Tag Archives: injury

Before The First Step Of Running: Returning After Time Off

They say a journey begins with the first step. But it begins before that. Getting back to running after injury, melanoma, skin graft and rehab I had to rebuild back up to that first step.

This 2020 journey begins with a less-than-ideal 2019. The main event was finding out I had Melanoma skin cancer: click for details

No Running

After injury, melanoma, a skin graft, time off work and rehab I was happy with moving a little closer to normality. The skin graft was my main limitation.

Weeks of bed rest. Weeks of no running.

Surprisingly I didn’t miss running all that much but I was getting frustrated at not being able to move like I used to be able to. More details here: 5 Weeks After Melanoma Surgery

First Run

Eventually I was able to go my first run.

It was for ten minutes and it felt awkward.

The idea of running felt great. I was happy to be out there again. But I wasn’t smooth. My body had forgotten what it was meant to do.

Bit by bit I built my running back up. The skin graft still provided limitations. I had to get creative to improve my running. Finding ways to prepare my legs without risking the healing.

Not Just Running

Those creative ways included:

  • step ups with a high knee lift
  • calf raise with a deep drop
  • directional hopping

These exercises appear in the video above. They are simple, but sometimes a visual makes it easier to understand.

The hopping was actually harder than it should have been. It’s amazing how much of the skills and coordination you lose after being bed down for four weeks.

The aim was to get back to where running felt good. Over the weeks I eventually got there. Running feels good again. That’s step one. There are many more steps to take.

Less Running and More Other Stuff: New Goals

Chasing new goals leads me to less running in my new training plan.

There’s nothing like a forced lay off due to injury to have you re-evaluate your goals and training.

A foot injury ended my training program for the Surf Coast Century this year. Over the last few weeks I’ve worked through the first 4 of 5 priorities for an injured runner. I’m now ready for step 5:

New Goals

To guide our training we need goals.

Mine are:

  1. Injury proof my running
  2. Reach a fitness level to run a sub-3 hour marathon

You notice there isn’t a deadline listed in those goals.

Pushing a hard deadline on a sub- 3 hour marathon will likely risk my first goal of staying injury proof. Therefore I am open to however long is needed. It could be 6 months, or it could take over a year. I don’t know yet.

Less Running

I’m seriously cutting back on my run volume. Long runs and high volume will be a quick way back to injury for me.

Guidelines for run volume include:

  1. I have to be able to maintain good form for each and every run
  2. The volume must be well within my capabilities

It is the running equivalent of stopping 2-3 repetitions short on a weight lifting set. Adaptation still occurs with until grinding yourself down into fatigue.

More Other Stuff

Less running leaves some extra time.

With this extra time I am dedicating it other training modaltities:

  1. Strength training
  2. Prehabilitation / Rehabilitation
  3. Mobility
  4. Recovery

These will now be written into my training plan. Previously I have been performing these on an ad hoc basic. It didn’t work.

More Fun

Less running and more other stuff means more variety. I am looking forward training that doesn’t entail mile after mile after mile.

I am expecting this change in approach will reduce the feeling of grinding day after day. It reminds of how I used to train for triathlons. You could partially recover from one discipline while hitting another hard.

I expect my training to be quite effective. More importantly it should be a lot of fun.

Is your training fun?

Injured Runner Priorities: 5 Steps To Get Back To Running

What are the priorities for the injured runner? What is the best way back from injury?

Most injured runners want to get back to full training immediately. We also often try to continue through injury. Often to our own detriment.

Instead of hoping for the best and making the injury worse, let’s work through the priorities for the injured runner.

  1. Prevent further injury
  2. Diagnose
  3. Recover
  4. Rebuild
  5. New training

These are the priorities I follow

1. Prevent further injury

It’s simple…

Don’t make the injury worse.

Stop running. Rest. Do the basics of sports first aid.

2. Diagnose

Dr Google is not your best friend. Do what it takes to find out what your injury is. Use a doctor you trust, a physiotherapist or other practitioner.

An injury needs to be properly assessed. Different injuries have many cross over of symptoms, but require different treatment.

Working from an accurate diagnosis will give you a better chance of success.

3. Recover

Help your body repair.

You have to recover before you can rebuild.

The approach is different depending on your injury. This priority is likely to include:

  • Resting the injured area
  • Protecting the area through support or taping
  • Introducing gentle movement
  • Physical manipulation (massage)

4. Rebuild

This is the rehabilitation side.

Do what it takes to get yourself back to being able to training.

Strengthen the area. Condition the body to prevent what led to the injury in the first place.

Ensure you have good mobility.

Introduce running well within in your physical limits.

5. New Training

Finally what we’ve been waiting for.

Back to full training, but with a new style. This new style has to take into account your recent injury. We likely have to modify are previous training so we don’t have a recurrence.

Runner’s often go back to their previous training plan. The plan that led to injury in the first place. We need to change this. To progress our running we need to train in a way to minimise injury.

If you need help to change then get it. Get feedback from knowledgeable runners. Speak with a coach, physiotherapist or someone who understand running and human movement.

There are many ways to achieve your running goals. I have some further tips on injury proofing your running here.

Time Frames Of Injury

How should we spend in each section?

