A Four Step Return to Pain Free Running

Stretch goal… get back to SwimRun

If you have a look at NVDP’s appendix in How To Skate, you’ll see there’s a heck of a lot of running in the base program.

Why would speed skaters do so much running? Honestly, I’m not sure. Probably because they liked it. Eventually, Nils’ base training switched to bike only and the rest is history!

Nils’ coach, Johan, has been helping me with my return to running. In addition to speed skating, he is an expert at rehabilitating running injuries!

We are applying his knowledge to my legs BEFORE they are hurt.



Step One: Hiking

Before I ever thought about running, I hiked.

Initially, pub-to-pub in England!

Eventually, in the hills around Hong Kong and on big mountains around the World.

I’m going back to the beginning of my athletic journey and starting with weekly long hikes. 3-4 hours is what I’m tolerating right now.

No poles & with a day pack: I am challenging my balance and training the muscles & connective tissues of my lower legs (the source of my injury woes for the last 5+ years).


Step Two: Stretching

Johan got my attention with…

Hej Gordo, are you familiar with the Hip Progression in Going Long?

I just laughed.

Going Long is the title of the book I wrote with Joe Friel.

If you look closely at the progression (linked here), I’m not only the author, I was the model for the pictures.

Once he had my attention, Johan had me stand up during our call and walked me through the following:

  1. Extend up on my toes // Lift toes while standing on heels – 4 cycles
  2. From a deep African/Asian Squat – move forward/back/sideways – 2 circles each way
  3. Camel Pose (toes back / toes under) – 4 breaths in each

Three cycles, takes 8 minutes.

Now, I want to stretch, but I doesn’t seem to happen.

My solution… Teach

When I coach my kids, we do my stretches.

During and after my stretches, I focus on how good I feel.

I log it in my training diary – show Johan, tick the box. I’ve also added it to my daily metrics (Y/N).


Nature Box in Boulder – Home Depot Special

Step Three: Stop Coddling My Feet

Because it was my lower legs giving out, I’d taken to coddling my feet. Johan recommended I try strengthening them instead.

Two methods to start:

  1. Put the Nature Box in front of the sink and stand on it when doing the dishes.
  2. Barefoot at home – I’ve been in Hoka Recovery Slides for a few years

It’s meant to be a gradual shift.


Nature Box in Sweden – Scandinavian Flair

2 miles Easy, then 5s Sprints on 5 min recoveries (x4)

Step Four: Just Stay Healthy!

There isn’t much running right now – which is the way I started in the mid-1990s.

  • No back to back days
  • 9-10 min per mile pace
  • Stop before I get tight
  • Add a bit of sprinting

Training is focused on:

  • Bike volume to build metabolic health
  • Swimming: capped at ~40 minutes
  • Strength work is reduced in favor of aerobic endurance

LINKS

A Swedish Approach to Athletic Excellence

Link to YouTube

I’ll link my prior writing on NVDP at the end of this piece.

NVDP had a childhood dream of being a great athlete, I had a childhood experience of being a horrible athlete.

Proving right, proving wrong…

Childhood experiences can be powerful motivators!

What’s YOUR motivation? Why start this journey?

My answer “I was born to train.”

Tapping into core motivation enables sustained work.


  • As a coach…
  • As a parent…
  • As a child athlete…
  • As a collegiate athlete…
  • As a world junior champion…

What’s it going to take?

Nils & Johan explain the performance puzzle:

  • The Project: a multiyear journey to the top
  • The Work: a LONG apprenticeship
  • The Block: a multi-month period of increasingly specific focus
  • The Session: one session, repeated, involving the specific requirements of the goal

Project : Work : Block : Session

Nils & Johan speak clearly about these four aspects. Can you?

In order to bring laser focus to the Block and the Session, one needs both: (a) a deep reservoir of aerobic fitness; and (b) plenty of mojo.

Keep the Work phase enjoyable and don’t sweat the pace/power. Base training is about kilojoules. Kilojoules by any means necessary.

The Block phase lasts ~17 weeks – NVDP uses Swedish 5:2 loading implying (at most) 85 days “on” and (at least) 34 days “off”.

