Progression 1: Walk/Run
Start with walking at a brisk pace for 4 minutes, slow jog for 1 minute. If you can tolerate, perform up to 6 walk/run cycles for a total of 30 minutes maximum. If no symptoms occur other than normal muscle soreness, 2 days later perform walk/run cycles of walk 3 minutes, and slow jog 2 minutes. Continue walk/run every other day, gradually decreasing walk time and increasing slow jog time. When you can slow jog symptom-free for 5 minutes, begin increasing your weekly mileage by 10 percent per week.
Progression 2: Building a base
Start with a 1-mile run, or 10 to 15 minutes of running at a comfortable pace, every other day. Increase your running volume by 10 percent per week.
Progression 3: Expanding your base
Start with your easiest run from last season at a comfortable pace. Repeat that run 3 to 4 times per week for 2-3 weeks. You can gauge your effort level either by perceived effort (when the run is starting to feel more comfortable) or by pace (when you are starting to run faster) when you are ready to gradually increase your mileage. At this point, start to increase your volume by 10 percent per week.
Progression 4: Race training
Hopefully you are beginning your running season with at least 3 months to train for this event, but runners like to do crazy things…If you have less than 3 months to train, start at your base and you can increase your mileage a little more aggressively, by 10 to 15 percent per week, until you have reached your desired training volume. Ideally, your peak total weekly volume should be a minimum of 15 miles more than the length of your actual event; for example, to run a 5 mile race injury-free you should work up to a training volume of at least 20 miles per week. Alternate longer and shorter runs to avoid overtraining. High-intensity cross training workouts, such as spinning or biking, also can substitute for a running workout to avoid overtraining and injury when ramping up your mileage quickly. Build your volume first, and then incorporate some speed training if desired.
It is a good idea to build a “deloading” week every 3rd or 4th week into your race training, which means run a lite week every 3rd or 4th week to give your body time to recover, and avoid overtraining and injury.
Once you’ve built your volume, you can add in some speed training if you want, and there are numerous fun ways to do it! You can build your speed in the great outdoors or on a treadmill.
Before you start speed training, log your time for your shortest run at your regular pace.
You can use a watch or a perceived effort system to build your speed. If using the perceived effort scale, think of 100% as your fastest, hardest sprint. 60% would be a comfortable warm up or cool down pace, 70-75% is a good aerobic pace, 80% is a less comfortable aerobic pace, and 90-95% is a sprint, the higher effort, the faster it is.
Try speed training a number of different ways:
- Negative split: Run the second half of your run a little faster than the first half. Build the first half to a 70-75% effort, or time the first half, and then run the second half around 80%, or try to run it a minute or two faster than the first half. Negative splits also are a great way to calm your nerves and not go out too fast during a race!
- Interval training (formerly known as “fartleks”): Alternate intervals of slow jogging and speed intervals. It could look like this: 60% 3 min warm up, build over 3 minutes to a 70-75% pace, 2 min at 80%, 2 min at 70%, 1 min at 90%, 1 min recovery at 60%, repeat.
- Sprints: Choose a short running distance, i.e. 200 meters, or 30 seconds. Perform an all-out sprint. Rest for 2 minutes, then repeat. Perform 4 times.
- Tempo run: Pick up the overall pace of your shortest run. If you have a sports watch, you can try to keep the average pace a couple of seconds faster than your regular pace throughout the run, or you can try to build the pace throughout the run. Compare your result to the original time you logged before beginning speed training.
Add a little speed training into a run or two every week, try a tempo run every 2 weeks, and get ready to be surprised by the results of a little anaerobic, VO2 max, and type 2 muscle fiber training!
To Stretch Or Not To Stretch?
Should you stretch? Yes! The research supports stretching, static or dynamic.
Page, P, Current concepts in muscle stretching for exercise and rehabilitation, Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2012 Feb; 7(1) 109-119 is a great, comprehensive literature review of studies supporting stretching for different injuries, conditions, and populations.
Stretching after a run is an absolute must, to alleviate the flexor muscle patterns that you cultivated during the run and prevent injury. 5 minutes of stretching your hamstrings, calves, quads, hip flexors, quadratus lumborum (deep muscle that runs vertically on each side between the bottom of your rib cage and top of your hip bone), chest and anterior shoulders, and your neck.
