Since 1982 I've written a newsletter, Running Commentary. A new issue appears here each week, and material is archived.

Sat, 24 Feb 2007 05:15:34 -0500

End of the Week

RUNNING COMMENTARY 664

Let's say you have hurt yourself. You've gone for the quick fix, buying new shoes, and it hasn't helped. You've shortened and slowed your runs, which has given only slight relief.

It's time you examined the main cause of any running injury, especially a recurring or chronic run. You might require a fundamental change in your routine.

After a recent spell of achilles pain (on both sides) I jumped from shoe to shoe, to no avail. I eased my running a bit, mainly by dropping the longer weekly run -- again with little success.

Finally I made a real change. It was nothing new, but just a return to a plan I'd used many times before -- only to forget it once the pain passed.

I did what runners least like to do: rest more often. Took an extra day or two off each week in order to run more and better on the other days. In fact, quit thinking of running in weekly increments altogether and break it into smaller segments.

You might be thinking: here that geezer goes again, trying to take away something else that runners hold dear. First he tells us not to count weekly mileage, then he tells us to run by minutes instead of miles, and now he tells us to ignore weeks.

Please hear me out before you reject this latest idea. The recent trouble happened when my injuries and illnesses often do, at the end of a week.

The achilles pains hit on a Friday, my most free day when I usually run long. My weekly plan then was to run six days, and then to rest one. This was the sixth day, so the hardest run came when I was most weary, from both running and the work week.

Nothing gets your attention like a breakdown. When everything goes pretty well, you keep running the same way. But when you stumble, you search for better ways.

At this age I don't have many new ideas. My searches take me back to old ones that worked better than the recent plan.

Often when hurting in the past, I stopped running by the week. Instead I ran by what came to be known as "cycles."

I would total an hour or so, in as many or as few days as this required, then rest a day before starting a new cycle. When training extra-long for marathons, I flip-flopped this formula by taking one day off for each hour of the long run.

If you bought into this plan, your quota might be longer in minutes or miles. But I've always been a slow recoverer, even between normal runs, and need to rest frequently.

This doesn't mean I always take the needed breaks. Typically, as soon as the latest injury passed I forgot how much the "cycling" helped and returned to running too many days in a row.

Now, after this rehab plan worked its wonders once again, I'm trying to remember its lessons longer. One is to rest (which isn't fully resting but a walk in place of the run) one day for every hour of running (which in fact ranges from 60 to 90 minutes).

(Clarifications: This isn't resting fully but walking in place of the run; it's a "walk break" between runs rather than within them. And the total time between rest days isn't exactly one hour but ranges from 60 to 90 minutes; I wouldn't arbitrarily run 45 minutes one day and just 15 the next to land right at 1:00.)

The other lesson for getting well and staying well is to use the first 10 minutes of every run as a trial period. Don't listen to the body before a run; it lies then by saying it feels better or worse than it really does.

The first mile brings out the truth. You know by then how you really feel, and whether to continue running that day or to stop now and try again tomorrow.

Stopping in time -- whether within a run or after a cycle's quota of running is reached -- leads back to better running, sooner than if you try to push past a problem. I know that. The challenge is remembering to practice it.
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