I’ve taken on a lot of clients who have been told by a Health or Medical Practitioner that they should not run ever again. Usually it is due to chronic knee pain with some evidence of structural change- like some cartilage degradation for example. This may not sound shocking, but it should.
“So Mr. Wood, every time you run, your knees pull up sore. Running is very hard on the knees, and your knees aren’t exactly in show-room condition. I recommend that you cease running from now on”.
If this news was delivered to me it would be analogous to a shotgun blast to the guts.
“Don’t run any more?
But I love running!”
“Get yourself a bike, bike riding is great for the knees”.
“But what about when I have kids, I won’t be able to kick the footy in the park with them?”
“Not if you don’t want a knee replacement in 5 years time!”
“Well what if I am being chased by an axe wielding maniac, can I run then”.
“Well, in that instance yes, but don’t blame me when your knees are killing you the next day!”
This is pretty clear cut. And that is the problem I have with this type of delivery. By being so definite in the stance that running (without pain) is not possible in the future, they are effectively saying this.
“On behalf of all Medical Experts and Conservative Health Care Providers, I state that it is impossible for you to run in the way that you want to without aggravating pain and accelerating degeneration of the structural features of the knee.”
Now I know some pretty bloody awesome people in the above mentioned fields, but I wouldn’t think anyone has the right to speak on behalf of every Medical and Health Practitioner both currently alive and those to come in the future.
Instead, why not just word it like this:
“I don’t know how to help you run”.
Simple, and absolutely more true than the previous example.
And imagine if you were given this perspective instead. What would your reaction be? Mine would be:
“Ok, thanks for your honesty. I’ll search for someone who can”.
The reality is that it is quite possible that for some people, running without pain is impossible. But who has the right to make that conclusion. If my clients want to run, it is my job to help carve out a pathway to make that possible. I’m not always successful, but I’d like to think I am humble enough to own my shortcomings rather than deem the goal impossible.
If you’ve been told that you can’t run any more, maybe you can’t. But maybe you can.
Did you know that the way that you structure your running week can have a huge impact on the improvements you make, your capacity to avoid injury and maximise enjoyment?! You are probably well aware of the ‘periodising’ concept, which is understood to be the way that you structure your training loads (volume/distance, speeds/intensity, recovery, etc) over the year to peak for a specific event. But I find that often we don’t break that concept down to the weekly unit. We will talk more about the yearly structure in a future post, but for now I wanted to address the smaller weekly ‘unit’ which will be very easy for you to modify and maximise your gains.
You will be amazed how often I hear this from people when they tell me about their weekly running: “I don’t have a lot of time during the week, so I get in a couple of 5km runs before work, and then I do my long 10km run on the weekend”. Often those two 5km runs are at the same speed, and around the same route. And then we DOUBLE the training load for that weekend run. This can be a quite a large jump! So while there is a bit of variety going from the shorter runs to the longer one, we can do a lot better than this!
“Variety is a key to minimising injury and maximising improvements”
Minimising injury: The best predictor of a future injury is a past injury – and this is where the right health professional as a part of your team is soooo important – to develop a tailored re/pre-habilitation program for you! The next best predictor of injury, in my opinion, is high repetition of loads. By this I mean applying very similar forces, over and over, to the same body structures… hmmm… sounds a lot like running doesn’t it?? running at similar speeds (maybe your constant 5min/km) on the same surface (the roads around your house), in the same shoes, for the same distance, is a pretty good recipe for an injury.
Maximising improvements: The body improves by having to adapt to new stimuli. If we don’t challenge the body in new and different ways, it sits on a plateau. A key concept in training is progressive overload. You slowly and periodically increase your training loads; be it by increasing speeds, distances, reducing breaks, etc. (again, more on this in our upcoming post on periodising).
So how do we put all this together? here are a few points to help you plan your week’s training:
- Vary your running distances during the week. Program your distances to cover a good spectrum. So, for example, instead of doing your 20kms for the week as per the example above (5+5+10), a better spread could be 3km + 7km + 10km.
- Vary your speeds. For example, in the structure suggested above, the 10km run could be your easy long run, at a comfortable pace (perhaps at or just over your average 5min/km pace); the 7km run could be broken up into some threshold intervals (or quicker). For example, you could warm up and cool down for a kilometre each, and then alternate a faster kilometre, with a slower kilometre, for the middle 5kms; and the 3km run could be an easy spin of the legs! This way not only are you providing variety, but also starting to work on different components of your fitness!
