Overcoming Pain As a New Runner

In late April I started running consistently again after a ten-year absence.  I had several false starts during those ten years, and always gave up due primarily to knee pain and trying to do too much, too soon.

With this new start, I told myself I’d keep the minutes way down.  I started with only ten minutes, and move up five minutes with each passing month.  If that sounds ridiculously slow, it is.  But, I think it’s been a smart move because I’m still running and the pain has been manageable, even rare, between late April and now.

But I won’t lie – there has been pain.  I’d like to share with  you how I dealt with the pain and offer some solutions I discovered through trial and error.

The first major issue I struggled with were my feet.  They’d fall asleep.  Literally go numb during a run.  Keep in mind I’m probably between twenty and thirty pounds overweight, so that was a lot of pounding on some feet that hadn’t been asked to do that kind of thing in a while.  The numb feet didn’t last too long, maybe a couple of weeks.  I wasn’t too concerned about it because as soon as I would stop running, the numbness would go away.  This told me it was a running issue, not a general health issue.  I think as my lungs, heart, legs, and feet got accustomed to the running, the numbness occurred less and less.  This is where starting off with only ten minute runs proved important.  They’d go numb around the eight minute mark, and then I’d stop within two more minutes.  If I’d gone longer, there’s a good chance I would have injured myself.

Furthermore, I noticed that if I ran in the morning the numbness wasn’t as likely to happen.  I’m a teacher, so running in the morning is a lot easier during the summer months.

Finally, the way I tied my shoes played a role in the numbness.  The tighter my shoe laces, the more likely they were to go numb.  Of course, this sounds like I cut off my circulation, doesn’t it?  Now I keep my laces tight enough to keep my foot from sliding around in the shoe, but loose enough that I have virtually no slack by the time they are tied.  Again, this seems to have contributed to a solution.

The next major issue was knee pain.  It wasn’t one particular knee – they’d take turns causing me trouble.  I guess I should consider myself lucky that it’s never both knees at once.

I knew there were several things contributing to my knee pain.  The first is my weight.  Those extra pounds make the pounding on knees even more substantial.  I knew I had to cut back a little and try to lose weight from fewer calories as well as from running.  This is an ongoing process.

Secondly, I have two children.  One just turned six, the other turned two a few months ago.  I carry my two-year old quite a bit, and she weighs a little over thirty pounds.  So do the math – I’m twenty pounds overweight, she’s thirty pounds, that’s an extra fifty pounds on my knees.  I also tend to carry her on my left side, and guess what, that’s the knee that hurts more often than not.  She’s a walker now, and she’s even getting stairs down well, so I’m carrying her less and less.  I think this has helped alleviate the knee pain.

And unfortunately for my six-year-old,  I refuse to carry her anymore.  I used to carry her down the steps in the morning when she woke and then up the steps at night for bed.  It’s something I’d always done since she was a baby.  Well, she’s not a baby anymore.  I explained to her that my knees were giving me trouble and that if I stopped carrying her it would help them feel better.  She’s a sweet kid, so she understood.  She didn’t like it at first, but she understood.  Again, soon thereafter, the knee pain lessened.

And, because I have two young kids, I’m on the floor a lot.  The constant up and down is hard on the knees, so I’ve tried to be more deliberate with how I get off the floor.  I try to use better form, if that makes sense.  Also, I noticed that when I sit cross-legged, my knees tend to hurt more than when I sit with my legs stretched out in front of me.

All of these changes have contributed to my knee pain virtually going away.  Of course, I’m also getting in generally better shape as I continue running, which also helps.  Don’t underestimate the power of good form!  When I get tired and start flailing around with my arms and legs, I notice pain sets in pretty quickly.  Controlled form is part of being in shape, but is so helpful in keeping the body feeling well.

In the beginning, my calves would also get very tight.  I once more blame this primarily on the extra weight and asking them to do work they weren’t used to doing.  But, I changed a few things that have helped that calf pain virtually disappear.

The first thing I did was change how I stretched my calves before and after running.  I was standing on a step and leaning back and down with my heels to stretch them, but now I do wall stretches for them.  I place one knee and my hands against a wall, then stretch the other leg behind me with that leg’s foot flat on the ground.  You can feel the burn, for sure, and I think it suits my build better and puts less pressure on my knees.

