Returning to the treadmill
February 2, 2016 11:29 AM   Subscribe

Running again after six months off. Last weekly totals were in the 25 mile range. Can I start again at 10? Details follow.

As has been my tradition, I am returning to running the first week in February. I've done this on and off for about four years.

I stopped running in August after some sort of injury, don't recall what, could be any number of things, see below.

I run barefoot on a treadmill.

I am a 50 year old man with no family history of heart issues, HWP (no really). However, I have a form of early-onset arthritis which likely impacts joint resilience. This arthritis is the primary reason I took up running, as a means to provide stressors to the joints.

In the four years I have been running, I have experienced any number of running-related minor issues, from tendinosis to baker's cysts to some sort of Achilles inflammation. My primary arthritic site is my right hip; the kind of arthritis I have is within the constellation of symptoms that HLA-B27-positive folks have and is likely to become quite serious as I age.

I really want to restart at a higher weekly number than I have in the past, primarily because it takes so long to get to 25 miles a week at a 10% weekly distance increase. I did a trial run yesterday and had no difficulty whatsoever going 2.25 miles in about 25 minutes, with the exception of my impatience at the pace. I want to shot for ten miles this week. As soon as I post I'll be taking a crack at three miles.

Can I jump in like this? Should I? What's the recommended starting distance for someone who is effectively back at zero?

Thanks. Links to sources appreciated!
posted by mwhybark to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Just speaking from personal experience, starting off small is better than biting off more than you can chew. With the former, you can add on more over time and get a feel for how much of a load you can take. With the latter, you run the risk of catastrophically injuring yourself and falling even further behind.

This is even more true in your case, since you're effectively starting from zero after a half a year off and have a history of injuries. If you insist on starting off with more mileage, I'd recommend reducing the intensity -- go at a much slower pace.
posted by Borborygmus at 12:04 PM on February 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

You certainly can. The argument against it is the increased risk of injury. You might be a good candidate to start with the Galloway run/walk method. There is some evidence that it lowers the risk of injury and when I was recovering from a broken leg, I felt like it allowed me to get back to the kind of mileage I was used to much more quickly than I would have done otherwise. Another option would be to start lower and to ignore the 10% rule. The 10% rule isn't ironclad and wasn't really about coming off a layoff. Instinctively, I think increasing 20% a week is probably less risky that jumping back in at a higher level.
posted by Lame_username at 12:24 PM on February 2, 2016

I'm a road runner who also has arthritis in my hip. I'm in my late 30s and in decent health, but I am substantially overweight. Several times now I have worked my way up to regularly running half-marathon distances and then taken lengthy breaks from running. Like you, I'm just starting to run again after four months of basically not running at all.

I don't really follow a specific training plan when I start running again, but I really feel a LOT better if I start of very conservatively, even if I ramp up to longer distances pretty quickly. I try to keep my first few runs to about 4km (about 20% of my previous long runs) and then, once I've done a handful of those without any problems, I'll mix in a couple of runs at about 6km (50% increase), usually taking two or three weeks before I bring the majority of my runs up to that distance and then repeat.

By increasing my distance by 50% every three weeks, it only takes three months to work up from 4km to a half marathon. That's faster than most plans I've seen suggest, but I've never had any trouble with it. I don't think I would want to ramp up much faster though.

I'm definitely not an expert though, just a runner who listens to his body.
posted by 256 at 12:46 PM on February 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Three miles went fine, just over 30 minutes, which is about my hoped for pace. We'll see how the pins do over the next few hours. My cardio was fine, too, so at least I have that going for me.
posted by mwhybark at 1:19 PM on February 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

You should start almost at zero after six months off. Your individual runs may go just fine, but you already seem injury prone, and you don't want to risk not being able to run at all.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:41 PM on February 2, 2016

Two things jump out at me: Build in rest and don't push your pace. You say you want to ease back into running, yet you ran yesterday and today. If you're aiming for 10 miles there is no reason not to take a day off between each run. That's 3-4 runs per week of 2.5-3 miles each, that gets you there.

Two, watch your pace. I understand the urge to run faster but pushing the pace risks injury. You probably should be going slower than you want to, even painstakingly slow. The nice thing about running on a treadmill is you can force yourself into a slower pace, as long as you can get over the mental block. A heart rate monitor can help make sure you are keeping your runs easy.
posted by mama casserole at 2:25 PM on February 2, 2016

I might also suggest not trying to do a weekly count. Because a week has seven days, maybe run every other day, so that, e.g. you could run 20-21 miles per two weeks and be able to rest properly.
posted by Pax at 7:09 PM on February 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: An update.

YMMV regarding going ahead and jumping in at a 10-mile week which I did end up doing with no issues. At a 10% weekly add, I'm now starting my 15-mile week. I did take your collective suggestions regarding pace to heart and have not attempted longer sustained runs at over 6mph; I have completed a 2-mile run at that pace. 6mph was my target pace in prior years, motivated largely by minimization of time spent in the activity.

The last time I did this I was running five days a week, this time I am running three times a week, but will likely change this soon to avoid single runs of seven to ten miles. My longest runs so far are six miles, which were tiring but which did not produce notable next-day soreness, that is, soreness beyond my normal day-to-day arthritis pain.

No apparent observable aerobic effects yet, which probably indicates my blood pressure was pretty good to begin with, but I am seeing some slight evidence of increased caloric requirements in an increased appetite and a slight weight loss.

Prior incarnations of this regime included working through streaming media series such as DS9. Given the relative greater time the longer, slower runs involve, I decided to try reading on the iPad again and am pleased to report I have completed the most recent Vollmann, The Dying Grass, which concerns the 1700 mile chase that constituted the Nez Perce war of summer, 1877. This has given me a new metric to implement on my tracking, which I have yet to do.

I shall certainly not meet their pace of seventeen miles a day unless I obtain a horse, which would present some considerable logistical issues including concerns about how I might fit aboard an equine as she paces upon my treadmill.
posted by mwhybark at 6:44 PM on February 27, 2016

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