This is a question that I often get from runners wrapping up rehab. In my work as a PT, I typically will provide patients with a pretty firm return to running plan based on their individual injury and other strengths/weaknesses that have been part of their therapy plan. So, a lot of the answer to this question comes down to INDIVIDUAL runners with INDIVIDUAL injuries in my practice as a PT. To answer your question in a general way though, I’ll provide some guidelines below:
* My rule of thumb for pain during running is almost always If it is causing you to limp during or after a run, you are too injured to continue at your current level. As runners, we know we are going to have some pain. As injured runners, we know this to an even greater extent. If you aren’t limping or changing your gait, you are probably okay to continue (some exceptions would apply such as return from stress fracture).
* If you have been out for more than 4 weeks, I almost always begin with a run-walk method for returning, so you are off to a good start based on your question above. Even for advanced and veteran runners, a 4 week layoff due to injury leaves your body and mind in a much different place than when you last were running regularly. A run-walk method helps ensure that you don’t overdo it too quickly and can keep your pain to a minimum.
* After run-walking every other day for 4-6 runs, I typically let people begin returning to their typical training with the guidelines of every other day and lower intensity base runs only (i.e. no tempo or sprint or hill, etc). If you are a higher volume runner, you want to gradually increase your total mileage (as an aside, look for a future post regarding the oft used 10% rule that isn’t necessarily the best way to go …). Don’t go from a 20 min run walk three days in a week to a 45 mile week of straight running.
* If you have an injury that lasts more than 2-3 weeks and is affecting your running, it’s unlikely that it is going to go away on its own, so I would recommend seeking an expert in the medical field that is used to dealing with running injuries. As runners, it can be frustrating to see a physician or PT or other practitioner who does not understand the “runner’s mentality”, so ask around to find a good fit for you.
I hope this helps a little bit. Returning from injury can be tricky, and the last thing that you want is to just end up re-injured and back to square one. I do offer coaching services for return from injury if you are interested in it. Please see my services page for more info. Hope you get healthy and back to your regular running soon!
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