October 05, 2015

The Long Road Back - Part 4: The Runner's Toolbox

Well, this article is the final installment of our 4-part series on getting back into running after a long layoff. Hopefully, you have been able to take something away from each of the first three articles that you can use. If you are just joining this series, each article can be read independent of the others, but you can check out the first three parts Part 1: Check your ego at the door, Part 2: Baby Steps, and Part 3: Where are you going? at Stridetek.com.

Part 4: The Runner’s Toolbox

If you are a fan of the television show N.C.I.S., you are probably familiar with Special Agent Gibbs’ rules. For example, Rule 9: "Never go anywhere without a knife." While that rule may or may not apply to running, there are rules to running that will help keep you running injury-free. Though unofficial, check out these 7 important rules to keep you running...

  1. The 1 mile rule…If you head out for a run and something still hurts after the first mile, STOP and walk home. Call it a day. This rule refers to pain that impacts your gait, making you limp or favor something. This rule especially applies to ankle pain, knee pain, back pain, hip pain, etc. Exceptions to this rule might be shin splints, plantar fasciitis, and arch pain, which often feel better the further you go and usually do not cause actual damage. 
  1. The when in doubt, don’t (race) rule…If you are not sure whether or not you should do a particular race because of injury or illness, especially if it is a half or full marathon, the answer is NO! Every single time I have let an athlete I am coaching talk me into letting them race when I can tell they shouldn’t, I have regretted it. Live to race another day. This rule goes double for youth runners. Short of a state qualifier, state meet, or nationals, it really doesn’t matter in the long run.
  1. The high heartrate rule…If you head out for a run, and you notice that in the first mile your heartrate is around 10 beats per minute higher than normal for the same pace, GO HOME!!! Without fail, I have found that unusually high heartrate means I am getting sick, and will regret finishing the run. An even better approach is to measure you heartrate first thing in the morning. You may spot an illness coming on before you head out the door.
  1. The 1 more day rule…This one is the most important one of all. When trying to decide whether or not to run after being sick or injured, my hard-fast rule is 1 more day. It goes like this, “Coach, I feel good enough to run now.” Me: “One more day. I have found that for whatever reason, giving and injury or illness one more day after you feel 100% makes all the difference in whether or not you get reinjured or relapse.
  1. The no, you may not make up a workout rule…If you are following a structured workout schedule or training plan and you have to miss a workout, do not try to make it up later. Every workout has a purpose. You will only mess up all of the other training sessions. A lost workout is pretty much always better than trying to do a double workout or back-to-back hard or long workouts. Let it go!
  1. The no day off before a race rule…I have found that I run the worst and feel the worst the day after a day off. If you have an important Saturday race, take Thursday off and then run an easy run and some strides on Friday. Actually, you can even do a hard workout the day before a “B” or “C” race, depending on what your training schedule calls for. In fact, I had several youth girls PR after running a hard, hilly 10-miler the day before an all-women’s 5K.
  1. The 7th day rule…the Bible recommends resting one day a week. We think that is good advice. Whether or not you are religious, the research indicates that training gains can be had through running 6 days per week. However, there is no gain from running on the 7th day, but the likelihood of injury increases dramatically. It’s a tough sell for Type-A personalities, but sometimes the best workout is no workout, at all.

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