No one wants to get injured doing their favourite thing… it side lines you, keeps you cooped up and keeps you away from the thing you love the most.
Coming back from a running injury can flat out suck. But what sucks more, is the time you already spent dealing with the injury. The first and perhaps most important thing to keep in mind when getting back to running after a long hiatus due to injury or an accident: Be grateful for every mile.
Injures have a way of giving runners a bit of a reality check; in coming back from all that time spent rehabbing and cross-training, it is important to retain that perspective and not get greedy with miles. We have to honour our injuries and give our bodies the time they need to heal properly. Often, we can be guilty for coming back too fast, causing either a new injury or worsening symptoms of the old injury. We get impatient, we want to get back out there, we see our friends out there and we end up making matters worse. The last thing you want during a comeback is to re-injure yourself, or to get a new injury, so here are a few things to keep in mind as you return to running.
We often return too quickly to activity once we have been cleared to exercise, which can lead to setbacks and more frustration. We think that once the pain is gone, we can resume our activity to where we were before we got injured. A safe way to increase mileage is start back slow and then increase your mileage no more than 10% a week. Although it can be hard to start slow, this method is a safe and effective way to ensure you do not sustain another injury or aggravate your old one!
Keep up the rehab
Even if you have been cleared to run, you don’t want to stop your physical therapy of rehab exercises. Don’t get comfortable or lazy and forget that. You were given those exercises specifically to strengthen your muscles around the injury and to heal the actual injury. Maintaining these exercises is imperative to prevent getting injured again.
Listening to your body is key!!! Your body knows when enough is enough. Returning from an injury you might find that you are slower, and more easily fatigued than before you were injured. You have to accept your bodies process. Use your body’s signals of soreness and fatigue as signs that you should be conservative when you return to running, and avoid the urge to jump right back into intense training.
After a long break, you need to forget about where you were pre-injury and avoid all comparisons. It will only set you up for frustration and can it could derail your comeback. Track the progress you make post-injury and take every victory (extra miles, faster workouts, feeling stronger etc.) as it comes. Eventually you’ll return to “old you” workouts and times, but before you hit that realm think of yourself with a totally clean slate. Muscle memory is on your side here. The first few runs are going to feel impossibly hard but you’ll bounce back sooner than you think!
Cross training is huge! Decrease the amount of miles you are running and focus on cross training. As runners, we shouldn’t be running everyday anyways so supplement days off with cross training. It builds strength, reduces impact on your body and can help decrease the chances of new injuries. As you come back to running, add in a few extra days of cross training. Strengthen those muscles around your joints to decrease injuries! Since you will be starting slow and with less mileage, you will have more time to work on strength! Make the most of the time you’re not able to run by focusing on other weaknesses. Gain flexibility, improve your core and overall strength!
Using the time that is not currently being devoted to additional running to create strength and core routines specifically designed for your needs is recommended. For instance, if you developed a hamstring injury, focus on a lifting routine that strengthens hips, quadriceps, and hamstrings by implementing squats, lunges, and dead lifts. If you are new to cross training, I highly recommend scheduling yourself in for a one on one training session so you can learn how to do everything correctly and safely. By the time you are back to your normal training load, you will have decreased your chance of a re occurrence and developed good habits in the process.
Don’t be hard on yourself!!! You have to get back at it with a positive attitude and to respect the journey of the comeback. Go easy on yourself and allow yourself to feel those frustrations you might have. Respect the time it takes your body to get back into the swing of things. By being negative and down, you might push yourself to far to fast. Look forward to the runs and more miles as they come and do not forget that each mile is NOT a given. Be grateful for them and, as you are able to run more and are back to full training mode, remind yourself not to take them for granted. This will help you remain patient and keep your eyes focused on the long term.