Active Expert Matt Fitzgerald Answers Your Running Questions

Active Expert Matt Fitzgerald

Body Building and Marathon Training?

Question: My background is in bodybuilding, but my friends talked me into doing a marathon with them.? I want to keep lifting while I train for it so I don't lose too much muscle.? Can I do both?

Answer: I encourage all runners--even those who couldn't care less about looking buff--to do some strength training. Research has shown that strength training can prevent running injuries and improve running performance by enhancing power and efficiency.?

However, traditional bodybuilding exercises such as the bench press will not carry these benefits.? Instead, you should focus on core strengthening, functional exercises such as lunges that emulate the running stride and power exercises such as jumping drills (i.e. plyometrics).?

Three 20-minute strength workouts a week are plenty for the typical runner. Since you want to maintain muscle, you can do 30- to 40-minute workouts.? But any more would begin to get in the way of your endurance training.

Sports Drinks

Question: Should I use a sports drink during every workout, or only when I do longer workouts?

Answer: I recommend that you use a sports drink during workouts lasting longer than one hour, during high-intensity workouts (e.g. interval sessions) lasting 40 minutes or longer, and during workouts of any duration performed in very hot weather (85?F+).? In each of these workout situations you stand to incur substantial sweat losses, so a sports drink is needed to maintain proper hydration.? In addition, research has shown that consuming carbohydrate during long workouts (one hour-plus) and even in shorter high-intensity workouts enhances performance.? Most sports drinks contain six to eight percent carbohydrate.

Side Stitch

Question: I started running several weeks ago.? It's going fine overall, but in the middle of almost every workout I get a painful side stitch, usually on my right side.? What can I do to prevent this problem from happening?

Answer: The side stitch--defined as an acute, localized, transient pain that occurs during exercise--is somewhat mysterious in nature. There are three possible causes: inadequate oxygen supply to the diaphragm, stress on the ligaments in that area, and irritation of the abdominal cavity lining. Whatever their cause, side stitches are harmless, although unpleasant, and usually cease to occur as the athlete adapts to training.

In the meantime, you might be able to make your next side stitch go away faster by pausing your workout and raising your arms overhead to stretch the affected tissues.? Or just try slowing down and breathing more slowly and deeply.? A recent meal may also contribute to side stitches, so allow at least three hours between the time of your last full meal and your workout.

Active Expert Matt Fitzgerald is the author of several books on triathlon and running, including Runner's World Performance Nutrition for Runners (Rodale, 2005).

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