Sure, regular long runs, speed-work and gradually increasing mileage are the best ways of loosing weight and getting running fit. But, jumping into this after a period of inactivity is the surest way to injury and disappointment. So, don’t suddenly go out for a ten mile run after doing nothing for a while. We have to hurry slowly, and this is the key to our running.
Our bodies have to adapt to our running and by gradually increasing mileage and intensity over a period of time we are making our bodies aware of what we expect from them. This happens in a number of ways. Firstly, muscle fibres become bigger and are able to cope with greater loads : your bones become stronger and more dense : your ability to use food and oxygen becomes more efficient : your heart becomes stronger and your body becomes more efficient at dispersing waste products produced by exercise, particularly lactic acid. Pile on too much pressure in one go or week and your body breaks down and you become injured.
The first to suffer will be your soft tissues. Your anti-gravity muscles and the tissues around your joints just won’t be able to take it. So many times, too fast too soon has caused hams, glutes, quads and calves to rebel. Stress fractures are also at risk if you suddenly increase mileage.
So, let’s practise patience – if you’re a new runner or returning after a break increase quantity and quality gradually. Gradually means increasing time or distance by not more than ten per cent a week. That may sound conservative but of course, that’s the whole point. If say, you’re running twenty miles a week, which includes a speed session and one long run, increase the long run by a mile and add one extra rep to your speed session. That’ll add two miles to your total. Do that for three consecutive weeks, but on the fourth cut back by two or three miles to let the body recover. The next week, go back to the ten per cent rule again for another three weeks – and so on.
I have run with many runners, usually easy to steady pace runs, that’s between 65 to 75% effort, watching running style, breathing, posture and cadence. These four are easy to work on, but without exception, the problem has been - SLOW DOWN. Sure, we can all run fast, but let’s save that for speed sessions. Remember, when you’re training for a marathon or a half, 80 % of your running will be at easy to steady pace. That means, you can hold a conversation while you’re running. Think about it and hurry slowly - take time to build. Listen to your body.