Ease Back In.
As I’m discovering, coming back from a prolonged injury is a real beast. Along with the obvious physical adjustment comes a large mental adjustment. In some ways, it feels like starting at zero, but the truth is, you’re not really at zero. And that’s a good thing! You have a whole host of experience and knowledge to help carry you through.
Here are a few things to consider as you ease back into running.
Leave the GPS at home. Pace should be a VERY low priority when you’re just getting moving again. Your speed will return with time. For now, just enjoy the fact that you’re running and don’t beat yourself up about being slow(er). A slow run is better than no run!
Run for time instead of distance. As we discussed in this space a few weeks ago, running for time helps take the pressure off, which is especially important when coming back from injury. Instead of heading out for a 3-mile run, head out for a 30-minute run.
Reassess often. Did you push too hard and now you’re aching again? Pull back. Do you feel great and think you can step it up during your next workout? Awesome. We get used to sticking to our training plans NO MATTER WHAT and that’s often not feasible, especially when injury is in the mix. Check in with yourself and adjust as necessary.
Listen to your body. We take pride in pushing through pain, often to our own detriment. And, in the hurry to get out there again, the chance for re-injury increases. You don’t want to end up back on the disabled list, so if your gimpy knee starts screaming at you, listen to it.
Set realistic goals. Again, we’re easing back in. If you have a race on the horizon, instead of trying to PR (like you’d intended when you first signed up), dial it back a notch. This goes for more than just racing. Set small, attainable goals along your road to full recovery (i.e. make it through your workout without walking, add a third run per week to your regimen etc.).
Be patient. This one sucks the most. I know. I’m struggling mightily with it. Unlike when you first begin running — and you have nothing to compare your progress or ability to — you can’t help but recall your previous successes. “I used to run 6-8-10 miles easily, and now I can barely run 2!” The good news is, because you have already done those things, you know it’s possible to do them again. You didn’t just wake up one day with the ability to run 10 miles, it took work to get there. And it’s going to take some work — and a lot of patience — to get back there. — Mags