Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Real World Running Rehab

by Gordo Byrn

After two running injuries last fall, I asked our team doc, Jeff Shilt, for a running rehab program. He shared his elite athlete rehab protocol, it was an excellent program:

  • Drills
  • Functional strength
  • Flexibility
  • PowerCranks
  • Gradual ramp of load and intensity

Considering the time commitment required for Jeff's program, I knew there was zero chance that I'd be able to execute it. Rather than fail, I searched for an alternative plan.

So I asked Jeff, “What is the minimum running load to derive a structural benefit?” He wasn't sure so I pulled 20 minutes out of the air.

Knowing that it takes me four to six weeks to injure myself I gave myself a target that would take at least three months.

My plan was to insert 20 minutes of slow running with excellent technique. I would handle my aerobic fitness via bike training. I would handle my strength training in the gym.

Over 12 weeks, I managed 50 easy sessions of 20 minutes. I ran mostly on a treadmill with a 1% grade and max speed of 10 minutes per mile. My rehab speed was more than three minutes per mile slower than what I can deliver in a 70.3 race. While I have always been willing to run slow to achieve my goals, my previous goals were closer to 100 mile weeks than quarters!

The 50x20 protocol seems to have worked and my next phase is five-mile runs every other day for 12 weeks. I continue to run slow but have increased my pace cap to eight minutes per mile. I'm off the treadmill and happy to be back outside.

Phase two will take me to June when I'll shift back to two-mile maintenance runs while I prepare for the Leadville Trail 100 bike.

As an aside, I'm applying the 20-minute target with my reintroduction of swimming. It is early days and a typical workout looks like:

  1. 500 easy with pull buoy
  2. 4x alternate 100 IM no gear with 75 Choice with pull buoy

I managed to keep my large muscle swim strength in the gym but suspect that my little muscles, particularly around my scapula, have atrophied.

Like most of us, my athletic memories and prejudices can cause me to injure myself. I feel lucky to have the opportunity to experiment with slow and steady rehab. I came very close to quitting running and am glad I kept trying to come back.

When more stops working, remember to try less.


Gordo is the founder of Endurance Corner. You can find his personal blog at coachgordo.wordpress.com.

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