Are You a Beginner Runner? These 8 Challenges Await You

Runner getting ready for a run

To relieve stress in everyday life, lose weight, or get in shape: there are plenty of good reasons to start running. But the initial motivation for running can disappear as quickly as it came.

Sometimes running turns out to be tougher and more complicated than a lot of beginners might have thought. Furthermore, the body first has to learn how to accommodate the physical stress and strain of the sport.

Woman running the city

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Here you’ll find the 8 most common challenges that await you in this new sport to prepare you for the first sessions.

1. Side stitches

You have enough energy for a longer loop, but painful side stitches force you to take regular walking breaks?

Side stitches are a particularly annoying problem for beginners. If you are often bothered by side stitches, you should reevaluate how you eat. Your stomach is usually responsible for this problem.

What can help:

Try to not eat anything up to two hours before your run. Strengthening your core and breathing better can provide some relief, too. If you get a stitch, walk for a bit and press your hands on the spot that hurts while breathing slowly. As soon as the pain eases up, you can start running again at a slower pace.  

Check it out:

Here are some more tips to avoid side stitches:


2. Stomach problems

Does your stomach give you more trouble than the running itself either while you’re running or after each workout?

Stomach cramps during or after a run are quite common. After all, your stomach gets shaken up quite a bit when you run, which puts stress on your digestion. Depending on your body, it may react to this unfamiliar situation with cramps.  

What can help:

Think about how you eat and drink before you go running. Avoid putting additional strain on your stomach with high fat, sweet, or spicy foods. Also, make sure that you stay hydrated to prevent cramps. As soon as running becomes a routine activity, your body will learn to cope with the special challenges it presents.

Water, bananas and kiwi

3. Sore muscles

The muscles in your legs hurt so much for days after each run that you have a hard time taking care of everyday tasks?

Sore muscles can be very painful and are quite common among beginner runners. Usually the pain starts a few hours after the workout and can last up to a week. It is caused by the unfamiliar movement and sometimes improper technique, which strains the muscles. Unfortunately, there’s no way to totally avoid sore muscles.

What can help:

The best thing you can do is to slowly increase the scope and intensity of your workout, so that your body can adjust to the exercise.

Woman running in the city

4. Breathing problems or shortness of breath

Before long you have to slow your pace because you can’t breathe? You can only run if you take walking breaks?

Beginner runners often experience shortness of breath when they start out. This can be caused by shallow breathing that doesn’t fit with the running rhythm. Usually the volume of the exhaled air does not equal the amount inhaled; the runner quickly becomes short of breath.

What can help:

Pay attention to how much you exhale while you’re running. Inhaling will then happen automatically. When you start, it’s helpful to count your steps when you breathe. Breathe in for two steps and out for two steps. This way the inhaled and exhaled volume stays the same. After a while, this unfamiliar rhythm becomes natural and you won’t have to consciously regulate it.

5. Pain in your feet

Your feet hurt or are really tense? They feel especially cramped and stiff in the morning?

The ball of your foot, the heel, or the arch: pain can develop in different parts of the foot. Often you will even notice the pain when you’re walking or standing.

Interesting fact:

Your feet are under particularly high strain while running. After all, they have to accommodate eight to ten times your bodyweight with each step.

Runner putting on his shoes

The feet also are the foundation for an efficient, dynamic running technique. They are not accustomed to this kind of muscular exertion in daily life. They have to slowly adjust to the impact and develop the muscles for good foot strike.  

What can help:

Regular stability training and mobilization of the feet can strengthen the muscles. Altering and optimizing your running style can often help change the impact and strain on your body.

6. Sluggish running

Your body feels heavy and lethargic? Every step is hard work?

The first steps usually feel heavy and awkward for beginners – running seems exhausting. Often there is absolutely no spring in your step or any kind of rhythm to your movement.   

What can help:

Evaluate and improve your running technique regularly. Professional runners have to diligently improve their running style, too, so they can continue running fast and efficiently.

Regularly running barefoot on grass, doing special motor skills training, and keeping your body flexible with stretching exercises can help here. This way you’ll avoid having to fight your own body when you run. Your running style will become more relaxed.

Woman warming up for a run

7. Problems falling asleep after a run

You have trouble falling asleep after an evening run? Or you lie awake for a long time?

Running should actually be a good way to get away from the bustle of daily life and reduce stress. However, the body is often so focused on action after a run that calmly drifting off to sleep is impossible.

Our body reacts very slowly to the physical stress of running and often processes the workout hours after the run. This afterburn effect that we appreciate so much when trying to lose weight makes it harder for us to fall asleep after a run.

What can help:

The length of time your body continues this after burn depends on the intensity of the run and your individual fitness level. If this phenomenon regularly robs you of sleep, it’s better to schedule easier, shorter runs for the evenings. Your body releases stress hormones during easy runs and can relax quickly after a session. Do your intense or long runs in the middle of the day or early afternoon.

Man lying in bed

8. Back pain

Since you started running your back hurts when you run? It feels tense when you’re not running, too?

The back is what keeps your body upright when you run and acts as a “shock absorber” for all the pounding. At the same time, it is the control center for the coordination of all movements in your upper body, arms, and legs. It plays a major role in running. Usually the cause of back pain while running is a combination of improper running technique, a weak core, and a lack of flexibility.

What can help:

Do regular stretching and strength training to build up the muscles in your core. This will keep your back from getting exhausted as quickly and will reduce the pain. Also, evaluate and improve your running technique. You’ll reduce unnecessary strain while running, which makes your back work harder and leads to fatigue.  

Summary

Everything is tough at the start. Don’t let the initial challenges get you down. Running is a very complex activity that challenges your body in many ways. That’s why it is so effective and popular.

  • Stay focused on your personal goal – it will keep you on track, even when the running gets harder.
  • Every run is different, and your body reacts accordingly.
  • Pain or minor problems that arise are totally normal and happen all the time – for beginners just as much as competitive runners. But keep your chin up!

As soon as your body has adjusted to the special challenges of running, it will be easier for you to handle them.

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Sascha Wingenfeld Sascha, health trainer & active triathlete, has been coaching runners from beginners to professionals for over 10 years. "I love my job and I love running." View all posts by Sascha Wingenfeld »

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