We help Carol plan her running comeback following knee surgery

We help Carol plan her running comeback following knee surgery

Bouncing back from knee surgery can be tough. Today on RUN with Coach Parry we help a member of our online community,  Carol Muirhead, plot her comeback to running and put a plan in place to run a sub 2 hour half marathon.

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BRAD BROWN: It's the next edition of Run with Coach Parry. I'm Brad Brown and we've got the coach with us once again.

Don't forget if you are enjoying the podcast; it's been a major change from what we were doing, but the response has been amazing and if you are enjoying it please do be in touch. You can pop us an email; support@coachparry.com or if you'd like you can leave us a rating and a review on iTunes. That really helps us get in front of more people and more runners just like you and that's what we're trying to do. Help as many people as we can.

Coach, welcome back onto the podcast. Thanks for joining us. Nice to have you on.

LINDSEY PARRY: It's always good to chat. These last couple of calls have been cool. I keep getting ghosts from Christmas past on the podcast so this one should be fun.

BRAD BROWN:   Well let's bring our guest in today. Carol Muirhead.

Carol welcome onto Run and thanks for joining us and taking some time to chat to us. Obviously that's why you're here. It's got nothing to do with me. I just facilitate these, but welcome onto the podcast.

CAROL MUIRHEAD: Thanks very much.

BRAD BROWN:   Carol let's just delve a bit into your background and your running. Have you been around the sport for a while? What's your running background and running history?

The inspiration of the Comrades Marathon

CAROL MUIRHEAD:  Not very much at all. I started in 2015 after my husband's first Comrades Marathon. It was very inspirational. I was one of those people who thought let's hit the bucket list item and I was hoping to run the Comrades Marathon last year. And then towards the end of 2015 I ended up having 2 knee ops. So, that put an end to my running for a while. Then I started again about halfway through last year.

BRAD BROWN:   So we've got a big injury history. Lindsey I'm going to hand you over to Carol and let you do what you do because I think we can definitely help along the lines here.

LP: Yes. It's always helpful when you know someone and Carol was one of my very good friends at university. We've known each other for a long time and had some good times. But I do know enough about her. We studied the same course when I was in class. In fact, Carol is almost as bad as I was so maybe we weren't in class together that often.

As I was reading through the injury history with the Meniscal tears and knee ops, I thought I'm dealing with a hockey player here but it turns out I'm dealing with a very good squash player. And also a more than useful rower during her time at Rhodes University so these really are old wear and tear injuries.

Is CrossFit advisable with injuries?

When I was reading through the questionnaire I have to confess to reading the reasonably serious list of injuries and particularly some lower back issues too. Where it might be showing up as a bulging disc but that actually looks like there is a prolapse in there. And the first thing I read is that she's doing CrossFit 2 to 3 times a week.

I think what is important for me to highlight is I do find strength training particularly important and especially in a case like this where there is a fairly serious history of injury. Then I think strength training plays a crucial role in ensuring that those joints are stable and there's good proprioception because that then reduces the risk of further injury.

No exercise is worse than a little exercise

The other thing that is very important to stress is that in a case like this where Carol has now got Osteoarthritis in both knees. Doing no exercise is much worse for those joints than doing some exercise. And that includes running. There are some people who feel that running is bad and you should possibly rather cycle. But the reality is that those knees are going to need replacing at some point in time and with movement that will be a lot longer than if there is no movement. Because if there is no movement, those joints will really start to seize up and then the bone on bone contacts will be quite bad. So from that point of view I'm quite happy that Carol has started running and that she wants to be active.

Again, knowing her from varsity I think she'll probably be a lot happier being active than inactive. That takes us then to some of your goals Carol, then you get a bit of a chance to speak because this really is your opportunity to get advice.

What can be achieved in 6 months

In terms of the sub 1-hour 10k, I think that's a fairly easy target for you. I can't see you having problems getting under an hour for 10k's. You certainly will get very close to 2-hours for a 21. And 6-months, I know you said it's a huge stretch by the end of the year. I don't think so. It really does depend on how much discomfort there is when you're running. But 6-months is enough time to convert you from a 1:02 10k, to a 21.

Have you got some specific questions you would like to ask me? I'll answer those questions but then also give you some general advice about how to go about getting to this 2-hour.

CAROL MUIRHEAD:  No. Not really. I hear you on the CrossFit and it's a catch 22. What I found is that the strength training during the CrossFit has in some ways slowed me down. Because I'm sore when I run but there's no doubt that the strength training at the top is actually what's enabled me to run. I'm running with my knees almost pain free. My knees haven't given me a day's problem since I started the strength training. It's a catch 22.

COACH PARRY:  Yes, and I must emphasize that I'm not against strength training in any way. And I do feel that in particular with the meniscal tears even if the knees weren't showing early signs of arthritis, it's very important that you continue to do strength training 2 to 3 times a week. It's just the use of the word CrossFit.

How to make you move faster

In my experience, and I know it's like everything else in life. You get varying degrees of CrossFit instruction and classes and degrees of difficulty. But for most part I, in my experience, CrossFit is really all about maximum intensity. Maximum impact. Massive number of repetitions. Competition with the person next to you. And I just find, in fact it's not even your knees that concern me the most in that CrossFit, it's the lower back.

CAROL MUIRHEAD:  And I am old enough, and overweight enough, and slow enough not to be super competitive. So I know when to back off and I don't use stuff that I know is going to hurt my back.

On the running itself, I ran my first marathon this year. I ran Johnson Crane and then I ran Vaal. Both were stoppers. And I think that's where I gave myself the most injury. Because to be completely honest I wasn't ready to run a marathon. I just thought I would go and try it. Everything was fine. I've done a couple of 21's, probably 6 or 7 21km's. The 21 in terms of the distance doesn't worry me too much but I'm just slow. I only have one speed and its donkey speed. So it’s really just how do I make myself move faster?

