It wasn't that long ago that I elected to focus on weights for a month after achieving a real milestone in my life of running 200km in a month. While this is not a world-class achievement by any means and I am sure there are plenty of people out there that could run that distance in a few days or for even fewer people, in just one day. For me, it was quite the achievement and I was very pleased with it especially when you consider that I only set out to do 100km in the month.
So in December, I decided to focus on weights and then in January I wanted to focus on both but without devoting all of my time to either. I ended up hurting myself by breaking my own rules and then started doing some research on why that is, and how you can prevent doing the same thing to yourself.
While I can't be certain that this is exactly what happened to me because I didn't go to a doctor because of it, it is called by many to be "runner's knee" and basically it just hurts around the sides of your kneecap. In my situation it was a rather extreme pain, one that was sensitive to the touch even without running. My pace was also quite terrible and this was very frustrating to me.
I also had a tightness in my legs that made me walk a bit funny and as my friends put it, it looked like I had a "gammy leg" when I walked. This was all my own doing I am afraid and I wish I had applied the same rules that I apply to myself when I am in the gym lifting weights of focusing on not trying to be a hero and just instead take it easy a bit at the start.
Studies have been done about something called VO2Max or cardiorespiratory fitness. This should be quite obvious that the longer you have been away from cardiovascular fitness, the less you are going to be capable of doing physically. I would be willing to bet that Michael Jordan can't even dunk anymore and there is nothing wrong with that.
I didn't realize that it was going to be as extreme as exercise physiologist Susan Paul, who studied this phenomenon over the course of 10 years explains.
*After just 2 weeks off from your regular fitness (primarily running) regimen, you lose 5-7% of your overall cardiovascular capabilities, after a month, it is more than 10% after 3 months is gets up to 30% and it tapers off from there.
It should come as no surprise that this laying off of the running also applies to your tendons and muscles as well and this is where I ran into trouble.
When I "hit the bricks" after taking nearly a month off from street running altogether, I tried to attack the course at the same pace and using the same style I had used before I took a break to focus on upper body weights. At the end of November I was tackling 10k's like it was nothing to me and I was barely capable of finishing 5k. Fortunately, I could feel this very early on and decided to loop back towards my house so I wouldn't create a situation where I would have no choice but to finish the 10k I initially set out to do. By the time I got home I could already feel it in my knees, particularly on my right side.
I have learned this lesson in the gym as far as weights go but this was my first time experiencing it with running. It was 4 days before I felt as though I was capable of even attempting another run and I adapted a far more conservative pace. I know sit here typing this with no knee pain because I decided to run not like an idiot after hurting myself the first time.
If you have been out of the game for a while or even worse, had a leg injury of some sort, physiologists recommend that you do a 45 minute fast paced walk before you even attempt doing any sort of run. The reason behind this should be easy enough to understand but mainly it is because the impact you place on your knees during a run is significantly greater than during a walk. They also recommend that once you do decide that you are ready to run, that you stop running and change to a walk every 5 to 10 minutes so that you can feel for yourself if you are hurting your body. This was the mistake I made because I am a stubborn person when it comes to a lot of things, including and especially fitness.
I didn't realize the damage I was doing to myself because I didn't stop to assess the situation until I had already done some rather serious damage.
So the same thing that applies to weights needs to apply to a normie's running patterns as well. Don't try to be a hero, realize that you are not a super athlete, and that by trying to "no pain no gain" it, you are actually going to not gain anything other than pain.
I have learned most of the things I know about fitness by doing it wrong the first time... hopefully you can be a bit smarter about it than I did. On that note, I am about to head out for an easy 5k in this freezing weather and stop every 5 minutes to see how I feel.