This will vary so much depending on the injury you have sustained.

A simple muscle strain may need the following time in each phase:

  1. Prevent further injury: 12 hours
  2. Diagnose: 30 minutes
  3. Recover: 2 days
  4. Rebuild: 3 days
  5. New training: 1 week

Whereas a broken leg would need so much longer:

  1. Prevent further injury: 3 days
  2. Diagnose: 1 day
  3. Recover: 10 weeks
  4. Rebuild: 8 weeks
  5. New training: 1 week

Do you have a different approach to injuries?

Injury Proof Your Running In 6 Steps

Get more out of your running by staying injury free. Keep those improvements coming by avoiding time out of training. I’ve had very few injuries in over 20 years of running. I credit a deliberate effort to avoid injury as the main contributor. Hopefully my approach can you injury proof your running.


Everybody is different. Training history, injury history, body types, work stresses and variation over time. As a result we must take a dynamic approach to injury proof your running.


1. Dedicate time to becoming injury proof
2. Take notice of early warning signs
3. Progress training only as the body allows
4. Gently push up your fitness over time
5. Every now and then really push the boundaries when in good physical condition
6. Prioritise sleep



1. Dedicate time to becoming injury proof


Injury prevention is like anything else. To improve you need to dedicate some time to it.


Most of us are time poor. Injury prevention shouldn’t be about adding hours onto the training you are already struggling to fit in. Instead keep it manageable and regular. Make it easy to become a habit.


My approach is to schedule 2 x 15 minute sessions every week. Those 15 minutes could the start of a run. Incorporated as a warm up. They could be part of your strength training sessions.


Focus on whatever work will address your injury risk. This is individual. It might specific strengthening, technique retraining, flexibility work or a combination of the above.



2. Take Notice of early warning signs


We’ve all been guilty of ignoring the early signs of injury. The majority of injuries in running build up over time. Even those that appear to acute from an individual run usually are the final straw of an issue that already existed.


It is easier and takes less time to get over an injury the earlier you start dealing with it.


Truly listen to your body. Some pain and discomfort is normal at times from training, but there are different types of pain. Take note of tightness, sharp pains, pain that doesn’t go away or gets worse over time. Don’t take the chance to train hard through issues. Take the steps neccessary to deal with it now.


Early steps might be an extra easy day, to work on flexibility or some drills to correct technique. Ignoring the warning signs, might mean extended time off running or not being able to race at your goal race.



3. Progress training only as the body allows


This is an extension of point 2 in taking notice of the early warning signs of injury. If you have signs indicating injury or the inability to adapt to the current load, then you shouldn’t be pushing up your training.


Your body is amazing. It can adapt to almost anything if given time and the right stimulus. Push too hard too soon and it breaks.


Get your body in an inury free state. Allow the time it takes to heal. This doesn’t mean you can’t train, but progressing the training load before your body is ready will break it.


1. Dedicate time to becoming injury proof 2. Take notice of early warning signs 3. Progress training only as the body allows 4. Gently push up your fitness over time 5. Every now and then really push push the boundaries when in good physical condition 6. Prioritise sleep



4. Gently push up your fitness over time


The majority of training should gently push up your fitness over time. This process does take longer when measured in weeks. Measured over months to years you can reach higher heights.


Small increases each or every second week require patience in the early stages. But the accumulated effect puts helps build a very efficient and robust body. In this approach fitness gains comes naturally.


Runners often feel they have to run further or faster each week to get any benefit. Luckily this isn’t true. The body still adapts to a training run over the same distance at the same pace if repeated once or twice. For example, take a 10km run at 5:00/km pace. The first week it might feel a little difficult. Second time round it feels comfortable. Definitely some improvement in fitness. On the third time it feels the same, but inside the body you reinforced the neuromuscular pathways and added to effiency. Beyond this it is worth increasing the pace or distance.


Taking your time to gently push up your fitness will allow you safely absorb bigger training loads.



5. Every now and then really push push the boundaries when in good physical condition


This is what I consider the fun part. This is when we see big jumps in fitness.


It also comes with a risk. This training is taxing and will find your weak points. Those weak points are likely to break if you’ve skimped on the first 4 steps.


If you are injury free and have a good fitness base then you can go for it. Go far. Go fast. Do those sessions your mind thinks you can’t do. Then take some time to recover and go for it again. This leads to big performance gains.


We don’t need this level of hard work in every training week. When your body is ready for it, it only takes a small amount of this high end work to get the most out of yourself.



6. Prioritise sleep


The body does the majority of its repair work while it sleeps.


There’s no point in training if your body can’t recover from and adapt to it. Sleep plays a major role in this. So put it high up on your priority sleep.


My work has me doing rotating shift work. A mix of long day, afternoon, evening and night shifts. It plays havoc with my body clock. I have learnt the hard way getting less than adequate sleep leads to problems. Those problems include sickness, injury, poor performance and changes in appetite. My body doesn’t work anywhere near it’s best when sleep is compromised.


Put in the effort to plan ahead. Set up good sleep patterns. Make your room and bed comfortable to sleep in. Avoid bad timing of caffeine. Beware of computer, phone and television screens close to sleep time. Relax and give your body the time it needs to get you to your best.