Running can be totally infuriating. One day, you’re flying through the miles, feeling relaxed and comfortable; the next, your legs feel like lead. That feeling of running with heavy legs is quite a common one, but if you don’t know why it happens, you can’t do anything about it.
So, why do our legs sometimes feel really heavy when we run, and is there anything we can do to mitigate it?
Natascha Starr, England Athletics run coach and a leader at London City Runners, explains that there are a few different reasons why our legs can feel like lead when we’re running. “It could be anything from poor nutrition, overtraining, lack of sleep, dehydration, inadequate recovery time, or in persistent cases, maybe even an iron deficiency,” she tells Stylist.
“We’ve all had that run where we feel like we can’t get our legs to move, whether that’s because we didn’t get enough sleep the night before or because we didn’t fuel well before or during the run. In these cases, just make a small adjustment and your next run will probably be back to normal.”
But, she flags, if you’re persistently getting that heavy-legged feeling, it is a sign that you may need to take a look at your training plan and nutrition to make sure that you are taking adequate recovery time and giving your body all of the energy it needs.
Performance Physique running coach Arj Thiruchelvam suggests that not eating enough carbs, drinking alcohol and dehydration could also be to blame. “Additionally, most of us don’t perform a warm-up before we leave for a run and that will make things harder because you haven’t raised the temperature of the muscles, improved circulation or joint lubrication,” he explains.
If you can’t be bothered to spend 15 minutes stretching before heading out, he advises you make a conscious effort to go slow for the first kilometre or so. “You may even find that those heavy legs disappear after 10 or 15 minutes.”
It’s also worth saying that heavy legs aren’t something only new-ish runners experience. All of us experience it from time-to-time, but those of us who have been running longer may be better equipped to quickly identify what’s …….