By: Dr. Patrick O’Brien
New Year, New Runners!
Now is the time of year where we are starting to chase our goals we have set for the new year. Here we are a few weeks into the year, and maybe you have resolved to begin running. Some people have a background in running from years gone by, but others are truly new to the sport. If you are new to the sport, welcome! If you are coming back after a long hiatus, for whatever reason, welcome back! Today I’m going to focus on the new kids on the block.
There is an endless supply of information on the internet these days regarding mileage and increasing your mileage safely, but if you search long enough you’ll find a common thread in the “10% rule”. This is a gold standard of sorts for increasing your running volume that says you shouldn’t increase your weekly mileage by more than 10% per week. This rule really doesn’t work for most people, and if you are a beginner it is even less useful.
If you just started running, my suggestion is to limit your running to 3 days a week and really you shouldn’t be going over 4-5 miles for your longer runs, and your longer run should only be one of your runs for the week. You also aren’t going to tolerate increasing your mileage every week, you should wait until you have been consistently running 3 days a week for a month to six weeks before increasing your mileage at all. If you are running more than this as a beginner, you are putting yourself at greater risk for injury.
Even for seasoned runners, running more than 4 days a week technically increases your risk of injury significantly. As a Physical Therapist, I get uncomfortable with my patients running 5 days a week. For most runners, the risk is not worth the reward.
The days that you are not running, consider adding strength training, yoga, cycling, or swimming. Strength training is easily one of the most overlooked aspects of running by even the most experienced runners. Aside from making you a better runner, the injury prevention benefits from strength training are significant.
Make sure you are also listening to your body. If your legs are sore after a harder or longer workout, that’s okay. If you have pain or soreness that is persisting for days that’s a good sign you are either injured or on the verge of injury. I often reference this as “pain from running versus running pain”. “Pain from running” can be the result of a harder speed workout, a long run that is longer than you have done before, or a combination of the two. It’s merely soreness. You’ll likely feel better if you do an easy run or aerobic workout. “Running pain” is pain that either gets worse as you continue running, pain and soreness that presents after an easy workout, pain that persists multiple days, pain that you notice consistently throughout the day, or even pain that wakes you at night. These are often signs that there is something more going on and you should see a medical professional for proper treatment.
Experienced runners will tell you that the sooner you seek treatment, the faster you will recover. Don’t ignore your pain. Any version of pain that changes your running gait or increases as you run is a sign to stop.
The good news is, you don’t have to worry about that, because you are going to be a good beginner and limit your running to 3 days a week and incorporate plenty of strength training. Welcome to the world of running! We are glad you came along to get crazy with us. You’re probably saying “I’ll never run a marathon/half marathon! That’s too far for me!” My guess is I’ll see you at the starting line of one of our marathons in the next few years.