“Since the first running boom of the 1970’s, an increasing number of runners have begun to believe that the more they train, the more successful they will be. In fact, there is a limit to the amount of training the body can benefit from.– Tim Noakes, Lore of Running (p. 291)
When I started running, I scoffed at the idea that you could actually hurt yourself by running too much. The phrase “running injury” seemed like an oxymoron. How could one injure oneself simply by running?
I went about training as I pleased. Everything seemed fine until I felt a stabbing pain underneath my kneecap. A doctor told me it was patella femoral syndrome (runner’s knee) and prescribed physical therapy. I went through the prescribed physical therapy and the pain eventually went away.
I had no idea that the pain underneath my kneecap would be the first in a long list of running injuries. I eventually suffered 2 stress fractures, IT Band syndrome, Achilles tendonitis, Morton’s neuroma, and a host of other nagging injuries.
The pattern of injury was clear: I’d start running more, I’d begin to get faster, then I’d be sidelined with an injury. After I’d recover from the injury, I’d promptly repeat the process again.
In hindsight, it seems ridiculous that I kept repeating the same process over and over, expecting different results. I began to wonder if there was another approach to getting faster that didn’t require getting injured.
A New Approach
“Only when top runners stop trying, lose interest, and train less do they again start performing to their potential. Only then, when it is too late, do they begin to understand the training threshold concept, and only then do they learn that too much training was more detrimental to their performance than too little training.” -Tim Noakes, Lore of Running p.293
Fourteen years later, I decided I’d had enough injuries and started to take a new approach to my training. Rather than following a structured training plan, I just ran what I felt like. I simply ran for the sheer joy of it. Although I was running less mileage, I was getting faster. My body was adapting to a new type of training.
I allowed myself to run very hard key workouts only 1–2 days a week; everything else was easy running. After each key workout, I’d take several days easy or not run at all. I was having fun, I was injury free, and surprisingly, I was getting faster. I started to wonder, “is it possible to get faster while reducing the amount of miles I run?
I knew I was onto something when in October of 2011, I was able to keep up just under a 6 minute per mile pace for 10 miles, running 59:59 in the Twin Cities 10 Miler. I ran the last mile of the race in 5 min 30 sec and felt like I was running on all cylinders.
Three weeks later, I ran another 10 mile race, this time maintaining a pace of 5:45 per mile for a total of 57:31, taking 2nd place overall. Four weeks after that I ran a personal best in a local 5k Turkey Trot, running 16:37, winning the race outright and setting the course record (it was a small local race after all).
I was ecstatic with my results! Within the next year I set or equalled personal bests in every distance from the 5k to Half-Marathon, ran a marathon in 2:55, and completed a trail 50k in 3:46, all while running about 25 miles per week.
I hadn’t planned on setting any personal records, but as my training progressed, I kept getting faster week-by-week. I was having fun and felt great. My goals were to be able to run a couple of times per week, avoid burnout, have fun, and run some local races. If my times improved, even better.
I stopped worrying about the getting the right mix of long runs, tempo runs, or intervals. I just ran what felt right. I started running whatever I felt was fun and gave me confidence in my running. Training typically included a weekly time trial of varying from 1 mile to 10 miles.
I was so happy with my results because I hadn’t set out to run any personal records training this way. Yet, by reducing my training mileage and focusing on staying injury free, I had been able to continue doing the activity I loved, and personal records at the same time.
Throughout this book, I am going to share with you how you can maximize your training and reduce injuries while running fewer miles. By listening to your body and focusing on specific workouts tailored to your event, you can optimize your results and stay injury free. I’ll tell you how to structure your training to get the most out of your running, and how taking a minimal approach to training can help you reduce injuries, get faster, and have more fun.
By training in a highly specific way, you’ll be able to get the most from your training. You’ll minimize your risk of injury, have more fun, have more time for other things, and maybe even set some personal records.
This isn’t a magic formula, it’s just one runner sharing his experience with other runners. I can’t guarantee success; I can only tell you what I’ve done, and how it might work for you. If you value your time and are willing to give an unconventional approach a try, you’ve picked up the right book.
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