By: Matt Patterson, PhD in Biomechanics, Sports Scientist
Reduce your chance of an overtraining injury with OMrun’s Smart Zones.
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?
Not exactly. Sure, We all love the rush of a runner’s high. We love the way we feel when our sweat is pouring and our muscles are aching enough to say “you just killed that workout.”
But how far is too far, and where do we draw the line between kicking ass and falling into an overtraining trap?
Through years of research, development, and design, we have come to three realizations about why your current routine is causing too many injuries, and how to reformat it in a way that’s more safe, sustainable and enjoyable--because chances are, that’s why you began running in the first place.
Realization #1: You’ve probably been overtraining your entire life. Too many runners run at too high of a pace, causing their bodies to break down more than it can repair even during rest. This stimulus of too much training is what we define as “overtraining,” a state by which you are breaking your body down beyond its ability to recover after a workout. The result? Injury after injury after injury.
When you continue this reckless pursuit on your body, you not only are racking up injuries but you are becoming more and more unmotivated in your running routine. Your motivation is intrinsically connected to the way your body feels, so chances are you don’t feel so hot when you overtrain. One day it may be a shin splint, the next a hamstring pull, the next simply relentless fatigue. It is a hard problem to target on your own, as running is a multi-faceted endeavor with many different factors contributing to potential injury. But one thing is for sure: none of these injuries motivate you to come back.
Reported to occur in 35-70% of all levels of runners, injuries are the Bane of every runner’s existence. Most runners believe they are inevitable and natural, which is why this percentage continues to grow.
Realization #2: Your body doesn’t get stronger during training, it gets stronger during rest. We all love the post-workout adrenaline rush, but with the injuries noted above, we realize exercise doesn’t always reap this feeling. When we work our bodies to the extreme, we find ourselves injured, tired and unmotivated in our next opportunity to lace up our kicks.
Figure 2- The overtraining theory: A general workout/recovery cycle
Running injuries typically occur when your body is exposed to overloading impact over time and has not been given sufficient time to recover and regenerate properly between workouts. With higher levels of impact--whether per step or accumulated over a period of time--a runner has a higher chance of injury. Due to this direct correlation between impact and injury, the goal of appropriately tailored training intensities is to challenge the body enough so that training adaptations will be made, but not challenge it so much that it cannot recover properly.
So how do you know what an “appropriately tailored training intensity” really is? In addition to adequate rest time, understanding how to structure your running routine is key to reducing injury. We have created personalized Smart Zones to help you make sure you are finding that happy medium between overtraining and not leaving the comfort of your living room couch.
Realization #3: Using Your Smart Zones is the Key to Reducing Running Injuries
OMsignal’s Smart Zones emphasize the importance of running at a slow pace 80 percent of the time, spending the other 20 percent in high-intensity bouts. We have found that an easy way to still receive running’s mental and physical health benefits while reducing your chance of injury is by running slow most of the time.
During our research to reach this conclusion, we investigated the impact loading in a group of 21 recreational runners in the three different running intensity zones: Endurance, Race and Peak. We found that as the runners ran faster, their impact per step too increased. In their Endurance Zone, the average impact was 1.4G per step which increased to 2.0G in their Race Zone and again to 2.8G in their Peak Zone.
Figure 1 - Average impact per step in various running zones from 21 recreational runners, as measured with an inertial sensor on the distal, anteromedial aspect of each tibia.
A runner constantly in the Peak Zone is taking on two times more loading than they would if they ran in their Endurance Zone. A more appropriate pace, the Endurance Zone leads to proper training, proper recovery, and less injuries. By decreasing your running speed from Peak or Race to Endurance, you will thus be decreasing the overall loading on the body, meaning the ability to recover properly and run with less chance of injury.
It’s time to shove the “no pain, no gain” concept to the side, and make room for listening to your body. With OMrun, you now have the ability to train within your Smart Zones, giving your body ample recovery time to ensure your training regiment is progressive and sustainable. Running is a lifelong pursuit, and it should make you happy, stabilized and ready to conquer whatever life throws your way.