Ask Stew: Adding Supplement Running to Army Prep Training

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Soldiers were sweating during the two-mile run, part of the in processing for the Soldier Wellness Education and Training program (SWEAT) (Photo Credit: Heidi Kroll)

Practicing running is obviously the best way to improve your running. But depending on how much extra you add to your training week, it can either set you on a path to successful goal achievement or to overuse, pain and injury.

Here is an email from an Army recruit who wants to pursue Special Forces programs, where running and rucking are required at both fast pace and high volume. Building up to that kind of volume and conditioning can take time -- even several months.

You do not just jump into a running program of 25 to 30 miles a week when you ran only eight miles total last week. That mentality is typically what harms impatient recruits.

Be patient and progress logically.

Hello, Mr. Smith.

I've been doing an Army Special Ops prep program and have noticed that my running base is lacking. I also have a Special Ops Advanced Injury Prevention plan and was planning on using that in conjunction with the Army Special Ops prep. I was planning to replace all the running in that program with the one in the running plan just to build a better foundation, while still prepping for the other rigors of SFAS. Do you think this would work or do you recommend a different plan of action? Thank you in advance! Van

It depends. If you are being adequately challenged with the current program, you do not need to add more mileage or total volume. Be smart. It is your judgment call, and you need to consider whether you replace the running with the supplement or add the supplement to the running in the book (which I think is too much for people "whose running is lacking.")

In cases like this, less is more. Do the plan. If you want to add an extra mile, set of intervals or sprints here and there, that is fine. But adding an entire running program would likely double your current mileage and would most likely break you.

To avoid common overuse injuries (shin pain, feet and knee pain, ITB and hip pain), typical progressions of running range from 10-15% over what you have currently established as your weekly running base. There are more ways to make things more challenging without adding more total miles per week.

Consider the following options:

Do more goal pace running vs. long, slow distance. Focus on maintaining your goal pace in timed runs for as long as you can. When you fall off your pace, stop, breathe for a minute and then get back running again at your goal pace.

What is goal pace? To be a good runner in a spec ops program, you need to be able to comfortably run a six-minute mile for shorter mile runs (2-3 miles) and a seven-minute mile for longer runs (4-6 miles). Depending on the pace you are working on, that means your goal pace for 400m to 800m runs would be in between 1:30-1:45 and 3:00-3:30 respectively. Training to maintain that pace for several sets takes time, but as you progress, you will see the rest sets reduce in time, and you will be able to maintain your speed throughout any set pace.

Add a sprint day when you want to limit your distance that day. If you only have 2 miles to run to meet your weekly amount on your running progression, consider doing a series of 50-100m sprints, building up to 200-300-400m sprints. In about 10 sets of a variety of progression of distances, you can accumulate two very tough miles and work conditioning to another level and energy system.

Go Non-Impact Sometimes. You do not need to run more to get better at running. Run faster, but also take a day when you do not run. Instead, do some very challenging sprint intervals on a bike, elliptical, rower, or in the pool. You can still work your lungs and legs without the impact of running and actually improve your conditioning. Many opt to do a non-impact day every OTHER day in-between runs for a break from impactful running, especially if you are new to running or have a heavier body weight.

Remember, if your running base is lacking, it takes time to build a base. That should take only a month or so. Be patient and start the process early to give yourself more time to work out the snags that occur in training, such as aches, pains and overuse injuries. Be smart and avoid them by adhering to the running volume totals each week.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you’re looking to starting a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to stew@stewsmith.com.

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