Training

Post-Injury Training: Becky Wade’s Log

Elite runners train hard, even when they can't run many miles as they come back from an injury. 2:30-marathoner Becky Wade shows how as she details a week of her workouts.

In most seasons, my training follows a familiar rhythm. Having trained under the same coach — Jim Bevan of Rice University — for 13 years, whether I’m training for a track 10K or a marathon, I know that each week will feature one run with a bunch of strides, two hard, high-volume workouts, one long run, one big recovery day, and a handful of easy doubles. The volume and hard sessions change, and we usually tweak a variable or two in each buildup, but my weekly structure remains fairly stable year-round.

Seasons of injury are a different story. Whenever I’m forced to dial back my training or, in the worst case, stop running completely, that predictability flies out the window as I search for the root of my pain, activities that don’t exacerbate it, and an appropriate balance between cross-training and resting. I’ve had injuries in the past in which I could only bike or only swim, and others in which I could basically replicate normal running on an underwater or anti-gravity treadmill. Each case is different, but the priorities are always: first, to regain full health, and second, to preserve as much fitness as possible without impeding the healing process.

Things get even more complicated as an injury begins to resolve. Training becomes a day-by-day mission to assess my body, reintroduce running, taper off cross-training, and continue promoting a complete recovery. This is the position I’m in now, following months of nagging heel pain that peaked in late September and necessitated over three weeks of no running. Once the sharp pain subsided and experts identified the issue as biomechanical flaws that manifested in Achilles pain, my transition back to land began.

Here’s what one early week of return-to-running looked like for me:

Monday, October 12

AM: Easy run (5 miles) + swim (45 minutes)

To kick off the week, my husband Will and I ran 5 miles on a flat trail. Hills and speed tend to irritate my heel, so I’m sticking to good, level footing and easy to moderate paces for now, with no GPS watch to tempt me. As soon as we finished, I drove to the nearby recreation center, where I completed a swim workout written by Katie Gwyn of Mondo Sports Physical Therapy in Austin and a trusted resource during this injury in particular.

Becky Wade water jog training post-injury
Photo: courtesy Becky Wade

PM: Water jog (45 minutes)

I went back to the pool in the afternoon for a 45-minute water jogging session. Since it’s both monotonous and hard to keep my heart rate up while wearing a floatation belt in water, I usually incorporate moderate efforts whenever I water jog. In between a short warm up and cool down, I did 2 sets of 4 minutes hard (1 minute easy), 3 minutes hard (1 minute easy), 2 minutes hard (1 minute easy), 1 minute hard.

Tuesday, October 13

AM: Easy run (4 miles) + strength training

We ran from home this morning, starting with about a mile on road before hitting a trailhead. I had a hard time warming up, so when my gait still felt off a few miles in, I decided to turn around and max out at 4 miles. I then spent about 40 minutes doing a typical strength work session in our home gym, including front squats, Bulgarian squats, hex bar deadlifts, Swiss ball hamstring curls, and a mix of core and arm exercises. Since lifting doesn’t hurt my heel, I’m doing two or three sessions per week (up from one or two when I’m at full health) so that my leg strength can keep up with my aerobic capacity.

Becky Wade weight lifting
Photo: courtesy Becky Wade

PM: Elliptical (60 minutes)

This afternoon’s double was a steady hour on the elliptical, with my heart rate between 130-140. That’s my typical range for easy runs, so I try to stay there during non-workout cross-training sessions too.

Wednesday, October 14

AM: Easy run (4 miles) + swim (45 minutes)

Today was another comfortable 4-miler followed by intervals in the pool. My heel was extra sore yesterday, so I played it safe this morning, not wanting to increase in length until I’m comfortable at a given distance. I find that having post-run cross-training plans allows me to be more cautious with my runs since I know I’ll get an aerobic stimulus regardless.

PM: Stationary bike (45 minutes)

Similar to the elliptical, I try to keep my heart rate above 130 while biking. I find it harder to do so on a bike, but when I focus on maintaining an RPM of 90 or above, I can usually get and stay in the right zone.

Thursday, October 15

AM: Easy run (6 miles) + strength training + physical therapy

I ran a little longer today — 6 miles — and had some promising portions within. I stopped to stretch and activate my glutes whenever I felt my form unraveling or my heel sending signals, as I’ve been doing throughout this comeback, and a quick stop was almost always enough to put me back on track. I followed up with a similar strength session as Tuesday, and then saw Kurt Roeser at Ability Physical Therapy for dry needling and an update to my rehab program.

PM: Elliptical (60 minutes)

I capped today off with an hour of steady elliptical work, just like Tuesday. I stave off boredom and generate a little excitement for these sessions by catching up on my favorite podcasts and audio books.

Becky Wade running on dirt road
Photo: courtesy Becky Wade

Friday, October 16

AM: Easy run (5 miles) + swim (45 minutes)

Although yesterday’s run was encouraging, I thought that scaling back a smidgeon today would be wise. I ran 5 miles before heading to the pool for my third swim workout of the week.

PM: Water jog (45 minutes)

Last pool session of the week! I misremembered the efforts I did on Monday and did a similar workout today: 3 sets of 3 minutes hard (1 minute easy), 2 minutes hard (1 minute easy), 1 minute hard. I normally try to mix up my workouts within each week, but this week included two similar ladders.

Saturday, October 17

AM: Easy run (6 miles) + stationary bike (60 minutes) + strength training

I attempted my second 6-mile run of this comeback today, and was mostly happy with how it felt. My stretch/activation stops were short and infrequent, and I was able to maintain good form for the majority of the run. As soon as I finished, I hopped on the stationary bike for a steady hour of pedaling, and then wrapped up the day with my final strength session of the week. I don’t always combine my Saturday workouts this way, but I’m in the middle of a wall painting project and was eager to spend the afternoon making progress on that.

PM: Off

Becky Wade painting
Photo: courtesy Becky Wade

Sunday, October 18

AM: Easy run (8 miles)

I celebrated the end of a positive week with an 8-mile run and 0 minutes on a machine or in the pool. It’s tempting to cross-train super hard every day just because I can. But in order to prevent burnout and ensure I’m not overdoing it, I’m intentional about building in one lighter day of a single session every week. That usually works out to be Sunday, which means I enter the next week of training ready to hit the ground (and pool and machines) running.

PM: Off