BY DAVE JACK | Special to Moonshine Ink

With the coronavirus pandemic hitting us in the busiest season for race registrations, over 35% of races in America are now canceled and the running industry is getting devastated. Western States 100, Reno Tahoe Odyssey, Broken Arrow, and many more highly anticipated races around Tahoe are among the casualties.

Despite race cancellations, however, more people are lacing up their running shoes and getting out on the streets, paths, and trails, ready to get back to the basics of exercise. These unprecedented times have called for inevitable changes in all our fitness needs.

With gyms closed and stay-at-home orders in place, more people have decided to revert to the most natural way to get in shape: running outside. According to Running Magazine, “People who run once or twice a week have increased that frequency by 117%, and moderate runners who run up to three times a week have boosted that by 55%.”

Trailheads are more popular than ever as runners and walkers are looking to feel the endorphin rush and ease anxiety during these stressful times. It’s important, however, to be careful not to let your ambitions control your conscious actions by putting yourself into a vulnerable situation. Make sure to adhere to social distancing rules and abide by what our governors are telling us. These times call for us to be smarter about what we’re doing to be safe, including avoiding injury.

It’s important to run, beginner, re-beginner, or advanced, in a safe and effective manner that won’t overdo it on the body. The last thing anyone wants is to go too hard, too fast and fall victim to an injury. Keep in mind your duration, intensity, frequency, and volume.

Duration: The length of a training session as measured by time, not by distance.

Intensity: The level of effort as measured by heart rate. For example, aerobic training takes place at a moderate intensity, while anaerobic training takes place at a high intensity.

Frequency: The number of training sessions over a given period of time; for example, three running sessions per week.

Volume: The combination of duration, intensity, and frequency. In other words, total training volume increases with a rise in any one of these variables, or any combination of them.

If you increase training volume too much, your body will not be able to adapt and some kind of breakdown is likely. This could be an injury, illness, or just mental burnout. On the other hand, if you increase training volume too little, it may not be sufficient enough to stimulate change, and the desired training benefit will not be obtained. What you want is to find just the right changes in duration, intensity, and frequency to create the desired results. You want to work with your body’s natural rate of training absorption.

The 10% rule generally applies to most athletes’ situations. Increases in total weekly duration, intensity, frequency, and volume should be limited to only 10%. For example, if one is running three times a week for 30 minutes, then the following week, the total amount of run time should be limited to 99 minutes. However, every fourth week it is recommended to “drop off” duration by 5 to 20% to rejuvenate and become resistant to stagnation or injury. Following drop-off week, an increase in as much as 25% can be added the fifth week with the 10% rule following each week after that.

With regard to intensity, “race pace,” high-intensity effort should be limited to 20% of the total weekly effort. So if you are running three times for 30 minutes, 18 minutes of that can be at a higher perceived effort and higher heart rate. However, if you’ve been keeping a moderate running pace, then increasing intensity should be gradual by starting with only five minutes per week and adding three to five minutes each week until 20% of total duration is hit. Then, as duration increases, so will high intensity.

The 10% rule applies indirectly to frequency. The key consideration is if you’re adding an additional run in the week, then the other runs should be shortened to ensure staying within only a 10% increase in time.

When first getting back to running, aim for two to three runs per week that are light, easy, slow, and controlled. Take the first few weeks to ease in. Don’t get caught up in your speed or mileage. Rather, think about the total amount of time you plan to run and adjust your pace around that. If you need to slow down or even walk to maintain that time schedule, then do that. Don’t put yourself at risk for injury. Enjoy the beautiful scenery around you and fall into your runner’s high.

Split your running times into short, moderate, and long. Varying your time and distances will allow the body to adapt its pace for what it needs to accomplish the goal at hand. It also keeps you from feeling the monotony of doing the same run all the time.

Soon enough you can push the intensity on shorter runs to increase pace. With more practice your body will start to become more efficient, your metabolism will fight to keep adapting, and you’ll notice positive changes in other areas around the body.

Consistency is the key to improvement so be patient with yourself and set SMART goals (see Resolution Realism online). Set short- (weekly) and long-term (monthly/quarterly) goals. Don’t get upset at yourself for missing one workout. Just move on and do your best to stick to your plan.

Most importantly, have fun with running. Run with friends (respecting social-distance guidelines, of course). Run on trails. Listen to music. Explore what is around you. Running is our body’s most natural way to exercise.

It feels good, clears our minds, and gets us thinking outside the box of all the stress and anxiety in our everyday lives, letting us be more positive and make better choices. There’s no need to think too much, just lace up those shoes and head out.

~ Dave Jack graduated with a BA in business marketing from University of Colorado at Boulder. He’s worked for 12 years as a certified personal trainer, and specializes in corrective exercise, performance enhancement, functional movement, fitness nutrition, metabolic, and pre/postnatal fitness.


Main Image Caption: RUN TIME: Running is the body’s most natural form of exercise. Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, there has been an uptick in people lacing up their running shoes. Photo by Wade Snider/Moonshine Ink