The American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation estimates that over 70% of runners will get injured during training. Poor running mechanics, in conjunction with insignificant recovery time, can pose a significant injury risk. While there is no magic one-size-fits-all training formula, there are key elements in any training plan that can get you to the start line both injury free and in peak physical condition. Austin, Texas- based Coach and Physical Therapist, Allan Besselink, PT, Dip. MDT, refers to this style of training as “Recovery Centered Training,” where recovery and adaption is equally important to the performance equation as the physical training.
Three Key Elements to a Recovery Centered Training Plan
1. Well Constructed and Organized Training Stimulus
There’s no debate that there is no substitute for sport specific training. If you are registered for a marathon, you have to run! Running is the stimulus that will build the physical and mental capacity to do the race. The amount of stimulus differs based on your race distance and coaching philosophies, but generally includes some interval and speed work done faster than your race goal, as well as mileage done at your intended race pace. For this reason, it is vital to work with a coach to set a feasible goal time by doing some benchmark testing, such as a short time trial run. Time trials and previous race times help determine feasible future goals. If, however, you are new to running and your goal is to “just finish,” it’s best to set smaller process-oriented goals such as, “Tomorrow I will run 10 consecutive minutes.” Start your plan from where you are now. A goal that is too lofty will lead to overreaching, frustration, and injury, whereas, a feasible goal time will be challenging, yet attainable. Training plans vary in length and intensity because no two athletes start from the same spot. However, a good training plan should be well-organized and adaptable to individual goals. Besselink warns against overdoing it on the mileage and training stress. “More is not always better,” he stresses. “Training is just a stimulus. The real adaptation and fitness gains come when you are recovering.” Therefore, successful training plans should always include recovery and injury prevention work.
Indeed, in order to have a successful, injury-free race, you have to make it to the start line feeling good and not over-stressed! Recovery days are crucial to any successful training plan. Unfortunately, a lot of athletes have adopted the “injury is just part of the sport” mentality. Besselink recommends a better balance between training and recovery and encourages no more than two to three training days without a recovery day. Just like running intervals provide a training stimulus for performance, recovery provides the proper atmosphere for adaptation of that stimulus.
3. Create A Recovery Friendly Environment
This key element in a successful run plan is more subjective and individual. Your coach may type “Recovery Day” on your calendar, but that doesn’t necessarily mean lying on the couch eating potato chips. (OK- it may mean couch time without the chips). Ask yourself, “In what ways can I create an environment that will maximize my training, recovery, and adaption?” Promoting the best environment for success involves many aspects, both tangible and intangible, and includes things like: strength training to improve form, functional movement sessions to promote proper run mechanics, eating nutrient-dense foods that promote recovery, getting adequate sleep, turning off the social media pressures of what everyone else is doing, visualization, reading a good book, etc.
A good coach can construct your dream race plan, but you add “the decorations.” Are you honoring your body and giving it a chance to function at its peak? Is your family and work life in balance with your training? Are you fostering a healthy lifestyle outside of running? When you do so, peak performance becomes a byproduct of the environment you create.
In essence, the rules that drive a winning physical performance should also be the same set of rules that help to avoid injury. Set feasible goals, develop challenging (and organized) training stimulus, allow for plenty of recovery in the plan to foster adaption, and create an environment in your life to foster the balance.
Here’s to a successful and injury free run reason!