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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Saturday, September 6, 2003

Runners must stretch, start slowly, eat healthy

By Dave Patania
Cincinnati Enquirer

Q. I'm 34, and I run 30 to 35 minutes, three times per week. I stretch before and after I run, but my upper thighs are very stiff and sore when I run. I have stopped running on weekends, hoping this will help. Any suggestions on how to make this go away?

A. This pain is usually because of one or all of these four factors:

  • Running too much, too soon.
  • Lack of muscular strength and conditioning.
  • Lack of warm-up and cool-down periods.
  • Inadequate nutrition.

Many beginners or people who don't run consistently complain of their quadriceps being sore because they start running at too hard a pace, or too far or too long.

Start on a running regimen slowly, with a moderate distance and duration to let the body acclimate. Each week, add a little more intensity, distance and duration to your runs and work your way up from there. This will give your body time to adjust to the stresses of running.

With regard to muscular strength, consistent running places a lot of stress on the muscles, joints and connective tissues. By doing just a moderate amount of strength training — for example, two days of whole-body strength training — you will increase the strength of your muscles, connective tissues and joints.

Putting in a lot of miles each week depletes your muscles of glycogen (stored blood sugar), proteins and amino acids, which is why it is necessary to eat a healthy diet of lean proteins, quality carbohydrates, fruits, veggies and a lot of water. Continuous running (or any activity) with a body lacking proper nutrients is going to lead to premature fatigue, lackluster performance and injury. Fueling up with a protein bar or energy shake before and after each run will go a long way toward helping your body maintain its nutrient balance and recuperative capabilities.

Be sure to warm-up stretch before and cool-down stretch after to promote blood flow, nutrient distribution and waste product removal from the muscles.