Return to Running

There are an estimated 20 million adults who run regularly. Of these, one third will seek medical attention for injuries acquired while running. The SMART Institute reports the 65% of all runners will suffer from a running related injury every year. The average runner will miss 5-10% of their workouts each year. Novice runners are much more likely to have a running related injury than experienced runners. Only 50% of running injuries are new; the other 50% are injuries that involve structures that were previously injured.

The majority of running injuries are overuse injuries due to improper training. In Running and Fitness magazine, Lloyd Smith, DPM states that 30.5% of all running injuries involve the knee, 20.6% are due to shin splints or stress fractures of the lower leg, 14.5% are due to plantar fasciitis; 6% are due to Achilles tendinitis; and 29.5% are due to other musculoskeletal injuries. If you have one of these injuries, you are certainly not alone.

Injuries from running can come from a variety of sources, such as overtraining or returning too quickly following an illness or injury. Other factors could involve poor flexibility or muscle imbalances. A sudden change in running surface, footwear, or workouts (i.e. adding hill workouts, speed workouts, or increasing mileage too quickly) can also have an adverse effect on your body.

If none of the above apply, the problem may lie in your biomechanics. Biomechanics can involve running form, as well as structural mechanics of your of your musculoskeletal system. A biomechanical evaluation by a healthcare professional will help determine the cause of the problem.

Regardless of the reasons for your injury, there are certain things you must do. First, DON’T PANIC. None of these injuries are life threatening. Secondly, studies show that 5-7 days of rest from activity will not cause any decrease in training effect. However, these same studies show that after 8-10 weeks of rest, the loss is 80-100%. They also show that fitness is lost more quickly than it is gained. In other words, you will need 2-3 days to make up for each day of rest.

If the thought of taking time off makes you crazy, or if you want to maintain your fitness level, find some alternative exercises. Check with your physical therapist or physician to make sure your alternative exercises are suitable. Remember that you must keep your heart rate within the target range (about 70% of your max heart rate, which is 220 – your age), and you want to train for the same amount of time your run would take. Great alternatives include biking, swimming, elliptical, rowing, or deep water running.

In general, listen to your body! Do not run through pain and stop if any pain you feel is increasing. Take days off between runs and use cross training as a way to prevent running injuries. Following some smart guidelines may keep you running for a long time.

(from “The Injured Runner’s Training Handbook”)

After 1-2 weeks off:
– Start at 1⁄2 your pre injury distance
– Alternate running days with cross training days
– Slowly build to pre-injury levels over 2-3 weeks
– Back off if any pain

After more than 2 weeks off:
– Walk briskly for 10 minutes to warm up
– If pain free, alternate walking and jogging, starting with 3 minutes of walking and 1
minute of jogging
– Begin with a 16 minute workout (4 cycles)
– Cool down by walking for 10 minutes
– Gradually increase running time by 30 seconds each time, and decrease walking time by
the same amount
– When you can run 16 minutes without pain, slowly increase running time
– Increase running by no more than 10% per week
– Alternate running days with cross training days

If you ever have pain as you are working on your return to running, STOP RUNNING! Check with
your health care professional if you have questions or problems.