Preparing for the AJC Peachtree Road Race: Answers to your Running Questions

Dr. Amadeus MasonLast week I had the opportunity to chat online with over one hundred members of the Atlanta running community to answer their questions about running and how to prevent running injuries to help not only those participating in the AJC Peachtree Road Race, but all runners in our city and state. We had so many questions from the chat that I didn’t get a chance to get to all of them, so I wanted to circle back with the participants that didn’t get answers to their questions. You’ll find my answers below in a Q&A format. If you didn’t get to attend the live chat, or just want a recap, check out the chat transcript (which you can also print), and don’t forget to check out the additional resources and questions and answers below.

For those that are running in the AJC Peachtree Road Race, I wish you a healthy and successful race!


I’ve heard that stretching prior to a race can rob you from needed strength during the race… So on race day, what would be your suggestions for a pre-race warm-up that doesn’t rob your performance? – Johnny

Light stretching should not rob your performance on race day. You can do simple calf, hamstring and quad stretches along with some simple butt kicks to get your legs warmed up a bit.

I have Achilles tendinitis and I just started training. Should I stop training? It only bothers me when I stop running. – Guest

While I can’t speak specifically to your condition, I recommend you speak with your physician before doing any additional hard training. Achilles tendinitis typically heals bylimiting running, resting it, and doing specific stretching/strengthening exercises. You can do cross training such as swimming, rowing and weight training to maintain your fitness.

What is your recommendation for preventing stitches in the side while training? – Mischelle

To prevent side cramps, I recommend focusing on your breathing and hydration. Getting into a regular breathing rhythm that matches your running stride, taking periodic deep, “cleansing breaths” as you run, and maintaining a regular hydration regiment before, during, and after your run can be very effective. I also recommend to NOT eating a large meal 1-2 hours before going for a run and avoiding sugary training snacks. Core stretches can also help prevent side stitches.

I have large varicose veins and I’ve never used the compression socks. I picked up a pair yesterday to see if it would help with leg fatigue while running. They made my legs feel twice as tired and I had a bad ache in my tibialis anterior muscle. Is that normal for the first time using them, and should I build up to using them? – Chet

I’ve not heard of many runners using compression socks during their runs. Since the goal of compression socks is to decrease fluid accumulation in the legs, wearing them during runs may actually decrease blood flow. You may want to consult with your physician. Some runners will use compression socks after runs for increased recovery and decreasing muscle soreness.

What are the best ways to work on speed work? – Tiffany D.

The answer to this question depends on what level of a runner you are. Beginners should avoid increasing pace too quickly or they may injure themselves. For more experienced runners, interval training is a great way to improve your pace. Add some higher intensity bursts into the middle of your runs to get your legs used to running at a faster pace.

If we are following a running training plan, is it okay to add other types of exercise or even fitness classes on top of the running training? – Guest

Absolutely! Cross training can help to improve your flexibility, endurance, and leg strength. Activities such as swimming, cycling, and rowing can help you increase your endurance and therefore, help your overall performance.

What is the number one rule to follow if you are a heavy-set person using a running routine to lose weight? – Stacy

The key to weight loss is tor burn more calories than you consume. The more you burn while you exercise, the faster you will be able to take off the pounds. Make sure you are doing a variety of exercises to help with weight loss e.g. running, swimming, weight lifting etc.

We received two similar questions on proper socks for runners:

What are the best types of socks for walkers and/or runners? – Guest
My last question is about socks. What type of socks is best for walkers/runners? – K.T.

I don’t think a particular type of sock is better than another – they should be comfortable and the correct size. Having said that, Dry-fit or Cool-Max socks typically are good at wicking away moisture so that your feet don’t blister.

How best to train for the July 4th heat, especially during these cool weeks in the morning, prior to the race? – Guest

As I mentioned during the chat, my biggest advice to anyone training for a big run in the heat is to stay hydrated. Remember to drink electrolytes and not just water, and make sure to drink lots of fluids after your run. I also recommend wearing appropriate clothing, such as dri-fit clothing and a top that wicks the heat away. Before the race, try to do some training runs early in the morning or evening when it’s cooler to help face the heat the day of. Do not forget to pace yourself; slow and steady is the way to go.

