How to Return to Running After Injury | Advanced Guide

An advanced six-week training plan for runners making a comeback to running after an injury. Intended for runners with consistent experience averaging 40+ miles per week for 5+ years.

Whether it was IT Band Syndrome, Plantar Fasciitis, or any injury in between that interrupted your training, the odds are you’ve likely dealt with a running-related injury. Beyond the physical aspects of getting moving again, the road to recovery presents unique challenges that vary from individual to individual. Just like no two athletes’ strides are identical, no two athletes’ return to running programs are the same. The starting point and rate of progression heavily depend on the individual’s injury, past experience with running, and training tolerance.

Generally speaking, the longer you’ve been logging consistent miles, the more swiftly you’ll be able to ramp up your training after an injury. With this in mind, our Advanced Return to Running Program is a six-week training plan designed specifically for those with experience running 40+ miles per week for five years or more. For those with less experience, check out our Basic Return to Running Program here.

Before we get started, it’s important to note that this content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. While this guide is a valuable resource, we recommend consulting your preferred physiotherapist for additional personalized guidance.

Running Readiness Test:

During brief hiatuses from running, our muscle, tendon, ligament, and bone tissue strength (tolerance to load) decreases - and yes this is totally normal. Being aware of these weaknesses is important for minimizing your risk of future injury. The checklist below will help you evaluate your body’s readiness to run and identify any underlying weaknesses you should address before your comeback.

Return to Running Rules:

The desire to sync up with training partners or meet a race deadline often tempts runners to do too much, too soon. Fitness wise you can feel strong from additional cycling, swimming, and cross-training, but remember the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bone of your legs take longer to adjust to external stresses than your aerobic system does. Regardless of your running route, the rules below will keep you on the straight and narrow during your first six weeks of running.

Respect What You Feel:

Experiencing some pain while progressing through your training is normal. A little pain is natural to the healing process, but when pain becomes excessive it’s time to adjust. Remember pain is your body’s internal traffic light for activity. The chart below will help you make informed decisions throughout the next six weeks.

Six Week Return to Run Advanced Training Plan:

The purpose of this training plan is to make a complex process a little more simple. The framework is designed specifically for intermediate to advanced runners, but can be adapted and evolved to meet your unique needs. Four key things to remember when following this plan:
  1. Recovery Revelation - It’s okay to feel good as a runner. Recovery is just as important as the run.
  2. Consistency is Key - Whether your day calls for running, cross-training or rest, prioritize showing up each day and enjoying the moment.
  3. Adding in Intensity - Intensity to running is like salt to food, a little dash goes a long way. Season your runs carefully!Keep the Momentum Going - After week six, increase your weekly volume by 10-20% until you reach your goal weekly mileage.
  4. Keep the Momentum Going - After week six, increase your weekly volume by 10-20% until you reach your goal weekly mileage.

Let’s run! Download your FREE Return to Running Guide, complete with our Run Readiness Test, Return to Running Rules, and Six Week Return to Run Advanced Training Plan. Enjoy and share with others.

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Dr. Jeff Moreno
About Dr. Jeff Moreno

Jeff, co-founder of PWR Lab, is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and Board-Certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist. Passionate about running and playing, Jeff fundamentally loves people and movement of any kind. He strives to raise the bar in sport by finding ways to proactively prevent injuries and prioritize the long term development of athletes. He has been successful in employing a data-driven, hands-on approach to physiotherapy with National, World & Olympic Championship medalists in Track & Field from USA, China, Canada, and Mexico as well as many NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, Judo, and Triathlon athletes