What Is Deloading?

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Starting to run at 110kg in a deconditioned state is asking for injuries. There are three key factors that will catch up to you when it comes to running:

  • Your bodyweight
  • The speed at which you want to move
  • The distance you want to travel

To give you an idea, the overall loading forces of running are around 3-5 times of your bodyweight, depending on your speed. So what this looks like for me currently is 110kg x 3 = 330kg; and the ideal weight would be 80kg x 3 = 240kg. This doesn’t look like too much of a difference, but now let’s add in the distance factor – or, more accurately, the number of contacts with the ground.

Clocking up 10,000 steps while out running isn’t a big deal when a marathon is the aim. Multiplying the weight by the distance gives us 3,300,000kg vs. 2,400,000kg of weight absorption. These numbers are now vastly different with an additional million kilograms of force to deal with!

What does this mean for me?

I can currently run 3-4km in a steady state, but start to feel a little bit of tension in the legs after 20 minutes. If I do the same distance but broken down into 8-10 intervals of 400 meters, then this does very little to cause me muscle soreness, but I know that my cardiovascular system is getting a good workout for the same amount of time input. So, HIIT and intervals are great for overall physiological benefits, but not so much running a marathon unfortunately.

For marathons, we are more concerned with aerobic capacity and threshold instead of obtaining a higher VO2 max score, which is more important when it comes to shorter distances.

So, if you were to begin your training with little weight, if any, to lose then by simply building the miles and keeping up with two strength & conditioning sessions each week is a great place to start. Doing this has shown to reduce injury incidence among distance runners.

For me, though, it is a case of weight loss and running volume. This is a little bit of a crossover in training stimulus. I know that my powerlifting team will be nauseated by the idea of my cardio sessions – and, from their point of view which I agree with, if you want to improve your relative level of fat-free body mass then steady state running probably isn’t the best place to start. This is certainly not to say that you won’t lose weight, but it isn’t necessarily the optimal strategy.

If you are looking to drop some weight then strength & conditioning through a combination of compound lifts and HIIT would be where you would start, with limited amounts of steady state aerobic exercise, if any. By “if any,” I mean going for a walk to increase your calorie deficit.

So, how does one burn the candle at both ends to achieve weight loss AND running volume?

Well, I’m going to cheat (a little). Don’t worry, we’re certainly not planning a remake of Icarus, but I do need help so called in some favours from an Alter-G treadmill that just happens to be conveniently down the road from where I live. Alter-G treadmills are fantastic rehab devices that allow you to run, but at significantly reduced bodyweights – up to 70%! And while not everyone has access to this sort of technology, I’ll cover other options you could consider at the end of this post.

My plan is to begin with two sessions a week of steady state running, reducing my weight by 25% and essentially turning me into an 80kg runner. While I’m building up the steady state miles on my legs, I’ve also added in a couple of strength & conditioning classes each week aimed at bodyweight control and endurance, rather than power or maximal strength drills. To further my conditioning levels, I’ve also gotten around to purchasing a new bike (after the last one was stolen – just one of the 15-20 sadly taken each day in Dublin) which allows me to get 3-4 30-minute rides per week in and out of work.

The combination of the Alter-G and bike commute allows me to dramatically reduce the amount of impact force on my body, but still works on my cardiovascular fitness. My hope is that this will help me avoid the common overload injuries I see frequently in clinic when my eager running patients hobble in – e.g. stress fractures, shin splints, patella femoral syndrome, etc..

You might be surprised to that an Alter-G treadmill could be near you too, check their website to see. I highly recommend a session or two. If you are at an appropriate weight for distance running then that’s super, using this isn’t up so high on your to-do list and just remember to gradually build up your speed and overall mileage.

If you are overweight and running is your end goal, then I would recommend simply including some elements of running, whilst using non-weight bearing exercise forms to begin with. If you have access to a gym, these would include the x-trainer, bike and rower – or if you can get to a pool, then swimming is even better. You might even opt to book in for a 3D analysis with me to better understand which strength and conditioning drills you should be working on to get your body to a point where it tolerates increasing your running load.

Julie FarrarComment