Injury is an unavoidable aspect of physical exercise – for both amateurs and professionals. Some injuries are easier, while others will keep you away from exercising for weeks. Whichever the case may be, always wait until you get the green light from your doctor to start training again.

Since every injury is different, every training plan to return to your previous performance is different.

The factors which affect your training plan are:

How severe your injury was,

How long you had to rest your injured leg (not walking or putting pressure on it),

How fit you were before the injury, and

What type of physical therapy you were allowed to do during the recovery process.

The key to successfully getting back in shape is moderation. Many athletes feel pressured to get back to their level of fitness and performance as soon as possible, and set up an unrealistic training plan. For the purposes of this article, we will use the case study of a runner who had to spend eight weeks recovering from a serious leg injury.

1. The First Week of Training

Before you consider running, you should be able to walk at a brisk pace without pain and without getting tired for about half an hour without a break. Therefore, your first type of training should be walking.

Your initial walks should not exceed 1-2 miles on alternating days (maximum four walks per week). Allow your leg and foot to regain mobility naturally by progressively increasing the pace and briskness of your walk.

2. Weeks 2-5

By the second week, you should be able to walk up to four miles on alternating days. At this point, you will be able to keep up a brisk pace and, by the start of the 3rd week of recovery training, you should be able to do the first light jogs.

Jogging should not exceed 10 minutes during the 3rd week, with a 5-minute walking break in the middle. Allow your muscles to cool down with a brisk walk and then focus on resistance training through brisk walking.

During the 4th and 5th weeks, your jogging sessions should increase to 15 minutes per day, four days per week. Two days should be taken up by 3-mile walking combined with cross training or using the elliptical stationary bike for 30 minutes, and one day you will rest and focus on light mobility exercises.

3. Weeks 6-8

During this period you will focus on rebuilding muscle strength and resistance with intensive jogging sessions of 20-25 minutes four days per week, and walking and cross training two days per week.

The elliptical stationary bike will also help you build flexibility and strength (which is why you should include it in your cross training routine starting with the 4th week of recovery).
By the end of the 8th week, you should have regained your former level of strength and resistance. As you can see, the recovery training will take as much time as you spent recovering from the injury itself. While this is not a fixed rule, the main take-away from this article should be this one: getting back to your typical running routine is not achieved overnight and you should not try to push yourself too hard. You may risk reactivating your injury and make matters even worse.

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