How to Pivot to Running

With the rampant spread of COVID-19, gyms are closed and our favorite fitness classes have been put on hiatus. The good news is that roads and trails can still be accessed in many places while safely abiding by social distancing guidelines. For swimmers, wrestlers, climbers, CrossFitters, gym rats, and other non-runner exercise enthusiasts, this is an opportunity to reconnect with a basic and beautiful form of movement (running!) and embrace a new challenge that presents opportunity for growth.

So, how exactly do you manage this transition to more focused running? Sports science is a great place to start, and we have developed a calculator to help you design a personalized, data-driven running program that will suit your needs. Here is everything you need to know to start your running routine off on the right foot!

How do I transition into running if I’m not a ‘runner’?

Everyone can run. Yes, we mean everyone. Though you may not consider yourself a runner most days, this doesn’t mean you can’t be a runner today. We know you’re active and eager to ramp up the miles, but it’s important to be patient. Running stresses your muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones in ways few other activities do. Here are a few other tips to get you started and keep you going with minimal risk of injury:

#1: Set Yourself Up for Success: 

Olympic-hopeful freestyle wrestler Nestor Taffur has increased time
spent running, stationary biking, and doing at-home circuits to supplement
his training during the pandemic (photo: Tony Rotundo Wrestling)
Healthy running is happy running. If you’re dealing with a chronic injury, consult your preferred physical therapist before running. Though you may not be able to make an in-person appointment, take advantage of telemedicine options that are available.

If you start to feel pain or see the warning signs of a potential injury, don’t be afraid to back off or take a complete rest day. Additionally, good sleep, stretching, and strength work will help set you up for long-term pain-free running.

#2: Find the Right Gear: 

More likely than not, you have a pair of sneakers. But do you have a true pair of running shoes? Running shoes absorb shock and support your feet in ways a gym sneaker or lightweight trainer cannot. Resources such as Brooks’ Shoe Finder exist to give you a personalized recommendation based on your training, past injuries, and running form. Strapping on a GPS watch will allow you to start a free PWR Lab account and pay extra close attention to your injury risk profile.

Many CrossFitters are embracing the challenge
that comes with gym closures by tackling a
dedicated running stint to keep fitness up

#3: Set a Schedule: 

Schedules help create habits, and habits drive results. During your first two weeks, plan to run a total of 3 non-consecutive days (ex: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday). During weeks three and four, if all is going well and feeling good, increase to 4 days of running. Continue your preferred cross-training activities – yoga, walking, strength work – on your in-between days. As you dial up your running, consider reducing cross-training efforts (volume and/or intensity) to allow your body to fully recover.

#4: Feel Good While Feeling Good: 

Consider your time running as the opportunity to feel good both physically and mentally. Run a pace that feels good and let your mind be free to wander.
Combining running intervals with walking intervals is a great way to increase your running specific endurance. As for pace, keep it comfortable – in non-social distancing times we call this a conversational pace. Especially for the first couple weeks, the name of the game is CRUISE CONTROL. 

PWR Pro Tip

Having a hard time slowing down, or missing the feeling of greater intensity? Let nasal breathing dictate your pace. Breathing only through your nose will force you to slow down, giving your body less of a beating while still providing a great aerobic (and mental) workout.

How many miles should I run in my first week?

First, reflect on your last month of activity, even if it has been different than normal:
  • How much running did you do? (eg: traditional running, soccer, running portions of circuits) 
  • How much heavy breathing or elevated hear rate training did you do? (eg: HIIT, swimming, biking, skiing, or anything that gets the blood pumping)
  • How much other (lower heart rate) exercise did you do? (eg: yoga, walking, strength training, hiking)
Next, enter your estimates – hours per week – into the PWR Lab ‘Pivot to Running’ Mileage Calculator to determine your target mileage for Week 1.

*Note: 0.25 hours = 15 minutes of training on the sliding calculator.

How do I safely increase my mileage?

After Week 1 of running, aim to increase your total weekly mileage by 10-20%, depending on how good you’re feeling. Aim to increase the frequency of your runs – moving from 3 days per week to 4 – before drastically increasing the duration of your runs. This will help you improve your fitness without over-stressing your body and will give your muscles and tendons time to adapt to force of 2.5x body weight on each leg during each step! If you continue to feel good, keep adding up to 20% more running each week as you move into Weeks 3 and 4.

Sample Program

This plan was created for someone targeting 7.5-10.5 miles of running in Week 1, based on a typical week of:

  • running a total of 45 minutes
  • completing 2 hours of heavy breathing activities (eg: circuit training)
  • doing 1 hour of lower heart rate training (eg: yoga & strength training)

Tailor the 4-week training plan based upon your specific calculator results, the way you’re feeling as training progresses, and your current goals.

Let’s run!

Download a printable PDF copy of our Pivot to Running 4-Week Training Plan. Enjoy and share with others! 

New to PWR Lab?

PWR Lab decodes your masses of second-by-second training data and visualizes the insights that matter most. Athletes in motion use PWR Lab to track workload, monitor risk factors, learn about stride characteristics, and forecast future races & workouts.

Sign up for a free trial today and we’ll guide you through this 4-week training plan. Experience firsthand how easy it is to predict risk, prevent injury, and perform optimally!

Dr. Jeff Moreno
About Dr. Jeff Moreno

Jeff, co-founder of PWR Lab, is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and Board-Certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist. Passionate about running and playing, Jeff fundamentally loves people and movement of any kind. He strives to raise the bar in sport by finding ways to proactively prevent injuries and prioritize the long term development of athletes. He has been successful in employing a data-driven, hands-on approach to physiotherapy with National, World & Olympic Championship medalists in Track & Field from USA, China, Canada, and Mexico as well as many NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, Judo, and Triathlon athletes