Whether it’s a minor ankle sprain or a more serious health scare, when an illness or an injury sidelines you, it can be challenging to jump back into your old running routine. Running is a high-impact sport, and trying to begin right where you left off can lead to re-injury or a health relapse.
Ultimately, you’ll need to reintroduce strenuous activity at a lesser pace than you’ve done in the past. Your body needs some extra TLC while it’s healing. Here are five tips to return to running after an illness or injury.
Use your downtime wisely. If your illness or injury requires rehab, make sure you follow through with the recommended exercise program your physical therapist has given you. When you become stronger, engage in other, less demanding forms of exercise like yoga, walking, or swimming to facilitate the recovery process and avoid overtraining. Missing the runner’s high? Use your creativity and channel your energy into whatever activities you enjoy. Any physical activity is better than none at all.
Be mindful of your starting point. If you’ve only been away from running for a week or two, your starting point might not change much. However, if you’ve been off for several weeks or months, it’s important to remember your training schedule will be slower, and you want to try your best to avoid setbacks. To start back on the right foot, you may have to make a few concessions: Before the injury or illness, if you ran with a specific group of people, you may have to forgo the group until you’ve built up your strength and stamina.
If you can’t seem to muster up the motivation without your training partners, consider eliciting the help of a running coach to create a plan that’s appropriate for your current fitness level and needs.
Listen to the signs and symptoms your body is giving you. When you’re trying to bounce back from an illness of injury, ditch the motto “No pain, No gain.” In fact, pain or an exacerbation of symptoms is your body’s way of telling you you’re pushing it at a pace it’s not ready to undertake. Step back and allow ample time for rest and recovery; your body will reward you for listening to it.
Schedule recovery days. Once you’re ready to implement a new training schedule, it should consist of days off. The actual amount of recovery days you’ll need will vary depending on the severity of the condition you’re trying to heal. Plus, you can’t rush your ability to run—fitness is achieved deliberately and steadily, and recovery days are an essential part of training.
Stay positive. If things aren’t going quite as fast as you’d like, try not to be too hard on yourself. There’s hardly a runner on the planet who hasn’t encountered any obstacles along the way. The recovery from an illness or injury can be lengthy, however, don’t lose sight of all the reasons you love to run—let those motivate you to get your body back to optimal health! Stay positive and persevere; soon, you’ll realize you’re getting stronger each day.
A long-term illness or injury can make you feel defeated. Thankfully, a consistent training plan and a hardcore ability to listen to your body’s needs and limitations can help you get your running back on track.
Did you experience a setback because of illness or injury? Tell us how you returned to running in the comments below!