When it comes to static or dynamic stretching, personal preference rules as everyone responds differently to different methods. You may choose to use a combination.
Foam rolling can be very useful for gradually increasing mobility and soft tissue extensibility at the micro level in the case of a muscle strain, for example a hamstring or hip flexor strain. I recommend gently foam rolling over the site of the strain once you can tolerate pressure over the area, and stretching the muscles around the strained muscle. You can try some gentle direct stretching of the muscle once you can walk around pain-free.
Strengthening for Runners
I want all of my runners doing a minimum of 20 minutes of strengthening, three times a week. The more running you do, the more strengthening you should be doing! Strengthening will help you hold a strong running posture that maximizes your oxygenation and decreases stress to your body during your run. It also protects your body from overuse and alignment issues that occur when your muscles start to fatigue during your run and your stronger muscle patterns overpower your weaker muscle patterns.
The key muscle groups for strengthening are your glutes, vastus medialis obliquus (inner portion of your quad muscle), hip abductors, hip external rotators, hip adductors, your thoracic extensors and scapular muscles, and your peroneus longus and brevis in your ankles (particularly important for trail runners to avoid ankle sprains). This sounds like a lot but can be accomplished in a short workout consisting of the exercises below:
Squats (squeeze ball between knees for more VMO facilitation) 3 sets of 10
Bridge with ball between knees—10 sec hold, 10 times
Clamshell—3 sets of 10 each side Add band around knees for more challenge!
Xtreme sidestep—work up to 30 steps in each direction
- Stand as long as you can on one leg, up to 30 seconds each leg.
- Repeat 3 reps on each leg, with eyes closed.
- 3 reps each leg, eyes open, BOSU, balance disc or board, or pillow
- Dynamic balance activities—standing on one leg, try knee bends, single leg deadlifts, throw catch a ball against a wall
A strong running form prevents injury, and it takes practice to build it up. Try to tune in to your posture throughout your run, and if you feel it sagging, correct it. Draw in your belly button to contract your lower abdominals and lift your heart slightly to prevent slumping through your thoracic spine. Relax your shoulders and don’t clench with your fists. Lead with your heart, not with your head. Try to hit the ground with your feet under you instead of out in front of you.
Take care of your feet and they will take care of you!
Footwear frequently is a matter of personal preference, and if you’re having luck with whatever you’re running in, there’s no need to switch or to break the bank and purchase a high end shoe. A few notes: My favorite brands for my clients are ASICs, Brooks and Saucony. Runners with a narrow foot and high arch frequently do well with a Saucony. ASICs Gel Kayano is an excellent motion control shoe for overpronators, and my all-time favorite for foot and ankle issues. New Balance is a wider, softer shoe that frequently works for people with wider feet, particularly when paired with a supportive insole.
Specialty shoes like HOKA and Salomon tend to either work for people or they don’t. HOKAs tend to suit runners who heel strike hard, and who have had issues with Achilles, knee and low back pain.
Trail runner shoes tend to be slightly lower profile to minimize the risk of ankle sprains, and are a little heavier and more rugged to put more between you and the rocks. You certainly can try out the trails in any running shoe, and if you love trail running, consider a trail shoe to help avoid ankle sprains and bruised met heads. I do not recommend trail running in a super high profile shoe, such as the HOKA Biondi.
I do not recommend minimalist shoes! People who try them almost always go back to their old shoe and/or wind up in PT!
The right running shoe should feel good as soon as you put it on. Do not run in an uncomfortable shoe for weeks to see if you get used to it.
Most manufacturer insoles that come with the shoe are nothing but a layer of cheap fabric over the sole structure. I recommend replacing it with an insole. I recommend Spenco insoles for cushioning, and Superfeet if you are someone who requires more motion control.
Runners’ feet get tight! You can help prevent bunions. neuromas, arch pain and metatarsalgia with a few simple measures. Roll your feet out with a tennis ball or massage ball at the end of the day and consider trying Yogatoes to stretch out the deep intrinsic muscles between your metatarsals. Exercises that also can help to stretch your feet include tractioning each toe in the direction of the metatarsal, and standing barefoot on a floor and try to use your foot muscles to lift and spread your toes apart several times.