cutting frequency vs long runs (Read 1001 times)


    My wife (pretty new runner) is training for her first half in about 6 weeks.  She injured her IT band a few weeks back and has been having some hip and knee troubles because of it, so she went to see a physical therapist the other day.  The PT checked it out and advised against doing the half, but didn't think that it would cause any serious long-term problems to go ahead with it (which my wife wants to do).  However, as a damage control measure, the PT advised a lot of cross-training, cutting total mileage, and mostly just doing the runs needed to complete the half.  The way I interpreted the latter advice (second-hand, since I wasn't there) was basically cutting the shorter runs but keeping in the longer ones to get ready to cover the distance.


    However, my immediate reaction was to give pretty much the opposite advice -- cut/reduce some of the longer runs and focus on the regular, short, low-impact runs.  I figured that the pounding of longer runs was likely to aggravate things more than multiple shorter runs, and so the best tradeoff between training and injury avoidance was de-emphasizing the longer stuff.  My wife's been doing regular 3-5 milers with a longer run of 7-10 so far.  What do people think?  We're not particularly concerned about the final time, just completing the half as injury-free as possible.


    MTA: The PT seemed pretty competent overall but didn't appear to have any running background herself.

      If she ran a 10 already she can complete the half.

        I've only entered two half marathons in my life. And one got cut to 9.55 miles because of weather. So take what I say with a grain of salt.  But I am familiar with the IT band injury.


        My approach would be to go a by feel. If longer distance is bothering her the most that is what probably she needs to cut down on. If it's frequency then I would trim down on that. That said. I wouldn't enter a half marathon if I hadn't run a 10 miler in a month. Especially injured there is something said to have the confidence that you can complete the distance before deciding to run it. At bare minimum I think she should try to complete two runs of 10 miles before attempting to run a half marathon injured.


        Without knowing how many MPW your wife has been running my personal approach would be to run 5 days a week. But ease off the mileage and intensity.  If the IT band won't let her I'd possibly consider cross training one day a week on a bike and running 4 days.  In terms of long runs I'd say she should try 10 this week if she is up to it. Maybe cut back to 8 next week and then try 12 the next week. (the idea being that 12 is a legit distance and should give her the confidence that she can finish. Also if 12 aggravates the IT band, it gives her a chance to recover and evaluate if she still wants to run it. After that I'd start to taper. Maybe just do one more long run of 8-10 miles. 

        Fall  2013 Goals: Doable sub 22:00 5k; Challenging Sub 21:00 5k; Unlikely Sub 20:00 5k.

          I would actually agree with your PT.  Often people who argue one long run vs. two shorter runs (per day) would tell you that, with 2 shorter runs, you can run them faster.  Well, it MAY work for someone who's training a mile or maybe 5k (though they would still need long runs because some developments can only be achieved with the DURATION of the exercise, not the intensity), but what would someone who's training for a half marathon and up?  Muscular endurance and the ability to take poundings.  For that, you just cannot achieve what you can achieve with one long run of, say, 90-minutes or more than, say, 20-minutes run even if you do it 3 times a day.  


          Besides, depending on the degree of her injury, most "injuries" would ease up once your body is warmed up (not always).  You'll take the first 10-15 minutes as a warm-up so that means, you'd be doing a full-flight workout in your 90-minutes running a segment of 75-80 minutes; whereas, you'd be spending the first 10-minutes to warm up every time you go for a short run so, if you decide to do 3 X 20-minutes, your actual "workout" would only be 3 X 10-minutes.  


          That said, if you CAN run more often, it would be better to fill in other days with shorter EASIER runs.  This seems to be a concept even majority of PTs can't seem to understand; apparently, if you jog nice and easily, your white blood cell level shoots up a lot more than when you don't do anything at all.  In other words, you'll be RECOVERING BETTER if you do some easy jogging than not doing anything at all.  


          And all these being said, as Justin had said, she should still go by how she feels.  Bottom line; if the pain stays on throughout the run, or if the pain gets worse as she continues, she should stop.  As a matter of fact, I would have to agree with your PT on this as well--if she's injured and she only has 6-weeks to go, she really shouldn't try to run through it.  It ain't no shame to pass it.

            I mostly lurk rather than post but since I also had IT band issues when I was a fairly new runner I thought I would share my experience.  I started running in Oct 2010, did my first half in Dec 2010 and second one in Mar 2011.  Developed IT band issues after a 12K in mid-May 2011.  I had halves in early June and late July that year which I didn't want to skip, so I continued training.  Not sure if it's the best approach or not (especially since it's her first half and my problems didn't come up until I had a couple under my belt) but I backed off on long runs; except for one 10K and the two halves, I didn't do any runs over 5 miles (and most were 2-3 miles) from mid-May through the end of August (when IT band problem had gone away). I also kept things slow, no speed work. 


