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Life Time Endurance Coaches
home | All Articles | Stress Free Return to Running

Stress Free Return to Running
by Valerie Gattis

Interestingly enough, in my 12 years of coaching, I have had a number of athletes come to me injured looking for a way to not only heal, but get ready for an upcoming event. And that event is always sooner rather than later! In my coaching experience, injuries have included a broken foot, subtalar Inflammation, stress fractures, debilitating shin splints, back surgery, etc. and for each of these I researched various approaches to recovery and have found success in the below protocols: one from a Canadian Triathlon Sport Medicine Clinic and the other from the University of Wisconsin Physical Therapy Center. The hardest element of coaching an injured athlete back to health is his/her own "head". They need to be re-assured that the end of injury and the beginning of their season are in sight.

Reasons for injury or inflammation:
Increased quantity of training, "poor" athletic equipment (check out the shoes, the camber in road, etc.), undertaking a new activity, changes in training environment (non-absorptive surfaces)

Because the healing process requires time, this does not mean athletes needs to avoid activity. Eliminate high impact training in the short term with gradual return to regular training activities.

Deep Water Running and Shallow Water Running:
These alternatives can be done to help maintain strength and cardiovascular fitness while you heal.
Try this for the next 4 -5 weeks...

A few important notes before beginning: In water, one's stride rate will be slower than on land due to increase resistance of moving through the water. Do not worry about this because there still is going to be positive stress the cardiovascular system while reducing stress to injury. While running in deep water, one may actually move forward and end up running laps in the pool, especially if the torso is angled forward. This is fine, but if space is limited, maintain an upright position by utilizing the trunk muscle. This will result in little or no forward movement.

The temperature of the waste will affect the heart rate. Generally, heart rates are 10% lower during water running than on land. This is due in part to the cooling effect of the water., but it is primarily due to the pressure of the water on the body, causing more blood to return to the heart so that more blood is pumped out f the hear with each beat.

Phase I -- Deep Water
Phase II -- Incorporating Shallow Water Running
Phase III - Shallow Water Running but Keeping Deep Water for Cardiovascular Fitness; Begin elliptical, treadmill.
Phase IV -- Maximally load body in shallow water. High Impact Activities smooth transition from water to land…

Notes: Cross Training Activities: cycling, stair climber, elliptical, rower, versa climber = lower impact machines
1:4:1 Progression: 1 min hard, 1 minute easy. 2 min hard, 1 minute easy; 3 min hard, 1 min easy,4 min hard, 1 min easy; 3 min hard, 1 min easy, 2 min hard, 1 min easy; 1 min hard, 1 min easy. (Canadian Triathlon Federation Resource)

Return -- to --Running Program (University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics Physical Therapy Division)

The following is a guide given to me by my physical therapists….return to continuous running follow in jury. It should be started once one is able to walk 30 min consecutively without pain/injury. If pain should return with running, you may continue as long as:

1) The pain is not sharp
2) the pain lessens or remains unchanged as the running sessions continues
3) the presence of pain does not alter your normal pattern of motion (no limping)

Begin each session with a warm-up consisting of a 2-5 minutes brisk walk followed by your specific stretching exercise. Perform the appropriate walk/run combination based on the table below. Be sure to follow the walk/run with your stretching exercise.

Week 1: Day 1: 6x: walk -- 4.5 min/run -- 0.5 min. Day 2: 6 x: walk -- 4.0 min/ run -1.0 min Day 3; 6 x walk -- 3.5 min/ run -- 1.5 min

Week 2: Day 1: 6x: walk - 3.0 min /run - 2.0 min Day 2: 6 x walk - 2.5 min/ run - 2.5 min Day 3: 6 x walk - 2.0 min/ run - 3.0 min

Week 3: Day 1: 6 x walk 1.5 min/ run - 3.5 min Day 2: 6 x walk 1.0 min/ run - 4.0 min Day 3: 6 x walk 0.5 min/ run - 4.5 min

Week 4: Day 1: run 30 min Day 2; run 30 min Day 3: run 30 min

Upon completing week 4, resume a gradual transition back to continuous running following 2-5 minutes of warm-up and stretching. As you return to your pre-injury running level, training duration or intensity should be increased by no more that 10% per week to minimize risk of injury recurrence. Be sure to continue a stretching program in concert with your running.

Valerie Gattis is a Triathlon Academy Coach.

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