We can do the best training in the world and still not completely avoid injuries. Kenenisa Bekele proved that when he withdrew from the 2020 London Marathon with a calf injury. If these issues are going to be unavoidable, we need to know how to return to exercise and running well.
The advice I give here can’t be specific. Injuries are too varied for a blog post to cover it, so if you have an issue, see your GP who may refer you on, or find a good Physiotherapist or Osteopath.
Easy does it
The most important advice I can give when returning to running after an injury is to take it easy for the first few weeks. Your total training mileage AND speed should be considerably lower than normal, with the length of the break from running dictating how much slower and shorter you should run compared to how you were training. The longer the training gap, the bigger the difference in duration and speed of runs.
It’s really tempting to rush in, trying to catch up to friends or even just to be back at your previous level as soon as possible. In this situation it’s definitely better to be the tortoise rather than the hare.
If you’re someone who finds themselves even considering how people see your runs on Strava, disconnect your watch from it for a few weeks. In an ideal world you’d be able to accept the difference and not care what people think of your training runs, but I know that in our world that often isn’t the case.
Seek support from your friends
Whether you’re a solo runner with a few friends who run too, or you regularly go to a running club, share your journey with people who’ll support you. Tell them you need to take it easy, and perhaps go a step further by asking them to give you a friendly nudge to slow down if they see you’ve gone too fast.
Spend time on quality recovery
You’ll have taken a step back during your injury. As much as this stings, it’s ok and something we need to acknowledge. Even with easier sessions, you’ll likely need extra recovery time or higher quality recovery. This may include more time stretching, foam rolling, having massage and extra sleep.
One thing most people don’t consider is nutrition. We may occasionally think of it after a long run, especially when in the middle of a marathon training block, but if you had a muscular injury in particular, extra protein can help heal this a little faster.
Fix the issue if possible
Not all injuries have a definitive cause, but often the risks can be reduced by strengthening your muscles, adding mobility or a combination of the two. See a Physiotherapist or Osteopath for a qualified diagnosis rather than listening to Dr Google or his less well-informed partner Dr Running Buddy.
Modify your long term training
Doing too much in terms of the intensity or the number of miles, or simply cramming your runs in too close to one another without rest is a common and avoidable factor in many injuries. Reflect back on training logs to see where you can make some changes.
So there you have it. Take it easy, give yourself time, rope your friends in to hold you to your word, recover well and more frequently, and try to find and fix the underlying issue.
Written by Kyle Brooks, Running Coach based in Norwich, Norfolk