            In the early June race (2 or 3 wks after IT band issues started), I ran slow for the first ~6 miles, then started feeling a few twinges so I started alternating walk-run for the next few miles, then around mile 9 the IT band was getting bad so I ended up walking the last ~4 miles of the race (some of it in quite a lot of pain).  I think I took a few days off afterwards, then got back to the short slow runs.  End of July rolls around and I knew the IT band was improving but still not fixed.  I went out fairly slow again (although not too slow, because there was a course time limit so they could open the Golden Gate bridge back up to traffic), did fine until I hit a downhill stretch around mile 9-10; IT band started twinging a bit at mile 11 and I decided not to take chances so walked the rest of the way (no major pain like the June half though)


            Other things I did--elliptical machine didn't bother the IT band, and since the motion was similar to running I figured it made a good low-impact substitute.  So I did a lot of that in addition to running.  I also got a bike in June and did some biking which I'm sure also helped keep me in shape.  I also did a lot of walking--I knew I couldn't go out there and run for 2 hrs, but walking didn't bother it (unless I'd aggravated it by running first) so I did quite a few long walks with my dogs just to get the time on my feet.  I also started getting regular massages, and foam rolled my leg every night as well as doing stretches.   I am still paranoid that the IT band problems might come back so I still foam roll after all my runs even though it's been a year since the IT problems went away.


            Long story short--it would probably be better for her in the long run if she skipped this half and planned for another one a little farther out that would give her time to heal up (I suspect my IT band problems probably would have gotten better sooner if I would have rested more rather than keeping up with my race schedule).  Especially since it's her first race, it would be nice if it could be a positive experience rather than having to slog through pain through a good chunk of it which is what will likely happen if she does this one either with a problematic IT band or inadequate training (or both).  I had already totally gotten hooked on running by the point I had problems so pushing through some pain really didn't affect how I felt about running, but I think if I'd had problems like that in my first half I might have never done another one.  But if she does insist on running it, I'd make sure she's doing the stretching/massaging, and be prepared to run slow and take walk breaks during the race.


              I've been battling IT issues since last December where they were pretty bad and took several days to be able to walk without pain.  Since then I've alternated between 2 and 3 days of training a week.  It seems the only way I can keep from getting a bad flare up is to have plenty of rest between runs(and time for inflammation to go down).  A 2 run week for me has a fast tempo run of 4 to 6miles on Wed. and a long run of 8 to 12miles on Sat.

              A 3 run week will have a slower tempo of 4 to 6miles on Mon. or Tues. with a couple miles of speed work on Thurs. and finally a long run of 8 to 12miles again on Sat.  Many times a I'll just stick with 2 run weeks for a few weeks and then throw in a 3rd run here or there.


              I've also noticed that running slower aggravates my IT even worse.  My long runs are typically only 30-40 seconds per mile slower than goal pace(half marathon) while my tempos are actually 30 seconds or so faster than race pace.  If I go too slow on a long run my IT will tighten up by mile 7 or 8.

              I'm big on fewer miles and higher intensity...


              It seems to be working ok for me as I just cut another 2:22 off my half PR to get me down to 1:35:27.  My IT felt fine during the race, but the rest of the day it was pretty tender.  That's the furthest I'd run since the IT issues started, so I guess as long as it doesn't act up during the races I'll be ok.


              Not sure if any of that info. will help, but it's how I've gotten through the IT stuff.

                FWIW, what I've found is my body likes more time to heal between running days, esp. if I've got some sort of issue. I kinda compare it with setting glue (or whatever) - come back and wiggle it too soon and it never sets (may flare again); give it time to set and heal and it gets strong (if I give it a chance).  All within moderation.


                In general, I do like running longer since I can get further away from the trailhead and run more diverse terrain and avoids having to get changed twice, drive to trailhead, etc. It's just more efficient timewise - at least for me.


                My progression when I started was 3 days a week, then every other day, then 4 days (when I could manage b2b days), then 2 day on / 1 day off (4/5 days/ wk). That seems to work best for me on a sustainable basis for volume and quality.  My first try at 5 days/wk (for a couple months) resulted in lower volume AND lower quality, so I went back to what had been working. About a year or so later, I tried 5 days again, and it worked better. Some of the working or not has to do with snow conditions (soft snow is hard to run in and very fatiguing for me; packed snow is almost like dirt). I have done 5 days/wk when following a schedule (and no ROL interruptions), and I have done close to 10 days in a row of running (do a little today since its' supposed to be worse tomorrow, and you just inch along for a week or so, not really accomplishing anything other than getting outside in some air).


                Time to heal is critical.


                I'm also assuming your wife's PT gave her some treatments or exercises to fix the thing so it doesn't reoccur. That's also critical to getting beyond this point for her.

                "So many people get stuck in the routine of life that their dreams waste away. This is about living the dream." - Cave Dog