Returning to Running After Injury

You are injured and can’t run. Now what? What to do with all your free time? And how to keep the fitness that you gained?


The simple answer is cross train. I honestly don’t know a single runner that actually enjoys cross training, however, it is effective. Embrace the suck and get through it. Swim some laps, aqua jog, bike, borrow an ellipti-Go, walk new trails, just remember to keep the activity pain free! You want this to be a nice healing exercise, not creating more damage that the body has to repair. 


You can also utilize this downtime to build strength in the weight room to prevent future injuries and become a more efficient runner. For me, staying active throughout injuries also helped me stay mentally sane, as running is an outlet and a stress-relieving activity. Continuing to move my body, feel sore in new places, and enjoy the process helps make the injury period a little more happy. 


Now, you’ve made it through the required “no running” time period and are ready to return to running! This part can be tricky and most people do too much too soon. It is best to consult with your practitioner to create a personalized plan that addresses your specific needs. A general idea is to begin with a walk-jog program. For example, on day one, you would start with 1 minute of jogging, followed by 3 minutes of walking and complete that 4 or 5 times. Each subsequent time you run, you can very slowly increase the running interval and decrease the walking interval until it is a continuous run. This process takes about 4 weeks total. In the first week, I don’t advise running more than 3 days and no back-to-back days. This allows the body to adapt the stress and impact of running and ensure that the injury is healed and ready for those forces. It also allows other parts of your body to remember how to absorb the forces so that another body part doesn’t get injured!


I also advise building for 3 weeks and then have a down week on your 4th week, where you cut your volume way back. This is especially important for bone injuries, as the bone rebuilds in cycles and needs that down week to fully rebuild and repair. Again, these are just general recommendations and can vary person to person depending on your running background and injury history. 


Finally, once you are back to running, don’t forget to complete your rehabilitation exercises. These will help prevent the injury from recurring so you don’t have to take any more downtime. Each injury only makes you stronger and the comeback story will be worth it 🙂


Happy running!




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Nicole Jaffke