By Kristina Pattison, DPT, OCS, CSCS
Photo by Seth Orme: Jenna Lyons and Kristina Pattison at the 2020 Runners Edge Run Up For Air fundraiser for Climate Smart Missoula
With upcoming races on the calendar, it can be tempting to increase miles quickly this time of year. But gradually building a solid base of running volume is the best way to prevent the dreaded overuse injuries that often plague runners later in the year. When Planning a Race Season and developing Phases of a Running Program it is important to consider both the principles of overload and rest for a safe build up for the year.
It’s important to understand the physiological implications of increased volume over the course of a training season. Increased miles equates to increased forces absorbed by the body as you’re pounding around on the pavement or trails. With each step the body absorbs 2-3 times your body weight while running. These forces are attenuated mostly by soft tissues of the body--muscles, tendons, ligaments. But also cartilage and bone can take a beating as well as the body fatigues, so the goal is to keep your active shock absorbers--muscles--doing the work to offload less compliant tissues like cartilage that is susceptible to irreversible degeneration. This takes time and gradual adaptation. Remember that as you progress miles, it’s been found that increases of less than 10% per week is associated with decreased incidence of injury in runners.
Also, consider that the day you rest is the day your body heals and responds to overload by becoming stronger and more adept at absorbing shock. The soreness you feel when starting a program is considered to be due to healing associated with micro-tears in weaker muscle fibers. As these fibers heal they become stronger and better adapted to withstand that higher amount of stress during future bouts of exercise. When designing training a training program, most coaches will incorporate at least one full day of rest into the week, and vary the intensity of days so there is at least one easy run between each of your harder, longer, or more intense efforts.
Strategically incorporating increases in volume paired with appropriate rest days allows your body to naturally adapt to increased miles and speed so you can reach you race goals without setbacks associated with injuries.
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