Recovering From Injury

Mon Sep 19 2022

I have always had a strained relationship with running. I even have a phrase that my family is tired of hearing me tell everyone : "No matter how much you love running, it will never love you back". I really do love running, but it has come with so many injuries. I have been working really hard over the past few years to find ways to stay injury free and had even manged to have a couple of really long stretches of pain free running. That was until I found a new way to hurt myself - crashing my bike.

This past June I was making my first attempt at completing the Big Friggin Loop. At about mile 85 of the 90 I was coming around a curve that I have ridden literally hundreds of times when my rear tire slipped out. I attempted to save it by putting my left foot down but wound up doing my best impression of a pole-vaulter off that leg. As I was going down I felt a pop in my foot and knew immediately what had happened.

So, here I am three months later planning out how to get started running again. Over the years I have developed an injury recovery protocol that works extremely well and want to share it here. This protocol will not work if you're in a rush to get race ready. It takes several months, but has a low risk of re-injury or causing a new injury.

Phase 1: Walking

Once my doctor gives me the go-ahead to start running again, I like to start by walking. I usually start by walking a mile 3 times per week, and gradually increasing it till I can walk three miles. I make sure that I can walk all 3 miles with a normal gait, and that I do not have too much soreness afterwards before I try to run at all. This phase usually takes me two or three weeks.

Phase 2: Walk, Run, Walk

During this phase I run three times a week for three weeks following this progression: Walk half a mile, run 1 mile, walk half a mile. (runs 1 and 2) Walk half a mile, run 1.5 miles, walk half a mile. (runs 3 and 4) Walk half a mile, run 2 miles, walk half a mile. (runs 5 and 6) Walk half a mile, run 2.5 miles, walk half a mile. (runs 7 and 8) Walk half a mile, run 3 miles, walk half a mile. (run 9)

Like all the other phases in this progression I do not graduate to the next unless I am completing each step with a normal gait and little to no soreness.

Phase 3: Running Increments

During this phase I continue to run only three times per week and gradually bring my mileage up from 3 miles per run to 10 miles per run. I start by adding half a mile per week, so week one is three runs of 3 miles each. Week two is three runs of 3.5 miles each, and so on till I can run 5 miles. Once I can do 5 mile runs I add 1 mile per week to each run until I am running 10 miles three times per week.

Phase 4: Rest

Then I take a break for a whole week and cross train. By this point it has been quite a few weeks of running and gradually adding more and more stress, so new or repeat injury is lurking.

Phase 5: Build Base

After the rest week I continue to run only three days per week. I do one fun run, one fast run, and one long run. For the fun run I usually do trails. For the fast run I like to do either a tempo run, or sets of surges of two minutes "on" and one minute "off". For the long run I continue adding one mile per week till I can do 14 to 16 mile runs.

Phase 6: Convert Base to Speed

If a race is coming up I like to make a change to my training three weeks out. I do one speed day of 800 meter or 1 mile repeats. I keep my fun day, and I trade my long run for hill repeats. My body doesn't respond well to peaking before a race so I don't reduce intensity or mileage before a race, but I do try and make sure that my speed workout day is the same time of day and day of the week that my race will be. That way race day is just part of the normal stress response cycle.