A mysterious disease seems to be sweeping through the running community and no matter how often I Google legs feel heavy while there’s no real diagnosis.
I mean we know WebMD will always lead us down the path of a painful death, when you type in things like “sudden on set” and “otherwise healthy” + aches and pains.
It’s something we never see coming and yet it happens to new, elite, fast and slow runners.
Dead legs syndrome.
Why do my legs feel heavy while running?
One afflicted runner has come forward to share her story.
Jane (obviously, not her real name since we’re sharing medical information) is training for her first marathon, but has completed 12 half marathons.
“It started out like any other week of training. I had an easy run on Tuesday, then I picked it up with a nice little tempo run on Wednesday and even did some biking to stick to my cross training on Thursday.
But everything changed on Saturday.
As I started running, I could just tell it was going to be a long hard battle because I had dead legs. It was like someone had filled my shoes with cement and every step felt like I was working 10x’s harder than normal.”
At this point she started to sob lightly. Trying to remain a journalistic indifference, I urged her to go on, but did offer a tissue.
(It’s signs like this which make it so hard for runners to come forward and share their experiences.)
“I’ve heard others talk about runners heavy leg syndrome, but I thought that must be like post Thanksgiving meal kind of thing. You know like the mashed potatoes weighed you down instead of carbo loading?
This was so much worse. I kept playing all the normal mind games, telling myself it would get better, but it didn’t and so finally…finally…I walked.”
At this point she became too hysterical to talk further, so everyone was asked to leave the room. We reached out to multiple doctors for opinions, but most told us there simply weren’t enough studies to make them feel confident in providing a solution to this terrible, terrible affliction.
Tips for Preventing Heavy Legs When Running
However, one alternative therapy doctor was willing to stick his neck out, Dr Legsaurus. His qualifications are a little hard to understand, but there were some numbers and letters, so we assume this is accurate.
Here are some of the top tips he provided for when your legs feel like they’re filled with lead:
- Start with checking their bloodwork – issues like being deficient in Iron or Vitamin D can cause all kinds of fatigue issues
- Ensure they’re well hydrated and not skipping electrolytes – dehydrated muscles fatigue faster
- Check to see if their shoes are broken down, know when to replace running shoes – muscles have to work harder on bad shoes
- Evaluate mileage to ensure they aren’t over training — too much, too soon without rest means your body can’t catch up to the work load
- Practice fueling during long runs – if you are running over 90 minutes, you need to start taking in carbs by 40 minutes to continue fueling your muscles and prevent hitting the wall
- Eat well before running – doing fasted runs is a quick way to run out of energy and force your body to use muscle for fuel
These all seemed like very sensible ideas to us and so we wondered…
How do I keep my legs fresh while running?
At this point, Dr Legsaurus became quiet and very thoughtful.
“I wish I could say that doing all the right things will keep it from happening, but we just don’t know. There is growing research that running with a match tucked in to your shoelaces could help prevent it.
You see it’s like utilizing the concept of The Secret, you’re telling your body to run like it’s on fire!”
We’re all about alternative therapies here and RTTF, but we do want to issue a warning about playing with fire. It’s not advised.
If you too have suffered from dead leg syndrome, we wish you the best of luck in finding a treatment. Perhaps not running a marathon is the solution? Or let us know how this whole match in your shoe thing goes.
Today was obviously a bit tongue in cheek as I’ve had so many conversations with athletes about this topic that we had to lighten things up to keep us from going crazy.
The truth is that all the same things which prevent injuries are what will help with heavy legs while running. It’s looking at your whole training plan and your fueling plan to ensure both are really designed for where you are.
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Heavy Legs While Running? Here’s Why and What to Do is written by amanda for www.runtothefinish.com