Tips To Return To Running After An Injury
They say that when you fall off a horse, the first thing you need to do is get right back in the saddle. The same goes for running. While you certainly need time to recover, once you have regained your strength and healed, it’s time to put those running shoes on again and hit the tar.
Taking up running after an injury is a process, however, and you cannot expect to simply start from where you left off. You need time to ease your body back into momentum so that you do not do more harm than good because you are out of shape.
So how can you be sure to return safely and smartly? Here are 5 tips.
1. It Starts With Perspective
Getting back into the swing of things is just as much a psychological process as it is a physical one. When we take some time off to recover from an injury we can sometimes get used to the less active routine and once we’re in “relaxing mode”, it can be somewhat hard to get out of it. This means that returning to running often starts with a pep talk. Once you push yourself to take those first steps, however, you might find yourself at the exact pace as you were pre-injury.
In general, the longer you have been training for, the faster you’ll be able to get back into it after taking time off for recovery. For example, if you have been running for 10 years, you will have an easier time returning to it than if you have only been running for six months. This is because the longer you’ve been training, the more aerobic strength you will have gained. You’ll have a higher level of mitochondria to produce energy and more red blood cells to deliver oxygen to the running muscles. You will also have more metabolic enzymes than those who have been running for fewer months/years.
2. Walk Before You Run
It all starts with baby steps. You will have to, unfortunately, pick your way up from the beginning and before you push your body to run, you need to test your body’s limits by walking first. A good rule of thumb is to get yourself speed walking for at least 45 minutes, pain-free, before you start moving at a faster pace. Walking reconditions soft tissue (muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia, connective tissue) and prepares them for the more painstaking elements of running.
Depending on the extent of your injury, this process will not take as long as it did when you first became a runner. That is, your fitness levels will not have depleted and your stored strength will get you from walking to running faster than when you were at your “entry level”.
3. Patience Is Key
We know that you might be itching to get back into that “saddle”. There’s something about running that makes you feel levels of euphoria that are otherwise hard to attain. You do need to practice patience, however, before you worsen your injury and have to give up training altogether.
It can take weeks and sometimes months for your muscles, tendons, bones, and ligaments to strengthen enough for running again. This is why it’s important that you take the approach above and walk before you run. In general, a good routine to get you back into the game should be similar to:
- Walking with short running breaks
- Running with short walking breaks
- Run Forest, run!
While running might be your thing, other forms of exercise could help with recovery time and could also work at strengthening the body to prevent running injuries from occurring altogether. This is because running focuses more on cardiovascular fitness, which is great, but it doesn’t always build muscle in the places where you could do with some extra support.
Exercises like yoga, pilates, weight training, swimming, and even rowing can help to build up core strength and overall stamina that’s needed to keep muscles in good working order. That being said, if you have been injured, you’ll want to take some time off from cross-training too – before you slowly wean yourself back into a good routine again. So put on your cross training shoes and start training.
5. Stay Safe
After an injury, your body is weakened and will be more susceptible to further injuries – even if you do not feel the pain anymore and have regained your strength. So, while patience, baby steps, and cross-training will help, you still need to take other necessary precautions.
We recommend that you always pair with a running partner, preferably someone who is happy to keep to your pace. Stick to easy routes where people could assist you if you do hurt yourself again. Sometimes walking and then running on the treadmill is the best solution and works well until you are 100% certain your body is ready to push forward on the tracks once again. The surface is forgiving, and you can control the pace and incline to suit your needs.
If your only option is to run solo on lonelier paths, then remember to carry a fully charged mobile with you for emergency calls.
Sometimes being a runner means not running for a while – for months even. But an injury should never put you off the sport altogether. Like other training routines and workouts, injuries are almost inevitable and are all a part of the challenge. The best you can do is to take your health seriously and ask your doctors for advice on what exercises are best for you and your physique.