Back on Track: A Guide to Safe and Successful Post-Injury Running

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Running Injury
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Written by :

David Dack

Are you ready to lace up those running shoes and hit the pavement, but life threw you a curveball with an injury? You’re not alone. Returning to the world of running after an injury can feel like navigating a marathon course filled with obstacles. But don’t worry, we’ve got your back!

In this article, we’re not just going to tell you about the importance of a recovery plan; we’re going to be your running buddy, guiding you every step of the way. Think of us as your personal coach, here to help you conquer those hurdles and get you back to running with confidence.

So, grab your favorite water bottle and let’s dive into the world of post-injury running. We’ll provide you with the tools, tips, and a solid plan to make your comeback smooth, safe, and ultimately, triumphant.

Stay Positive

It might sound like a cliché, but your mindset plays a significant role. Think of it as the solid foundation upon which you’ll rebuild your running abilities.

We understand that right now, you might feel distant from your previous running self. It’s possible you’ve lost some fitness during your downtime, and it’s natural to compare yourself to your pre-injury days. But that’s alright.

The key is to stay grounded in the present. Take it one step at a time, quite literally! Begin by setting realistic goals that don’t overwhelm you. Celebrate each milestone you reach – it’s well-deserved!

Embrace patience as your companion on this journey. Remember, it’s better to take it easy or incorporate cross-training rather than give up entirely. Injuries are temporary setbacks, not insurmountable obstacles.

Check For Everything

First things first, and it’s important to emphasize: if you’re still feeling pain, it’s a clear sign that your recovery isn’t complete. There’s no need to rush back into running, my friend.

During this recovery phase, it’s as if you’re conducting a series of tests on your body to gauge its response to different movements and training loads. Think of it as a thorough examination before you get the green light to lace up those running shoes again.

Start by assessing your range of motion in the joint(s) around your injured limb. What you’re aiming for is no swelling and no pain. And don’t overlook stability – the joint should feel secure, with no locking or unexpected wobbling. This step is particularly vital if you’re recuperating from a stress fracture, a ligament injury, or post-surgery.

Now, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty – quite literally hitting the pavement. You want to perform a set of movements, and they should all be free from pain:

  • Go for a brisk 45-minute power walk.
  • Knock out 20 bodyweight squats.
  • Execute 10 to 12 controlled knee dips smoothly.
  • Ace ten plyo squats.
  • Finish strong with 20 single-leg calf raises.

Feeling good? That’s fantastic news! However, just to err on the side of caution, I’d recommend waiting another three to four days without any pain – or at least until you’ve comfortably cleared that acute phase. Your running comeback will be worth the patience and diligence.

Adopt A Beginner Mind

It can be mighty tempting to leap back into running with full force, especially when you’re bursting with motivation after a prolonged break. But hold your horses!

One of the most common missteps runners make when recovering from an injury is attempting too much, too soon. Your muscles, bones, tendons, and ligaments have been through the wringer, and they’re a bit more sensitive to stress at the moment. So, here’s the key: reintroduce impact gradually and gently.

Picture this scenario – you’ve taken a break from running for several months, even if you’ve been staying active through activities like swimming, spinning, or various cross-training workouts. Your body needs a bit of extra care to get back into running shape. Those muscles, bones, tendons, and ligaments require some time to regain strength and readjust to the demands of running.

Believe me, trying to resume your regular training volume right out of the gate is a recipe for trouble. It’s like walking a tightrope of re-injury, and that’s not our goal here.

So, what’s the game plan? Begin slowly, ease your way in, and be patient with your body. Think of it as your running comeback journey, where each run serves as a stepping stone toward your former fitness level.

The Gradual Approach

In your initial sessions, your goal is to establish consistency, check for any lingering discomfort or pain, and, most importantly, reintroduce your body to the impact of running. During this rebuilding phase, caution is your best friend.

Kick things off by planning two to three sessions per week, with rest days in between. On those non-running days, feel free to partake in cross-training activities to maintain your overall fitness.

