Injuries do happen, both to athletes and amateur runners. However, some of them are more severe than others. In case of a major injury which requires surgery, you will be away from the running track for a few months. All the days spent in post-operatory recovery and regaining the full mobility of your injured leg will take a toll on your level of fitness and endurance in running.
Basically, you will have to start up from the bottom and work your way up to regaining your previous running strength and resistance. Today we will discuss the right way to do it – without putting too much pressure on yourself and without losing too much time away from your training routine. The most important message and the biggest take-away of this article is this: each person is unique and each injury is unique, so you must not compare yourself to others and instead simply focus on your own recovery path.
Let us get started on your recovery path!
- Allow Yourself to Heal
This is the most important step – the first one. Recovery and rehabilitation from a major injury are not just physical. They leave emotional scars and doubts, especially in professional athletes. Will I ever get back in shape? Will I ever compete again? These are questions passing through your mind every day.
And the natural response to them is to rebel – to refuse the cold bare fact that right now you are not in any competitive shape at all. In this state of mind, you may rush to intense training, disregarding your doctor’s advice, and you could reopen the injury. This is why complete healing is important – both physical and emotional. Once you get the green light from your doctor and your emotions are under control, you are in the right physical and mental state to resume training.
- Test Yourself before You Resume Running
You will be doing rehabilitation exercises prescribed by the physical therapist before you start running again. An experienced therapist will know exactly how much you need to retrain your muscles before you are good to go on the running track, but there are several things you can test by yourself to find out whether it is the right moment to start running again.
- The ability to stand only on the injured leg for 30 seconds
- The ability to walk at a fast pace for 30 seconds
- The ability to do 20-30 single leg calf raises without a break
- The ability to do 30 single knee dips
If you can do these routines without feeling pain or weak in the injured leg, you are ready to perform your first post-injury run.
- Smooth Progression Is the Key to Success
Now that you are back on the running track, you are excited and ready to give your best. Not so fast, please! You need to take it easy, and start by finding your baseline. The baseline is the length you can run at a long run speed without feeling pain, both during the run and in the next two days afterwards.
Start with this baseline, allow one-day breaks between your runs, and always increase the length or intensity of your run when you feel comfortable.
- Do Not Compare Yourself to Others
When you are recovering from a major injury, you are not in a competition with anyone – even with other athletes with similar injuries. Stories that X was back in shape in just two months after knee surgery are just that – stories. Most of them are not true anyway but, even if it were, everyone has a different rate of recovery.
- Watch Your Diet and Vitamin Intake
You are what you eat – it may seem like an overused motto, but it is very true for athletes, and especially for athletes recovering from injury. One of the biggest mistakes is not being careful what you eat. Inflammatory foods, such as white bread, sugar-laden drinks, and coffee, will delay the complete recovery from the injury and extend the period you have to keep away from the running track.
Instead, you should choose healthy food rich in fatty acids, antioxidants and substances which reduce blood sugar levels, as well as lots of vitamin C. Vitamin C plays a huge role in the formation of collagen in our bodies – and collagen is the main component of the connective tissues.
Thus, by combining a healthy diet with the right kind of training done in the right amount and at the right moment, you will regain your fitness level and get back on the running track as if your injury had never happened.