I was also walking for five minutes before a run instead of stretching.  I read that walking before a run does practically nothing to warm you up, so I decided to give those calves a good stretch then just start running.  Once I did this, the calf pain went away.  I still make a point to walk for five minutes after a run in order to cool down, and then do all my stretches over again.  Some say that stretching before a run doesn’t do a whole lot, but it’s proved helpful to me.

I’m sure the feet, calves, and knees are all related, and it’s probably the combination of all the changes that helped all three issues, but I thought I’d share with you in case you were suffering any similar troubles.

My last issue, and by far the scariest, were heart palpitations.  When I started running, sometimes I would notice my heart fluttering a little.  I’m thirty-seven years old, and I take that kind of thing very seriously.  I had no other symptoms to indicate heart problems, so I slowed down and kept careful mental note of how I felt thereafter.  As soon as the run ended, my heart would feel fine.

Part of me attributed this to being an out of shape runner, but I eventually figured something else out that was probably causing the problem – coffee.  If I have more than one cup of coffee even a few hours before a run, I’ll notice the fluttering.  However, if I keep it to one cup of coffee and then have a glass of water instead of that second cup, there’s no fluttering.  If I know I’m running on a certain day, I limit my caffeine and it seems to be working.

Okay, I think that’s it for now.  My kids have been sick the last couple days, so I haven’t gotten in all the runs I wanted, but as I told myself when I started this new lifestyle, I’m not going to obsess about it.  I’ll run when I can run.  Thanks for stopping by, and if you see me out there, say “hi.”

A Few Steps Before Taking Those First Steps

As you may know, after a ten year absence, I’ve taken up running again.  Though I started in late April, I didn’t have the nerve to write about it until now for fear it’d be yet another false start.  Well, here we are in early July, and I’ve managed to stick with it.  I think–hope–it’s a habit now.

Because I’ve had so many missteps over the past ten years, I knew this time there were a few things I must do in order to better achieve success.

My first step was to plan.  Plan, plan, plan.  In the past, I started too fast, too soon.  This time, I told myself that I wouldn’t run more than ten minutes for the month of May, fifteen minutes for the month of June, and twenty minutes for the month of July.  In fact, my goal is to move up five minutes incrementally every month until I top out at forty minutes.  Maintaining a habit of forty minute runs is my ultimate goal, and where I was when I inexplicably quit running a decade ago.  Furthermore, I told myself not to worry about running four times a week until I built up my general fitness.  I’ve quit in the past because of aches and pains associated with doing too much.  For May and June, I planned for at least two runs a week, but no more than four.  If I only managed two runs, no problem.  I told myself by July I’d reach that four runs a week goal, and so far I’m on track to reach it.

My next step was to get a good pair of shoes that fit my body.  I’m six feet tall, two hundred and twenty-five pounds.  I carry a lot of mass around when I run, and I need a shoe that can work with my body type.  I needed an expert.  I headed to my local running store cleverly called Often Running.  There a man spent a lot of time with me, suggesting many types of shoes, watching me jog a little in them, and generally dispensing wisdom.  Like me, he is no longer in his twenties and admitted his best days of running were behind him.  Along with the expert shoe advice, he gave me a lot of great advice about being a little bit older and getting back into running.  I know shoes cost more at specialty shops, but the expertise and comfort he provided proved more valuable than the twenty dollars I would have saved at a box store.  He also told me to come back with any questions, concerns, or problems.  You can visit Often Running here.

Third, I hope to start a running group soon among those with whom I work.  I belonged to a small running group during my best years of running, and they regularly inspired me and made a somewhat tedious sport fun.  I left the group when I moved, and my running soon thereafter ended.  That’s not a coincidence.  As of right now, I don’t think I can run and maintain a conversation, but by August I’ll be ready.  If you work with me, expect an invitation to join soon!  It will be fun to enter road races with a diverse groups of runners.

Also, in the past I only ran, and that proved disastrous.   This time around, starting in September, I’m going to incorporate hills, stairs, and sprints in the routine.  Varying my workouts will prolong my enthusiasm to continue.

