During a recent webinar on the Running Renaissance, sport physiotherapist Wendy Epp and professional runner Justin Kent, gave advice for new and returning runners on the best ways to avoid injury.
Question: If I am starting running, should I start based on time or distance? And how many times a week would I need to run to maintain consistency?
Justin: I would definitely focus on time-based over distance because it's all effort and you can kind of go as hard or as slow as you want. If you are just starting running, you want to maintain a couple of days recovery in between each run or each day you're running. Perhaps you could start with two to three days of running but a run/walk. So you're maybe doing 20 minutes total, but 5 minutes warm up, then walking five by one (running) off of one minute (walking) and then 5 minutes cooldown of just walking. From there you can incrementally increase your time spent running vs. walking.
Wendy: Exactly. I would add if you have a propensity towards an injury or you've had a joint tendon or something that's maybe been flirtatious in the past and has gotten spicy with adding new exercises, you're going to know within 24 to 36 hours.
That's about how long the natural inflammatory process lasts.
We know it peaks at about 24 to 36 hours. So if you mathematically take a week/seven days and you're running three days, you're actually giving yourself about that 36 hour of window to understand any issues. What's the tissue response to that load? The beautiful part is that in the days in between it doesn't mean you have to do nothing. There is a value in doing squats, hamstring work, step-ups, core work or anything that will help with your form and with your recovery.
So I would 100% agree that starting at three days a week is sufficient because it gives you that 24- to 36-hour window, but it doesn't need to be total rest on the off days. I think the creative part of running and staying healthy is recognizing those other tissue tolerances can be worked on in the off 2 days.