So, you were sidelined from running because of an injury and you are itching to get back into your typical mileage. Or maybe life has gotten in the way and it’s been a while since you have found the time in your busy schedule. Whether you have an achy hip or a grueling work schedule, it is important to return to running using a systematic, gradual approach to prevent re-injury or any new aches and pains.

It has been shown that our tissues take up to 1.5 times our body weight in load while walking and about 2.5-3 times our body weight while running. After an injury, our tissues are even more sensitive to life’s everyday stresses. You can imagine why they get angry when we eagerly ramp up too quickly! When getting our bodies back into running, it is important to start slow and gradually increase the load to allow our tissues to adapt to this level of impact and avoid tissue irritation.

For general injuries, a common method of re-introducing running is to complete an alternating walk/run for your desired or tolerated amount of time. For example, alternating between a 1-minute jog followed by a 1-minute walk for a total of 10-30 minutes can be a good starting point. As a rule of thumb, it is recommended you increase running distance OR time by no greater than 10% per week to allow for adequate tissue adaptation.

For more complex injuries such as stress fractures or after surgery, the University of Delaware developed a return to running program that is frequently used with post-operative patients. It consists of eight levels performed either on a track or treadmill requiring you meet certain milestones before progressing to the next level. You can take a look at the return to running program here.

In addition to a structured running program, we should be performing several other types of exercise to prepare our bodies for the stresses of running. A well-rounded exercise program should include strengthening, endurance training, flexibility, and balance. Two easy tests you can do to help determine your readiness to return to running are:

  1.   >  20 Single leg squats to a chair
  2.   >  25 Single leg heel raises maintaining a straight knee

If you are recovering from an injury or have questions about where to start on your journey back to running, our physical therapists at DeePT can help you achieve your goals and make you feel good again!



Written by: Leanne Scott, PT, DPT, OCS