More running?

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  • #6304


    I have been on the TFNA program for close to a year and just finished the 24 week plan which just ended with an attempt on Rainier. I had a call with Scott earlier in the summer as well to ask some very specific questions which helped a lot.

    When I first started building base aerobic before and during the 24 week plan I used running quite a bit. I suffer from posterior shin splints no matter how slowly I build volume, no matter the shoes, inserts, stretches what have you. After a matter of weeks, I always have to take time off from running. In the 24 week plan I mainly transitioned to inclined treadmills and those elipticals that feel like a combo stair/eliptical type machine for Z1 and Z2 workouts. I can now do those machines for hours without getting tired.

    I have taken a week off and am ready to jump back in with what I hope is a bigger and better base fitness. The Rainier attempt was very limited due to many factors on the mountain and I didn’t really get to test myself. I would say that I was a bit surprised that my heart rate seemed to be a bit high in the limited amount of climbing I did, but it was also very hot and sunny on the lower mountain. Legs felt like engines that could keep going forever which is great.

    When I do run regularly I never seem to improve much as far as how I feel or mile times for Z1, Z2. I’m dog slow always. I just feel like I’m pulling a sled the whole time. I’m sure I run inefficiently but it never seems to improve. I didn’t think my plan to not use running much was that big of a deal, but after my Rainier attempt and reading so many posts here I’m wondering if perhaps I need it more than I think?

    Am I going the right route by avoiding running and should just keep adding volume to the things I currently do, or would a walk/run approach be better for the Z1, Z2 work? ME seems fine with the massive amount of box-step ups I did with a very heavy pack. Hiking for hours is an option too, but live in an area where the biggest hills are only 200 – 300 feet high.

    Thanks all!


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    Anonymous on #6324


    Thanks for writing on the forum. We hope to use the forum to share knowledge and yours are a fairly common questions.

    Sorry to hear that your Rainier climb didn’t succeed. Although, from the sounds of it there were some valuable lessons. We often learn more from our failures than our successes. Despite not being able to run it seems that your fitness was not an issue on Rainier. So, you have shown yourself that you can prepare without much running by using alternative training. That should be comforting unless you have aspirations to run more anyway. I’ll come back to that in a bit but first……

    The high HRs you saw were likely caused by lack of acclimatization to both the heat and the altitude. When your core temp rises the capillaries in your skin dilate which shunts valuable blood to the skin for cooling and away from the working muscles. That means the heart has to beat faster to keep the O2 supply to the muscles high enough. Similarly when you are not acclimated to higher elevations your heart will need to beat faster to make up for the shortfall in O2 at the muscles. I doubt you were well acclimated to either so it makes complete sense to me that you saw higher HRs.

    As for running. Throughout our evolution running was an advantageous trait that was selected for and passed on to the next generation. Those that were not good a running didn’t fair well and had less chance to pass their genes on. For the past few thousand years we’ve been at the top of the food chain and don’t need to run down our next meal or out run that sabre tooth tiger. So, not all humans are natural runners any longer. Many need to learn to run. The chances are good that you too can learn to run well and injury free. Baring any serious bio-mechanical defects that place you as an outlier on the Bell curve, that is. Find a good running coach and or a very good PT to do some gait analysis and maybe provide corrective help.

    I believe that you need to get 100 miles of running into your legs before you can safely train by running. The connective tissues such as tendons and facia are very poorly vascularized. As a consequence they are very slow to adapt when new stress is placed on them. The most common running injuries involve the lower legs and the most common reason is “too much, too soon”.

    We have had good success with our coached clients using a run/walk progression that very gradually increases running duration while shortening the interspersed walk duration during their workouts. For many who have never been able to run without injury or who have not run regularly for years it may take months to accumulate those 100 miles. Ramping up too fast will put you into cycle of injury, recovery, re-injury. Your’s sounds like a classic case of this.

    While the actual run/walk progression must be constructed for each individual, a general rule of thumb is: Don’t increase run segment length more than 10% per week. And, do not increase total running time by more than 15% over 3 week.

    Running, especially mountain running, seems to transfer very well over to mountaineering and alpine climbing. We have decades of anecdotal experience seeing this evidence. The reveres is not true. Mountain climbing does not transfer to running well at all. Economy is the main reason. Swedish researchers found that economy differences between good and poor runners can easily exceed 40%! That means for any given pace it could be coasting your 40% more energy and O2 consumption then a good runner. No one has that kind of aerobic capacity to waste.

    I hope this helps

    cnikirk on #6327

    Thanks for the reply Scott. I literally have tried running say 2 miles, then 2.1, 2.2, 2.3 to avoid injury and even that hasn’t worked, so maybe I need to go even slower, but at that point it almost seems a waste of time. Something is off as it is always posterior shin splints and no other issues.

    I will stick with what seems to be working okay as far as alternative workouts and try to introduce running even more slowly. I know it’s a killer cardio training tool so I hate to throw it away completely.

    Lyle F Bogart on #6341

    Hi Chad,

    I’ll second Scott’s recommendation to find a good running coach or running-knowledgeable PT to assess your running gait/form. Running should be easy and natural (though, of course still challenging from a cardio respiratory perspective).

    I’m in the Pacific Northwest (South Puget Sound area) and, if you’re so inclined, feel free to contact me and I can try to put you in contact with a good PT who deals with runners and can assess your running technique.

    Also, don’t underestimate the value of nordic walking to get your base aerobic work in…


    Lyle F Bogart, DPT

    cnikirk on #6342


    I’m in the midwest but appreciate the offer. I definitely need to figure the problem out. I do a lot of nordic style walking and hiking, so I’m not losing that much, but would be nice to throw in more running of course.


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