If you are a triathlete or runner, having someone tell you that you need to stop running due to an injury is worse than just about anything you can imagine.
All of that hard work, long hours of training and time spent building yourself to be a better athlete; all gone in an instant. Whether it’s an accident or an overuse injury that has you sidelined, the rehab usually starts out with the same recommendation — you either have to decrease your mileage or stop running altogether. For many of us, there is no better way to return from injury than to stop and hit the reset button. It allows the body to fully heal, recover and build a stronger foundation than you had before.
If surgery, a fracture or an overuse injury has you sidelined from running it can often be quite confusing and daunting to start running again. “How will my body respond? What if the pain is still there? What if I am doing further damage?” These are all valid questions and are best answered by your medical professional (therapist, physician) based on your specific circumstances. Oftentimes the guidelines from medical professionals are quite vague and can be “just take it easy.” Easy is such a relative term and you can get into a lot of trouble trying to figure out what to do. Time is of the essence and no one wants to experience any further setbacks once given the green light to run again.
Outlined below is a safe, easy way to slowly build up your mileage with minimal risk of re-injury. These guidelines are based on your ability to feel pain, so make sure that you are not using medication to mask those sensations. Also, it is important to note that there is a big difference between pain and discomfort from returning to a sport that you may have been off for six weeks or more with an injury. You will be sore and feel some discomfort from returning to your previous activity level, but it should not be painful.
After you are cleared to start running again, make sure that your health care professional has investigated the root cause of your injury and that you are taking the proper steps to fix what got you into your current situation in the first place. Otherwise, in a few short months you will be right back where you started, injured and not running! You need to address flexibility, range of motion, stability, strength and alignment issues. Ensure you have proper fitting footwear that is in good shape. Have a run-gait analysis done by a trained professional and make sure you have homework in the form of drills and cross-training exercise to perform based off your individual style and past issues. All runners should be working on flexibility, stability and strength with some form of cross training like yoga, standup paddleboarding, cycling, swimming or even team sports. Why not set up a mini gym in your house with a yoga mat, balance board, suspension trainer and some weights to make it easy to fit into your already busy schedule.
Watch the video below for a full explanation of how to safely return to running after an injury. Follow this advice and soon you will be running better than your old self. The photo will make more sense once you follow through with the video.
Tricia Davis, PT, is a USA Triathlon and USA Cycling Certified Coach, wellness and injury prevention specialist and co-owner of Potential Energy Training. She is a hyperkinetic, Canadian-trained physiotherapist and athlete. Good at seeing the big picture, she is able to focus on the most important details for you to achieve success. Tricia thrives most in helping those with limited time by providing evidence-based training and skill acquisition in order to make training the most efficient way to attain goals while reducing risk of injury. Tricia is passionate about health, wellness and efficiency in sport while maintaining a balance in all aspects of life. Learn more about her run offerings here, and connect with Tricia at email@example.com.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the practices of USA Triathlon. Before starting any new diet or exercise program, you should check with your physician and/or coach.