Returning to Running After Injury or Surgery: A Comprehensive Guide

Returning to Running After Injury or Surgery: A Comprehensive Guide

July 24, 2023

Returning to Running After Injury or Surgery

Injuries are an unfortunate part of life, and for runners, they can be particularly frustrating. Whether it’s a knee, ankle, or hip injury, the road to recovery can seem long and daunting. However, returning to running after an injury or surgery is not impossible. With a systematic approach and proper guidance, you can safely and effectively get back on track. In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through the steps you need to take to return to running after an injury or surgery, ensuring a smooth and successful comeback.

Understanding the Healing Process

Before diving into the specific steps, it’s important to understand the healing process and how your body responds to an injury. When you get injured, the affected tissues, such as tendons, muscles, and ligaments, become more sensitive to stress. This means that activities that were once easy for your body may now pose a challenge. Therefore, it’s crucial to gradually and systematically apply load and stresses to your body, allowing it time to adapt and determine its capacity for running.

Gradual Return to Running Protocol

To get back to running after an injury, it’s best to follow a gradual return to running protocol. Starting with shorter runs and gradually increasing your mileage will help your body adapt and minimize the risk of re-injury.

Strength Training for Runners

Incorporating strength training into your routine is vital for reducing the risk of injury and helping you get back to running. While any exercise is beneficial, there are specific strength training exercises that are particularly helpful for runners. Let’s explore some of these exercises:

Step Downs

Step downs are a simple yet effective exercise for lower extremity rehab. By adding variability to the classic step-up and down exercise, you can improve movement proficiency and develop a well-rounded athlete.

Calf Strengthening

Calf strengthening exercises are essential for runners as they focus on strengthening the calf muscles while incorporating single-leg stability. Adding these exercises to your training routine can improve single-leg strength, balance, and control.

Core Strengthening

A strong core is crucial for runners as it helps maintain trunk and pelvis stability, reducing the risk of injuries. There are numerous exercises that target the core and also engage the hip muscles, such as hip abduction and external rotation. Including these exercises in your routine can help resist dynamic knee valgus and improve overall stability.

The Importance of Cross-Training

Cross-training is an excellent way to maintain fitness and build strength while you are unable to run due to an injury. It involves engaging in alternative forms of exercise that complement running and promote overall fitness. Some popular cross-training activities include swimming, cycling, and boxing classes. These activities not only help maintain cardiovascular fitness but also provide a break from the monotony of running and can prevent mental fatigue.

Developing a Gradual Return to Running Plan

When returning to running after an injury or surgery, it’s essential to have a well-structured plan in place. This plan should focus on gradually increasing your running volume while also addressing any underlying issues that may have contributed to the injury. Here are some key components to consider when developing your return to running plan:

Start with Walking

Walking is an excellent way to ease back into physical activity after an injury or surgery. Begin with short walks and gradually increase the duration and intensity over time. Walking helps improve cardiovascular fitness and prepares your body for the demands of running.

Assess Your Pain Levels

As you progress from walking to running, pay close attention to any pain or discomfort you may experience. It’s normal to feel some discomfort during the initial stages of returning to running, but it should not be severe or debilitating. If you experience excessive pain, it’s important to reassess and modify your plan accordingly.

Incorporate Run-Walk Intervals

To gradually increase your running volume, incorporate run-walk intervals into your training. Start with short running intervals followed by walking periods for recovery. As your fitness improves and your body adapts, gradually increase the duration of the running intervals while reducing the walking periods.

Monitor Your Progress

Keep a training journal to track your progress and monitor any changes in pain or discomfort. This will help you identify patterns and make adjustments to your training plan as needed. Additionally, consider using a running app or GPS watch to track your distance and pace, providing valuable data for monitoring your progress.

Gradually Increase Mileage and Intensity

As you continue to progress in your return to running plan, gradually increase your mileage and intensity. However, it’s crucial to do this in a controlled and systematic manner. Avoid sudden jumps in mileage or intensity, as this can increase the risk of re-injury. Listen to your body and be patient with the process.

Incorporate Strength and Flexibility Exercises

In addition to running, don’t neglect the importance of strength and flexibility exercises. These exercises help improve muscle imbalances, enhance running efficiency, and prevent future injuries. Include exercises that target the major muscle groups used in running, such as the hips, glutes, core, and lower extremities.

Seek Professional Guidance

If you’re unsure about developing a return to running plan or have concerns about your injury, it’s always advisable to seek professional guidance. A running specialist physiotherapist can assess your condition, provide personalized recommendations, and ensure you’re on the right track to a safe and successful return to running.

Virtual Fitness Challenges: A Motivational Tool

Participating in virtual fitness challenges can be a great way to stay motivated during your return to running journey. Fitwins Virtual challenges provide a platform where you can set goals, track your progress, and connect with other runners. These challenges offer a sense of community and support, which can be invaluable when facing the physical and mental challenges of returning to running after an injury.

Returning to running after an injury or surgery requires patience, dedication, and a systematic approach. By following a gradual return to running protocol, incorporating strength training and cross-training, and developing a well-structured plan, you can safely and effectively resume your running routine. Remember to listen to your body, monitor your progress, and seek professional guidance when needed. With the right approach and mindset, you can overcome your injury and get back to doing what you love – running.


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Not sure how virtual fitness works?

The easiest way to learn is to try Fitwins for yourself! The app is free to download, and you only pay for challenges you take part in, so why not take it for a test drive?

In the meantime, here are the answers to some of our most frequently asked questions about how Fitwins compares to other virtual walking challenges.

No! We believe that flexibility is the key to fitness success, so instead of forcing you to complete a set distance, we let you set your own goal.  This means you can be flexible in how you complete YOUR challenge: so if you are smashing your target, you can raise the bar and aim for more. 

All entries into our challenge will receive a great medal, with a ribbon specific to the challenge type.

For our “iconic challenges”, your ribbon will have a unique design related to the challenge. For our regular monthly challenges, your ribbon will reflect the total distance you covered.

Running and walking ribbons are awarded based on 25, 50, 75, 100, 125, 150, 175 and 200+ miles. Cycling ribbons are for distances of 50km, 100km, 200km, 500km, 1000km, 2000km and 3000km. 

Absolutely! Not only that, but all the distance you’ve covered since the start of the month will count, as the Fitwins App syncs with Strava and logs all activities from the start of the month, regardless of what date you sign up for the challenge. 

If you are hitting the streets with your app activated, verification is completed automatically by sycning with Strava. You can focus on completing your challenge, and we’ll take care of the rest.

If you’re using a treadmill, exercycle or other stationary equipment for some of your challenge, you’ll need to log this manually.


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