COACH PARRY:  It's not just about making you move faster. If we look at the running that you are doing, you've obviously got some time limitations. You've got a husband who probably travels a bit for work. You’ve got kids that have to be carted around so there are some time limitations.

How does the long distance affect your short distance?

But in the short term if I look at your program, you're always going to be fine doing 21's off of what you're doing, but as soon as you get longer you're going to keep running into problems. Also, if you want to get quicker even over the shorter distances, you will need to do a bit more running than what is on here. Not number of days.

To be honest, looking at what time you've got available to you. The biggest change that you need to make is that you need to make that Sunday run, or wherever it fits in the week. Maybe Sunday is not the day that it happens. But you need to have a consistent long run. In particular once you start building up to the marathon, that run needs to get considerably longer.

In terms of your total cardiovascular load, the swimming is great. I would keep that in there as long as you can. And the spinning class; keep it there as long as you can. Those are great bits of cross training. Particularly again, with the potential of doing damage to your knees and lower back if we do too much running.

But the Monday, where you spin or run, I would make that fairly consistently a run. Rather than a spinning class and I would, time allowing, try and build that up closer to 10k's.

Run your time trial hard to increase your speed

The Tuesday, the time trial is great but I would then do the 5k time trial. In the short term I'm not too worried whether you run 5 or 8 k's. But as you start to build up fitness and start looking to increase your speed, I would make that the 5k and then I would run it pretty hard most weeks. That would be your run in the week where you're going to push yourself.

Then on the Wednesday, you would look again to increase that run from 5 to at least 8 and again, if you can get to about 10.

Thursday, with that being your warm up for the CrossFit class, I wouldn't tamper with your Thursday, I'd keep that. But rather than 3 keep it closer to 5 and then you've got to get that consistent long run in.

What does that long run mean? I'd say certainly in the short term that run needs to be between 10 and 14 k's. In the medium term that run needs to be between 14 and 20 k's and in the long term that run will be, depending on whether you're training for a half or whether you're training for a marathon, will be somewhere between 20 and 30 k's.

These things are time dependent and as you said you run when possible. Possibly twice a month. I would say if it's twice a month you've got to make sure that it's then between 15 and 25 k's but again, you need to build up to that point. You don't just throw yourself into 25k's from this weekend.

Consistency is the game changer

CAROL MUIRHEAD:  It'll be easier now because after the Comrades Marathon my husband will stop his long runs on a Sunday for a while. So it's more just finding that time. In the beginning of the year we were both running and then it gets difficult with the kids so I stopped so he can have Sundays for his Comrades long runs. Now that’ll open up again for me so that will work great.

COACH PARRY:  That consistent long run will make the biggest difference in the short term to your speed, over the shorter distances.


COACH PARRY:  Yes. And then, I would say once you've been doing that consistently for about 6-weeks, that's when you can start really trying to push the Tuesday time trial.

I would say over the course of the next 2-months, you should find that 5k time really coming down consistently a little bit each week. Then it will plateau again, and when it plateaus that’s the time you can consider looking at doing some form of formal intervals, those kinds of things.

To be honest again, particularly with your lower back, I would hold off on doing those kinds of intervals as long as I can when you do introduce intervals. Hill work, short hill repeats will probably be the thing that will benefit you the most and provide you with the least injury risk to your knees and to your lower back.

Long distances will benefit your run speed

CAROL MUIRHEAD:  So it's not actually the speed that I run, it's doing longer distance that is going to give me the benefit.

COACH PARRY:  Yes. Remember if we go back to our days at university, what we're trying to do, particularly because your ultimate goal is a 21 and then eventually a marathon. You want to qualify for the Comrades Marathon.

What we are trying to do is move as fast as we can aerobically. So every time you do speed work, yes that does improve your muscular coordination. It improves your neural pathways. It allows your legs to move quicker but ultimately it's stimulating anaerobic energy pathways which you're not going to use when you're running fast.

The other thing is those neural adaptations to make you run faster. You are not ever going to run that quickly in a race. Not even in a 5k. If we were preparing for a 5k it would be a slightly different conversation. But for me the first thing would still be to put the proper aerobic building blocks in place.

The other thing about doing it that way, is that the combination of the strength training that you're doing and then the combination of the strengthening of your tendons and ligaments by gradually applying this progressive overload. Doing the higher volume, it will make your joints really strong and stable. So that when it gets to the appropriate time to start doing speed work, you will be ready to do it without hurting yourself.

Strength training will improve your speed work

CAROL MUIRHEAD:  Okay, so 100%. Longer distance then in 6-8 weeks can start looking at possible intervals speed work.

COACH PARRY:  Yes. That's it.

CAROL MUIRHEAD:  100%. Cool, thanks.

COACH PARRY:  Cool, I look forward to seeing you at the Comrades Marathon 2018 Carol.

CAROL MUIRHEAD:  No, I've started to realise that I think the Comrades Marathon is a bit out of my reach but maybe I can qualify for the 2 Oceans ultra.

COACH PARRY:  Look it's a great race. To be honest with you if you can run 2 Oceans that is really a fabulous race. I love 2 Oceans. The same applies. Maybe I'll see you there.

CAROL MUIRHEAD:  Thanks very much. Have a good run on Sunday.

COACH PARRY:  Thanks so much.

BRAD BROWN:   And the entries for the ultra at 2 Oceans are a lot easier to get than the half marathon entries. So it's always better to run the ultra anyway.

Carol thank you for your time today. I hope that helps.

If you need any training programs, coachparry.com/start is where you can pick up programs. Lindsey thank you for your time as well and we look forward to catching up next week on the podcast.

COACH PARRY:  Cool thanks Brad.

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