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Answering running questions from masters athletes

By Henry Howard

As a running coach, it’s been an honor to help my athletes improve their fitness, lower their times and achieve big goals. Along the way, I’ve answered many questions, some of which are fairly common and others very unique.

As I was scrolling through one of the running groups on Facebook this week, I noticed a collection of questions and situations specific to masters athletes. As a masters athlete myself and coach, I’ve dealt with these situations or very similar ones.

Here are the questions, generalized for this article, along with my recommendations.

Question: I haven't been running much in the past year due to an ankle injury, lack of motivation and a case of Covid. Now I am back to running and signed up for goal races. I'm excited to get back into a routine again but I don't have running partners to run at 6 a.m. I'll be using my treadmill. How should I approach weekly runs on the treadmill and a long run on the road? Any tips for running on the treadmill?

Answer: That’s so awesome that you are back into a running routine again! You can easily do your midweek runs on the treadmill and weekend jaunts outside without any issues. Whatever your training plan calls for, just apply that to the treadmill. I would, however, recommend increasing the incline to 1% or 2%. That slight bump is recommended to better mimic outdoor conditions. If a workout calls for hill repeats or intervals, you can use the treadmill’s incline or speed settings to adjust the elevation or speed to meet the workout plan. If you think you may need extra motivation to power through the miles on the treadmill, look for options to entertain you while you run. Setting up a TV or mobile device with a television show or movie, or listening to music, podcasts or an audio book, will help the time pass.

Question: I cut my long run short due to hip/iliotibial band pain. I’ll be going to physical therapy next week. In the meantime, what stretches or exercises do you do for hip mobility and IT band?

Answer: You made the right call to head to a PT who will not only help you emerge from the injury but give you exercises to ideally prevent it from occurring again. There are quite a few options that will help stretch out the hip and increase your mobility. This is a good compilation of some to try out, while this one focuses on the IT band. I highly recommend incorporating regular core work for runners, especially masters athletes. Doing once or twice weekly core routines will strengthen a runner’s ligaments, tendons and other areas, which counter balance all the pounding from the running.

Question: I’m two weeks away from my fifth marathon and training hasn't gone well. My longest training run was 10 miles. Was thinking of running the first 10 miles then run/walk the rest. Do you have any tips?

Answer: As a masters athlete with a handful of marathons under your belt, this is a very wise approach. Without knowing your full story, I would presume that you run for some combination of health reasons and personal fulfillment with the intent of being a lifelong runner. So we don’t want to do anything to cause an injury and take that away from you, however temporary it may be. This is where the concept of a run-walk approach is a great idea since you haven’t — from what I can tell — recently surpasses the half marathon mark. My recommendation would be to go by feel. If you want to start run-walking earlier than 10 miles, nothing wrong with that. If you are feeling strong at the 10-mile point and want to keep running, that’s fine too. Let your body be the guide. Once you begin run-walking, I would recommend running for 2-3 minutes, based on feel, walk for a minute and then repeat. Keep that ratio as long as you can and when you need to scale it back down.

Question: I need a shirt that combines dry-wicking properties with the non-chafing softness of cotton! What do you recommend to avoid bloody nipples?

Answer: The problem stems from friction. When heat and moisture (sweat or rain, for example) combine with rubbing from the shirt, some runners experience the chafing issue you describe. There are various solutions to the problem including applying salves, a Band-Aid or other adhesive or going shirtless when the weather is warm enough. I have used Squirrel’s Nut Butter to prevent such chafing and blisters on my feet. I have literally never had chafing or blisters when using SNB. And that includes running three 100-mile races, in temperatures 80 degrees and above, during rainstorms and other conditions that lend themselves to creating blister or chafing issues.

Question: Due to a foot injury, I’ve substituted swimming for running. I find that swimming a mile takes me about as long as a five-mile run and I it is roughly equivalent in terms of how tired I feel afterward. I am using this formula as a way try to maintain my endurance and level of conditioning. Any recommendations on tweaking the formula?

Answer: That is so fantastic that you are able to use swimming as a way to keep fit as your foot heals. Great job! Your formula is comparable to this one from the Livestrong website. As your foot heals, depending on the exact injury, you may want to consider pool running as a first step back into running. Pool running won’t give the same workout as road, treadmill or trail running. However, it will allow you to replicate running with added water resistance and without exposing your healing foot to the harshness of the ground. Until then, keep on swimming! Once you are cleared to run again, you will be in a much better position than if you had not done any cross-training while injured.

If you have a question about your running, training or related topics, feel free to send me a message. While I won’t reveal your identity, I may use the topic in a future article like this one.


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