The Runner's Guide to Spring Training -Michael Brunner, PT, DPT, OCS

Posted: March 1, 2019

While it’s hard for the recreational runner to consider returning to running outside after all the snow we have gotten in the last month, hopefully there are bare sidewalks and warmer temperatures around the corner. I wanted to take this opportunity to share some advice as you start or return to your outdoor running goals.

Running is one of the most beneficial and simple forms of aerobic exercise we can perform. While running mostly involves the lower body, it also requires a balanced movement system through the torso, shoulders, and arms. With so much of the body involved in running, many joints absorb impact from each step. We need to consider this principle when advancing training goals. Many factors can influence joint stress from the style of running to body weight; but in general, running places 4-5x our body weight through the knee joints and similar amounts at the ankles and hips. If our joints are exposed to too much of this stress at once, it can lead to problems. If we give our tissues time to adapt, we are much less likely to get injured. This is the one of the reasons the body is an amazing machine. Tissues, when properly stimulated and progressed, build strength, resilience to injury, and improve overall joint health. A great research study that came out recently found individuals who ran recreationally showed a much lower rate of developing hip and knee arthritis (~3.5%) vs. individuals who would consider themselves more sedentary (~10%).

So you might be wondering how to know if you are progressing yourself appropriately. Here are some basic formulas to consider when determining training volume.

The 10% Rule: This rule states that the current week’s total volume (miles) should not be more than 10% greater than last week’s total volume. Following this rule lowers your risk of injury to less than a 10%. Whereas increasing your volume by even 15% per week raises your chance of injury to 20-40%.

The 10% Rule & Down Week Combo: This rule is the same as the 10% rule but also adds a rest week where you may reduce running volume at the 3-4 week mark. This rest break allows for tissue adaptation and recovery to better take place. This is also the rule that I personally feel I need when attempting to build volume. Often times, I revert back to alternative forms of cardio like biking and attempt to incorporate more core and hip stabilization work during this week.

The Acute:Chronic Workload Ratio: This is a newer formula that is a little more advanced and specific to the individual. It compares the ratio of the current week’s running volume (acute) to the previous 3 week average volume (chronic). In order to reduce risk of injury, this ratio should be 0.8-1.3.   
Ex. 3 weeks ago: 25 miles, 2 weeks ago: 27 miles, last week: 30 miles; 3 week average 27.3 miles; This weeks total should be between 21.9 miles (0.8x27.3) and 35.5 miles (1.3x27.3)

Understanding these principles should help provide a safe starting point for running and to avoid injury. Whether you are new to running or just starting your next season, following these guidelines will allow your tissues to adapt and keep the chance of injury lower.

Consider attending one of our free running clinics coming up on March 13, 2019 in Menomonie and Eau Claire or March 20, 2019 in Eau Claire and Rice Lake from 5-6:30 pm. There you will receive an individual assessment of your running form by a physical therapist as well as a strength assessment to identify factors that can influence your running mechanics.

Also check out the link below to great local running events coming up that you may want to consider when planning your summer running schedule.

Feel free to comment with any specific questions regarding the information above as it may pertain to your running/fitness goals this spring.

The Association of Recreational and Competitive Running With Hip and Knee Osteoarthritis: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis” (J Orthop Sports Phys Ther 2017;47(6):373-390. doi:10.2519/jospt.2017.7137).

Gabbett, Tim J. “The Training-Injury Prevention Paradox: Should Athletes Be Training Smarter and Harder?” British Journal of Ports Medicine, vol. 50, 2016, pp. 273–280.

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