Re-introduction to Running; Returning From Time Off or Injury

Running is good for you.  Just like any sport, however, it can lead to injury and to time off.  Sometimes life leads to injury – one athlete I know broke her foot walking down a stairway just two weeks before her target marathon – and those require time off for healing.  So, what’s the best plan for coming back from injury?  The short answer is: slowly.  Of course, it’s more complicated than that.

First, you need to make sure that your injury is healed.  That means that if, for example, you broke your foot, it’s best to make sure the break is completely healed before restarting.  If the injury is more along the lines of overuse, like tendinitis, it’s best to rest it until the inflammation is gone and then, with some diligent icing and stretching, start again.

In the meantime, take a look at what caused the injury.  Did you take a misstep?  Are your shoes the wrong type for you?  There is not much one can do about the former, but if it is along the lines of the latter, then now is the time to make some changes so that the same thing doesn’t happen again.  Have your gait analyzed and get the right equipment.  If you’re changing shoes, now is the time to do it.

So what does a slow re-introduction entail?  It means limiting your run time in the first 4 weeks to 70-90 mins/week depending upon how long you were off and how your injury handles your return.  If you’re feeling a bit of discomfort, back off a bit and emphasize the REST component.  Always start and finish your runs with a 5-minute walk and remember to stay hydrated.   In the first 4 weeks, all of your runs should be at E (easy) pace.    If you are coming back from a minor injury,  your aerobic condition is relatively good,  AND your injury can handle it, then it’s okay to work some M (marathon) pace and some T (threshold) pace training in, beginning in week 5.  Limit this to 15% of your total run time/week.

With a bit of patience and some diligence, you’ll be back to a full training load within a matter of weeks.  Stay calm, take care of yourself, and keep your focus on being healthy!

About the Author

Adnan is a USAC-certified Level 1 cycling coach who believes that in sport, as in life, it is important to strike a balance between the various aspects of what one does. Adnan has been a competitive cyclist and triathlete for nearly 25 years.  His full-time coaching practice can be found at