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Running is one of the most accessible sports and forms of exercise that you can do. You just need the lace up your shoes, step out your front door and go. It's so easy that sometimes it gets in the way of your recovery when you're injured. It kills you knowing how easy it would be just to open the door and go for a run. My name is Dr. Andrew Schneider, and I'm a podiatrist in Houston, Texas. In my practice, I work with many runners of all levels and abilities from someone training for their first 5k to the seasoned ultra marathoner.
Before I discuss returning to running after an injury, I want to address one common issue running during pregnancy. If you're already a runner, many women continue to run through their pregnancy. You just have to be aware of the changes in your body and how it's going to impact your running gait. You may need to make some tweaks as you go on. If you're not already a runner, pregnancy is probably not the best time to pick up the sport. I'd wait until after the baby comes. For all women who want to run while pregnant, you should always consult with and follow the advice of your OB.
If you chose not to run during pregnancy, or you had to stop running for a period of time because of an injury, returning to running the right way is essential. After all, you don't want to rush it and get injured again, do you? When you're not running, it changes your metabolism and the strength of your bones, muscles, and tendons. You need to reacclimate your body to the stress that running puts on your body.
First of all, you need to have patience. In your mind, you haven't missed that much time. In your mind, you'll be able to step out and run your regular workout. Unfortunately, our minds play tricks on us. No matter how much you feel like you can get back right to where you were before your injury be patient and stay healthy. You'll get there, it'll just take some time.
Second, walk before you run. The old adage is very literal in this case, though. Before you returned to running, start walking, increase your mileage and increase your speed gradually. It's a great way to start conditioning your body before you actually start to run. Then progress to walk-run intervals until you're able to get back to running 100%.
Third, you to increase your mileage slowly. I know people who think gradually increasing their mileage is adding one mile to each run. How do I know these people? They're patients! They increase their mileage too quickly and end up re-injured. Sometimes with the same injury, sometimes a different one. But either way, increasing your mileage too quickly will put you back at square one. When you do increase, don't increase more than 10% of the time. And it's fine to stay at one mileage for a while until you feel like it's right to start increasing again.
Next, make sure you cross train. At first, you should alternate your workouts so you're not running every day. Throw in the bicycle or go for a swim. Maybe just go for a long walk or do some yoga. Cross training will help you come back from a cardiovascular perspective and have a more holistic approach to strengthening your body. Finally, be patient. I know I started with that, but I can't emphasize it enough when you're a runner having to take time off takes a toll. You rely on running for your physical health, but also for your mental health. I know you want to get back, but you'll kick yourself if you go back to quickly, get injured again and have to take more time off. Be patient, and you'll get back to where you want to be. Just do it in a healthy and safe way.