I finished the 6 week conservative return to running plan that my PT gave me with no problems, minus some soreness in my recovering foot a couple weeks. That plan which started with run-walk intervals and finished with 30-40 minute continuous runs had me around 10-15 miles per week, mostly on the treadmill. After the plan I was trying to build up some longer runs outside so I could successfully finish the Philadelphia Love Run Half Marathon for which I was an ambassador. I kept my mileage from 15 building up to just over 20 miles a week with most of mileage come from a longer run on the weekend. I used the progression over consecutive weeks of 7.5 miles, 8 miles, 10 miles, 10 miles, rest, and then the half marathon.
|Happy just to be outside|
Running is already a mental challenge but adding in the anxiety and fear of being injured has made it even tougher. There are multiple mental challenges that have made returning from an injury really hard for me.
Obviously if it's sharp pain that is bad and a sign of injury. If you have sharp pain, I'd get yourself checked out, just to be safe. I can clearly remember when I had my stress fracture for about a week the pain was so sharp and throbbing to even walk. There can also be phantom pains, which can be sporadic and vary in intensity in the area of the foot that was injured due to calcium buildup at the site of the bone recovery or just mentally induced kind of like PTSD. The possibility of another stress fracture when my foot was feeling sore last week had me in tears. It's hard for me to listen to my body when I'm so sensitive and hyper-focused on every little feeling in my feet.
The second challenge is that progress is slow and steady. It's already April when I thought I would be back running like my old self, and I'm just not. I had the 6 weeks of just slowly building up, not focusing at all on pace. Building up slowly after an injury to gradually increase the force placed on the healing tissues is key. This is especially true if you were completely off your foot in a boot or cast for a period of time which means your whole foot or body part needs to get used to the force of running again and rebuild strength. This also includes running every other day to start and not immediately adding speedwork or intense running back into your plan. This can be difficult mentally when you are just excited to get back to running. Try to think that going slow and steady now will help you stay healthy because some slow, short running is way better than no running.
This article on Runners Connect has a great plan for getting back to running after a stress fracture and some symptoms during healing. My foot felt fine during the race and even the day after but the soreness for the week beforehand and a little bit a day after has me worried so I decided to take at least a week, maybe two off before running a lot again.
The third challenge is social media or social comparison. I love seeing that my friends or people I follow on social media are crushing races and getting PRs. However it can be tough to know that I'm slower and still am not at where I want to be. I want to be crushing races and having fun again! Most of my runs have been pretty tough with my legs feeling heavy. It's April and my stress fracture was in October/November so the idea of being hurt again had me in tears last week. I started my return to running plan in January so I thought I would be feeling more back to normal right now. I go between have little pity parties for myself and getting really upset at my level of fitness and being grateful because things could also be worse. I think taking a step back from social media, just as I suggested when being injured, can be helpful if it's hurting your self-esteem.
Overall, the mental aspect of returning to running can be more difficult than the physical aspect of it. All I can do is try to take it easy, listen to my body, and trust the process.
|Accept no limits!|
Side note: This article has a great discussion on the psychology of returning to a sport after injury.
Have you ever had trouble coming back from an injury? What is your biggest mental hurdle in running?