How to Build Endurance For Long Runs While in Rehab
as posted on Runner’s World
Combo Endurance Workouts
Run the distance you can complete safely and without pain (ie. 10 miles), and then cycle or elliptical for the time it would take you to run the planned miles on your schedule. For instance, if you are supposed to run 14 miles and you run at a 10-minute pace, you’d run 10 miles, then ride, elliptical, or aqua jog for an additional 40 minutes for a total of 1:40 for the day. Perform the cross-training at an easy to moderate effort (not hard). Although cross-training isn’t the same as running, combining the modes of exercise will help you develop endurance so when you can increase the mileage, you’ll have the fitness base to do so.
Pick Your Terrain Wisely
When possible, run on more forgiving terrain like a track, groomed path, or trails. Doing so will reduce the impact forces on your body, avoid the off-setting camber often found on roads, and may help aid in the recovery process. It’s also wise to stick with flat terrain for now since hills can sometimes aggravate hip issues. Once you build back up to running symptom-free, begin to add hills back into your regimen.
Step it Up
With permission from your physical therapist, weave in stair climbing into your cross-training regimen. The climbing motion is an effective low-impact way to build glute and leg strength as well as train at a higher intensity to maintain or improve fitness. A little stair climbing goes a long way at first, so keep the duration to just 20-30 minutes so you can avoid blowing out your calves. You can climb on stair mills at the gym or on real stairs; either way, focus on walking up, placing your entire foot on each stair and pushing through your heels to activate the glutes. Stairs are such a powerful cross-training tool for runners–you may never want to stop!
Run and Walk
Another effective way to reduce the impact forces on your body in the long run is to use run-walk intervals. Specifically, run for 4-5 minutes and walk for one minute repeatedly for the long run duration. Although it may seem like this method would add more time to your runs, you may be surprised to find that you are able to hold a pace not far off of your normal long run pace. Plus, you can begin to experiment with the run-walk ratio that is best for you–for some, it may be a 3/1 and for others, it could be walking a minute every mile.
The key is to explore the strategy to see if it allows you to build the time on your feet symptom-free. If it does lend relief, you can build up the long run distance (12, 13, 14, 16 miles…), and when you cut back the distance for a recovery week, run at a higher interval (more running, less walking) or run the entire workout. For example, you could run 10 miles one week, then the following week, run-walk a longer run, say 11 or 12 miles. That way, you could continue to build endurance and time on your feet with a lower impact run-walk strategy, while maintaining a base of consistent running as well.
Although your training is modified, be mindful of the lessons that come along with this journey because sometimes our weakest spots lead us to our greatest feats.