What’s a Good Return to Running Program After Injury?

Natalie Cecconi
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The Steps to Recovery

There is always a risk of re-injury, which is one of the big reasons why runners are encouraged to take things slowly.

Once your physician has given you the go ahead, consider the following tips for a safe return to running. As you feel stronger, you can increase the intensity and distance if you follow the recommendation below:


The soreness that you feel in the early stages is the reminiscence of the injury. Focusing on rest is the best thing that you can do.

Stay off your feet as much as possible on the first day.

It is important to also follow the resting routine as per the doctor’s recommendation.

Light Running

Gradually build up this level of exercise. Have the first running session in a swimming pool.

Although running is standard, it is advisable to use other exercise options for the first few days.

If the aching and rustiness away, the running program can continue in the next few days.

Run on a Soft Ground

As your body has healed and gotten stronger, it is the time to increase the distance of your running sessions.

For the first few days, running on a soft ground is recommended.

The soft terrain reduces the impact on your joints and decreases the chances of a flare-up.

Can I walk briskly without pain?

In order to run again, you need to build up strength in your muscles and make sure that you are able to start running again without putting your body at risk for any further injury.

It seems like a good idea to simply run before you are really ready. But doing so will only delay your training process and make it harder to recover when you do get injured.

So what should you do?

First, the following exercises should be done everyday to loosen up the muscles and ligaments, which can help reduce pain and improve the range of motion of the injured area:

  • Stretching
  • Slow walking (You can try running, but should feel no pain. If you do, back down right away!)
  • Swimming
  • Cycling
  • Stationary rowing machine
  • Swimming
  • Aquajogging (jogging in the water)

Second, start jogging. You can start with a very slow jogging pace and gradually build up the intensity.

It’s important to carefully gauge the intensity of your jogging pace. If you don’t feel pain during jogging, then you should be fine. If you feel pain, slow down right away. Then after a couple of days, add a little more intensity to the jogging.

As you get fitter, you should be able to jog every single day.

Have I started a run/walk program beginning with one mile?

The return to running program should be gradual, with the runner able to progress by each week. The first day after running, the runner should not walk, but rather use an alternate exercise like swimming or bicycling to loosen the muscles.

Running should be resumed slowly. A few, short, easy runs at a time of low intensity might be even enough. The runner should alternate the type of run, to avoid one time-constant activity.

Jogging, swimming and walking are considered great ways to prepare for running again, replace running temporarily and also to assist in recovery. The runner should resume running again after a 2-3 week period, following any recommended changes to the running program.

The absence of an official running program does not imply a lack of preparation. Most runners are able to determine the intensity during runs by feeling their muscles.

How is my run/walk training program going?

Start with the number of equal timed intervals that is your target pace per mile divided by 3.

For example: If your goal pace is 8 minutes per mile, you would run 1 lap per 5:20, or run for 20 seconds (more or less), then walk for 50 seconds (more or less) for one timed interval.

Select a down and back course that is level and about 2,000 meters long.

Start at one end of the course, and begin the run intervals.

Walk the return intervals.

At the completion of the walk interval, go back to the start line to repeat the run interval.

Repeat the run/walk intervals in the opposite direction.

Continue in this manner until you have completed 10 intervals (4 miles total).

Be sure to keep good running form.

Make sure you are not too tired before you start the first run.

If you are too tired, consider completing a run-walk interval every other time around the course.

One way to make walk breaks more enjoyable is to do them on a shady part of the course.

When you’re first starting out, don’t plan on completing the entire run intervals without taking a walk break.

How are my runs going once I start to add miles?

The rule of mixing things in small amounts is very beneficial to those who are looking for a way to build up their running or jogging. Take advice from the experts on building on skills and you will begin to feel much better about the way you run.

Learning how to listen to your body’s needs is very important during your first few weeks if you are trying to build up your endurance for longer distances and longer times. When you are new to the idea of running or jogging, you will want to take it very easy and listen to your body. If your body is tired, then it is wise to take some time out. If you are just starting out, you should also check out the recommended stretching exercises to help loosen your muscles.

You should also keep track of your next few training runs and write them down so it is easier to plan your training schedule. With a very good training log, you can accurately chart your progress.

While some people will want more distance during their runs, others will not particularly care about distance. So patience is the key here and you will want to see how your body recovers after each session. Have patience with yourself and your training, and you will find that you will be very successful with running a lot more.

Tips for a Successful Recovery

Don’t Compare Past Performance to Current

Running injuries are common among runners of all levels. Beginner runners are more susceptible to these injuries due to poor conditioning and proper running form.

They can include anything from Achilles tendinitis and IT band syndrome to stress fractures or joint issues. The problem is there are so many different types of injuries that can occur.

Not to mention that injuries can vary in both severity and timeline for recovery. So, do not compare past performance to current performance. Ultimately, it’s important to focus on improving your performance and following a proper rehabilitation program.

Don’t Rush into Running a Race

When you get injured, and the doctor tells you to take it easy, don’t rush back into running. It’s easy to become impatient and feel like you have to push it to get to the finish line in a race, but this is how you end up with an overuse injury. You need to take it easy and let the body heal properly. This requires patience and discipline … both things I am pretty terrible at, so I give my husband all the credit for doing this properly and healing my injuries.

Don’t think that a running race will be easy because you are just running. You are still putting strain on your body that it is not used to. You need to build up to the race slowly so that your body has time to adapt. And, if you’re not sure when you tell your body to take it easy, the key is to run slower and stop and walk if you need to.

If you’re not new to running, you know that you basically build your stride up to running faster. It’s a progressive training approach. And if you are totally new to running, then you don’t know where your stride is built up from, which means you need to be even more careful.

Take It Slow

But Start Now.

Just as you would with any kind of workout, listen to your body.

Always take precautions when starting a running program after an injury. You should always be a little conservative with the first few weeks, and then you can increase your workouts as you increase your comfort level. This way, you’ll prevent any further injury.

Always use proper form when running and push yourself just enough without being too excessive.

You can do this with a walking/running program or with interval running. Some people even walk for ten minutes and run for one minute. That gives you a nice, quick burst of activity without pushing your body too hard.

As you continue getting better, you’ll start to add walks and then jogging into your regular schedule. You can try a 30- to 60-day interval-training routine, or try a beginner's running program.

When you’re ready to take on a running program, use this kind of workout set to take it slow at first:

Amanda's 30-Day Running Program

Day 1. Run 1 minute, walk 2 minutes, five times.

Day 2. Run 2 minutes, walk 1 minute (no walking breaks), five times.

Day 3. Run 3 minutes, walk 1 minute (no walking), four times.

Be Grateful

Many runners take running for granted and they think it comes naturally.

When it comes to this path, the end result is just one aspect of the journey. The travelling itself is a journey, too!

When you are out on the road … you have to look out for obstacles and dodge them. You have to set yourself a time and stick to it. You have to find inspiration as you push yourself.

Finally, you have to appreciate and embrace the twists and turns along the way.

You should love the focus on your breathing, the effort it takes to push your legs, the warm up of your muscles and the cool down that comes once the journey is done.

When you run, you will find many other methods to cope with your problems. You will find numerous ways to deal with your inner demons.

Running is not just a hobby. It is a way of life.

So appreciate your road. Discover how it makes you become a better person.