You’ve been forced to stop running for a few months due to an injury and you have now been cleared to resume running.
You’re excited to get those shoes on and step out the door for your first run in months. You feel great and your body feels good. You end up running 3 miles; it was a good test run.
Now that you have that one run under your belt, you start increasing the mileage. You are ready to get after it. You have a race on the schedule in 4 weeks after all!
And then it hits…Pain sets in. You’re frustrated. You’re confused. You’re scared! You begin to wonder if you need to give up running because of all these injuries you keep getting.
Most likely, the answer is ‘No, you do not need to give up running.’ There are a lot of factors that could be playing into your continued injuries, one being your return to running plan.
Just because you could easily run however long you wanted prior to taking time off does not mean you can get right back to it as if nothing happened. You have not been running and you have been injured. Your return to running must be treated similarly to the first time you started running – start slow and work your way back into it. ‘Too Much, Too Soon’ will get you injured nearly every time!
What does a proper return to running program look like? It starts as a run/walk program.
The run/walk program has several purposes: 1) to let your body remember what it feels like to run again, 2) to make sure the body is able to handle the activity, 3) to increase the stresses and forces on the body in a gradual manner. This run/walk period is important to get the body adapted to the running motion again and more importantly, the forces that the body takes on when running.
The way the run/walk process works is you are initially walking more than you are running and then you gradually increase your run time and decrease your walk time until you are running without walking. This process could take as little as a couple weeks or as long as a few months. It really depends on what the injury was and how long you were away from running.
Can I guarantee this process will keep you from getting re-injured when you return to running? Absolutely not! As I stated before, a lot of factors play into injuries. But, taking the element of ‘too much, too soon’ out of it will eliminate one injury factor.
Written by Brianne Showman. Brianne is a physical therapist and running coach with Get Your Fix Physical Therapy And Performance. Her focus is on helping athletes resolve injuries in less time by getting to the root of the problem, improving movement patterns, and incorporating proper training to help the body to move more efficiently, more powerfully, and in less injury-prone ways.