch can cause injuries. Good luck!

  • 21:19

    Galina: Hi i am running for last 3 weeks,I feeling great after,but i am watching what I am eating, my weight went up, is that because my muscle?

    Mary: Galina, try and focus on the running minutes for now and not the weight. At this early stage running impact people differently and if anything you will notice a difference on how your clothes fit rather than the number on the scales. Focus on the positives of achieving the running minutes each week and take the pressure off the scales and you will feel stronger and more confident in your body as the weeks go on. Everyone is different, and food plays a huge part too, so don't stress out if the scales are not telling you what you want to hear.  

  • 21:21

    Pamela: What should you do when you get a stitch down one side, keep running and hope it goes away? Haven't been eating before sessions for few hours..

    Mary: A stitch when you are running is so frustrating, I know. The rest of you feels fine but it just digs in your side. I often see it in beginners runners and as time goes on they become less frequent. There are different schools of thought on stitches, but here is my theory. You need to get more air into you to relax the stitch so focus on the running tall, and also on your breathing, slow down your pace and shake out your arms and breath into the area of the stitch. I find if I stop and walk the stitch comes back, so slow the pace but keep jogging and eventually it will subside. Fingers crossed that works for you.  

  • 21:23

    Ann: Loving the programme but am wondering about the reduction in running minutes from week 3. We ran for 8 minutes at the weekend (phew !) but now are back to 5 and 6 minutes and then up to the big 10 (nervous about that !)....what is the reasoning behind this ?

    Mary: Hi Ann, that's a very good question. Certainly we are not going backwards by cutting back the minutes. In fact, what we are doing is letting the body adapt gradually and be more fresh for the long run this weekend. If every run went up and up, our body wouldn't thank us. So you will see as the programme goes on we have some “nice” days which allow our body to refresh and strengthen before the “long” runs kick in. Best of luck with the big one at the weekend - you will be well able.  

  • 21:25

    Ally: I fell off the wagon during week 4 as I have a herniated disc which flared up when I bent down in the shower on Wednesday morning so only did my first run of that week. I have rested it since and just had a 40 minute walk today. Should I be running with this issue and if so how soon can I restart please?

    Bláithín: Hi Ally, keep up the walking as long as it is pain free but unfortunately I think you need to see a Charted Physiotherapist before you go back running as you could aggravate things more here. Your Physiotherapist can advise you best but I wouldn't want to tell you to go back running before being assessed with this kind of issue. Hopefully you'll be back on track soon!

  • 21:28

    Lorraine Gibsey: I have a query about your legs. When I run sometimes my legs feel like two cement blocks they're soo heavy. I have tight calves all the time. Is there anyway to stop them feeling so heavy when I run?

    Bláithín: Hi Lorraine, it sounds like you have been expecting a bit too much from your muscles without adequately looking after them. A good warm up is imperative including your dynamic stretching and building from a walk to a run. After your run then you should be holding your static stretches to try to ease out the tightness in your muscles. You would also benefit from using a foam roller which helps to ease out a lot of the tension in your muscles before and after exercise. Have a little think about whether or not you are drinking enough water too as when we are dehydrated our muscles can feel more fatigued and heavy. I'm not a dietitian but eating correctly around training is important too. This includes getting enough carbohydrates in as when we exercise we use the carbohydrates to fuel our muscles and if we don't eat enough of them then the muscle fatigues quicker and then feels heavy. Hope that helps!

  • 21:32

    Eilish: For smartly designed runners, where can one purchase affordable and trendy runners? What make are the navy/orange ones in item "Got Questions", supplier/source? and price?

    Mary: Eilish, the running shoe industry is as much about fashion and trends as any other pair of shoes and you will see new styles, colours and shapes every year! The main thing though when you are buying running shoes is that they are not just “fashion” shoes, but functional running shoes that suit your body. Check back on the previous forum last week where I talk about the best places to buy your runners. Sometimes the most “trendy” ones are not the most suitable for you running. But its a big industry now so in terms of colours and styles the choice is in fact overwhelming  


  • 21:35

    Margaret: Training is going pretty well so far but I know I'm tight for time this week and wondered if there is a problem doing a session two days in a row? I will be able to have a rest day after before I start week 5. I've haven't had any aches or pains so far. I'm finding the programme really helpful and am even surprising myself.

    Mary: Delighted to hear you are surprising yourself Margaret and its great to hear the programme is helping you. That's certainly fine for this week; do the two sessions together, and see how you get on. If it's a bit much, then you will know yourself for next week to try and spread them out. But as this week has a couple of "easier" sessions.. (who would have thougth a few weeks ago that 5 minutes was easy!) , you will be fine to do them this week together rather than skip them. Best of luck!

  • 21:37

    Sharon Murphy: Any tips to heal an Achilles tendonitis? Thanks

    Bláithín: Hi Sharon, firstly I would start by doing some ice massage with an ice cube to try and ease some of the pain. If you are getting pain while running then I would just stick to walking for the time being as a tendinitis can start getting worse with increased loading activities. You need to start stretching your calf and foam rolling your calf and if your pain does not start to ease then see your Charted Physio.

