In my last blog post I discussed the first variable that a runner needs to address when returning to training post-injury. If you did not read that article please do, as it is crucial to conquer that phase prior to moving to the second variable which we are going to discuss here.
The second variable in a return to running is speed or increased pace. Once the runner is comfortable with a series of easy runs that have progressed in distance, as discussed in the first part of this three part article, speed can then be introduced. There are many ways to do this, but regardless of which way speed is introduced it must be done slowly and must begin at a shorter duration. The ability to run an easy 7-8 miles with no pain does not mean that you can now go do an 8 mile tempo run. Since this is a new variable it is best to do gradual builds of speed and only for short durations. This again will be built up over successive runs and can vary with each runner.
The other thing to consider is that putting speed back into your workouts does not mean that you will be automatically back to the pace you were prior to injury. My favorite way to reintroduce speed is to have the runner do pyramids. So, for instance let’s say they are going to try increasing speed on a 6 mile run. The first and last miles will be warm-up and cool-down paces, or simply the same pace that you did during the first phase. The middle three are where you will build speed, but the jumps will be very slight at first. So, for example, if your first phase pace (and 1st mile in this case) was an 8:30 mile, then your 2nd mile would be and 8:15, your 3rd mile would be an 8:00 mile, your 4th mile would be an 8:15, and then your last mile would be back to 8:30. Pyramids allow your body to sufficiently prepare for increased speed which many times means an increased stride length. It also allows for you to cool down sufficiently so that you don’t just shut it down after your fastest pace.
Once you can pull off a few runs like this without increased pain, then I typically will start to increase the duration of the speed pyramids as well as the pace jump between each level. This can be a little tricky to generalize as each runner is different and I really need to take into consideration the type of injury and the overall strength of the runner. If I have a runner who does little to no strength training, then this build will take longer to complete. Those who consistently strength train have stronger supportive muscles for running and thus can handle a higher volume before they fatigue, muscles breakdown, and form collapses. So, take away here is you must be strength training! Getting stronger for running does not just mean running more. Every other sport focuses on strength training as part of the routine. For some reason, running and other endurance sports have been lagging in this arena, but I can tell you it is crucial to become a stronger and healthier runner.
Once you feel like you are back to your pre-injury pace and have done multiple runs at this pace, then you can venture into reintroducing the third variable, which I will discuss in the next blog of this three part series.
For more information on how to overcome your injuries and re-introduce running back into your training call our office today at (949)387-0060.