Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Dear Maunderer,

Well, people, I get accused of pomposity and arrogance from time to time, but the truth is that I just like hearing my own opinions and almost as much as that I like sharing them. Finally, somebody has figured that out. That is why this guy is a friend of mine.

My friend, and a blog reader, sent me an email asking me for ADVICE. Wow. I am really good at adding and I have a lot of vices but the advice thing is something I don't have any particular expertise in – with the exception of, as I said before, being a little too self-assured and liking to talk a little too much.

So, here is the letter (I summarize the problems further down) – with some minor edits to protect the guilty. Any other readers out there – feel free to comment. Or even better, feel obligated to comment – you might save this friend of mine some pain and maybe even some money.


When I run, within the first half mile to 3/4 mile my calves and shins (the muscle or tendon hat is used to lift the foot up) fatigue. I think fatigue would be the word. Maybe it's more like a tightening up, then it feels like I pull the muscle or tendon in my shin and I can't lift my foot up normally or completely. I remember this happening a lot when I played soccer if I didn't prepare my foot before a kick, but it's started recently while running, and it really hinders my runs because I can't run normally. Sometimes, I can run through it but most time I have to stop earlier than I want. Could this just be my muscles not used to the running (because before this year I hadn't run in 3-4 years, and I didn't run for a week and half to two weeks before starting again a week and half ago) and it'll get better once they get back in the grove? Or could it be with my shoes (I have a pair of running shoes, not my pretty white ones haha) not being fit properly for my run style? Or lastly could it be the way I run?

Just wanted to ask, in case you knew anything about the problem before I go to like a trainer, or my mom said there's a place in town that will have me run on a treadmill and they'll fit me for a the proper shoe and point out any errors in the way I run.

Well, about to go run and do my workout, talk to you later.

In summary:

  • I recently started running again.
  • I feel something is going on below the knees that is affecting my running.
    • Could be tightening or fatigue or a combination.
  • This, or something similar, has happened in past.
  • I have not run regularly in several years.
  • Is the problem
    • (1) muscular, and I need to build up to my muscles by running more to make it go away
    • (2) technological, and I need to go to the shop and get balanced, aligned, and/rotated – or invest in better shoes – so that I can solve this problem
    • (3) mechanical, or related to the way that I run and, therefore, I need to pay a trainer to help me figure out what to do differently
    • or (4) some combination of these three.

My questions – interspersed with TOTALLY UNPROFFESIONAL, untrained advice (aka, read it at your own risk):

  1. "… within the first ½ to ¾ of a mile…."
  • How far are you actually running?
  • Related to this question, I would ask, how fast are you actually running? I know that this is harder to answer, especially if you have not been running much in the last few years, but think about this – are you running at 100%, I have to do this to save myself from some immanent physical threat; or are you going somewhat slower? If slower, how much? Are you jogging at an 'I could probably walk faster, but this is my way of running' pace? Try to think about this.
    • In my experience, I notice some pain in my shins when I run at close to my 'really-good-mile' pace. Everybody will be different where that is concerned and you probably know what that is for you. If you don't, maybe you could time yourself out on a track running some good, fast single laps. After you know more or less what your limit is, you might need to slow things down if you are planning on running any sort of distance. For example, for a 6-minute-mile runner, an 8 to 8 and a half minute mile pace is probably comfortable and sustainable for several miles even if that 6-minute pace is not. My recommendation is to find that comfortable pace and then speed up in intervals. Interval training can be a very good for building both speed and distance. Don't be shy about running faster just because you can't go the whole distance faster.
  1. You mention tightness and fatigue
  • Are you feeling any actual pain? Neither tightness nor fatigue is necessarily pain. Also, I think that it makes a difference whether you are talking about your calves (back side of your leg) or your shins (front side of your leg). Proper warming up is important. Sometimes that can mean running slower to start out. Stretching is allegedly helpful as well. Different people have different theories about stretching and, as for me, I warm up by running. I usually feel some tightness and little associated pains for about the first two miles. After six and a half miles of yesterday's run, I started to feel other pains that I would describe as fatigue. These are different feelings and the ways they affect me are different. Between tightness and fatigue, I feel my best while running.
  1. "Sometimes, I can run through it…."
  • What do you mean, "run through it"? Do you mean you can run with it, or in spite of it? Or is it something that goes away eventually at which point it becomes easier to run again? In my mind, this is the most important additional piece of information that I could know. If it is something that eventually goes away it is not fatigue but tightness. If it goes away, the tight area is eventually loosening up again allowing you to run more comfortably. If that is the case, then, my friend, running through it is what you need to do.

  1. Finally, shoes
  • Good shoes are important. And for running shoes, a good shoe store is also important. Fleet Feet, on Mendenhall and Poplar is the store your mom was probably talking about (and if it wasn't, it is the one I am talking about).

Hope this helps.


  1. Great analysis. Unfortunately, I know nothing, but enjoyed the break-down of info.