  • 21:39

    Majella: Hi Mary, I've been trying to follow the plan from the start, but my problem is that I cannot get past running 4 mins. Even to do this I than have to walk 3 mins to try and get my breath back and the best I can do after that is another 3 x 3 min runs, with 3 min walks in between. I know I was / am very unfit to start, but this is my third week trying to get past 4 mins and am starting to feel this is not going to be possible. I have tried slowing down to the point that I feel like I'm just hopping from foot to foot, but my lungs just feel like they are going to burst. It is very discouraging to be falling further and further behind on the program.

    Mary: Ok Majella, I can only imagine the pressure you are putting yourself under this week to beat the 4 minutes, that in itself is going to stress you out. Indeed if you start believing you can do it, then you will get frustrated and give up on it. Try this and see what happens this week. From your run starting point, start extra slowly and go out for 2.5 mins then turn around and your goal is to get back home. Don't look at your watch at all on the way back, just keep slowing down and saying to yourself “I can do it”, and you might just surprise yourself. The more your relax and enjoy the first 2.5 minutes the more you will relax in the secnd half. Take a good break then walking, and try it again. Even if you don't get it the first time, you will have a point on the road that you can aim to pass the next time. You will get past this. Don't give up!

  • 21:41

    Reg: What exercise would you recommend for strengthening the lower back?

    Bláithín: Hi Reg, it depends on whether or not you have done some core stability exercises before or not. Ideally I would start with some pelvic floor engagement exercises and build towards doing some bridges, the superman and the plank-they are all good stabilizing exercises. Pilates is also great for building some strength in your back. Good luck!

  • 21:46

    Catherine: Hi, I have been following the training program and so far so good but and this is a big but I have been running mostly on the treadmill, twice outside. Is this good enough?

    Mary: Catherine, I'm not 100% sure what you are asking me there, but I'm assuming it is if just running on a threadmill enough, rather than outdoors? This is a very personal question, and really it comes down to how you see your running habit develop later in the spring. If you wish to stay on a treadmill and train in the gym, then this is fine, keep doing what you are doing. If you only run indoors though, you might find it a bit more difficult when you try and run outdoors. You will be using the muscles slightly differently as on the treadmill you can cheat a little and not move yourself forward and just let the machine do that. Outdoors you won't have that luxury. In my opinion, a huge buzz of running comes from the fresh air and the outdoors. What I enjoy most from my run is taking in the environment - be that rain, sunshine or even the darkness, and get good air into me after a day in an office. It is entirely up to you. If you get to 30 mins on a treadmill in 5 weeks, you have also succeeded in completing the programme - but if you would like to get involved in some of the parkruns and 5ks, some outdoor practice will stand to you. Hope that helps.

  • 21:49

    Marie: I am still struggling with my breathing, is it best to breath in through the nose and out through the mouth or does it matter? Did my 10 mins in week four but I found the second 10 much easier, seemed to take time for breathing to regulate and relax, the first 10 mins I was struggling with breath. Any advice?

    Mary: Breathing certainly seems to be a big issue for many people. We put ourselves under a lot of pressure to get the minutes, and even having the doubt in our head adds to the stress and the breathing. Most people find it takes them a while to warm up into the run. For myself I always find the first 5-10 mins the hardest as the body is adapting to getting out there. I find if I start this five minutes too fast, I end up with tighter legs and more stiffness in my body. Try not to stress on the breathing side of things, instead just keep it simple. If you cannot talk/count to 10 without being breathless, then slow right down. We all relax into the run as the time goes, so the fact you were fine in the second half goes to show you have it in you. You just need to start a bit slower, and maybe even do a longer warmup. Keep up the good work.

  • 21:56

    Pamela: Is it ok to add an extra session per week and I also have added in a few mins of running at the end of the session prior to warm down.

    Mary: The only reason I would add in an extra session Pamela would be if you have a good base of fitness, and find the sessions very easy. If that is the case, and the programme is a bit easy for you, feel free to adapt to suit your body. I would recommend gradual progress however. Don't overdo it. If you have any aches or pains, pull back the days and the intensity. Listen to your body and adapt accordingly.

  • 22:02

    Anne Donegan: Not question just a motivation comment: completed week 4 last Friday and found it quite tough but got through it. However when I did my 2x11 minute runs today I finally felt like a runner. This was the first week it wasn't a struggle. Body is definitely adjusting now. I now find I'm not watching the time as much but enjoying the scenery. So I'm going to treat myself to a new pair of runners this week.

    Mary: Anne, thats such a great comment to get. Go ahead indeed and treat yourself to a new pair of runners, it sounds like you are going to get the wear out of them! What a change in four weeks. To you, and everyone who also feels this way now, I'm so thrilled for you all. It's a great feeling isn't it. You have worked hard and stuck with it and deserve to feel good. I'd really recommend you write in your training log how you feel. It will be a great motivator and reminder in the future. Well done.

  • 22:06

    Sinead: Some days I get pain in my right groin. I'm not sure if its muscular. Is there stretches I could do before I run to reduce the chance of it reoccurring?

    Hi Sinead, if the pain only comes on sporadically then it probably is muscular in nature. You can do a simple groin stretch where you stand with your legs apart, bend one knee and lean towards that side, you keep the opposite leg straight and you should feel a stretch along the inside of the straight leg. If you look up the ISCP marathon tips then you should see some of the stretches that I am describing-these things are better explained when you can see them! Also you could do some ice for 10 minutes and heat for 20 minutes and this could help ease any inflammation that may be in the area as well.


  • 22:06
    That's it for tonight. Thanks for all the great questions.