Running Tips: “Do I Run – Or Do I Rest?” (After An Injury)

I often get questions about returning to activities after injury recovery. Not uncommon for runners…

“Although I’m over my ankle injury now and know I can return back to exercise safely, I still have a lack of confidence when I set out to run. When I run I have it in the back of my mind that landing my foot in a slightly awkward position, or even slipping slightly could cause my injury to flare up all over again. So I end up slowing down, or turning round all together and walking home even though my ankle is completely fine. So here’s what I want to know… how can you be sure whether to go for a run or not? The fear of setting off my ankle pain again is getting in the way of my weekly runs!  DO  you got any suggestions?”

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My answer is, “Of course!” Let me start by saying that there’s not a single runner, or person I’ve ever met, who doesn’t at some point fear an old injury recurring, If you run on a weekly basis and pain flares up it means you’re going to be missing out on social runs, your favorite weekly exercises or the endorphin rush that comes with running – so who is to blame you for having this fear! It is very common among many active runners and athletes in general.

So what can you do to stop the fear from taking over?

Simple!…  Once you’ve recovered from your injury that was stopping you from running in the first place, and you decide to get back into running again – my advice is to TAKE IT SLOW.

The more time you have off, the more gradually you need to get back into your training.

Take this for example…

Say you’ve had two to three weeks off from running because of an injured foot –  I’d suggest to go for shorter runs 2-3 times a week with plenty of rest in between,  and then, week after week slowly build it up to what you were doing before.

So when you return to running, start back with a few short easy runs to get your ankle and body used to the load on your body again, and to be sure that your ankle feels strong enough before you start to push yourself…which will help you overcome any fear you may have.

…And if you do feel a twinge or symptomatic soreness, ice it as soon as possible.

I see so many people not giving themselves the best chance of staying active and healthy, simply because they don’t receive the best advice – and it’s not their fault either, as most of the time you get the generic medical advice of ice, do a few exercises, and rest for a few weeks.

But what you should be receiving are more substantial things like:

  • Exactly what you should expect when you return back to being active
  • What you’re likely to feel when you hit the pavement
  • All of the warning signs of an injury to look out for (and what each one means)

So the chances of you “running in fear” are reduced, A LOT!

So to sum it up…

You can run if… your ankle is pain free (even if your muscles are a little achy), so long as there’s no “pain” that’s affecting you, you’re good to run!

You should rest if… you feel a sharp pain come on that doesn’t ease off, even when you slow down, then apply ice right away for 10 minutes at a time.

When it comes to your health, fitness and lifestyle, it’s important to listen to expert advice – that way you can be sure to get back to running much quicker and safer like you deserve.

Dean Volk PT, MPT
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