An injured runner suffers the entire time they are kept from their love, even as the pain of the injury begins to ebb. It’s not the injury that bothers them, it’s the inability to run free and participate. It becomes an addiction that is only satisfied by the sweet release of pounding in the grass after a stray ball.
These runners long to return to work and often hit the road running as soon as they are allowed. Returning to running after injury is more than just healing so you can get to the pavement again. Depending on the type of injury and length of the recovery though, they could be opening themselves up for re-injury.
Like Riding a Bike
Runners thrive off of the knowledge that since they ran a certain distance at a certain speed before, they can do it again. It’s like riding a bike. For example, someone that has run a dozen 10K’s is certain they can run another one after 6 months of no training. They run the distance, they make it through and are just fine. They were right, they could still do it.
That’s a dangerous approach to getting back out there. When runner haven’t trained in a while, they still have the ability to make those distances. Their muscles work together to make the dream possible.
What’s the cost of such an accomplishment though?
They are closer to re-injury during these times than they often realize. Their muscles have suffered from the plague of atrophy and aren’t ready to take on the task.
Atrophy is the natural degeneration of cells when they aren’t used. The process exists to make the body more efficient. If it’s not using those cells, then why work to keep them alive? A rest from running for half of a year is more than enough time to let atrophy set in.
The consequences are that your long-distance and stabilizing muscles begin to disappear. They become weaker than they were before. These muscles support your skeletal structure, and when they can’t do their job, you open yourself up to possible re-injury.
For that reason, although you can physically run a 10k on a given day, it’s best not to. Instead, run shorter distances again.
Run Shorter Distances
Start with a mile run again. You’ll be surprised at how much that exercise wipes you out. Run a mile, and then rest a day. Run a mile, rest a day. Run your long run, a mile and a half again, rest for two days. Every week increase your longest mile by only 10% and your total mileage by only 10%. It may seem conservative, but it will allow your body to recreate the muscles strength and stability it once knew.
Start out Slow
Atrophy has affected your speed to. Don’t be afraid to run slower than you’re used to. Running slower allows your body to take the exercise easier. You can work on speed training as you get into the habit again. For now, take it easy and get through the distance.
Consistency is the number one secret to avoiding re-injury in preparation for the season. When you run 3 days a week, every week for three or four years, your body is ready to handle the pressure of doing it again. Strive to get back into a consistent habit.
Running shorter distances builds up that needed muscle strength. Starting out slow will help you protect yourself during the workout. Consistency will re-create endurance to handle the high-intensity workouts you’re used to. Follow these three steps to help ensure a safe return to running after injury and a safe return to the activity you love best.
Body Fit is a book on fitness for families. From the guidance of a personal trainer, families can learn the basics of getting themselves and their family into a consistent pattern of exercise. This book on fitness can help you instill a love for running by helping them to love working out.