For most people that are avid runners, injuries can be a frustrating and a significant test of their patience. However, returning to running too soon after an injury can also be a way to prolong your injury, set you back or create a new injury. Currently, there is no evidence or research that is available to indicate the best approach to returning to running after an injury and the information available is based off recommendations realted to tissue readiness and strength. The main factors to think about before returning to running are: 1.) Don’t get frustrated with missed runs, 2.) Don’t worry about decreasing fitness and most importantly 3.) Do not attempt to make up for missed time and exercise by doing more. This may take the form of adding additional miles to workouts, increasing your training pace or increasing the frequency of workouts but again, attempting to make up for missed training can lead to increased risk of overtraining, injury and re-injury.
When we are forced to stop working out due to an injury – atrophy and deconditioning can happen quickly. If you are not able to run for about 1-7 days, there should be only a negligible reduction in muscle power. Before we get to the recommendations for a return to running, be sure that during any break from running, that you do try to build as much strength as possible in other ways. A 1-2 week progression is recommended. 1st try running at about 60-70% of your norm. This run should be an easy run. Following that, do 3-4 runs at 80-90% of normal. After your second week you should be able to return to your normal training.
If you’ve been gone from running for 2 to 3 weeks, there should be a slight loss of fitness and leg strength and, therefore, a longer return to your normal and this should equate to a 2 – 3 week progression. Start with 1-3 runs at usual easy effort and at 60-70% of what is an easy mileage and increase from there about 10-15% each day. After about 2 – 3 weeks you should be okay to resume your normal training.
If you’ve been gone for much longer than that, there will have been a substantial reduction in your muscle strength. So remember to be patient. Don’t risk re-injury by going back too fast. You might want to start back at this stage with a walk – run progression. Once you are back to running 30 min, 3x/week, begin a 6 week progression that is the same as the previous section. Begin at 30% of your pre-injury mileage and add 10% each week. Once you are back to your pre-injury mileage, gradually increase your speed. After about 6 weeks you can hopefully resume your normal training.
Like I mentioned earlier, this is merely a guideline for you to follow to hopefully avoid injury. As a Chiropractor in West L.A., the less I have to see you, the better. But if you are struggling with returning to running, I would be more than happy to help you get back. Be patient and remember that your body needs time to heal. I hope this is a helpful guideline for you to follow.