We received two similar questions on warming up for a run or race:

Can you describe a warm up? – Guest

Can you describe what is involved in a pre-warm up, and post-warm up? – K.T.

To warm up for a run, it is not recommended to stretch extensively. Overstretching cold muscles can lead to injury. Instead maybe do 5 – 10 minutes of light aerobic exercise to loosen muscles, then do some light stretching. You can jog slowly, cycle on a bike, walk briskly, or go up and down on some stairs.

I have heard that running on pavement is not the best for your knees. Is this true? If so, what surfaces are best to train on and how often should we run on pavement? – Rebecca

Runners can get injured on all running surfaces. The harder the surface, the more ground reaction forces get transmitted to your knees, but the softer the surface, the higher the risk for ankle injury. If you can, mix up the running surface to improve your overall fitness and strengthen the legs. Switch up your route as well. This will help your legs stay balanced.

Any suggestions for increasing time and endurance from the 5k to Peachtree in the seven weeks left? – Jane

General principal: increase your distance, and then increase your pace. Add about a half-mile to your runs each week. You do not need to run 6.2 miles before the actual event. Once you’ve gotten to 5 miles you can start trying to decrease your time by 1-2 mins each run. The excitement of the day will get you to the finish line in a great time.

I have read to improve how far we run, to gradually increase mileage… But, how can we train ourselves to run faster, in a safe manner. Any guidelines? – Guest

I would start out increasing your distance – about 1/2 mile a week. Once you get to 5 miles you can start increasing your pace – attempting to decrease your run time by 1-2 mins each run. You can also increase your pace whenever running up a hill.

How to run safely to prevent injury, if you’ve never run before this training? – Guest

Gradually increase your endurance and pace during training. Most injuries come from starting with too much too soon. Increase your mileage about 1/2 a mile each week over the next 7 weeks. Once you get to 5 miles comfortably and you want to run faster, try adding some short sprints to the middle of your workout.

I have pain in my heel. What could this be? – Guest

There are a number of conditions that could be causing your heel pain. Without seeing you in person, I can’t make an accurate diagnosis. Plantar Fasciitis is the most common cause of heel pain in runners – but this could also be a stress fracture. You should see a sports medicine physician and get appropriate treatment. We recently wrote a blog about Plantar Fasciitis.

As a runner, what percentage of my daily caloric intake should come from carbs, protein, and fat? – Rachael E.

Runners need a good balance of carbs, protein, and fat to fuel their training. Carbs and protein make the bulk of the calories. The typical guideline for a low intensity runner is 1.4 to 2.3 grams of carbs per pound of body weight and about .64 grams of protein per pound of body weight.

How do I train my mind? I’m having difficulties in that my mind tells me I can’t do what I’ve already done! Tips on remaining positive would be helpful… – Johnny

It is always an accomplishment and such a feeling of pride when you cross the finish line at a running race. At the Peachtree, there are tons of people around to cheer for you, and it feels amazing. Make running a social thing and meet up with a friend for a run; the miles click by faster and you will enjoy it more!

Should I practice a day before Race or not? – Guest

This depends on the level of runner you are. If you are a beginner, I recommend taking a rest day before a race. If you are a more experienced runner, you can take the day off or go for a short, easy jog the day before a race to loosen the muscles and relieve some of the nervousness.

What are some ways to prevent Achilles tendinitis? – Guest

Typically, Achilles tendinitis occurs when runners increase mileage or speed too quickly. If you are a runner who has tight calves or pronates excessively, you can develop Achilles tendinitis. Increase your running pace and mileage on a gradual basis. Once you get up to 5 miles on a run and feel comfortable, you can then begin working on your speed. Stretch and strengthen your calves after every run.

