Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Breaking the Running Rules #1: “if you want to run more, you have to run more”

If you’re a runner and haven’t heard that idiom yet, I’m guessing you’ve been running under a rock.  Another variation has it that, “if you want to run faster, you have to run faster.”  I’m completely on board with the second variation, but I’m finding that the first is questionable.

The standard beginner’s distance race training plan has a runner add on miles over a number of weeks in preparation for a race, and usually advocates an easy, comfortable pace.  Some plans add miles each week, while others up the ante every other week, but generally speaking, they have you run steadily increasing miles in order to… well, run more miles.

I’ve been following plans like that for the better part of two years now… and I’m ready to shake things up.  Because this runner’s body doesn’t seem to respond well to that approach.

After battling yet another painful and irritating round of overuse issues, this article caught my eye: Can reducing your mileage and relying on short and fast intervals put you on a path to better running?

Back when running was just part of my overall fitness routine, and not something for which I was specifically training, I would generally walk quickly for around 10 minutes, alternate short sprints and shorter, slow recoveries for 5-10 minutes, then walk comfortably for 10-15 minutes to cool down.  Apparently I’d been doing High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) for near-on 15 years, long before it had a commonly-recognized acronym.

Know what happened to my knees/back/hips/ankles/shoulder over that 15 years?  Nothing.  Not a single injury.  In the two years I’ve been piling on miles at a slower, but steadier, pace?  IT Band Syndrome.  Runner’s Knee.  Bursitis.  Piriformis Syndrome.  Hip flexor strain.  Frozen shoulder.  Hmmm…

Given that I only have four weeks left to train for my next race – the WDW Half-Marathon, Jan. 11 – now seems like a good time to start breaking some rules and try a new approach.  Instead of running long and slow on weekdays, I’m aiming for more HIIT-like workouts.  And instead of adding on small amounts of distance over a longer period of time, I’m ramping up quickly: five miles two weeks ago, seven last week, and I’m aiming for nine this weekend, with a cut-back to four next weekend before going back up to eleven the weekend after that.  That will leave me with two weeks/one weekend before the race; I’ll go by feel for that – but I doubt I’ll increase my mileage any further and will probably stick with short and fast.

I’m feeling pretty optimistic about this approach.  If it works, well… I’ll start looking at my next round of training with an eye for breaking the rules again.

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