At some point we all end up injured and have to lay off the miles or stop running altogether. It sucks but it’s true. We push our bodies to their limit and then a little more. We don’t like to take rest days and many of us over train. We want to build our miles too quickly; we convince ourselves more is better even when we know it’s not (in theory).
Coming back from an injury can be an arduous process. Especially if your heart and lungs are still at top fitness making you feel like you’re going slow and could be going much faster or further. These modifications are not only good for coming back from an injury, but also for runners who tend to be more injury prone.
When you come back, make sure you have good shoes without a lot of wear and tear. If they are close to retirement, it’s best just to get a new pair. Start with low miles and a slower than normal long run pace. You may have to begin with a walk/run if you are coming back from a serious tear or a fracture. Try to keep the big picture in mind—you want to run for the rest of your life, not just for the next race. That’s always my line for dropping out of a race or for pushing through an injury.
Implement the up and down strategy by having a week of building miles and then have a week of lower steady miles. This is critical if it is a reoccurring or chronic injury. Slowly take out the down weeks as you progress without increased pain. A little pain when recovering from soft tissue injury is okay just make sure it doesn’t go over a 4 on a scale of 1-10. Only increase your miles by ten percent each week. If you’re coming back from a fracture, there shouldn’t be any pain.
Once you have removed the down weeks and are starting to build as you were before the injury, make sure your 4th week, the rest week, is really a rest week. Reduce your miles by 25% or even better take a week of gym time using a low impact machine or even running in the pool. Pool running is a perfect way to come back from a fracture because you can use all your running muscles and remove the impact.
As you increase your miles pay close attention to your form and your gait. You should be able to maintain good form. Also watch for an uneven distribution of your weight toward one side or the other. Either of those will cause a secondary injury.
Remember the goal is to come back stronger than before. You’ll get there; be patient.