1. Find your baseline then work below it
Before hitting the pavement again, the first question to ask is do you feel ready to run again? Ideally, I recommend runners to be mostly pain-free before starting running. I say mostly here because small amounts of pain or niggles can be worked with by staying within your pain tolerance. However, if you are limping or finding walking painful, I wouldn’t advise pushing through this pain. In the first 6 weeks of returning to running, so it’s important to not do too much too soon.
Your baseline is the distance you can run at your long run pace (your slowest pace), without having pain during or for 48 hours after the run (the time it may take for inflammation to develop). This will take some trial and error so take it easy when exploring your baseline. Everyone’s baseline will be different and it is all about finding a level your healing tissue can handle.
2. Cross training and S&C
Cross training and S&C are always important for runners and even more so when returning from an injury. This helps to strengthen the body in different planes of movement and prevent overloading certain tissues through repetitive strain. Cross training may include; cycling, swimming, weight training, Pilates, yoga, the list goes on. The more it replicates running, the better it will be for helping you transition back. Your strength and conditioning should ideally be prescribed by a healthcare professional, for example an Osteopath or Physiotherapist, this will ensure it is specific to your injury.
3. Recover as hard as you train
When returning to running post-injury or even just after some time off, it can be tempting to go from zero to hero especially when you’re feeling good. However, over-loading the soft tissue too quickly can result in further injury and more set-backs. When getting back into running, allow a rest day between each run to allow for full recovery and avoid running in consecutive days. This will prevent a build-up of repetitive strain and reduce the risk of reinjury.
4. Only change one thing at a time
When returning to running, only add in one new thing at a time. Start off with one easy run and see how it goes, if that feels ok you can try 2-3 short, easy runs a week. Stick with this thing for 2 to 3 weeks, then you can gradually increase your speed, intensity and distance. Try not to change too much, for example running on different terrain or changing your shoes. Give your body time to adapt to one thing before adding in another.
5. Pacing & Gradual Progressions
As mentioned, start slow with your long run pace. If you are unsure what that is, you can use this calculator. Take 10-20% off your long-run pace to ensure you are working below your baseline for the first few weeks. Once you have established your long run pace and you’re able to run for 2-3 weeks without an increase in pain or injury. You can start to gradually add in longer distances using the 10% rule, this means only increasing your mileage by 10% each week.