Returning to Running Training After an Injury
There’s nothing more frustrating for a runner than getting injured, whether it’s a twisted ankle, a bone fracture, a foot muscle condition or something else. Getting back into running after an injury is annoying, but it’s worth taking your time and making sure you’re fully recovered – you don’t want to start running again too soon and make the injury worse.
Read our tips for running after an injury to make sure you get back to your previous training levels in no time.
What are the most common running injuries?
Some of the most common running injuries include:
- Runner’s knee: Symptoms include pain and tenderness around your kneecap
- Plantar fasciitis: Pain in the heel, which happens when you damage your foot muscles
- Shin splints: A common pain experienced while running, which often arises from overuse
- Stress fractures: Small breaks in your shins, foot bones and heel
- Achilles tendinitis: A tight Achilles tendon which leads to irritation
If you’ve suffered from these – or other common running injuries – it’s smart to take the time to gradually shift back into running.
Tips for returning to running after an injury
If your injury is fairly minor, it’s often fine to just listen to your body and see how it feels after a few weeks of rest. If the injury seems to have disappeared when you walk or do light jogging, you might want to start with some of the exercises below. However, if you experienced a more serious injury, such as a stress fracture or plantar fasciitis, it’s worth consulting with your GP or a physio.
Here are our tips for getting back into running after an injury:
Go slow! Taking it slowly as you get back into running is a smart idea. Don’t immediately return to 10-mile runs and intensive-pace work sessions. Instead, gradually build up. Your first run on return to the sport should be nothing more than a short, light jog – say, 15 minutes or so. Consider interspersing jogging with walking. Listen to your body – be conscious of how it feels, and pay particular attention to the area which was injured. If things seem to be fine, your next sessions can be a little longer – but avoid the temptation to go too fast too soon! It’s worth remembering, too, that if you’ve been out of running for a few weeks, or even months, your fitness levels and endurance will have also decreased – there’s no reason to push this more than necessary.
Don’t ignore pain: We all know the adage ‘No pain, no gain’, which is fine for normal training – but if you’re dealing with a real injury, it’s bad advice. If you notice sharp, unignorable pain in the area you were injured, that’s your body indicating that it’s not ready yet. Don’t ignore what it's telling you.
Review your equipment: Was your initial injury something to do with your running shoes? If you slipped on a muddy trail because your shoes were out of grip, it might be time to invest in a new pair of trail running shoes with more dependable lugs. If you experienced plantar fasciitis because you were wearing trainers that offered little cushioning to protect you from the impact of running, choose supportive trainers and socks . Many running injuries happen because people mistakenly wear the wrong gear – make sure yours isn’t letting you down.
Set a target for a short race: One of the best ways of getting back into running is to choose a short race – perhaps a local 5K or park run. This will give you something to work towards and help you build up your fitness while following a fairly easy training programme.
Keep your morale up: Getting injured can easily get to any runner – if you love the sport and want to keep improving, it can be dispiriting to be forced to take a few weeks off and feel you’ve lost valuable time. While it’s understandable to feel like this, remember that every athlete – including professionals – gets injured from time to time, and as long as you take your recovery seriously, you’ll be sure to come back as strong as ever.
Consider joining a running group: Running groups offer a great way of returning to running after injury. The group’s other members will likely be able to give you tips and advice on how to deal with your specific injury, and running with others can introduce you to new kinds of running training.
Try out low-impact exercises: Low-impact exercises, like swimming, cycling and cross training, all offer ways of staying fit without putting undue pressure on your injury. Try and mix these lo- impact exercises into your routine as you start to build up your running again.
While it can be frustrating to only return to running after injury gradually, it’s wise to listen to your body and avoid putting it through too much too soon – the last thing you want is a return of the injury!