How to Return to Running after Injury
Written By: SportsShoes
This article is designed to support you on your journey back running after injury and should help you get back to pounding the pavements in no time.
If you are reading this then it means your injury is slowly fading and you are ready to get back to running, or you are ready to pick up where you left off.
Typically, returning to running will lead to some discomfort as old injuries and new niggles emerge when you do not follow a graded return. Let's face it, you have had an absence from running, so you will not be returning at the same level.
This guide is all about finding a sweet spot that your recovering muscles and joints can tolerate and progress at an adaptive pace to promote healing.
First, do not start running if you have 'instability' in your injured area, there should be no feeling of 'locking' and if your injury feels like it is 'giving way' then you need to seek medical guidance.
Please note: This guide is not designed to replace medical advice. If you have an injury please consult a qualified health professional.
Before lacing up and letting loose, see if you can do the following pain free:
- 30 single calf leg raises
- Hold a single leg balance for 30 seconds
- Walk briskly for 30 minutes
- 10 pain-free hops
If you cannot pass this checkpoint try the cross-trainer and continue your rehab until you manage it. If you do run, keep it low-key and below 5/10 pain.
So, you have passed the readiness check and want to get stuck in. But hold your horses Mo Farah! First, you need to take this in baby steps. Here are some top tips:
- Allow a rest day between runs
- Progress when you are comfortably able to
- Do not rush back to your 'old' baseline, this is about setting new ones
Below, you have a 5k baseline which includes a 10% increase week on week using 3 runs and staggered rest days. You also have a bonus Strength & Conditioning (S&C) day.
This 8 week programme should take you from 5k to 10k but use it at your leisure to adapt for your own goals.
DO NOT PUSH FORWARD IF YOU ARE IN PAIN!
Please note: Distance indicated in km
UNDERSTANDING YOUR NEW SCHEDULE:
THE S&C DAY
A weekly strength and conditioning day keeps the physio away! This day is designed to focus on the cause of your injury. The idea here is to focus on injury specific exercises or consult your physio.
Below are a couple of handy S&C articles specifically designed for runners;
Strength & Movement Exercises For Runners
Strength & Conditioning Workout For Trail Runners
Ensure your rest day follows as per the programme to give your legs the chance to recover as whilst it might not feel like a serious workout they will be fatigued.
If you are not ready to progress please seek medical advice but you can modify the plan to reduce the load on your healing injury.
These can act as quick fixes to keep you active. This can be extra rest days, switching out runs for walks, including swimming, cycling and the cross-trainer.
However, these can still cause you pain so approach modifications sensibly and build up gradually.
PROCEED WITH CAUTION
Throughout this journey you may face set backs. Do not attempt to push through the pain in any of your S&C days, runs or modifications.
Some pain is OK and industry advice from physio's is if it gets more than a 5 out of 10 pain, with 10 being the worst pain ever, to stop.
This is a journey and one you will need to pace - running will not be the only factor in your journey, your diet, rest, sleep and S&C will all play a role.
And just to re-iterate: This guide is not designed to replace medical advice. If you have an injury please consult a qualified health professional.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
My name is Hollie Maskell, a Specialist Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist. I have been qualified for 7 years now, previously working in the NHS and now working privately across London and Surrey. When the Covid-19 pandemic hit I was redeployed from what most would consider traditional physio the specialist cancer units where I was focused on Respiratory treatments.
During this time I was aware a lot of patients were no longer getting the treatment they needed for muscular or joint injuries and I wanted to continue helping people with injuries. To share as much free material as possible and to provide people with simple injury tips.
Fast-forward 3-years and I continue to share injury tips but have focussed on runners as I am a keen runner myself and treat mainly running related injuries. My mission is to help people get back to running as quick as possible and ensure they prevent injury.
You can follow Hollie here on Instagram for more advice on injury prevention and recovery.
You can also visit her website to book a physio appointment.