The 5 Steps to Bulletproof your long distance running
Cadence is key! If you do some research you might find the pro’s typically aim for the 180 steps per minute goal. In reality anywhere from 170-190 steps per minute is also fine. The reason is, at these numbers time on weight bearing per stride is reduced thereby reducing risk of stress fractures or other overload injuries. Too low a number and the forces go up dramatically, too high a number and you lose power generated to go faster as optimal running stride is reduced (fast steps mean short steps must occur leading to inability to drive through glutei and hamstrings).
Smart length progressions over time for your long runs is crucial to reduce injury risk. A good figure of 5-10% increases in length per week is safe enough for the body to adapt to the ever increasing loads placed upon it. For example your goal might be to run a half marathon but you believe you can only run 5km initially. A good weekly increase of 500m for the first 10 weeks is more than safe to reduce any stress fracture or tendon overload pathologies. Once 10km is achieved a trial of 1km increments can be trialled safely while maintain the same place you started with.
Go slow to go fast! Let’s face it, most of us have the goal of just completing there first half or full marathon let along breaking the 2hr world record recently completed by Eliud Kipchoge unofficially. If you try to maintain high intensities over long periods of running you will most certainly get injured as a beginner runner. Basically the pace you should aim for is a speed where you can jog and hold a conversation. In heart rate terms you looking at zone 2 at 60-70% HRMax (more on zones in the future).
Change up the surfaces you run on and types of runs you do. Performing a movement that is the predominantly the same over long distances mean the body will only load certain parts of the body all the time. Not only can this bore you but this will increase the risk of injury depending on the amount of running your doing. To combat this change it up! Run on differing surfaces of trails, grass, dirt and road while completing 3 different runs per week i.e. 1. Long slow run 2. Tempo runs 80-90% MaxHR eg. 3x5min at tempo with 2min jog between sets 3. Speed runs- 5x 400m fast with 3min rest between reps. (note these sessions are suitable for a beginner).
Foots strike using mid-forefoot is most optimal at 1- absorbing ground reaction forces and 2- producing efficient power production through the elastic recoil of your calves and Achilles. Thats not to say heel striking is bad, in my time as a health professional the amateur athletes that have used this running technique have come in with the injuries from poor loading strategies. The challenge with this strategy is if the timing isn’t right then the foot/ankle complex cannot absorb loads as well as the mid foot strategy.
If you are unsure where you are at and would like a full assessment come on in to the Your Body Physio Clinic.