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6 important points to think about when returning to running

It is always a positive decision to take some responsibility for our health and lifestyle. Diet and exercise shouldn’t simply be associated with weight loss. They are essential for us to look and feel better from the inside-out. But when making healthier choices, everyone has to start somewhere. The perils of being a beginner can include isolation, quick loss of motivation, and injury.

Becoming injured is very common and can prove to be frustrating and demoralising. We may have been making a mistake in overreaching ourselves, or we may simply experience some bad luck. Whatever the reason for becoming injured, we should encourage ourselves by planning our return. With a little patience and forward thinking, we can get back to running and exercise after injury - more knowledgeable, more resilient, and stronger than ever before.

Assess What Went Wrong

As quickly as possible after becoming injured, we should try to assess honestly what went wrong. There are several possible causes and we may have experienced a combination of them. In running, inappropriate footwear and overambitious training are perhaps the two most common culprits. We need a shoe that supports our feet and ankles while encouraging a healthy strike and foot position.

They should be breathable enough to encourage circulation but secure enough not to slip or become loose. We should also ensure that they are appropriate for our chosen terrain, whether indoor or outdoor, track or field. We next need to consider whether our training was suitable for our level at the time. It is likely that you want to push and challenge yourself, but there is a thin line between improving and overreaching. Anyone can become injured when pushing themselves too hard, from beginners to experienced athletes.

Consulting professionals can be a very positive step at this stage. A physiotherapist will assess whether there are any underlying causes of injury in your form, gait, or posture, for example. They will also let you know if you are fit again and at what level to train. A coach or experienced runner can take a look at your training plan and advise as to whether you’re aiming to progress too quickly. Try not to see this process as criticism. Assessing fairly and honestly what went wrong takes strength and maturity. It also ensures that the time injured was not wasted and that you can avoid a similar situation in the future.

Lady who was out running holding her knee in pain and being helped by a man

Continue Good Nutritional Habits

When we are injured, it is natural that our nutrition might also slip. Comfort foods are a favourite and should be enjoyed as a mood booster in moderation. But our body’s recovery very much depends upon the type of fuel and nutrition it receives. We can take our cue from the form of injury we have experienced.

Muscle and ligament damage recovery could be supported with protein and healthy fats. Stiff and problematic joints can be made suppler by reducing acid in the diet, emphasising hydration, and eating omega oils. We will not need to eat quite as much as when we are training, but we shouldn’t assume that in cutting out calories we are maintaining nutritional balance. We must ensure that we are still meeting our daily requirements for protein, carbohydrates, and vitamins.

Warm Up And Cool Down

An appropriate and effective stretching routine can prevent many of the most common injuries. We should allow ourselves at least ten minutes to adequately prepare our joints and muscles for exercise. Stretching the spine and hips helps to support our posture. We should also give some attention to the hamstrings, quadriceps and calf muscles. Many runners consider that beginning by jogging or running slowly is an adequate warm up, but in reality this can be rather jarring and may affect our longevity as a runner.

Invest time in preparing your body and your performance could improve dramatically. The cool down stretching also helps to eliminate toxins and the build-up of lactic acid that causes stiffness and rigidity the next day.

Infographic showing a 20 minute workout routine to help create a strong core

Start Slowly and Set Goals

Once we feel better, it can be tempting to pick up where we left off. Injury can be a traumatic experience, or frustrating at best. As a result, many of us can want to continue as if it never happened. However, we must take our experience of injury and use it to become more attentive to our bodies. This improves our overall performance and protects us from future injury.

Start slowly. Returning immediately to your previous level of activity or training may seem a time saver but it can be completely counterproductive. If we immediately injure ourselves again or find that we’re in pain, our recovery period can actually become extended. Listen to your body. Start slowly and build up to the desired level in stages. This is unlikely to take as long as you expect but is an essential investment in your running future.

To prevent it from feeling as though time is dragging, set goals. However small, setting goals and achieving them can have a major impact on our morale and sense of accomplishment. Achieving each goal step by step will give us the momentum to progress and improve.

Involve Others

Many runners have a tendency to be self-sufficient. But we should beware of isolating ourselves while recovering from injury as it can be difficult to spot warning signs entirely on our own. Try running with a trusted partner, for example, or booking a few extra sessions with a coach. An extra pair of eyes will give us the freedom to focus entirely on the run itself. Our partner or coach can be watching for any signs of stress or poor form. It can also be nerve-wracking to begin a run alone when we are not yet sure of our resistance or fitness. A short, gentle run or walk with another person can help to build our confidence.

Try Other Forms Of Exercise

Yoga, swimming, and other forms of exercise can be a wonderful way to return to fitness. Running can place strain on our muscle and joints until we are fully fit. A gentler, more supportive form of exercise can build our stamina and suppleness. In targeting new groups of muscles too, we may address weaknesses that haven’t been addressed by our current sport, for example. Investigate classes at a gym or join a local club. Many instructors will also have specific advice for runners or those who are recovering from injury.

Infographic showing 6 poses to help relieve lower back pain

Breathe deeply, take your time, and consider each step an investment in your health.