- Change the surfaces you run in. Try to run in different environments. For example, one of your runs could be on roads, your faster interval session could be around a gravel path, and ideally one of your runs (even if not weekly) should be on trails. Trail running provides great variety through constantly changing surfaces, as well as inclines, no two steps ever look the same!
- Ideally change the shoes you run in. While we all have our preferred shoes, it is also a great idea to vary these. So you may have a pair of trail running shoes, your preferred longer distance shoes, and maybe a slightly lighter show for your speed work. This will be more expensive to start off with, but they will all last you longer afterwards!
If you need any more specific help structuring your program, I’d love to help. You can contact me here!
Let me start my clarifying that I would never want to discourage anyone from running! Even more so if you are on a journey to improve your health. My whole business and life mission is to help others achieve great health! And this is exactly why I don’t think it is a great idea to use running to start getting fit or lose weight…. as I mentioned in our introductory post to this series, running is inherently hard, and carries with it about a 50% chance of giving you an injury in a year! What I really want to help you do is to LOVE running!
I don’t think it is a great idea to use running to start getting fit or lose weight.
Lets face it, doing anything while we are heavier is harder, and the harder it is, the less likely we are to do it long term. In addition, being heavier would logically put greater stress on joints, connective tissue and muscles. Interestingly, research doesn’t strongly support this logic. Body Mass Index is not a predictor for injuries, other than plantar fasciitis (an injury to the connective tissues of the sole of the foot). However, poor body condition is a strong predictor of injury, so if we have gained weight due to not doing much, then lets make sure we approach this well.
I would recommend that we start to improve our conditioning to run in a few different ways. Firstly, looking at our nutritional intake is KEY. The most effective way to lose weight is to improve what we eat! If you are brand new to running, I would start by walking daily. A quick walk before and after work, or during lunchtimes will go a long way to start strengthening those tissues mentioned above, help with weight loss, and start to get your aerobic fitness going! I would then definitely add strengthening exercises, as we know that these will certainly protect you against injury, and increase your running efficiency – now we are talking! Then we can start to add a few jogs into those walks, or as part of your warm up and cool downs around your strength work outs. In our next post I’ll give you some ideas on how to start your actual running program.
Effects of weight on performance
I am always amazed at the effect that weight has on running performance. That is, how quickly you are likely to run a race… This is why elite distance runners are so light! For example, Lets assume that an 80kg male completes a 10km run in 50minutes. If his fitness and all other external conditions remain the same, but he now weighs 70kg, he would run those 10kms in under 45mins!
So, don’t run to get fit, as it’s less likely to last! Run because of everything you get from it… of course fitness will be a part of that, as weight loss will be, but there’s so much more to be gained from your time out in nature!
Today we start a new blog series, one very close to our heart. We strongly believe that running, and especially running trails, is one of the most beautiful expressions of a body that functions well. And so to get the most out of this beautiful activity, you need to make sure that your body is up to it!
Don’t run to get fit, but get fit to run!
This is a mantra that we believe in strongly. It really annoys me when I see posts on social media promoting running as a way to get fit… why? If we are honest, we know that running is an inherently hard activity to do. In fact, it’s one of the activities with the highest metabolic demands out there, primarily because your whole body is working while you ‘pound the ground’, only to be outdone in ‘aerobic’ demand by cross country skiing. We also know that over 50% of runners will get injured any given year!
So if you are unfit and deconditioned, running is not going to be an enjoyable activity at all! Needless to say, this is going to severely affect your chance of sticking to it. So we focus a lot of our professional work-time helping people get ready to run and make the most of it. Because when you are fit to run, you won’t want to stop!
So, every week we will release a new instalment to this series focusing on the many different aspects that can help you get the most out of your running, including:
- The effects of weight on joint loading and running time
- How to structure your weekly running to avoid injury and maximise enjoyment and gains
- How to program towards your event
- The importance of your running technique – is it capacity or skill?
- Myths and tips
- Does your Foot strike matter
- Cadence and the effects of modifying it
- The key areas of your body to focus on for improved running
- Feet and ankles – mobility and strength
- Knees – capacity to absorb gravity!
- Hips and pelvis – stable for power transfer
- Rib cage – a shock absorbing spring ad rotational controller!
- Arms – swinging for power, efficiency and direction
- Head – your rudder to success!
Plus I’m sure other topics will spring up as we hear your comments and questions!
In addition, we’d love to invite you to our online running community on Facebook – The iNform Running Studio where we can have discussions, Q&As, and we’ll share regular video clips with ‘live’ running tips while we hit trails!
Looking forward to chatting with you as we evolve this series. If you would like to have a more specific look at your running or discuss your training etc, feel free to contact us!