If you follow along on social media, I had a post last week discussing relative vs. absolute increase when it comes to running progression; and particularly when returning after baby. This can be a difficult concept to grasp, especially when navigating this for the first time, so we’ll dive in more this week!
Typically, when someone wants to increase their running distance or time; or they’re training for a race that is further than they typically run; or they are training for performance… the recommendation is to increase their distance/time running by no more than 10% from week to week. A number is placed on this to safely, effectively, and efficiently have them move through their training regimen and see the results they’re after. Too large of an increase too quickly may expose tissues throughout the body to an intensity they’re not yet prepared for; too little an increase, and we’re not going to overload the body enough to trigger adequate adaptation – it can be a tricky balance! When returning to running post-partum, the problem with this 10% increase is that it can be really small relative to where one is starting; and this can potentially take away from progress or effectiveness of training.
When someone is returning to running after baby, and when ready individually, a walk-run progression is commonly recommended; and this goes for returning from a variety of injuries as well! With this walk-run progression, one might start out running/jogging only 1-2min at a time, followed by walking for 60-90sec, repeated for a set duration. Of course, this can vary by individual as well. When considering a 10% increase from starting here this week, to next, that is only adding 6sec to 60sec of running! You can imagine that this strategy might make for a long road to recovery.
This is where the difference of relative increase vs. absolute increase comes into play. Relative increase is that 10% or associated number – the percent increase this week relative to last week. Absolute increase is how much distance or time was actually added from week to week. 60sec this week to 66sec next week is a 10% relative increase, and a 6sec absolute increase. In the situation where the time or distance spent running may be small (for now!), it can be helpful to have a large relative increase. Sometimes upwards of 50%. With this, we can increase by 50%, but add 30sec to next week’s running time. This allows for an appropriate progression to keep your body adapting, while still providing guidelines to assure a safe progression.
So, although the 10% increase is a good rule of thumb, once you have more miles and time consistently under those tennies, there is plenty of wiggle room in those early stages to keep you progressing, improving, and working toward those running goals!
Need some guidance on getting back to those miles? Hit the “Talk with a PT” button above to get started! We would love to meet you!
Elle Carlson, PT, DPT