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RE: Return to running, running plan
I just figured out rough equivalents on machines to translate into miles. Using the elliptical, I'd target heart rate and translate that to running miles (roughly 7 mins equaling a running mile). I'd incorporate incline power walking on the treadmill which I found at a 15% grade that doubling the walking distance was close to running equivalent (e.g., 4.5mph felt like 9mph/6:40 running mile pace - although walking at 5mph felt a lot harder than 6 flat running pace!). Lots of long erg sessions too varying in average pace between 1:50-2:10/500m (the concept II tracks meters so I did a one to one match for running).
I did exactly as you mentioned in the beginning: about 40mpw running then 30 equivalent miles on other machines. Eventually I got to a point where I could handle 70mpw running so I kept increasing running mileage and maintained the cross training. A high mileage block for me these days may look something like 80mpw running and 25mpw on the erg.
I liked this approach because it helped establish a good structure early on to get serious and reduce the bad eating/drinking habits. Starting with just 3 or 4 days of training per week would have allowed me to continue partying a bit too much and would have made it easier for me to miss training days more often since that schedule doesn't call for a session every day. Agree that it depends on the individual as to what approach would work best, but this is worth a shot if one tried the more injury safe and steady approach but ended up stopping the comeback attempt after just a couple weeks/months.
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