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How to return to running after injury

Updated: Feb 18, 2023

It can be tricky to safely return to running after injury, but you can avoid re-injuring yourself by following this progressive run/walk programme.

Use this walk/run programme to safely return to running after injury.

In this article:

  • Why the walking component is important

  • The rules

  • Walk/Run programme for return from injury

Why the walking component is important

The muscles and ligaments can take several months to reach their full strength. The periods of walking allow the tissue to recover between the running bouts and will allow you to strengthen your injured body part without reaching its breaking point.

This said, my patients can usually progress to running a continuous 20 minutes within 3 weeks of starting the programme.

The Rules:

  1. Only start this programme if you can hop 10 times, without pain, on your injured leg.

  2. Your first session should only be 10 minutes long. During the following sessions, you’ll first increase the total time of the session by 2 minutes until you reach a total of 20 minutes. Once you reach 20 minutes, you increase the duration of the run periods, but the total time should not exceed 20 minutes.

  3. If you feel more than a 3/10 discomfort during the run periods, stop and finish the rest of the session by walking only.

  4. You are only allowed to increase the time of a session or duration of the running sections if you did not experience any increase in pain during or after the session - including the following day.

  5. Only run/walk on alternate days. You can have more rest days between sessions if you feel you need it.

  6. If a session was absolutely OK, you can immediately progress it during the following session. If not, you should repeat the session a couple of days later until you can do it pain free.

Walk / Run programme for return from injury:

Day 1:        1min Run / 1min Walk x 5    = 10min in total

Day 2:        Rest

Day 3:        1min Run / 1min Walk x 6    = 12min in total

Day 4:        Rest

Day 5:        1min Run / 1min Walk x 7    = 14min in total

Day 6:        Rest

Day 7:        1min Run / 1min Walk x 8    = 16min in total

Day 8:        Rest

Day 9:        1min Run / 1min Walk x 9    = 18min in total

Day 10:      Rest

Day 11:      1min Run / 1min Walk x 10 = 20min in total

Day 12:      Rest

Day 13:      2min Run / 1min Walk x 7    = 20min in total

Day 14:      Rest

Day 15:      3min Run / 1min Walk x5     = 20min in total

Day 16:      Rest

Day 17:      4min Run / 1min Walk x4     = 20min in total

Day 18:      Rest

Day 19:      20min Run

You can now slowly increase the total running time. Remember to use the 10% rule and not to increase your total weekly volume by more than 10%.

Download Programme as PDF

Go to download page

Need more help with your injury? You’re welcome to consult one of the team at SIP online via video call for an assessment of your injury and a tailored treatment plan.

About the Author

Maryke Louw is a chartered physiotherapist with more than 15 years' experience and a Masters Degree in Sports Injury Management. Follow her on LinkedIn or ReasearchGate.


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