New year, new you. It’s 2018 and you’re ready to tackle running seriously. Shoes are bought, Garmin’s synced, you’re psyched. If running is part of your 2018 resolution, some planning and care should be put in place before getting started.
Running is a skill that requires a capable musculoskeletal system to handle the demands placed on it over time. This post is geared towards runners who are getting started, or coming out of retirement - although the concepts are important and can be applied to any experience level.
WARM-UP AND COOL-DOWN
This is an important piece that beginners and veterans overlook. What’s the point of warming up or cooling down when going for a run?
The goal of warming up is to:
- Address specific mobility deficits
- Increase blood flow to the soon-to-be working muscles
- Increase neural drive, priming yourself for the run ahead
The cool-down, defined as a low intensity exercise of short duration, starts the recovery process and shouldn’t be neglected. Cooling down also blunts the overshooting effects (increased contractility & hyperventilation) observed at the end of an exercise bout, and decreases relative cardiac load - important for everyone, but especially if you have a known heart condition. (1)
The Run:Walk method is a tried-and-tested way to train for running, that delivers improved fitness while decreasing your risk of injury. It should be the go-to method for anyone starting out, returning from injury, or as a primary means of training. Jeff Galloway, the creator of the Run:Walk Method, Olympian, coach, and author, trains and even competes in full marathons using this method.
So - what is it?
Simply put - it’s taking walk breaks during your run. For example, a 3:1 run:walk ratio would mean you run for 3 minutes, walk for 1 minute, and repeat.
There’s genius in its simplicity. If you are just starting out, or returning from injury, your body’s not ready to handle a sustained period of continuous running. If the biomechanical loads exceed what we are prepared for, we may increase our risk of injury (2).
Once the ideal ratio is found for a given distance, walk/shuffle breaks allow you to feel strong throughout your workout while continuing to positively stress the body. Here’s the benefits: (3)
- Increased recovery, leading to less fatigue and metabolic build-up.
- Decreases fatigue-related running form breakdown (dynamic knee valgus, overstriding, etc.).
- Reduces soreness (DOMS), speeding up recovery from one day to the next
- Distributes the workload amongst a variety of muscles, reducing overload
- Mental benefit: it breaks the run into achievable segments. It’s much easier to focus on your form and listen to your body when you know you have a walk break coming up in a couple minutes. The run segment becomes focused, purposeful, and quality.
Below is a figure of Galloway’s Run:Walk. It fits a spectrum of abilities, from 7 min/mi runners to walkers.
As mentioned previously, this is also a great model to incorporate when returning from injury. All of the above concepts and benefits apply. Return to run programming for injury is a little more specific in terms of dosage and progression/regression, but it all boils down to load management and building tissue capacity.
How much, how often, and when can you progress your runs?
The right answer for you is multifactorial and depends on your training age, biometrics, race/pace, willingness and ability to train, and more. It’s a task best left to the coach you’re working with, however if you’re working alone and just getting started, some generalizations can be made:
- Run every other day
- Start with the run:walk ratios displayed in the chart
- As your fitness increases, adjust your work/rest ratio.
- Start with a duration that’s best for you. If you’re just starting out, try 15 minutes.
- Progression: the most important thing is to listen to your body. If you feel like the workload at X distance or ratio is starting to get too easy, it’s time to adjust. Stay at your target ratio (from the chart), and increase the total run time by ~5 minutes.
- Try to build up to > 30 minutes at your current run:walk ratio before progressing
After a couple months you should be feeling strong and confident. Don't forget to track your progress as fitness will happen, but not overnight! Tracking will help you realize how far you've come.
Once you’re consistently run:walking every other day at volumes over 30 minutes you can start taking your training to the next level by putting together a specific training program.
If you found this post helpful, leave a comment below. If you have any specific questions about your training fill out the form for more information about our run coaching program.
- Koyama Y, Koike A, Yajima T, Kano H, Marumo F, Hiroe M (2000) Effects of “cool-down” during exercise recovery on cardiopulmonary systems in patients with coronary artery disease. Jpn Circ J 64:191–196
- Lehman, Greg. “When Biomechanics Matters in the Management of Pain, Injury and a Bit of Performance.” Greg Lehman, 21 Sept. 2017, www.greglehman.ca/blog/2017/9/19/when-biomechanics-matters.
- Jeff Galloway. The Galloway Run-Walk-Run Method. The Galloway Run-Walk-Run Method.