When can I run again? How to return to running after injury

‘When can I run again after an injury?’ This is a question I often get asked by runners recovering from a long layoff after injury. Often there is apprehension mixed with a desire to get out there again, and with that the temptation to push too hard too soon. Runners are often concerned that they may overdo it and end up back where they started.

I would like to suggest 3 main points to bear in mind when planning your return to running after an injury.


1) Your first few runs will not be training runs.

Think of your first few runs as testing the ground and getting used to the feel of running again. You are not going to burn many calories or achieve any PBs in these first tentative runs. I usually suggest a run/walk session at low intensity, or for simplicity download the Couch to 5K app and use that for a few runs while you get your confidence back. These runs may be as short as 2km to begin with. Low impact cross training such as cycling or swimming can help to maintain aerobic and endurance fitness while you are on these recovery runs.


2) Change one thing.

There are 3 main aspects to running training; 1. Distance/Time, 2. Frequency and 3. Intensity/Effort. If you work on just one aspect at a time, it is much easier to troubleshoot and make changes if things go wrong than if you change all 3 aspects at once. I suggest starting at a low intensity, increasing your run distance/time, then frequency until you are up to your pre-injury weekly mileage and frequency of runs. Finally work on intensity/effort, bringing in hill training, tempo runs and interval work as needed.


3) Know pain, know gain!

A little play on words here! But more seriously understanding what is an acceptable level of pain is key to progressing your running recovery. Pain is our primary measure by which we can decide if we are pushing too hard too soon. As a rule of thumb, pain that is less than 3/10 during or after a run, provided that pain after exercise is not continuing for too long and there is no significant next day pain or stiffness, is probably ok. If you understand that a certain amount of discomfort during recovery is acceptable, then you know that you are gaining not regressing. Pain levels are subjective so this is where you have to have an honest conversation with yourself and decide when it is ok to continue or if you need to stop. Pain should be decreasing overall not increasing as time goes on.


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How can we help?

Staying in touch with your therapist during your recovery is important for success. At Active we work with you to design a bespoke rehabilitation plan that ensures you do not do too much too soon during your recovery but also encouraging you to push through and progress when you need to. We keep in regular contact with you via text email, video and phone outside of your appointment schedule to make sure everything is going to plan and in order that we can make changes to your plan as needed. The advantage of a structured recovery plan is that it gives you short, medium and long term goals to aim for, which is good for morale and reduces the risk of overload during recovery whilst helping with your overall training progression after injury.

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