Real World Running Rehab

The Endurance Corner Archives are being cleaned out.

Here is an article from a few years ago — the article has helped a lot of people so I’m saving a copy here…

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PART ONE

After two running injuries last fall, I asked our team doc, Jeff Shilt, for a running rehab program. He shared his elite athlete rehab protocol, it was an excellent program:

  • Drills
  • Functional strength
  • Flexibility
  • PowerCranks
  • Gradual ramp of load and intensity

Considering the time commitment required for Jeff’s program, I knew there was zero chance that I’d be able to execute it. Rather than fail, I searched for an alternative plan.

So I asked Jeff, “What is the minimum running load to derive a structural benefit?” He wasn’t sure so I pulled 20 minutes out of the air.

Knowing that it takes me four to six weeks to injure myself I gave myself a target that would take at least three months.

My plan was to insert 20 minutes of slow running with excellent technique. I would handle my aerobic fitness via bike training. I would handle my strength training in the gym.

Over 12 weeks, I managed 50 easy sessions of 20 minutes. I ran mostly on a treadmill with a 1% grade and max speed of 10 minutes per mile. My rehab speed was more than three minutes per mile slower than what I can deliver in a 70.3 race. While I have always been willing to run slow to achieve my goals, my previous goals were closer to 100 mile weeks than quarters!

The 50×20 protocol seems to have worked and my next phase is five-mile runs every other day for 12 weeks. I continue to run slow but have increased my pace cap to eight minutes per mile. I’m off the treadmill and happy to be back outside.

Phase two will take me to June when I’ll shift back to two-mile maintenance runs while I prepare for the Leadville Trail 100 bike.

As an aside, I’m applying the 20-minute target with my reintroduction of swimming. It is early days and a typical workout looks like:

  1. 500 easy with pull buoy
  2. 4x alternate 100 IM no gear with 75 Choice with pull buoy

I managed to keep my large muscle swim strength in the gym but suspect that my little muscles, particularly around my scapula, have atrophied.

Like most of us, my athletic memories and prejudices can cause me to injure myself. I feel lucky to have the opportunity to experiment with slow and steady rehab. I came very close to quitting running and am glad I kept trying to come back.

When more stops working, remember to try less.

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PART TWO

Let’s recap Part One.

  1. Start by completing 50 runs of two miles — took me three months
  2. Shorter of five miles and an hour — every other day for another three months

The above will progress you to 7×45 minutes per 14 days. This works out to about 2:40 per week and will give you a base of about 160 minutes per week that you’ll want to repeat for at least six weeks before adding my tips below.

Once you’re ready to add load, you’ll find that 8-16 minutes worth of threshold/VO2 (combined) per week gives you a performance benefit with very little biomechanical risk.

Adding duration doesn’t give you much — keep every session under an hour. I’ve yet to run 10K.

Adding frequency via supplemental, easy, two-mile runs would make sense if you were a runner, rather than a triathlete. Aside from a couple of back-to-back run days (when traveling), additional running means I swim less. I need my swimming more than I need slow running.

So my recommendation is increase running load by adding intensity wisely. Here’s how:

Create some 5K and 5-mile route options. For my basic running, I prefer flat routes. For my weekly dose of intensity, I prefer hills.

Look for two types of climbs. The first is a climb that flattens at the top. The second is a climb that steepens at the top. Both climbs should be 6-12 minutes long; my preference is 8-10 minutes.

Alternate the climb that you use by week:

  • For the climb that flattens, build pace with the goal being 90 seconds Very Quick at the top.
  • For the climb that steepens, build effort with the goal being 90 seconds Very Intense at the top.

For both climbs, be patient, if you’re recovering from injury then you’ve proven that you can hurt yourself. You want to create a new habit of healthy running.

For both climbs and the descents focus on a quick cadence. Achieve speed via quickness — you should feel like you are taking baby steps.

Follow each day that’s biomechanically challenging with a light day. I’ve been traveling weekly so my total volume (SBR and strength) is down. Therefore, my intense running is done on fresh legs.

A weekly dose of 10 minutes of fast uphill running will give you what you need.

Six months of smart rehab will contain five to eight of these sessions in the final two months. At that stage, you should be better off than you started and ready to incorporate intensive aerobic training (Mod-Hard) as well as extending the duration of your longest run.

Replace the habits that lead to breakdown.

