Whether you are training for a goal race or simply running to stay in shape, there is nothing worse than having your running routine come to an unexpected halt. Running injuries are some of the most frustrating experiences for runners, and understandably so.
Which makes learning to recover from a running injury especially difficult.
Recovering from a running injury involves a great deal of time and patience – something which can often be a struggle to come up with.
Many runners find themselves running through discomfort at one point or another during training. Those hard workouts don’t always feel easy, and the end of long runs often bring some aches that have never been felt before.
However, running through the pain of a running injury is an entirely different story. By the time your discomfort has progressed to pain, it’s time to take a break and focus on healing.
Treating running injuries often requires time off, plenty of rest and focused strengthening exercises – a combination of things that are certainly low on a runner’s list of enjoyment.
Learning to properly recovery from a running injury can be the difference between your strongest training season yet, or winding up chronically injured and uncomfortable.
Utilize these 6 steps to recover from a running injury and return to running healthier and stronger than ever before.
6 Ways to Recover from a Running Injury
Take time completely off.
When you are injured or starting to develop a running injury, the worst thing you can do is continue to run through pain. It’s important to take time off at the first sign of a running injury to prevent things from getting worse and developing further.
It can be hard to take time off in the middle of training or a good running season, but taking a few days completely off right away could help you avoid a lengthy break in the future.
When you are injured, taking time off is the first step to healing. Skip a few days of training and opt for complete rest. Spend time off your feet and avoid as much physical activity as possible during those first few days off.
As time progresses and your running injury begins to heal, you’ll be able to add in various forms of cross training to regain fitness, but those first few days of complete rest are crucial to recovery.
Complete regular strengthening exercises.
While resting is certainly an important first step when recovering from a running injury, the next most important thing to do is to determine what caused your injury and take steps to prevent this from reoccurring.
More often than not, running injuries are caused by muscle weakness, imbalance, overuse, or improper form. Narrow down the likely causes of your running injury to create a plan for recovery.
If you are experiencing an isolated pain or fracture, strengthening the surrounding muscles is key to a healthy return. If you’ve pulled or twisted something, take time to evaluate your form and technique to determine how this happened.
Once you’ve isolated the source of your injury, spend time completing PT or rehab exercises to strengthen the surrounding muscles. Complete the isolating exercises every day to gain necessary strength and prevent another injury from occurring once you return to running.
Ease back with extra cross training.
It’s tempting to jump back into training full force as soon as the pain is gone. However, regardless of how much time you took off, it’s important to ease back into training gradually.
After a few days, weeks or months of complete rest, start off slowly with low mileage. In order to help your body regain fitness, compensate with extra cross training during this time.
Be sure to start off with more cross training than running, and as time passes and you remain injury free, you’ll be able to gradually increase your mileage and decrease the amount of cross training until you return to regular training.
Focus on proper form and posture.
Recovering from a running injury is the perfect time to dedicate a little extra focus to form and posture. Many running injuries can be linked back to unhealthy form or muscular imbalance on the run, leading to overuse in some muscles and less strength in others.
As you return to running with lower mileage and easy paces, take this time to really zone in on your form and posture. Evaluate your muscles for any imbalances and take close inventory of your form as you begin running again.
Taking pictures or recording yourself on the run is a great way to check for any posture faults of which you might not be aware. Be intentional about your form, stride, and cadence as you return to running, and take time now to create good habits for the future.
Use this time to focus on those minor details, so they become second nature once you fully return to training.
Take things slow and easy.
Being forced to take time off due to a running injury can feel incredibly frustrating. Regardless of whether you’re right in the middle of training or just running to maintain fitness, the sudden change in plans often leaves runners feeling a little lost and annoyed.
By the time you are healthy and pain free, it’s tempting to jump back into training full force. Being cleared to run after weeks or months off is so exciting that we often jump the gun a bit with our recovery.
Remember that just because your pain is gone or you’ve been cleared to try running doesn’t mean that you’ll be able to pick up right where you left off. It will take time and patience to return to your old pace and mileage.
Plan your return to running slowly, easing back into mileage and forgetting about workouts until you’ve established a solid running base. Slow down your pace and focus on being able to run at all. Recovering from a running injury will certainly test your patience, but taking your time will help your body return even stronger than before.
Stop at any sign of pain.
The most important thing to remember as your return to running after healing from an injury is stop at any sign of pain. Pain is your body’s way of letting you know that it is not fully healed. So if you feel anything – even the slightest bit of discomfort – slow things down or stop altogether.
Running through pain is never a good idea. If you feel pain, stop running and take an extra day or two off. Sometimes a few extra days is all it takes for that final bit of pain to heal.
On the flip side, if you choose to run through pain, you will likely make your injury worse and ruin all of the progress you made during your recovery.
Recovering from a running injury is an understandably frustrating process. The most important thing to remember as you recover is to listen to your body.
Pay attention to any signals you receive from your body, and remember that just because you planned your return a certain way doesn’t mean that it’s going to happen.
Be flexible, practice patience, and remind yourself that this injury is not permanent. You will return to running before you know it – and stronger than ever before.