How to Make a Strong Comeback to Running After an Injury

Running Injuries Suck!

I hate to break it to you, but running injuries are not a joke. They are painful and can put a halt to your current running routine.In fact, being injured is a runner’s worst nightmare.

And truth be told, coming back from a running injury is no easy feat. In fact, it can be a true test of your patience and overall emotion health, and inner game power.

But I got you covered, buddy.

Today, dear reader, I’m going to share with you the training guidelines you need to ensure a strong, injury-free running comeback.

So are you ready?

Then here we go…

Progression is the Name of the Game

Would you rather make a slow, pain-free come back to your former running self?

Or would you prefer to rush things by jumping back into your former running routine, possibly risking prolonged pain, or even re-injury?

Your answer to the above questions will serve as the foundation for everything you do afterward.

 

So, what is the right answer?

Well, it’s really simple. When it comes to scoring a running comeback following an injury, the gradual approach is the way to go. Therefore, please keep this principle in mind at all times.

How Long Should it Take for a Pain-free Comeback?

The answer to this question is tricky.

As you already know, not all running injuries are created equal.

For some, this process might no more than a couple of weeks. While, for other, it can extend to 3 months or even more.

With that said, your plan should revolve around six main factors:

  • Your conditioning level before getting injured
  • Your layoff off due to the injury.
  • Your running background and experience.
  • Your cross-training activities during the rehab phase.
  • The type (and severity) of the injury.
  • The quality and consistency of your treatment (and prevention) approach.

These six different factors work together to determine whether you are back to running within a couple of weeks, or, let’s say, six months.

Personal Example

Back in 2012 I had a severe case of Runners Knee and didn’t run for at least three months.

Not only was the injury severe, but I also postponed my Runners Knee treatment while doing nothing about it.

Nonetheless, everything changed for the better once I took a proactive treatment and prevention approach.

And within a couple of months, I was eventually able to take up running again, pain-free for the first time for months.

So, What’s your Case?

For instance, if you are suffering from not-a-so-serious running injuries, let’s say a mild sprained ankle, you could be back to running in quite short time. Maybe no more than ten days.

On the other hand, serious injury—think Runners Knee, ITBS, and Stress Fractures—take much longer to heal.

But before you head out the door for a run, you gotta be aware of the detraining effect. And here is what you need to know about it.

Rates of Detraining

As a general guideline, here are the rates of deconditioning (loss of aerobic base) you might expect after a embracing the couch potato lifestyle for a while:

  • Post 10 to 15 days: Expect a 6 percent decrease.
  • 15 to 30 days: Expect a 12 percent reduction.
  • One to two months: Expect 20 percent decrease.
  • Two months and more of no running: Expect 25 percent reduction in VO2 max and a drastic reduction in muscle power and total body conditioning.

How to progress?

You should only progress with your running once the current stage you are at does not trigger an increase in your symptoms during or after the run.

Assess Yourself

Before you head out of the door, do the following:

Check your range of motion. Make sure to have full range of motion in the joint surrounding the injured area. Compare the injured limb with the uninjured opposite side to see if you’ve regained your range of motion.

Check for swelling. There should be no swelling and no stiffness around the affected area. If there is still swelling in the injured area, then it’s too early to return to running.

Check for instability. You should experience no instability in the affected area—no locking or giving away of the affected joint.

Check your doctor. If you are under the treatment of a physician, then heed their advice. They know better. Especially if your injury was quite serious, such a stress fracture, ligament injury or after going under the knife.

Next, see if you can do these without feeling pain.

  • Walk briskly for 40 minutes.
  • Balance on the affected leg for 30 seconds without much trouble.
  • Perform squats, lunges, and calf raises.

Have A Plan

As a general guideline, here are the rates of training intensity you need to keep in mind when you are trying to chart out a running plan post-injury.

  • 1st Week: Aim for 30 to 40 percent of your normal running mileage.
  • 2nd Week: Aim for 40 to 60 percent of your normal running mileage.
  • 3rd Week: Aim for 60 to 80 percent of your normal running mileage.
  • 4th Week. Return to your normal mileage, but keep a keen eye and ear for any signs of pain or trouble.

In case of trouble, scale back, rest, then do it again.

Of course, this depends on the six factors I have already mentioned.

Nonetheless, this progression plan can serve as a great rough guide to help you proceed without fail.

Rehab Right

Just because you are feeling set and ready to go does not mean that your body is 100 percent recovered from the injury.

The fact is, there is always a strong possibility for re-injury—especially if you don’t look after yourself properly.

This also could be the case if you and/or start neglecting proper rehab work.

To prevent a flare-up, you have to keep on your preventative care.

Physical therapy, or prevention work, can help root out the cause of your injury, whether it’s a muscle imbalance, biomechanical issue, flexibility/mobility problem.

So please do NOT slack on physical therapy.

In fact, if you slack on your PT, you’ll sooner than late get injured again. And you don’t want that.

The Measures to Take

I have already written extensively on many of the overuse injuries that runners get as well as the treatment and prevention needed for each case.

Here are the resources you need.

The 8 Laws of Injury of Prevention

The Most Common Running Injuries

1. Treat Muscle Imbalances

Research shows that muscle imbalances are one of the most common causes of running injury.

So if you want to fix that, check my muscle imbalance fix routine over here.

Inside of that post, you’ll find all you need for injury-proofing your body against common running ailments caused by muscle imbalances.

Furthermore, in case of serious trouble, I urge to seek the help of a professional to work with. They can help you dig deep into the root-cause of trouble and provide with the personalized solution you need for every specific case and injury.

2. Assess your Weaknesses

Your layoff time is ideal for focusing on your weaknesses.

For a full fitness assessment, head to my post over here and take the 12 fitness tests I shared over there. The tests can help you pinpoint your strengths and weaknesses.

For instance, if you have the upper body strength of 12-year old, then check some my strength routine over here.

If your Achilles Heel is flexibility, then feel free to steal one of my flexibility routines.

3. Cross-Train

I’m a big fan of cross training. In fact, I believe that cross training is a must whether you are injured or not.

I have written extensively on the subject, and you can find a whole range of workout routines you can do.

Therefore, make sure to supplement your effort with cross-training activities.

Some of the best cross-training activities for runners recovering from an injury include swimming, low-intensity cycling, yoga, or weight training (with minimum impact on the injured limb).

4. Resistance Training

Strength training is vital for runners. It can help you increase overall strength, mobility, and conditioning level, which will help your major muscle groups work more efficiently. This can boost performance and reduce the risk of injury in the process.

For more workout ideas, check my cross training page over here.

Do not Run Through Pain

I hate to sound like a broken record, but if you are serious about scoring an injury-free comeback, then make it a rule to never through the pain.

So during your first few runs, keep a keen eye on your body and see how it’s responding to the exercise.

Under ideal conditions, you should be pain-free, most of the time. Some residue pain should be expected.

But as long as you can keep running pain-free, you are in a good place.

Conclusion

As I always say, prevention is better than cure.

So please, take care of yourself and practice good running the entire time. That’s how you going to save yourself a lot of trouble.

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David Dack

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