Spring Fling! How to Return to Running After the Quarantine and WFH!


Spring is approaching It’s been one whole year since COVID turned our lives upside down. In the beginning, it was so stressful to do anything because we didn’t know what was “right or wrong.” Now, one of the safest ways to enjoy your time is to be outdoors. And what better time than the Spring! Flowers are blooming, the birds are chirping and the weather is starting to warm up. Perfect for getting into some outdoor activities and working on your fitness goals!

It happens every year, once the weather starts to warm up, people dust off their running shoes and start to hit the pavement. And, every year, this is when we start to see more running related injuries—achilles pain, foot pain, runners knee and hip bursitis. As New Yorkers, we’re always very eager to go out there and give it our all, but sometimes that’s not the best approach. This blog is to help anyone who wants to get themselves into running, or for runners to use as a guide to ease themselves back in. Just like cooking, sometimes low and slow yields the best results!

Just like any other activity, we want to give ourselves and our body a chance to acclimate to the stress we put on it. During a run, we place 1.5 – 3Xs our body weight into our legs with every step. Over the course of 1, 2, 3 or 26 miles, that is a lot of stress on our joints, ligaments and muscles. This is why we want to ease into it. It’s very easy to Google a running plan, but these plans are not specific to you, your current capacity and your goals. They can be a great starting guideline, but we always suggest tailoring the plan. Below, we’ll outline some ways that we recommend runners start off.

First, avoid running every day! In the beginning, we want to give our body a chance to learn the new stress of running and have adequate rest in between to give your body a chance to recover. Our recommendation would be to start 2 – 3 times / week with at least 24-48 hours of rest in between each run. This gives our body a chance to recover and adapt to the demands you just placed on it. As you continue to run, you’ll notice that the initial soreness or difficulty of the run will become less, and that is a good indicator that you can add additional days into your training. 

Second, rather than aiming for mileage, think about the amount of time you’re running versus the distance you’re running. Aim to start with shorter runs of about 10-15 minutes. The goal in the beginning is to just get used to the duration of activity you are doing, versus aiming for 2-3 miles and running for longer than the body can handle at the time. With a time frame, it’s also easier to manage your progress—in the beginning 10 minutes might be a struggle, but if you are consistent you’ll start to notice the run feeling easier, or logging more distance in the same amount of time. This is a good indication that you are ready to progress. Using time based running, you can also use a run:walk ratio. Depending on how novice you are, you can start with a 2 minute run and a 1 minute walk—used to offload and recover WITHIN the run. After 5 rounds, you’ve run for 10 minutes and walked for 5. This way, you can continue to progress the run part while keeping the rest part the same—3:1, 4:1, 5:1…etc. Eventually you won’t feel the need to walk at all!

Third, we always recommend starting some type of a strength training regiment when you want to ramp up your running. Strength is the currency to pay the running tolls. Like mentioned above, we are placing up to 3Xs our body weight into our legs with every step. The stronger our muscles, the more they can help absorb and attenuate the forces we place on our body. Very important to note—our cardiovascular system is going to adapt BEFORE our muscles do. It is important to know this because even though you might FEEL you can run more, your body might not be physically ready to handle the stress. Because of this people tend to push harder and can eventually land themselves in a running related injury. Just like your running, it doesn’t need to be complicated at first. Aim to add squats, lunges, and calf raises into the mix so that your hips, knees and ankles gain the strength needed to log those miles.

With all of the considerations of this blog, one of the most scientific ways to progress your running is using the Acute to Chronic Workload Ratio, by Tim Gabbett. It sounds more complicated than it is! The ACUTE work is how much you’ve run this week. The CHRONIC is how much you’ve run in the past 4 weeks. If you’ve just started, log 4 weeks of easy running using our guidelines above. This ratio is what you can use to progress your running distance week after week and avoid overdoing and leading to potential injury. Here is an example:

If you’ve been consistently running 10 miles per week for the past 4 weeks, that means that your weekly average is 10 miles. Research shows that you want your ACUTE (this week) to CHRONIC (average of 4 weeks) ratio to stay between 0.8 and 1.3 So, if you want to increase your running the following week, a distance of 11 – 13 miles would scientifically be within this acute to chronic range. Acute distance = 13, Chronic distance = 10 and 13/10 = 1.3 which is within range.

If you have any questions about running form or returning to running this Spring, please give our team of licensed physical therapists a call today at 646-875-8348. Also please feel free to email us at info@fitclubny.com and we will be more than happy to help!

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