When you hit the pavement, don’t set lofty goals right from the start. Begin with shorter distances – think about running just one mile at a time. You can even spice things up by incorporating a blend of jogging and walking into your routine. Remember, progress isn’t solely determined by running continuously for an hour or never taking a walking break during your sessions.

Now, you might be wondering how to execute these strategies effectively. It’s pretty straightforward – create a plan and stick to it. The devil is in the details, but having a structured approach is the key.

Keep in mind that grasping your baseline training load can be a valuable tool. If you’re unsure of where you stand, consider revisiting your pre-injury training records. Even if you don’t have precise data, a rough estimate will do the job.

One week break or less

Imagine you’ve hit the pause button on your training for less than a week, maybe due to a minor muscle strain. Well, here’s the good news! It’s almost like your body enjoyed a brief vacation. You haven’t lost significant conditioning, and your legs are eager to rejoin the action quickly.

Pro Tip: When you resume, maintain the same pre-injury vibe, but pay attention to your body’s subtle cues. Keep your sessions cozy and relaxed, like a leisurely jog in the park.

Ten Days Break

If you’ve had a training hiatus lasting between a week and ten days, it might leave a small mark on your fitness level. There’s no need to lose sleep over it, but it does mean that your initial workouts should be on the easy side.

I’d recommend aiming for about 70 percent of your previous mileage.

Two Weeks to One Month Break

If you’ve taken a break for two weeks to a month, think of your endurance and performance like a slightly deflated balloon – not entirely empty, just a bit low on air.

Recovery Blueprint: Kickstart with gentle training at a reduced intensity. Aim for about 60% of your usual workload, then incrementally increase it by 5 to 10% each day. It’s akin to gradually inflating that balloon, getting it ready to party again!

One to Two Months Break

So, life threw you a curveball, and you’ve had to bench yourself for a while. Whether it’s those stubborn shin splints or a healing stress fracture, you’re bound to notice a more substantial dip in your fitness levels. But don’t worry; it’s far from doomsday!

Comeback Strategy: Imagine yourself at the starting line, but this time, you’re armed with wisdom. Begin with half of your previous mileage. It’s like rekindling an old friendship – take it slow and steady. Over six to eight weeks, gradually build it up. Each week brings you a step closer to your comeback narrative.

Three Months or Longer

Now, if you’ve been out of the game for three months or more, it’s like hitting the reset button on your fitness journey. It’s a fresh start, a new chapter, a clean slate!

Fresh Start Approach: Picture it as your inaugural run. Exciting, isn’t it? Consider adopting a run-walk plan during the first month. This approach isn’t just about playing it safe; it’s about being smart. It strengthens your musculoskeletal system and enhances endurance while ensuring you don’t overexert yourself.

Listen to your Body

Are you eager to return to running after an injury? Hold on for a moment. Let’s discuss how to do it wisely, so you’re not sidelined before you even start.

Ego Check

First and foremost, when you’re ready to hit the pavement again, check your ego at the door. Approach your runs with the humility of a novice. If you begin to sense any soreness or those old injury whispers returning, it’s time to reevaluate, pronto. Remember, even being 99.999% recovered isn’t the same as being 100%. That tiny 0.001% could mean the difference between a successful run and another setback.

Red Flags to Be Mindful Of

Of course, a bit of post-injury discomfort is par for the course. It’s like your body’s way of saying, “Hey, remember me?” But intense pain? That’s a no-go zone. The golden rule is this: if you stop moving and immediately feel better, you’re likely on the right path. Lingering pain is not on the guest list.

However, if you’re experiencing significant pain or it persists for hours after your run, consider it your body waving a massive red flag. When that happens, it’s crucial to face the music and grant yourself additional recovery time.

Tomorrow Is Another Opportunity

Remind yourself: there’s always another day to run, but only if you’re not sidelined by an injury. Sacrificing a couple of weeks now is a much wiser choice than losing months due to impatience. It just makes sense, doesn’t it?

Setbacks Are Not Failures

Setbacks? They’re not a declaration of defeat. They’re merely rest stops on your journey to recovery. By tuning into your body’s signals and taking early precautions, you’re paving the way for success. With a dash of patience and some sound judgment, you’ll likely be back to full stride on the pavement next week.

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