I have problems with my Achilles being very tight. It’s painful to stand up in the morning until I’ve completed stretching. Running aggravates the issue. Any suggestions? – Guest

You should really see a Sports Medicine Physician to address this issue because my suggestions would be determined by what the diagnosis is.
In general, Achilles injuries need time off from running and specific regiments of stretching and strengthening in order to heal. You can maintain your endurance by cross-training activities, such as swimming, rowing, cycling, and using the elliptical machine. This will help you maintain some of your fitness. (I don’t like the wording of this answer but this is the gist)

While running, what should I be “listening” to in regards to my body to best avoid injury or pushing myself too hard? – Guest

Before you start running, get a physical examination by your primary care physician to be sure it is medically safe for you to be running. Some discomfort (usually after your run) is normal when you are starting a running routine, but this should resolve in a few days to a week, and it should never increase in intensity. If you feel dizzy, lightheaded, if your heart starts racing or skipping beats, or if you are not sweating on a hot day – see a physician right away, as these may be signs of something serious. If your knees and/or joints start to severely hurt you, you should see a Sports Medicine Physician.

At 52 yo and no distance running and nursing hamstring strain since Feb. What can I do to prep for this 10k? -Guest

First, make sure that the hamstring has gotten appropriate treatment and is strong enough for training. Next, build yourself up to walk/run the 10K distance. Start out at about 2 miles every other day, but one day a week, it should be a long run, and you should increase this run by 1 mile each week thereafter. After 4 weeks, you should be at a 6-mile long run and be ready for the Peachtree distance – don’t think you will have enough time to do much with your pace.

Can you discuss hip bursitis causes, prevention and treatment? Thank you. – Guest

A bursae is a soft, fluid-filled sac, that serves as a cushion between bone and soft tissue structures, such as tendon and skin. The hip bursae sac helps reduce friction between the IT band and the greater trochanter (bony bump on the upper outer thigh). Bursitis occurs when the bursa becomes inflamed. The bursae can become inflamed with increased training or long periods of exercise that involve repetitive leg motion.
Treatment for bursitis often includes avoiding activities that worsen your pain and using anti-inflammatory medications. You can also use ice on your hip to help with the pain. Sometimes, a corticosteroid injection may be used. Visit your physician to get the most appropriate treatment for your specific condition.

What advice can you give to an advanced runner running in a large race such as the AJC Peachtree road race for the first time when it comes to preventing injury? – Guest

As an advanced runner, you should already have a training program. In general, I recommend increasing your mileage and pacing gradually. Follow a plan that has worked for you in the past.

How do you feel about the newer minimal shoes reducing joint impact. Is there science to support that or just good marketing? – Chet

Minimalist shoes CAN NOT reduce joint impact – only decreasing your body weight can do that. What the shoes have been shown to do is change a person’s foot strike pattern from a heel strike pattern to more of a mid-foot strike, and this change can sometimes be helpful in alleviating conditions like plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis.

Any suggestions about runners with Asthma? I am taking it slow…and not expecting too much too soon….- Derric

Derric – You should make sure that you have been evaluated by an allergist to get the cause of asthma addressed. Once your asthma is under control, a normal training regiment can be followed. Here is a resource for information for runners with asthma.

I currently have a stress fracture. What can I do in the meantime that will help slow the loss of fitness? – Kristie

There are a few cross training exercises that you can do to maintain fitness while not running. Swimming, core work, cycling, rowing, weight lifting, and using an ALTER – G (an anti-gravity treadmill) are usually good choices.

If you are experiencing patella tendonitis and problems with the knees in general, how often and how many miles should you run a week to be ready for a 10K? I am cross-training some as well through swimming and core exercises. Thank you! – Kathy

If you are having “problems” with your knees while or after running, you should seek the advice of a Sports Medicine physician – running should NOT hurt! The total weekly mileage depends on where you are in your training. Generally, my rule of thumb is to run every other day starting at 1-2 miles each run. You can increase the mileage for each run by ½ to ¾ mile a week till you get to 3 miles. After 3 miles, only increase one of your runs by 1 mile a week while the rest of your runs should stay at the same base distance. So in the beginning you will be running 6 – 8 miles a week, but by the end you are running 12 – 15 miles.

