When returning to running after 4+ weeks off or when starting running, the best approach is to use a walk-jog program. Below is a list of progressions with each walk-jog about 30 minutes total. The workouts should be performed every other day, advancing to the next stage only when you are conformable (and pain free) with the previous one. It is okay to repeat certain stages or revert back to the previous stage if it is too hard. Try not to skip stages, even if you are feeling good - the body needs time to ease into it. Before starting, make sure you can easily walk 30+ minutes continuously without difficulty.
- 5 minute walk then 1 minute jog, repeat 5 times
- 4 minute walk then 2 minute jog, repeat 5 times
- 3 minute walk then 3 minute jog, repeat 5 times
- 2 minute walk then 4 minute jog, repeat 5 times
- 1 minute walk then 5 minute jog, repeat 5 times
- 1 minute walk then 10 minute jog, repeat 3 times
- Gradually work up to 20-30 minutes of continuous running
Additionally, it is best walk-jog on flat, soft surfaces such as a treadmill, athletic field, or dirt path. Try to avoid hills and paved areas when you are starting off, as the pounding will be harder on your joints. It is very important to complete strength and stability exercises in addition to the walk-jogs in order to prevent injury or re-injury. Here is a great routine to include 2-3 times per week. You can also swim, walk, bike, or do other activities on your non walk-jog days for cross-training.
One final note is to never increase speed and distance at the same time. This progression above assumes you are keeping your jogging/running speed constant. Once you get up to 20-30 minutes, you can increase your speed as long as you don't change your total time the same day.
As a physical therapist, I have used this type of program for many athletes as well as other patients returning from injury such as an ACL repair or other trauma. I have also used this program myself after my meniscus injury. You will find many similar programs out there.
Yesterday I was asked, "Why do you love to run?" My answer initially seemed simple - it makes me happy! But as I thought about it, I realized my answer is much more complex. I love to run for so many reasons including:
- It makes me feel strong and free.
- It gives me purpose and dreams to chase.
- It brings out determination and courage inside of me.
- It allows me to have time to myself to think and reflect.
- It gets me outside to explore and enjoy nature.
- It is simple and consistent.
Why do you love your sport? Let me know in the comments! This can be anything including walking, running, swimming, tennis, cross-country skiing, alpine skiing, cycling, hiking, etc.