10 things every woman should know about running

Training tips for female runners

Just getting into running and wondering what impact it is going to have on you? Athlete Louise Damen offers training insights specifically for female runners. 

You’ll have to get used to peeing in the wild!

If you haven’t discovered already, nature often calls when you’re out running and more often than not there isn’t a toilet in sight! Most runners I know have long stopped worrying about their dignity and decorum and will take to the loo ‘al fresco’. You’ll quickly learn to perfect your moves so that you don’t get caught with your pants around your ankles by some unsuspecting stranger walking their dog!

The chafing challenge

If you thought that chafing was the reserve of men then think again! Unfortunately anywhere where areas of skin are prone to rubbing together or against clothing can leave you feeling as if you’ve been attacked by a cheese grater and yelping during that post-run shower! Armpits and thighs are areas in particular where you’re likely to feel the burn. To avoid this common running affliction apply a small amount of Vaseline to any chafe-prone areas before you head out of the door.

You can kiss goodbye to your toenails

Be warned, unsightly black toenails are a rite of passage as a runner and you should consider yourself lucky if you have actually have a full complement of toenails at any one time! Nail polish will become your best friend! 

A good sports bra is essential

Whatever your size, a correctly fitted sports bra is a must. Without one you risk permanent breast damage and a lot of discomfort. Breasts are mainly made up of fatty tissue and are supported by skin and fragile ligaments. During repetitive, high impact sports such as running, the breasts bounce and pull on these ligaments, forcing them to stretch. As the ligaments are non-elastic, once they have stretched the damage is irreversible and let’s face it, that’s never a good look. Without correct support you are also more likely to experience back pain and shoulder problems, particularly if you have a big bust.

Be mindful of minerals

Low iron stores are common in female athletes. This is because menstruation results in an increased need for iron, in fact perhaps double or even treble the amount of a non-exercising lady. To combat this you should aim to include plenty of iron-rich foods in your diet such as lean red meat, oily fish, beans, nuts, eggs and green veggies. It’s also a good idea to ensure that you are consuming adequate amounts of calcium to support good bone health as female runners are more at risk of sustaining bone stress injuries. 

That time of the month

Many female runners suffer from stomach cramps, headaches, mood swings and ‘heavy legs’ just prior to their period, which can often make running seem less appealing. In fact it’s often the week before your period when levels of the hormone Progesterone are at their highest that can make running feel more of a chore, particularly as this can cause an increase in ventilation rate and hence perception of effort.

If you find that you suffer from symptoms of PMS the best thing to do is to be flexible with your training. There is certainly no harm in taking an additional rest day or two. However, sometimes an easy run with a friend can be the perfect distraction and can actually help to ease any discomfort you may be feeling. 

Be smart with sunscreen

Whilst running itself can help to delay the effects of aging, it is true that if you spend a lot of time outside without adequately protecting your skin, you do risk premature wrinkles. In order to combat this you should protect your skin all year round and not just during the summer months. A splash of sunscreen or a makeup primer that contains an SPF will help to protect your face against the sun’s ultraviolet rays as well as the harsh winter elements.

Headphone hazards

Whilst listening to music when you run can help to boost both your motivation and tempo, it’s important not to have the volume up too high as you may not be able to hear other pedestrians, cyclists, or traffic. Better still, consider buying one of those single earpiece headphones that deliver the combined sound to one ear, thus allowing the other to hear any potential hazards.

Terrible tan lines

It’s only when you pull out a posh frock or a nice top to wear that you realise just how ridiculous those runner’s tan lines are! Be prepared for sock lines, vest lines and T-shirt lines that can leave you looking a little bit silly. Perhaps the two tone look will catch on?!

Nobody warns you that you when you take up running that there will be days when you feel invincible (well, relatively), and days when you just want to burst into tears, go home and sit on the sofa with a large glass of wine and a bar of chocolate! Hormonal fluctuations are often to blame for mood swings and energy levels, which can make running the last thing that you feel like doing. Be prepared to be flexible with your training programme. If you’re having an ‘off-day’, take an additional rest day if you need one or switch a harder workout for something easier and try not to beat yourself up.

Written by Louise Damen

Louise is a two-time England Cross Country Champion and a former European XC Trials winner. She has also represented GB at various international events and her marathon PB is 2:30:00.

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