How to Return to Running After Injury | A Beginner’s Guide

A six-week training plan for beginners (less than 5 years experience running) making a comeback to running after an injury.

Whether it was an Achilles Tendonitis flare-up or a stint with Shin Splints, 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 a unique set of challenges. It’s difficult to tell if experiencing pain is normal or know how to increase your mileage without risking injury. Don’t worry, you’re not alone and you’re in the right place. Introducing our Basic Return to Running Program, a six-week training plan to help you overcome a minor injury setback with a major comeback.

It’s important to note that while this guide is a valuable resource, every runner’s progression through the program will be contingent upon the uniqueness of their injury, past experience with running, and training tolerance. As always, 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 weakness 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 Training Plan:

The purpose of this training plan is to make a complex process a little more simple. The framework is designed specifically for beginner level 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.

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 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