There is so much information out there on how to come back from injury. We have all heard it. Build 5% each week, start with slower training and gradually introduce the faster stuff. However, there are so many other times of transition in our lives and as summer approaches, I believe this is a time for caution. For haven’t we all at some stage said to ourselves, ‘Summer is here! It is time to finish up work for a while, whip out the toys and get fit!’
I know that I used to have it in my head that as soon as university exams were done and dusted I would be able to throw myself head first into heavy training to 'get back to where I want or need to be'. This thought process spells danger and I fell into the trap many times.
The first problem is that many of us lead a more sedentary lifestyle and our body may have become used to sitting down a lot. Suddenly bouncing up and spending time on your feet, added to a training load can come at the price of injury or illness.
Secondly, you need to think about how much you have been doing and slowly ease yourself into heavier training. Perhaps give yourself 1-2 weeks of slowly building up the training. If you are unsure how to do this, maybe the first week should just be about slow volume. Go for runs, some long and some short, some with friends and some on your own. Add in some strength and easy cross training, all at a talking pace. Then, in the second week, I would start to add in some gentle intensity in your training. Opt for longer, slightly slower repetitions over shorter & faster ones. Some example sessions that can get you started are:
- 2x10min repetitions at around 10km pace (or what I would call ‘uncomfortably-comfortable pace)
- 8/6/4min effort with 1-2min jog recoveries between each
- 15-30min tempo run at a solid but 'just-can-talk' pace
- Some harder cross training like mountain biking or swimming
- 3-4x5min efforts with 1-2min jog recoveries at 3-5km effort
These sessions are still aerobic sessions and will prep the body. Don't forget to keep up the strength training and focus lots on activating the core and glute (bottom) muscles to support your hips & running form.
For those who feel prone to niggles or injury, one of the best things that I have been recently introduced to by my NZ coach, James Kuegler of Cadence Coaching, is water running, preferably in the ocean or sea water. Here is what I do (at least 3 times per week at the moment as I return from injury):
- Wade into the ocean up to your thighs (harder) or waist (easier). Start running parallel to the beach so you are always at the same depth.
- As you run, try to think about your feet landing directly under or even behind your center of gravity. Also think about extending each leg out behind you (using your hamstrings) and that the power is coming from your glutes (bum) muscles and not your quads (thigh) muscles.
- I normally do my ocean runs at an easier intensity but you can start to add in great interval sessions too (see above for ideas).
It may be important to wear shoes and socks in the ocean when you do this as I normally find my feet become burnt by the friction of the sand. You can also wear a wetsuit or thermal top.
In summary, avoid the pitfalls of being too excited about summer. Remember, it is a wonderful season but should not always be viewed as a boot camp. My challenge to you is this: Get yourself fit without taking risks. Learn to train smart and in a way that you can sustain most of the year despite how busy your life can become. If you do, the results will take care of themselves.