 

Six Weeks

2017-05-14 20.51.55A useful heuristic from @mdotdoc

It takes six weeks to create an overuse injury

This rule of thumb works very well and has a number of implications – particularly if you are sick or injured on a six-week cycle!

Before undertaking a new initiative, I remember the good doctor’s advice and ask myself…

Do I think I can sustain this initiative for six weeks?

Here’s an example…

I want to do a lot of skiing next winter. I know that my limiters are quickness, anaerobic endurance, balance and “all-three-at-the-same-time”.

I spent an afternoon researching my options to address my limiters. In researching the plans, I realized that I lacked both the will, and the capacity, to do what was required.

Circling back to the six-week heuristic… I came up with a plan — 12 traditional strength workouts and 12 plyometric workouts. Each session is 15-30 minutes long.

The total commitment is 8 hours out of 42 days.

Seems tiny.

Three weeks in… I’m getting it done, just!

Long-term progress comes from keeping small promises to yourself via daily action.

The habit of one positive step, daily, is more important than the height of the step.

Getting Strong 2017

It’s been eight years since I gave strength a big push.

I’m going to ramp things up over the spring and summer.

Sunday – standard program with 2×25 back squat (95 lbs) (25 minutes)

Tuesday – 5x mini blasters on 30 seconds rest (7 minutes)

Thursday – standard program with 3×25 back squat (100 lbs) (30 minutes)

Saturday – 10x mini blasters on 30 seconds rest (15 minutes)

The progression will mirror what’s outlined in my book, Going Long.

All going well, this will end up being a 20 week campaign and I’ll post as I transition between the phases. The plan is to leave myself ten weeks for a little ski-specific prep.

Total time is 1:20 => the highest physical return (per minute) of my week.

 

The Road Ahead

Four recent reads.

A neat concept from Pasricha is to view a week as three bins of time.

  • 168 hours in a week.
  • Splitting into thirds, we get three bins of 56 hours.
  • Most folks drop two bins (112 hours) into sleep, work and commute.
  • Leaving 56 hours for everything else, which happens to be the subject of his book.

The author encourages us to have a look at our allocation. Here’s mine…

  • Sleep and unscheduled personal time – 65 hours
  • Kids — meals, bedtime, homework, housework, dad time and school drops – 40 hours
  • Exercise, strength training, time in nature – 21 hours
  • Admin, taxes, legal, finances, writing – 15 hours
  • Travel, Driving – 15 hours
  • Open, Reading – 12 hours

When I bring energetic action, time and expert instruction to an area of my life… I get results.

If it’s not happening then it’s not a priority.

Better to tell the truth — especially to myself!

Younger Next Year was written for Baby Boomers but I found it entertaining and useful.

Around 2030, I’m going to have a 40-hour slice of time land in my lap. Leaving my desk job in 2000, I have been through much of the author’s story. What I haven’t dealt with is aging and decay!

This winter, I learned to ski well. Learning to ski was humbling — I found myself lacking in absolute power, power endurance and quickness. Add that experience to the gradual deterioration of my vision. Aging and decay!

Through an explanation of Harry’s Rules, the book reminded me of other potential gaps in my life — connection, commitment, passion.

“Kids” have taken a big slice of time in my forties. Because we’re likely to have another 15,000 hours to come, I’ve been working on up-skilling everyone.

Some day the “kid” slice will be gone. My marriage will remain.

The two books by Gray (as well as The Soul of the Marionette) were fabulous and challenged the narrative my local community tells itself.

When I’m doing, connected and engaged…

…I don’t overthink any passing emotional state.

It’s worth making an effort to fill-the-gaps.

My Silver Year

2015-12-27 13.50.08It was my 47th birthday last week.

Borrowing from the late Oliver Sachs, I decided to look up 47 on the periodic table. I was happy to discover it’s the element Silver (47Ag). So the next 12 months will represent my Silver Year.

When I’m going through a tough patch, I tell myself to live-every-phase.

I have two tendencies that distract from a goal of living every phase of my life.

The first is wishing backwards – mourning the loss of peak physical power.

The second is wishing forwards – feeling like I am trapped in a perpetual holding pattern with my preschoolers. Wishing for freedom that, I believe, will come later.

The above thinking is not useful.

A useful antidote is to reflect on the advantages of my Silver Year.

My life is straightforward, surrounded by wonderful people, close to nature and simple.

While I’m past my athletic sell-by date, nearly all my physical changes so far have been positive.

