Rule of Running Pain-Free

Posted by Helen Potter on 05 February 2018 | Filed under Blog, In Touch Physiotherapy, Stay Active, Tips

The 80/20 Rule of Running Pain-Free

Wondering what the 80/20 Rule of Running involves? Below is an excerpt from the Revised Edition of You CAN Run Pain Free!

The two most important variables in Rule of Running Pain-Free are

  1. Volume (distance run) and
  2. Intensity (how hard or fast you run).

The two variables combinein training programs for Running Pain-Free :

  1. low volume/low intensity running,
  2. high volume/low intensity running,
  3. low volume/high intensity running,
  4. high volume/high intensity running.

It is the high volume/low intensity running combination that has the most merit for helping runners to perform to their best potential. The difference between runners who realise their full running potential and those that don’t is the amount of slow running that each does.

Running Pain-Free

It’s difficult for many runners to make peace with the concept that if they want to run faster they likely need to slow down in some of their training sessions. Wanting to run faster, yet needing to slow down seems contradictory.

Top runners spend on average 80% of their total training below the ventilatory threshold (<80% of maximum heart rate). This pace is slow enough so a runner can hold a conversation.

The other 20% of training time is spent at high intensity, above the respiratory compensation threshold (the point where hyperventilation, or rapid, deep breathing occurs).

New research suggests that recreational runners improve most rapidly when they run more slowly in training more often than not. The good news is that  it is almost certain that you are doing less than 80 percent of your training at low intensity. You can improve by just slowing down!

Slow down your slow runs too enable yourself to be Running Pain-Free

Most recreational and recreational competitive runners acknowledge  they tend to run their recovery or steady runs faster than what they intended. A 50/50 approach is typical of many recreational competitive runners, 50% of training is at moderate intensity, 10% at high intensity, and 50% at low intensity.

Fitzgerald asserts that running too hard too often is the single greatest detrimental mistake in the sport of running. The problem being that running slow doesn’t come naturally to many runners.

Why your habitual pace tends to be at moderate pace

Why would a runner naturally choose to habitually train faster than what is comfortable or required? In 80/20 Running Fitzgerald cites that it is likely due to the task oriented nature of runners. That is when a runner has a ‘job to do’ they wish to get it done. Most runners think in terms of covering a distance as opposed to running for ‘x’ amount of minutes. The fastest way to get a distance based task completed (eg a 5km run) is too push hard and try and run it fast.

Fitzgerald claims that while runners want to ‘get it done’ they also have an aversion to suffering. So what ends up occurring is the runner compromises between the desire to get the workout over quickly by running at high intensity and their desire to not suffer excessively. The run ends up therefore being done at moderate intensity.

A runner’s habitual pace becomes ingrained. It becomes familiar through repetition. And for this reason a runner’s habitual running pace will be difficult to change.

Runners are generally unaware that they are running too hard when running at their habitual pace. Most runners think that they are running at low intensity (easy) when in fact they are running at moderate intensity (somewhat hard).

Running Pain-Free

Fitzgerald likens this intensity blindness to be like that of chronic sleep deprivation. If an optimal amount of hours of sleep was 8 hours per evening and you slept for 6 hours per evening, you may be able to function okay and feel alright. However, it is only when you sleep for the optimal hours per evening that you can appreciate how much better you both feel and function.

In a similar fashion runners need to experience what low intensity slow running feels like. This enables them to appreciate how their previous moderate intensity running excess was in fact limiting their performance.

RunnersRunning City to Subiaco Surf 2016

The benefits of greater running volume is the concomitant improvement in aerobic capacity, which in turn results in gains with speed sustainability (maintaining the same speed for longer distances), and running economy.

Putting 80/20 Running Pain-Free into practice

  • The acceptance of slower running occurs on two levels: in a runner’s mind and their body.
  • Breaking the habit of pushing yourself during training runs will take time-so be patient.
  • Embrace the 80/20 running mentality by accepting that it yields better results than other training methods.
  • The next run you do go slow-really slow. The run should feel effortless. Be prepared that your mind will wander and that you will want to speed up. There may exist a ‘tug of war’ between your conscious self-trying to run at a slow pace and your subconscious wanting to have you run at your moderate intensity habitual pace.
  • The next run go a little further at slow pace, and repeat this with each run.
  • Repeat the above for an entire training week. This will prepare you for 80/20 training by resetting your habitual pace. Be prepared that you will realise just how your easy paced runs were at a higher intensity than what you perceive.
  • By the end of the week of slow running you should feel that slow running is more natural than on the first day.

Physio With a Finish Line™     modified by Helen Potter FACP 05/02/18

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