Across each Olympic Cycle, there are “85” days that are special. The other days are foundational & recovery.

Intense internal focus => at times, never for long.


Even for Superman, life mostly happens outside the arena

Some nuggets in the podcast:

Threshold Block:

  • early-week longer intervals set the work-rate across the week – recovery is added to preserve a good enough work rate – when work rate cannot be hit, recover
  • seek to gather TIME “fast enough” rather than progressing targets – key attitude for error prevention

Coaching expertise can help quantify “good enough.” NVDP carves most everything else away.

++

Repeat The Week:

  • NVDP knows key sessions, by DAY, inside his 5:2 week
  • There is an early week expectation, and a late week expectation
  • Higher work-rates not always better – experience with bicarb letting him train “beyond the limit” forcing additional recovery the next week – [For me: a reminder to respect natural limits.]

++

The Bike: I suspect we will see more athletes using supplemental cycling for fitness (metabolic, aerobic, threshold) – this would work for both running and swimming – if you are a “large” runner or a swimmer with limited access to pool time… then the bike seems life a useful supplement to your plan.

People are going to figure this out. Might you be one of the people? Athletes lead the process.

Clinicians: before you add “running”… keep the “walking” and add “cycling.”

++

Always watching has a cost.

As NVDP says in the Manifesto… “There is a cost of everything.”

How much of my watching is making my team faster?

Might constant monitoring of The Work be creating a net-negative cost?

There will be times when you need to trust yourself and resist the urge to count.


In our own lives:

  • Project – where do I want to take myself?
  • Work – a long period of enjoying what it takes, with ample recovery
  • Block – 2-4 month focus-periods, every 3-4 years, intense focus, ample recovery
  • Session – what one thing, if you get right, will change everything?

The above approach, with buy in from your family, is VERY sustainable!


Prior NVDP Material


The Flowchart of My Project

The Work is #1 and I’ll be there for a long while.

Part One of SuperVet Fitness

Step One is improving low-end aerobic function by adding cycling volume under LT1

My return to “proper” endurance training will offer me a chance to demonstrate some things.

It’s whole lot easier to hit modest fitness targets if you have sufficient muscle mass for your goals (Link to Big Slow Day Article)

A lot of athletes see their size as a hinderance to their goals.

I don’t.

If you want to rip bumps in your 60s, sustain impact, run the risk of the occasional crash… a bit of size, combined with a lot strength, will serve you well.

So I’ve moved to my strongest-training weight – which is ~5 lbs above my low-volume sustainable weight.

On my old protocol (outlined here) – being a bit light is fine. However, when my goals require the capacity to fuel meaningful output, my “light weight” slows my recovery.

Let’s be clear: endurance athletes have a “light is right” bias.

Smart athletes know it is better to match your body composition to your goals.

My #1 goal is faster recovery, so:

  • Each week at least two back-to-back recovery days
  • Run my body composition a little heavier
  • Ditch my alarm
  • Use morning HRV to check in before loading
  • Bring back training nutrition

Making The Most of My Time

Many athletes seek to optimize their time by boosting average workout intensity (Sweet Spot, Heavy Domain, Tempo).

I’ve seen it, and I’ve seen it work.

Doesn’t work for me.

I’m going Nordic

  • Swedish 5:2 (see below)
  • Norwegian 80:20 (>80% Stamina Focus)

Swedish Periodization (5 days on, 2 days off) means radical recovery and compressed loading:

  • If I finish Day 5 by Noon, then I have ~65 hours until I train again
    • Every week has space for Real Life => sustainable
    • I get a weekly reset
    • My digestion gets a rest – training uptake is fatiguing
  • My Stamina focus is a 2-for-1
    • Train energy uptake (ideas for you)
    • Improve function of my mitochondria
  • My “intense” allocation (<20% total loading) includes my strength training – strength is where I preserve my long-term edge (strength, muscle mass)


Most everybody wants to get faster.

That would be nice… …and I expect it to happen

However, what I actually want is… the capacity to hold my existing submax fitness longer

Which implies…

  • 90% => bottom-up metabolic fitness & train my gut
  • 10% => strength & muscle mass

I’ll keep working and report back