Medical need to know

GP Juliet McGrattan answers more of your health questions

medical need to know

To run or to rest?
I have a busy job and don’t get much spare time. I’m often exhausted at the end of a long day and sometimes skip my runs because I lack energy. Am I doing the right thing, or should I try and run from time to time?

Often the exhaustion after a long day at work is more mental than physical and actually going for a run can make you feel more energetic. Eating properly in the day can make a big difference to evening energy levels, so try an afternoon snack. Could you run in the morning or at lunchtime instead? Running regularly is better for fitness than “binge running”. Sometimes, however, you need to take the pressure off yourself and if you simply don’t have the energy for a run, then don’t worry about it – put your feet up and relax.

Left breathless
My asthma often flares up in winter when I run outside, but I hate running on the treadmill. Is there anything I can do?

When cold winter air hits the lungs, it can often trigger asthma. Try warming the air by wearing a neck scarf, such as a Buff, to cover your mouth. Start with a slow warm-up. You could also take two puffs of your reliever inhaler 15 minutes before you run. If these tips don’t help, then see your asthma nurse or GP, as you may need to start or increase preventer medication.

I did a marathon recently and two of my toenails turned black and look quite nasty. How long will it take before they go back to normal? I hate them!

Unfortunately toenails grow very slowly and a new nail takes nine to 12 months to grow. Don’t pull the blackened nails off – the nail bed underneath is delicate. If the skin around the nail becomes very red or if there is any yellow or green discharge, then see your GP to exclude infection. Consider going up a half size in your trainers, but for many long-distance runners, black nails are unavoidable. Personally, I resort to black nail polish so they all match!

Eat up
Is it detrimental to my health if I don’t eat after a run? I’ve heard you should, but I don’t have much appetite after I’ve just finished running.

Loss of appetite straight after running is actually very common. It’s important to eat within 30 minutes – it’s the ideal window to replenish your body’s stores, reducing muscle soreness and speeding up recovery. You don’t need a big meal, just something with a mix of protein and carbohydrates. My favourite is a glass of milk and some brazil nuts, but how about chocolate milk, a yogurt with fruit, or a protein recovery drink?

In the winter, your body has to use its stores of vitamin D, as the UK sunlight isn’t strong enough to make new supplies.

BMI (body mass index) is used to assess whether a person is a healthy weight, but it can be misleading in people with a lot of muscle, sometimes indicating they are overweight when they are not.

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