We all have times where we sustain an injury or life gets too busy and we end up missing a few weeks of training. Then when we get fired up again we can overdo things, only to get re-injured or fall into a hole of fatigue and soreness. To give yourself the best chance of building the snowball and returning to your normal training regime, you have to take a slow and progressive approach.
Return to running programs vary greatly, depending on the reason for the stoppage time and its duration. However, assuming your injury has healed and you have a rehab routine you follow, then here’s a simple guide to getting back into the swing of things.
1. For every week you didn’t run, you need two weeks to get back to full volume. So if you had a week off due to a holiday, then you’ll need a couple weeks to ramp up. If you missed 6 weeks with a calf strain, then you’re looking at 12 weeks of gradual increases.
2. Start with short runs followed by walk recoveries. As a guide, for every week you missed, you need the same number of runs prior to doing a continuous 30 mins. So if you missed 2 weeks, then your first run might be an easy 20mins broken into 2 x 10mins, and your second run could be 2 x 15 mins with a 2min walk in the middle. Then run three is 30 mins straight. Similarly, a sic week break means the best part of ten days before you do a 30 minute jog.
3. Run every second day for the first week and then gradually increase the frequency of days spent on your feet. You can substitute other exercise on the non-running days, as long as it’s not detrimental to the recovery of your pins, and doesn’t overly load the injury that just healed. Personally, I like core work or swimming as temporary cross training options.
4. Start with time on legs as the key metric. In the early stages it’s not about distance or speed. Focus on your technique and enjoying being back on your feet. Ignore the pace and keep a good cadence (160 to 180 strides per minute).
5. Do a little bit of self-massage and some light stretching/activation exercises prior to running. While the jury is still out on the benefits of static stretching, it’s still wise to do something to wake up the muscles and tendons prior to heading out the door.
6. Get a massage after the first fortnight back running and if possible, have a gait analysis done to make sure you’re moving correctly and haven’t picked up any bad habits or postural changes during your break. Often you find you might run a little wonky due to protecting an old injury, or you may have developed a tight back that alters your stride. If you can identify these things immediately, you’ll avoid getting a new niggle.
7. Don’t be afraid to take a few steps back. If at any pint you feel like you might be starting to aggravate an injury or you begin to develop unusual soreness, then by all means, give yourself an extra day or two off. You can also go back a week on your return to run program and decrease the loading for a little longer.