Please explain what is runners knee and how is it relieved and treated? – G

Runner’s knee is a common lay person term used to describe a variety of running related disorders that can impact the knee such as Patellar Tendonitis, Patellofemoral pain, Chondromalacia. The term is vague so I don’t use the term too often because it doesn’t give a runner a true idea of what they have and how to treat it. Treatment for all the conditions referenced earlier is different, so if you are having severe knee pain, I recommend you schedule an appointment with your Sports Medicine physician.

What is your opinion on calf compression sleeves during long distance training/long distance racing? I recently purchased a pair and have found that I have much less calf soreness post-run. Are there any disadvantages to using them? – MS Prucha

I haven’t seen much research on the advantages/disadvantages of using compression socks. The goal of compression socks is to decrease blood pooling in your legs. I recommend runners to use serial compression devices after runs to decrease recovery time and muscle soreness. Using a compression sock during a run may actually decrease blood flow in the legs, which is not a desired effect.

What about the need to maintain a suitable age-related heart-rate? Please give some general guidelines and brackets to work within. – Lori

Before starting any exercise routine, make sure that you consult your Primary Care Physician to make sure that it is safe for you to do vigorous exercise. You can estimate your maximum heart rate with a simple formula. For men, it is 220 – age. For women, it is 226 – age. If you are a beginner training for Peachtree, you should not be hitting your maximum heart rate. Instead you should consider training at 65% to 90% of your maximum heart rate.

Here is a link to calculate how you should be running for easy, moderate, and maximum capacity.

Injury free running tips for heavy set people. – Ansatacia

Before starting any exercise routine, make sure that you consult your Primary Care Physician to make sure it is safe for you to do vigorous exercise.

As with any beginner, you should start slow and be patient with your progress. Start out with a walk-to-run program, breaking your exercise time up into 5-minute intervals. For example, start out walking, and then add a minute of power-walking/jogging/running to each segment every two weeks. As your fitness improves, you will progress from a 5:0 walk run ratio to a 0:5 walk run ratio (4:1 then 3:2 then 2:3 etc.). This will enable you to give yourself a goal to keep going. I would also invest in good shoes – go to a specialty-running store and have them analyze your gait to make sure you are wearing the right shoes for your body and running style. Finally, run every other day or 3 – 4 times per week as to not overwork your body.

What are good ways to combat runner’s knee/patella tracking issues? – Guest

You can find detailed information about patellar compression syndrome here.

I love running. I’ve done many P’tree Rd Races. But several years ago I had repair surgery for a torn meniscus. I recovered well & continued to run. But I’ve noticed as I become regular in my running that the same discomfort is returning to that same knee should I give up running altogether? I fear the same ailment will keep returning. – Laura Lynn

I would recommend that you go back to see the surgeon who previously treated your knee to get an evaluation. Without seeing you in person, it’s hard to give a recommendation on whether or not to continue running.

Pre-Run Stretching & Warming Up Questions:

We received MANY questions in Tuesday’s chat on the topic of stretching and warming up for a race. Many of them were answered in the chat transcript, but the questions below were ones we didn’t get to:

What stretches should we do? – Johnny

Ideas for stretches before and after running? – Alexandria

I have very tight hamstrings. Where can I find exercises that will help me to stretch properly? – Mike

This website has some great stretches for the muscles in your legs.

There are a lot of great stretches for hamstrings and calf muscles, but what about for thighs? Mine are extremely sore during and after a run. – Rebecca

A standing quad stretch is a good stretch for the muscles in your thigh. Stand on one leg near a table or wall, so you can touch the wall to keep your balance. Bend your knee so your heel touches your butt. Use the hand on the same side you are bending to grab your foot and pull towards your butt until you get some resistance, and hold that position for 15 seconds. After 10-15 seconds, you should feel your quad muscle relax a bit allowing you to pull your foot even closer to your butt. When you get resistance again, stop and hold that position for another 10-15 seconds. Switch sides and repeat. Make sure you are standing up straight and that your knee is pointed straight down towards the floor.

Thanks again to everyone who joined my recent online chat for runners! Have a great race!

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