Thirsty (for knowledge) Thursday: Over-Training as Injury Prevention?

>> Thursday, June 07, 2018

If you’re like me (I mean, let’s hope you’re NOT, but stay with me here), you have a collection of old running magazines that circulate their way around the house, ending up in your bathroom for reading while on the crapper. AKA: hiding from your 4-year-old for a moment of peace. I was recently just glancing through the June 2016 issue of “Runner’s World” magazine for probably the 80th time, and I came across an article talking about overtraining.

Quite often, I wonder if I’m overtraining. It’s not uncommon for me to have stretches of swim/bike/run that go on for weeks without a true “rest day.” But I’ve also not had any “traditional” runner’s injuries for a few years now. This article in RW might be on to something.

The title of this post might be a bit misleading, but the author writes about a study that shows having a regular increased training load may act as a “vaccine” for injuries:

You've all heard the warnings: run too much and you'll get hurt. But according to a new editorial in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, this dogma may may not tell the whole story. The authors looked at injury patterns in several sports and concluded that undertraining puts athletes at just as much risk as overdoing it, while training hard can ultimately serve as a “vaccine” against injury. “Yes, overtraining can cause injuries,” says lead author Tim Gabbett, Ph.D., a sport scientist with Australian Catholic University. “But if you progressively find your way to higher training loads, it can actually protect you.”

Boston-based coach and founder/CEO of RunnersConnect Jeff Gaudette says he often sees runners struggling to find the “sweet spot” between undertraining and overtraining: “Beginners ramp up too fast,” he says, “whereas experienced runners are so scared of over-training they often fail to get to a level they can probably handle.”

I totally hear that last point of Gaudette: I've talked to so many "beginner" (or "getting back into it") runners who just start throwing in miles like CRAZY. And after working with a coach a number of years back, I know that I can fall into that last category of being scared to over-train that I back off a bit.

So that was the most interesting part of the article to me: that sustained "overtraining" COULD actually help keep you injury free. The article goes on to share 3 tips based on your goal. Here's me paraphrasing:

If your goal is ENDURANCE, don't boost miles too fast. Build for 3 weeks, then back off for 1. Weekly runs should include a LSD run of 90+ minutes. After getting comfortable with that, change an easy run each week to a tempo run. Do that for a month, then change another.

If your goal is SPEED, your heart and lungs will be ready for more sooner than your (heavy) legs. Start with hill work: once a week, run uphill for 20 sec, walk downhill, and repeat 6-8x. After a few weeks, throw in some strides after that workout. Add some 20 sec pick-ups in at the end of medium distance days. After a month or so, swap out the hill workout for a track workout: descending distance while building speed (600 yards at 5K pace, then 400 faster, then 200 faster - jog 90 sec between, and do these 3 reps two or three times). Finish every interval session feeling like you could have done one more or risk getting hurt.

If your goal is WEIGHT LOSS, be realistic about how much you burn during your runs and don't overeat/overcompensate. Mix things up: once a week, go for an easy run of less than an hour before breakfast to "prompt your carb-starved body to burn fat."

For more "Thirsty Thursday" posts that highlight workouts, body science, and all kinds of interesting information, CLICK HERE. As always, back with some "Friday Funnies" tomorrow.

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