Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A New Kind Of Limbo - Getting Back Into Running

I pretty much took all of last week off.  Rode for an hour at the ARC on Sunday and that was a challenge to keep the HR up in the MAF zone.  Legs were not too happy either.  Yesterday, Monday, I ran six miles, super slow and today I did eight with a bit more effort.

Structurally things feel about 90% there.  Still some tweaks here and there but overall okay.  Running the past two days was fun though as it was more about running than training.  There was some structure involved but more like framework than actual targets to hit during the run.

But this phase I am in now... recovering from Leadville and staring down Run Rabbit Run in just over two weeks.  I am recovering, resting, tapering, all the while prepping for a race, a long race, just right around the corner.  I've never done back to back 100's a month apart so this is all new territory.

One of my concerns the past few months has always been what would my mental outlook be like between the 100's?  Would I be so beat down from the summer that RRR100 would just be this dark and ominous thing looming on the horizon or would I actually be able to get excited about it?  Thankfully it is the latter.  Actually I started getting excited about the run in Steamboat BEFORE the 100 bike even.  Now I am really looking forward to it.

It is something new and there are other twists.  No pacers, no crew and I doing it totally solo.  That adds a new level of adventure to it all.

More awesome good news!  I have a contract on the house now and it is set to close on the 12th.  So, I am going to have to go to Colorado Springs next week and be there all week getting the rest of the stuff out of the house.  The final pages to the chapters or book of my life of living in Colorado Springs is finally - after all of these years coming to a complete close.  I look forward to no longer being bound energetically to that place and not having any more ties whatsoever.  A complete and total clean break. 

I was digging through my files earlier today looking for a document for a colleague of mine and I ran across this.  A few months ago a college professor in Denver asked me to write something for her and her class about running after a break.  I enjoyed reading it as it spoke to me today in the sense that I need to be careful about everything I do the next two - three weeks, especially in the expectations department.  Enjoy.


Getting back into running after an extended break due to injury, illness, or in some cases, just life, can be both challenging and discouraging.  If you take into consideration the average runner can become 100% detrained in about twelve weeks it is easy to see that it just does not take long until you find yourself at square one and starting over.

As a general rule, it takes about two weeks of running to make up for one week lost to get back to a certain level of fitness.  For example, if I caught a cold and that kept me from running for two weeks solid, I could expect it to take four weeks after starting again to be back to where I left off.

Here are some rules and guidelines to consider when starting running again.

  1. If you had to stop running because of an injury make sure that you are healed and ready to run again.  If you can not walk without pain or the without aggravating the injury keep taking time off.  When you can walk without pain then try to run.
  2. Walking is good if you are injured and can walk pain free but can not run pain free.  A few years ago I was injured in a marathon in mid March and could not run more than three miles at a time without my knee completely giving me fits.  However, I could walk pain free, so that is what I did, every day.  Instead of running the miles for my workouts, I walked and after seven weeks when I could run again I felt pretty good and estimated that through those seven weeks of just walking that I was able to keep at least 80% of my fitness.
  3. Be realistic.  If you dropped a sub 40 10K last summer but have taken a few months off since, don’t expect to automatically be able to do duplicate that effort, speed and pace from the get go.  Set realistic goals for your self.
  4. Be patient.  This goes along with being realistic.  Don’t beat yourself up for being slower or if you are not able to run as far as you previously were.  It takes time to build a base.
  5. Be kind to yourself.  This follows up and includes both being realistic and being patient.  Again, don’t beat yourself up but rather be glad that you can run and for wherever you may fall on the fitness scale.
  6. Do not try to do too much too soon.  Don’t try to log a heaping ton of miles your first week back after an extended break.  That is just inviting an overuse injury.  The same goes for intensity.  Start off slow and warm up slowly and allow yourself to time to cool off too.  This will also prevent burnout and the need for taking more time off.
  7. Focus on staying within your aerobic zone when first starting over.  Dr. Phil Mafetone wrote the book, literally, on heart rate based training and how to use it to stay healthy.  When starting over it is best to stay in zone two to rebuild the aerobic engine and base fitness.  “Nobody ever gets injured in their aerobic zone.”
  8. Observe the rest day and keep it holy.  You only become stronger after stressing the body and allowing it to adapt to that stress and that only happens when you are resting.  Make sure you get lots of sleep.
  9. Be aware of any overtraining symptoms and adjust accordingly.  Look out for maybe a depressed mood, inability to sleep, elevated resting heart rate and loss of appetite.  If you feel like you were making progress and all of the sudden feel as if you are going in the opposite direction, take an unplanned day or two off to unload the accumulated fatigue.  If you keep running the only thing you will end up doing is running yourself into the ground.
  10. Even though we might like to think we could, 99.9% of runners are not paid to run.  It’s not our job which puts food on the table.  Keep this in perspective if you become frustrated.  This is what you do for fun and enjoyment, don’t forget that.  If the fun goes out of running it is a sign that something is amiss.  Pay attention to that.
  11. Running can be a cruel sport in the sense that what we love, running, usually causes our injuries and the only way to get over those injuries is to refrain from doing what we love.  But running should be about health and wellness and not just about medals and PR’s.  Don’t forget; never go to the start line injured.  Being tired is okay, and maybe being a little under trained is okay, but starting a race injured is just asking for problems which could result in more time off.
  12. Assuming there are no injuries or other outstanding issues, consistency is key.  Stick to your training plan and stick to your rest days.  Don’t try to get creative switching runs and days around if you don’t understand the impact it could have. Just try to have one good training day at a time, one good training week at a time and after you string a few good weeks together, that’s when you are doing something.

After more then twenty years of running these are the 12 things that I always consider after a break or even during a breakdown in training.  When working with athletes I can usually narrow a problem down to one of the items above unless there are other issues such as nutrition, hydration or just a lot of life stress.  Follow these guidelines and you should have a fun and healthy experience in running and training be it for a 5K, The Marathon, or any other distances.

Andy Wooten
Life Coach and Author

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