How to Return to Running After a Layoff or Injury


It’s almost spring again and that means old man winter is gone and it is safe to venture outside and return to your previously scheduled recreational adventures.

A question we are often asked, especially this time of year is: “How do I get back into running after a long layoff?”. This is a very appropriate question to ask after any layoff from running, but more important after injury. We often see runner’s who go through “chronic” injury cycles because they return too quickly to running after rehab.

***Disclaimer: (read in a fast/low lawyer like voice) If you are currently injured and having pain while running or have just gotten over an injury that was not properly diagnosed and treated by a medical professional you should go to the appropriate sports medicine professional for you: orthopedist, physical therapist, athletic trainer etc. prior to participating in the outlined program below.***

The program I am going to outline is a very general return to run outline for those who have had a rather lengthy layoff from running whether due to being a fair weather runner, having a new baby, or after recovering from an injury. Again if you have had an injury, this program should not be implemented until consulting with a medical professional or being cleared by your physical therapist.

Basic Return to Run Program

Stage               Walk(mins)                Easy Run(mins)

1                      4                                  1

2                      3                                  2

3                      2                                  3

4                      1                                  4

5                      RETURN TO RUN 30 MINUTES EASY

-Repeat the walk/run interval 5 times for each stage (ex: walk 4 minutes/run 1 minute then repeat 5 more times for a total time of 20 minutes)

-If you have no pain or excessive soreness after a stage you can progress to the next stage 1-2 days later

-Continue this progression until you can run 30 minutes easy with no residual pain/soreness

-Once this is accomplished, you are ready to begin a regular training program



Can I do this every day?

No. Please rest at least 1-2 days between runs.

How long should this take me?

That depends on how many rest days you need to take or whether or not you need to repeat a stage due to pain/soreness.

What should I do if I get pain/soreness that does not go away after 1-2 days?

That could be an indication that you are developing an overuse injury and you should consult with your physical therapist or other sports medicine professional right away.

Where can I find an accelerated return to run program?

Accelerated programs should only be administered by a sports medicine professional or professional running coach while closely monitoring the athletes’ progress.

Once I am done with the return to run program, where can I find a good training plan for my upcoming races?

There are many good options for this: First, consult with your local specialty running stores as they often have group runs/training plans for local races. Second, there are numerous running clubs that also provide training plans and support. Lastly, you could enlist the services of a professional run coach for individualized one on one programming.

 We hope this was helpful and wish you happy running!