Finally, I told myself upfront I’m not going to obsess about this.  I’m running primarily to get in better shape, improve my cardiovascular system, relieve stress, and model proper life habits to my young daughters.  I’m thirty-seven, I have lots of obligations, and I’m not going to freak out if I don’t hit my “four run a week” goal.  I understand my tendency to get grumpy if I don’t meet my own expectations, and I’m reminding myself to remember why I started running again in the first place.

Thanks for reading.  My next “Runner’s Hi” will be about pain.  It was there in the beginning.  It’s mostly gone now.  I’m going to write about how I changed some things up that resulted in it abating.

If you see me out there, remember to say hi!

Back On the Road

In junior high and high school, I ran mostly sprints.  My specialties were the 100, the 200, and the 300 intermediate hurdles.  Long distance running seemed like something attractive to masochists.  I could never fathom why someone would voluntarily run more than 55 seconds.

Then a funny thing happened.  I found myself coaching cross country in the year 2000 while teaching in North Carolina.  I didn’t necessarily want to, but there I was, coaching a sport I never ran.  Luckily for me, while I was considered the girls head coach, the boys head coach, a veteran runner, really handled both teams and I acted more as an assistant.  This man, though he appeared in his late forties, outran the kids on a regular basis at practice.  I wasn’t about to sit on the sidewalk and wait for everyone to get back, so there I was, running along with the kids at the back of the pack.

As the weeks wore on the running got easier, I got in great shape, and I actually found it really relaxing.  Believe it or not, I kept with it, entered some road races, fell in with a little running group of teachers, and loved every minute of it.

After returning to Illinois in 2002, I slowly got away from running.  There are lots of reasons why, but mostly because I got lazy.

There were a few false starts between 2004 and (gulp!) 2014, but this time it seems to actually be sticking.  In fact, I started tentatively running again in late April, but didn’t trust myself to write about it until now.

The purpose of writing about my new running is primarily to hold myself accountable, to motivate myself to continue running.  But I hope it might also serve as motivation for others like me – people who are generally out of shape, work full time, in their late thirties or older, and busy, busy, busy with children of their own.

I already have lots of topics to address, but the most important thing I want to get out there is that it was really, really hard at first – much harder than in my early twenties.  (Shocking, right?)  But, it has gotten easier.  A lot easier.  I don’t know if I’ll ever achieve what I did ten years ago, but it seems more attainable today than it did in late April.

Please do come back soon so we can say hi.

Support An A-T Marathoner For The Chicago Marathon

The following comes from my brother-in-law, Chad Schultz:

Friends and Family,

Join me in supporting the A-T Children’s Project by sponsoring me in my marathon efforts. I am raising money for a cure or life-improving therapies for a rare genetic disease called ataxia-telangiectasia, or A-T for short. Visit my fundraising page, and please pass it on to your friends! Either click on the link below, or copy and paste the link into your web browser.

Well, it’s that time of year. The Chicago Marathon is just over a month away, and I am running it for the A-T Children’s Project in honor of Alyssa Wood (Stepanie’s cousin). I have set my goal a bit higher this year, hoping to raise at least $2,500. All donations are tax deductible as the A-T Children’s Project is a 501(C)(3) charity.

I know that many people are being stretched to the limit with expenses due to high gas and food prices, new home purchases, and starting families; so I am going to donate the first 10% towards my goal. Please visit my webpage and give what you feel you can. Any contribution is greatly appreciated, but if you are not able to donate at all this year, I still encourage you to visit my page to learn more about A-T and see pictures of me, Alyssa, Stephanie, and others. The deadline for all donations is September 26, 2008.

Thank you in advance for your consideration.

*For those who prefer not to donate online, there is a link on my page for a printable donor form that can be mailed. I will be happy to collect checks to mail for anyone in the Chicagoland area.

Chad Schultz

Here’s my fundraising page link:

Click here to make a donation:

Or, if you’d like to join me in the race, click here to register:



I hope you’ll all consider donating to this worthy cause.  Chad is a dedicated runner and a good man who has participated in this worthy endeavor before.  He would appreciate any support you could offer.