How to Return to Running After Injury

Return To Running

How to Safely Increase Your Running After an Injury

It’s always such a relief when the physio gives you the go-ahead to start running again after an injury. The return to running phase of your rehab, however, cannot be taken lightly.

Re-injury is, of course, the biggest risk. However, with a sensible and structured re-introduction to your running, you have a much better chance of success first time and a faster return to full running fitness.

A number of readers have asked me to put together an example twelve week running program for those who are coming back from injury.

This simple-to-follow program will guide you through three months of gradual progression of running volume to safely build up running time as the previously injured tissues get stronger again.

Return to Running Plan >>
Free Download [PDF]

If you’re interested in the reasoning behind this return to running plan, feel free to watch the video below:

How to Change Your Running Style Safely

You could also use the program below to provide important structure for a three-month transition phase as your body adapts to a new running style.

This is particularly important to help runners avoid the common and painful ‘too much, too soon’ trap – when changing from a heel striking to midfoot or forefoot strike gait pattern!

Example Return to Running Plan

Week 1: 3 sessions of: (Run 1min : Walk 1min) x 10

Week 2: 3 sessions of: (Run 1min 30sec : Walk 30sec) x 8

Week 3: 3 sessions of: (Run 2min : Walk 30sec) x 8

Week 4: 3 sessions of: (Run 3min : Walk 1min) x 8

Week 5: 3 sessions of: (Run 4min : Walk 1min) x 8

Week 6: 3 sessions of: (Run 5min : Walk 1min) x 6

Week 7: 3 sessions of: (Run 10min : Walk 1min) x 3

Week 8: 3 sessions of: (Run 15min : Walk 1min) x 2

Week 9: 3 sessions of: Run 20min non-stop

Week 10: 3 sessions of: Run 25min non-stop

Week 11: 3 sessions of: Run 30min non-stop

Week 12: 3 sessions of: Run 35min non-stop

Return to Running Plan >>
Free Download [PDF]

Important Rules to Follow

  1. All running to be completed at an easy pace.
  2. No speed work until you complete this ‘return to running’ phase!
  3. Don’t run on consecutive days – give your body time to recover.
  4. It’s important to make sure you focus on form throughout each run, especially as the durations increase.
  5. During each run, stop at the first sign of any discomfort.

As you gradually return to running after your injury, it’s so important that you avoid one of the BIGGEST mistakes that so many runners make:

Remember those physio exercises you were given?

Those drills that played a big part in getting you back to running again…

Well, far too many runners let those exercises fall by the wayside as soon as they return to full training!

Of course, we’d all rather maximise time spent running. However, making time for strength and injury prevention exercises will help prevent you from a return to the physio clinic.

Even if it’s as simple as considering your rehab exercises as “ongling maintenance” exercises… that’ll help a great deal.

You can download an example strength programme to compliment your running from the page linked below.

Good luck!

Read Next >>
Strength Training for Distance Runners
Last updated on June 24th, 2019.
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11 Comments

  1. Good morning from Sparti Greece!! I would like to ask if you could inform me by providing me a programm for runners. I am already running about 12 miles totally per week ( two or three times) on road and I would to increase the distance periodically to 7 miles per time.
    My body type is slim (5-10” and 165 pounds)
    Thank you for your attentios

    Valantis
    Sparta

  2. Hi James excellent info as per usual. Re new runners and some great tips. As a coach I go right to technique as running with bad technique without getting into it right away only inforces bad habits. One of the first things I work on is cadence to get my runners up to 180 or above. Some are naturally there already which is a bonus. High cadence keep their foot strike low with less impact for injury prevention among other things, speed being one. I find a slight downgrade to run on makes it easier to increase cadence.
    Muscle imbalances is a major contributor to injury and a visit to a physio is a good idea but the one issue I find is that a physio doesn’t have the time in most cases to spend with the patient to go over exercises to do them properly and just hand out an exercise sheet.This is where an exercise therapist should be used by the physio to make sure the exercise or exercises are done properly to hopefully eleviate the problem.
    When new runners start it is usually through a running program eg. 13 weeks to a 10k, 10 weeks to a Jingle Bell 5k. I always say please don’t stop after you have gotten off the couch to do this but continue on with another program,race or run on your own for six months and if you don’t like running after that then running might not be right for you at the moment but at least give it six months. I say make an appointment with yourself to run at a certain time and this is set in stone. It is like setting an appointment with your doctor or lawyer. Please don’t think of yourself being selfish. You are the most important person in the world and you have to be healthy to look after your family so you have to come first in order to do that and this takes a lot of introspection to wrap your mind around this thought.
    As you said in your tips listen to your body and I tell my runners there is a difference between fatigue & pain. Take enough time off to feel better and one can cross train by swimming,cycling etc as long as they don’t feel the same pain. Have fun make new friends and training partners and some will become life long friends

  3. Hi James,
    I finally had the chance to listen to your Achilles webinar. Great info as always! One question though, when starting to run again do you have any advise for when and how to begin hill training. I can run on the flat without any issues but still am unable to do any hills. I have not done the suggested rehab yet but will start that this week going back to the beginning with the 12 week heel drops.. while doing this would you also recommend that I bring the running back to a run walk or stay with the 20 min distance I can do on the flat pathway?

    As always I appreciate your advise.
    Heather

  4. Today I started the Stronger Hips for Pain Free Knees program. I havehad pain in both ends of my hamstring for over two months, with no sign of improving. I am able to run, but have not done so for over a month. I was womdering if I can begin with the Return to Running program at the same time I am doing the Stronger Hips for Pain Free Knees program. Thanks!

    1. Hi Alesso, it’s impossible to give individual advice like this, as I’m sure you will understand. If you do decide to begin the programme, be sure to keep the intensity super-easy. If rest has not helped, and running doesn’t aggravate your symptoms, I’d usually encourage you to cautiously begin the programme. However, having not seen you it’s not possible for me to give you personal advice to do so.

      1. Thanks for you quick response. I understand your point. I will start the program at a super easy intensity and see how that works. In the mean time, I am following the Stronger Hips for Pain Free Knees and 30 Day challenge programs.

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