Returning to Running After an Injury or a Long Break

running after an injuryGreat article on getting back into running after an injury by Susan Paul

Getting back on your running feet can be a challenge but it can be done. While you can’t just jump right back to where you left off, you will find beginning again, and re-building, easier than it was at the very start of your running career. In addition, your strength training background will also help you. Strength is a very important fitness component and you will have retained some of that conditioning as well.

The first step to returning to training is to have your physician’s approval. Once you are released to begin exercising again, start at the beginning, not where you left off. It is better to proceed slowly at first rather than to do too much and risk injury or set yourself back. Begin with walking briskly for 10 to 20 minutes and assess how you feel during and after the exercise session. Note any aches or pains, monitor your breathing and heart rate, and measure your perceived exertion level. If the exercise session feels hard, it IS hard. Listen to your body and back down the intensity and/or the duration of the exercise if it feels hard. At this point in time, keep a moderate to easy intensity level. Don’t wear yourself out; avoid feeling exhausted at any time. Limit yourself to no more than 20 minutes of exercise time at the beginning. If all goes well, and you experience little to no post-exercise soreness, add some short intervals of easy paced running in your next session. Always monitor how you feel during the exercise session and how you feel one to three days afterwards. This will be your gauge for how much to do the next time.

Gradually increase the length of your run intervals by 30 seconds at a time. Increase the run interval based on how you feel. Because you established your running base prior to surgery, you will find you can increase at a faster rate than a new runner; however, keep in mind that the general guideline for increasing mileage is 10 percent a week. Allow yourself six to eight weeks to return to your pre-surgery routine.

Remember, walking has incredible benefits too. Should you find you are not able to return to running yet, walk. Walking will re-condition muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones, as well as, improve your endurance and make your return to running that much easier.

All the best to you!
Susan S. Paul, MS

Susan Paul has coached more than 2,000 runners and is an exercise physiologist and program director for the Orlando Track Shack Foundation. For more information, visit

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