In this post, my dad talks about returning to running after an injury and/or surgery. This is a very timely piece, as I’m currently taking a hiatus from running as I recover from back surgery. My surgeon has restricted me from running for a minimum of 6 months – and I guess we’ll just have to see where it goes after that. Regardless, I do hope to make a comeback, just as my dad did after his own back surgery a few years ago. And when I do, I’ll be sure to take his advice. Enjoy! xoxo – Sharon
If you run for a long enough time, you will likely suffer an injury or have a surgery that will force you to stop running for an extended period of time. In my case I’ve had two surgeries in the past five years that have caused me to take a break from running.
The more serious of the two was back surgery to repair a herniated disc. I stopped running about 4 or 5 months before my surgery because of a combination of the pain I was experiencing and fear that running would make the situation worse. The following discussion is based on my personal experience during my recovery.
First, you need to recognize that everyone’s injury/surgery and recovery is unique. A well-intentioned cousin of mine told me after my back surgery that he thought I would never be able to run again. He made this guess based on his own experience. Obviously he was wrong about mine.
During the initial recovery stage you will be under the care of a doctor and/or a physical therapist. You need to religiously follow their directions and do the exercises they tell you to do. More importantly, do not do the things they tell you to avoid! In my case I was prohibited from running until 6 weeks after the surgery. While you may feel ready to do more than they want you to do, it is best to follow your doctor’s advice. You can tell them how you feel but they should be the final judge of what you are permitted to do.
Eventually you will be allowed to run again. You have to remember that you have not run in a while – do not expect to immediately be able to pick up where you left off in terms of training. Before I stopped, my typical runs were 2.5 to 3.5 miles at an approximate 10 min/mile pace. The first time I ran after my surgery I ran less than a mile at around a 12 min pace.
You also need to consider environmental conditions (heat humidity, etc.) when you resume running. Take it easy and gradually build back up to your former regimen. It probably took me a month or more to get back to my former distance, but still at a slower pace. I have always been a big believer in letting your body guide how much you can do. That will be even more important under these circumstances. You may feel great while you are overextending or pushing your body, but it is likely that the next day you will be in more pain and set back the recovery process. It is much better to ease back into your old routine.
I am happy to report that now my runs are longer than before my surgery. I may have slowed down a little, but that is related more to other factors that have limited my training, not my recovery from my surgery.
If you are preparing to run again after an injury and/or surgery, please know that you are not alone. My dad is just one of many, many runners to make a successful comeback to his beloved sport. You may find the following list of resources helpful while developing your new training plan – just remember that your doctor’s advice always prevails.
Coming Back from a Serious Injury – Runner’s World
How to Return to Running After an Injury – Strength Running
Running Again After Injury & Learning From the Layoff – The Runner’s Trip
Injured Runners: Nutrition Tips to Hasten Healing – Hal Higdon
The Rule of Two: Coming Back After Injury – Competitor.com
If you want to hear more from my dad, you can find his other posts HERE.
Albert is the proud father of Mommy Runs It’s owner Sharon Wilhelm. He has degrees in Nuclear and Mechanical Engineering and is a licensed Professional Engineer in Florida and is also certified as a Project Management Professional. He started running as a sophomore in high school (Oct 1964), and never stopped. In high school and college he was a middle of the pack runner. He hit his peak as a runner in the first 10 years after graduating college. Though never achieving a champion performance, he ran some decent times (5K – 16:58, 5 mi – 27:07, 6 mi – 33:00, 10K – 34:58, 13.1 mi – 1:36, 20 mi – 2:20:51, marathon – 3:37:48). Currently he runs primarily to maintain a level of physical fitness. He hopes that when he retires in a few years he will be able to increase his training and return to competitive running. His secret (not so secret any more) ambition is to be a high school track coach; not to produce champion runners, but to instill the love of running in these young people and pass on his experience.