How do you start running after suffering a trauma like a stress fracture, and being on the injury bench for several weeks?
Generally, a stress fracture or any fracture takes 6-8 weeks to heal. However, it takes an average of three months for bone to fully mend. Depending on the severity of your injury, or the circumstances of the fracture, you may require physiotherapy before you start running again.
Even if you have the go-ahead to resume running from when you are out of the cast/cast boot (6-8 weeks), err on the side of caution. It is vital to allow the bone to recover fully. Start back by building your mileage and training base gradually. The last thing you want is a fracture to recur.
Before you start, you should be able to walk pain-free for 60 minutes. Don’t ignore any pains or discomforts and think it will be alright. If you do, it could be a recipe for disaster. If there is any pain while walking, you will most likely have pain while running. Therefore, it is advisable not to run.
To reiterate, walking briskly for 60 minutes helps determine when the injured bone will be able to handle the impact forces of running. If you can walk without pain, this is a good indication that the bone should be able to handle running. Try not to snub any discomfort or pain. Remember you need to allow time for your muscles to become used to running again, especially after several weeks out.
Also, don’t expect to start where you left off, even if you feel you can. Begin gradually with small amounts of running. A walk-run method is a good idea. Furthermore, the other thing to remember is to start off gently. Instinctively, you will want to run at a moderately fast pace, probably, similar to how you used to run. In contrast, moving at a gentle pace or slowly will help your; ligaments, tendons, and muscles adapt to the stresses and rigours of running again.
I recently read an article, which stated returning to running should be based on five factors and the amount of time off from running, as a good rule of thumb.
- The severity of your injury – a stress fracture or injury that required surgery differs vastly from tendonitis
- How long you were side-lined from running
- Your fitness level prior to getting injured
- How many years of experience you have as a runner
- Whether you could cross-train during your layoff
With these five factors in mind a good way to start would be:
- Two weeks off – start back with 50% of previous weekly mileage
- Four weeks – start back at 30%
- Six to eight weeks or longer – start with a run-walk method
- Stay away from hills and any speed work until you are back to running 75-80 percent of your mileage prior to the injury
- If you feel pain while running during your comeback, stop running. Go back to walking until all pain subsides
Initially, it’s a good idea to try and avoid any possible factors that may have contributed to the injury in the first place. For example, running in worn-out shoes, running on hard surfaces and excessive downhill running.
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