Having worked in athletics, I’ve seen vicious cycles of injury that can typically be attributed to doing too much too soon. I’m guilty of it myself – I’m not a competitive athlete anymore, but I get excited about a new training cycle and go off the deep end with intensity or duration right away. Typically, this results in pain or an eventual overuse injury.
If you’ve recently dealt with an injury and are excited to get back to running, I have a few recommendations that will help reduce the risk of re-injury or creating a larger problem as a result of training. To be clear, follow these only after your doctor has cleared you for activity.
A proper warm-up. Employing a few of the exercises and joint mobility tactics used during your healing process pre-run is a great way to get the involved area prepared for the stress you are about to reintroduce. Before you get started, take five minutes to work through these movements.
Utilize walk/jog intervals to build duration. A common activity prescription following an injury is a one-mile jog or a short jog for minutes. This is not an inherently bad thing, but even this could be too much depending on how long you have been out of commission. Instead, utilizing short, alternating bouts of jogging and walking can help build your tolerance for impact again. A 3-minute jog followed by a 2-minute walk for 3-4 rounds can be a more productive prescription that builds in rest and reduces the risk of running mechanics falling apart due to fatigue.
Listen to your body. When returning to running, the cardiorespiratory strain is usually at the forefront of our minds. Our tolerance (or lack thereof) for the mechanical load demand, however, is what sneaks up and causes re-injury. Listen to your body, especially in the early stages of your return.
Most active people have a hard time pulling the reins in when returning from injury, and I get that. However, to improve longevity and solidify the efficacy of your time spent in rehab, slowing things down upon re-entry and intelligently through your volume increase is what will help keep you in operating condition and training the way you want to!