PT365 Run Plans: Elements of efficient running – Part 2


Consider this your primer on the Run Plans — a little bit of background to understand the methodology behind the charts. Don’t be overwhelmed though, it boils down to: Have fun, be smart and be patient.

Part 1 covered Dr. Mark’s 32 principles of efficient running and a few positive affirmations. Missed it? Read Part 1 here.

Warming up

Give yourself five to 10 minutes to warm up at an easy pace. Use light, springy steps — there is no speed too slow. You are waking up the fascia, the connective tissue in your tendons, which must glide and spring. If you wonder why you feel awkward running right out the door in the morning, this is why. Listen to your body — it tells you when you are loose and ready. Warm-down in the same manner.


You need to do this only if you have a mobility deficit. If you’re unsure, check out the material
in Modules 2 and 3 on www.efficientrunning.net.

There are two ways to approach mobility:

1. Active isolated stretching, an excellent and safe method taught by authors Phil and Jim Wharton, can be self-taught and can lead to immediate loosening of joints. It does not deform tissue but rather cues the neuromuscular response to allow a joint to relax. The key is to never hold any stretch. Instead, you should move until you feel resistance, back off immediately, then repeat. This can be done before running, preferably after some light warm-up jogging.

2. Static stretches actually deform and lengthen tissue. This process takes eight to 10 weeks. So if you don’t pass the mobility assessments, work on the stretches at www.efficientrunning.net.

Injury prevention

Many gain endurance fitness before the structural gains in muscles, ligaments, fascia and tendons. The body will adapt as long as the load is not above its capacity, so be progressive in endurance, strength and coordination building. Use these principles for a holistic injury-prevention strategy.


Balancing stress and recovery is essential for healthy progression. By applying gradually progressive training stimulus, and then through recovery, we become stronger. Without enough training stimulus, there is no progression. With too much training stress and no recovery, we break down. Complete rest and inactivity cause deterioration of aerobic capacity and tissue/structural strength, so complete rest of an injury is rarely the answer.

We all live stressful daily lives. Running needs to fit into the relaxing part of the day and not be another stress. If you are not feeling recovered, go ahead and back off from your scheduled activity session. Keep it aerobic. Just getting out the door is often restorative.

Keys to optimum recovery:

Nutrition, nutrition, nutrition. The simple rule here is eat real food — a mix of fresh fruits and veggies, healthy fats and high-quality protein sources. Avoid simple carbs and processed foods (“carbage”) and the “fast” fats found in fast food and processed foods. You are what you eat!

Get sleep.

Water is magic if you have a pool.

Foam-roll sticky areas.

De-stress as much as you can.

Learn diaphragm breathing, and do it all day.

A few recovery indicators:

* Morning heart rate: Upward trends may indicate a lack of recovery.

* Weight: A significant drop is not always good and could be a sign of stress.

* Sleep: Was yours deep and peaceful? Poor sleep indicates poor recovery.

* General sense of good mood and energy. Do you look forward to running? You should.

Related: Read the full PT365 Run Plans project here.

Mark Cucuzzella

Air Force Reserve Lt. Col. (Dr.) Mark Cucuzzella is a professor of family medicine at West Virginia University School of Medicine. He is also designing programs to reduce running injuries in service members. He’s been a competitive runner for 30 years — with more than 100 marathon and ultramarathon finishes — and continues to compete as a national-level Masters runner. His marathon best is 2:24, and he’s won the Air Force Marathon twice, including in 2011 (2:38) a week shy of his 45th birthday.

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