Staying healthy is easier, and requires much less time, than I expected. As a former ultra-endurance athlete, the toughest part has been changing my belief system to reflect what I’ve seen with my body.

With that in mind, I’ll offer this observation about my younger self.

  • If you have the capacity to convince yourself that total focus towards your goal is “necessary”
  • If you have the capacity to commit significant, sustained attention towards a narrow field of interest
  • If you have the capacity to recover from high workloads
  • then you have what it takes to succeed.

Yay!

However…

You also have the capacity for sustained, extremely poor judgement.

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Success in a narrow niche is about getting a lot of work done, shedding non-core and motivating others to help you achieve.

However…

As we age, we’re likely to value connection more than success.

…and connection is about being good enough across a wide-network of relationships.

…and my relationships benefit from what I don’t do, don’t say, don’t indulge

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Now, at this stage of my life, there is a growing realization that the people around me don’t care about my personal productivity. They want to see me happy and serene.

However, I notice that time is passing and the window for getting-stuff-done is closing.

But what stuff will “I” value having gotten done if I arrive at my Golden Year (79Au)?!

I deal with this tension by pausing and paying attention whenever I feel happy, content and serene.

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The motto “live every day” always makes me feel like I should be enjoying myself.

For my Silver Year, I prefer “live every phase” — giving myself permission to experience my difficulties as they come and vowing to keep moving forward despite knowing how the story will end.

 

Food, Sex and Money

IMG_1573This week, I am holding down the fort (with a lot of help) and my wife’s away on a retreat.

She’s spending time with a bunch of smart ladies, most of whom are slightly older than herself. It’s an environment similar to the camping trip that I wrote about.

Before she headed off, I made the following observation…

If you listen closely then you’ll hear most minds focusing on food, sex and money.

Taken together, they are an influence strategy that you’ll see reflected in most scandals.

This coming week, you have a unique opportunity to tap into the life experience of older women, who understand the life heading your way.

Why don’t you ask them what to expect, what they learned and how best to cope with the inevitable changes of the next 15 years.

Love you, babe.

cheers

Aging Athletes on the Kokopelli Trail

FullSizeRender 2I spent early October riding the Kokopelli Trail in Utah.

I enjoyed the trip more than I expected and want to share ideas to increase your athletic satisfaction as you move into, and beyond, middle age.

High performance is not about health, but long-term athletic satisfaction is most certainly correlated to health, strength and mobility.

As a cohort, our group of 40 to 60 year olds was the healthiest population that I have ever trained alongside. I am using health in a classical context – body, mind and spirit.

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Here in Boulder, I see many friends “age-down” their training partners, seeking younger and younger peers. Heck, we even race our kids as soon as they are fast enough to give us a push.

If you feel compelled to hang onto your youthful performances then be sure to try the opposite, at least some of the time. Age up your pals, teach children and be kind to beginners. Pay close attention to how this makes you feel.

As one of the the “youngsters” on the trip, I learned a lot from listening to the veteran athletes talk about their lives.

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Usually, a training camp involves a 5:30am alarm, wolfing down a breakfast, training all day, eating two massive dinners and sweating myself to sleep. Repeat for six to ten days.

Dropping into a guiding company that was celebrating 25 years of trips, I realized how little I knew about what (normal) people want.

On the first morning, the guides had a chuckle when I arrived in the lobby with my helmet, shoes and full riding kit. It was POURING rain and they gently broke it to me that we weren’t riding for a while.

2015-10-05 11.32.21This pattern, of gently breaking it to me, would continue for the week. Eventually, I capitulated and decided to (attempt to) be a model guest.

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I was surprised by the aspects of the trip that I enjoyed the most — the relaxed mornings and evenings.

I commented to a friend, “This trip is a good workout spread across a great day.”

2015-10-09 08.18.50Bottomless coffee and massive fruit salads in the mornings. As Wes-the-guide can attest, there is something truly satisfying about eating out of a mixing bowl.

FullSizeRender 3Casual dinners and beers around the campfire in the evenings. Our guides taking a well-earned break after a 13-hour day taking care of us.

FullSizeRender 5Stunning camping venues. Wine and cheese at a remote desert campsite.

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I should remember that the health, strength and mobility required to enjoy unique experiences in nature is FAR less than what’s required to train alongside high-performance athletes that are half my age.

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Old habits die hard.

I’m changing slowly.