Elite triathlete David Dew discusses his personal experience in returning to training, specifically running, following significant injury. Follow David’s Instagram profile here and Twitter profile here.
The Return to Running
The disappointing truth is that progress usually happens slower than you would like it to, and always at different speeds for different people. Starting pretty much from scratch after my knee injury gave me a good chance, with Ryan Spencer’s help at Pyramid Performance & Health (…okay it was mainly Ryan), to understand my base level and how quickly we could ramp it back up.
If you’re coming back from an injury or just starting out, probably the most important thing to realise is that any improvements will happen under different conditions for everyone, that’s why the best thing you can do is ignore how much everyone else is doing and just stick to what is working for you. If you’re running 2-3 times a week and making progress, why would you add a 4th run?
My injury was initially caused by impact, so during my treatment over the winter we needed to minimise that. During my first round of shock-wave therapy it was zero running, during my second it was aqua jogging in a waist deep pool. Then finally, just after New Year, I was allowed to run outside again…and wow it was terrible. Don’t get me wrong it was awesome to get out on the roads and I was so excited to be running again, but that’s when I started to realise that it was going to be a pretty low starting point and probably a slow climb back to where I had been. I managed 15 minutes at nearly 2min/km slower than my easy runs used to be and I felt like I was learning the movement patterns for the first time.
We’d been working on a lot of run specific strength and control, so I was in a lot better shape that I should have been after no running since September, but my gait felt really alien. The first block of training was still light on running, and the only focus was on being conservative with adding volume. Pace was just whatever felt comfortable. I don’t want to sound over dramatic; my running was pretty slow for a long time and still isn’t back where I’d like it but I became comfortable again within probably a week of 3 easy runs.
With a couple of weeks of steady running under my belt we did a running gait analysis, and then a lactate threshold test, both at Pyramid Performance & Health in Nottinghamshire. The gait analysis was great; I’ve now got the right shoes for me (Brooks Ravenna) and a new focus on a slightly higher cadence. The high cadence took a while to get used to but now feels awesome and gives me something to focus on when I’m getting tired.
The lactate threshold test was without a doubt the most useful thing I’ve ever done for my running. First of all, it made sure my ego was fully in check, no longer could I go out and hammer my intervals as fast as I could while tricking myself into believing that they were at race pace. Second of all, I am a bit of a slave to the numbers, so to have a definite pace to run at that would improve my threshold pace was pretty exciting.
To begin with the new paces were pretty tough to stick to, but this ‘new’ approach to interval training and threshold runs really made sense the more I got into it. I started running my work intervals sub-threshold and my recovery intervals at an aerobic pace. It’s the kind of workout where you feel great for the first repeat or two and then it starts to bite a bit. The main thing is that it seems way more sustainable.
I’ve made some good progress doing all of this under Ryan’s guidance so it’s easy for me to tell you not to worry, look after your legs, allow for enough recovery and ultimately be consistent; but that’s really all it takes. Accumulate as much time sub-threshold as you can (about 20-40% of your total running is a good target), build it slowly and consistently over many months and you will make progress. It’s not physically easy to do but it shouldn’t be complicated either. There are no magic sessions, it just takes time and desire.
I’m now feeling fitter than ever and I’m excited for the IRONMAN 70.3 events I’m racing this year.
This guest post is by David Dew, elite triathlete and ambassador for Pyramid Performance & Health. David is also supported by Sundried. Check out his Instagram and Twitter pages for training tips and progress updates.