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Ask the Penguin: Coming Back After Injury

Dear Penguin I’ve been running for 2 1/2 years now and while training for a marathon I developed a stress fracture in my foot. (I don’t actually think it was the running so much as adding jump rope late in my training.) I’m being very careful and not doing…

Dear Penguin
I’ve been running for 2 1/2 years now and while training for a marathon I developed a stress fracture in my foot. (I don’t actually think it was the running so much as adding jump rope late in my training.)

I’m being very careful and not doing anything to aggravate the fracture as I want it to heal fully so I can get back to all my activities (NOT jumping rope). Once it is healed how would you suggest I go about getting back to running? I know it will be tempting to pick up near where I left off, but if I have a plan of action I will follow it. I really don’t want a reinjury. Thanks!

-Alexa

It’s a great question and one that nearly all of us face at some point in our running career. The time, effort, and patience that you invest in your recovery is every bit as important as your training.

Keep in mind that you are not going to lose your aerobic fitness. Or, at least you won’t lose that much. Research shows that you maintain nearly all of your fitness for about 3 weeks even if you do nothing at all. The same is true for your muscular fitness. That’s the bad news.

The non-injured part of your body will feel ready to get back at it. The rational part of you will have to ride herd over that enthusiasm or you will end up reinjured.

You’ll need to be especially aware of the beginnings of pain. You’ll need to listen carefully for the first whispers of an ache. When you here that whisper. Stop.

I would suggest spending the first couple of weeks on a treadmill where you can control the surface, time, and distance. Most importantly, you can stop immediately of something doesn’t feel right.

Walk a LOT the first week back. Eventually you try 30 seconds or so of running and see how that feels. Little by little you can add back more running.

Figure twice as long to come back as you were off.

All the best.

Waddle on,
John
john_jbr_150h

John “the Penguin” Bingham, Competitor Magazine columnist
Author, The Courage to Start, No Need for Speed, Marathoning for Mortals and Running for Mortals.

Have a question for John? E-mail it to thepenguin@johnbingham.com.