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Ending the injury hiatus: How to return to running with caution

When injury takes you out for an extended period of time, it's important to return with caution.

Woman running

When recovering from an injury, there comes a time when it feels like it will soon come to an end.

At eight weeks into recovering from a stress reaction in my left foot, I find myself seeing an end. However I’m also recognizing that recovery, if done well, never really ends– nor should it. While the injury will heal, the adjustments made during recovery are important to carry into future training.

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In the past, I’ve written about how injury can make a runner stronger and how through my own experience, I’ve seen myself become a better runner through the lessons I’ve learned during these times. With each setback, I’ve always come back a bit better because I’ve been able to get to the root cause and make necessary changes. Whether it’s correcting a muscle imbalance, getting massage or chiropractic work done, making nutritional changes, or even just acknowledging that an injury was the result of pushing too hard, I’ve learned from it which has proven to be invaluable moving forward. 

When I first started to take running more seriously, I developed tendonitis in my left knee. My physiotherapist at that time recommended I start rolling more, do glute exercises and not up the mileage too quickly. Well, two years later, these are still important aspects of my training.

As I get closer to that day of being able to go for my first run back, I’m starting to feel the excitement. As long as my foot remains pain free with walking and biking over the next few days, I’ll be heading out on that first run at the end of this week. It feels great to have a little jump back in my step, and to be able to push a bit on the bike and go for walks without having to be overly concerned about spending too much time on my feet. However, with this excitement comes a cautious optimism.

I’m aware of the risk of setting myself back if I start to pushing to soon. So, in preparation for my first run back, I’m readying myself for the potential of having to stop earlier than I’d like. I’m also preparing myself if I’m to feel pain right off the first step though I dearly hope that isn’t the case. I have to be prepared to feel that pain and not feel defeated. Right now, I’m reminding myself that I’m still in the recovery process. Regardless of how good, or not good my foot feels on that first run back, I’m still a ways off from hitting those high mileage weeks, and intense workouts– there’s no rush.

As it so often is the case with distance running, the key is to keep the bigger picture in mind, and to not let emotion lead to doing something unwise in the moment.