Are you a runner but you’re currently benched because of a past injury? Have you been told by your Houston podiatrist that you’re allowed to work out, but you’re not sure how to get back into it? Here are some suggestions on how to safely resume a running regimen after recovering from an injury.
Alternatively, are you recovering from a COVID infection, and wondering when it's safe to get back into your workout routines? Well, guess what: I'm going to give you similar advice for both situations. Here's the story.
First things first: don’t expect to pick right up where you left off; you’ll need to slowly work your way back to your previous distances so you don’t get reinjured or worn out. If you're coming back from COVID, strength training may be less taxing for your lungs, and help you rebuild your stamina.
The same ideas apply after a running injury, with a special focus to guide your strength moves. Because, while you’re rebuilding stamina, you also need to incorporate exercises that strengthen and support your core muscles so that your body is protected during your workouts. Let's take a closer look.
Running after an Injury
When you're too hurt to run, it's very important to take some time and rest your body. During this period, talk to me about your old training routine. If you suffered an overuse injury, such as shin splints or plantar fasciitis, we'll come up with a plan that gives your body a break once you return to running. (Hint: it's going to include plenty of cross-training.) We'll also help you rebuild your strength slowly. Because even if your injury heals fully, odds are high that you've lost some of your accrued strength. So we'll need your training to take a few steps back from where you were before you got hurt. And the same is true if you've recently recovered from COVID-19. As I'll explain below.
Exercise After COVID: What You Need to Know
I just came across an article by Jen Murphy in the Wall Street Journal that really surprised me. It said that sports pros suggest taking three to four weeks after recovering before returning to your former workout routines. In fact, the American College of Sports Medicine suggests taking a full rest for 7-10 days after infection. And that's true for anyone who tested positive, even if you have mild or no symptoms, according to the article.
What's the big idea, you may be asking? (I know I was when I read this!) This line stood out to me: "When you have recovered, restraint is key when resuming workouts. Jumping right back into a vigorous exercise routine could prolong the time it takes to regain fitness levels, or worse, lead to injury or relapse."
Does that sound familiar? If not, you clearly don't read this blog enough. Because that's my main point to injured runners who come to the office, dying to get back into training. I always say that taking on too much too soon will ultimately sideline you longer. And, as this article suggests, that wisdom applies in many cases.
So, how can you jump back into running (or other workouts) after COVID? Much of my advice for runners coming back from injury will apply. Keep reading below for the specifics.) But for COVID-specific recovery, you can listen to the wise suggestions from Ms. Murphy's wise article. During your first week back, she suggests starting your training at about 40% of your former workouts' intensity level. (A great way to do this? She suggests taking 15-minute walks every other day. And sticking to that rest day in between.)
After a week or so at this level of cautious movement, you can try gradually increasing intensity, she says. Just listen to your body as you go along. And slow down your progress if you ever feel winded or if you experience pain. (Advice you'll want to follow after running injuries as well!)
Building Strength after a Running Injury
After COVID, your lungs may not be operating at full tilt. Similarly, after a running injury, your affected muscles could be weaker or unbalanced. And that's a big risk factor if you want to avoid reinjury.
Why? It's pretty simple. Weak or unsupported muscles are more vulnerable to injuries. So, when you're coming back from a running injury, ac like you're new to the sport. (Feel free to follow these 8 safety tips for new runners.) And, as you go along, make sure to focus on regaining and building additional strength.
What should that strength training look like? You can score a few ideas from the image at right. Then, after warming up and before beginning a run, try incorporating some hip and glute exercises to build strength in those muscle groups that are so critical to runners. Moves like butt kicks, clam exercises and backwards running will activate and build up your muscles, improving your mobility and reducing your risk of injury.
Even if you were running 10 miles a day before you got hurt, you need to accept that you can’t and shouldn’t try to run that far when you’re first returning after an injury. Instead, think of yourself as a new runner and start a training program that incorporates walking-running intervals for at least a few weeks after you begin your come back.
Every runner should stretch before and after a workout, but stretching is especially important for runners who are coming back from injuries. Stretching improves range of motion and helps relax muscles that, if left too tight, may not fully recover from the impact of a run, leaving you more susceptible to re-injury. Some great stretches for runners include lunges, band stretches for the IT band and hamstring and figure-four stretches (crossing one ankle over the opposite knee.)
Regular Check-ins with your Houston Running Podiatrist
While getting COVID should keep you from worrying about re-infection (at least for a little while) the same isn't true of running injuries. Unfortunately, once you’ve had one running injury, you are more likely to sustain another. That's why it’s important to pay careful attention to your body as you return to training. If you have been injured in the past, it’s a good idea to see me regularly so I can make sure you're not heading for re-injury. And, if you're dealing with an injury right now, make an appointment to come see me before you return to training. Together, we can come up with a training plan that will keep you safe. (While scratching just enough of your runner's itch)