How To Return To Running After Injury

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Last Thursday I went for my usual weekly club run. As we set off, I began chatting with a mate named James. I hadn’t seen him at running club for about eight weeks so I asked him where he’d been.

“Injured, runners knee, this is my first run in weeks,” he explained.

It turns out that for the past couple of months, he swapped running for rest and rehab and the pain slowly but surely subsided which is great news. The issue is that him doing no running for eight weeks then suddenly returning to action by doing an identical run to what he was doing prior to the injury (in this case an hour’s steady pace) proved to be a very bad idea.

When returning from injury, there’s a temptation to just go back to what you were doing as soon as the pain’s gone. However, the safest and most sensible option taking the bigger picture into account, is to start back small and build your volume back up gradually.

Why should I return from injury gradually?

This will allow your body to get used to running again giving you the best chance of avoiding any irritating flare ups that put you back to square one.

Whilst this may feel utterly tedious initially, I know first hand how important small steps are. Earlier this year, I came back from a foot injury with the following plan (each week I did two running sessions with at least two days apart to allow for enough recovery):

  • Week 1 – 8 x 1 minute run alternating with 1 minute of walking (8 minutes total running)
  • Week 2 – 6 x 2 minutes run with 1 minute of walking between each run (12 minutes total running)
  • Week 3 – 5 x 3 minutes run with 1 minute of walking between each run (15 minutes total running)
  • Week 4 – 4 x 5 minutes run with 1 minute of walking between each run (20 minutes total running)


The plan continued in a similar pattern until I was running for twenty minutes non stop, then week by week I built back up to running for an hour continuously. Yes it took time, it was a bit frustrating for a while, but was totally worth it in the long run (see what I did there?). Please note that the above is just an example and by no means is a one size fits all return to run plan.

How can I build up running volume after injury?

The best thing you can do if you’re injured is to see a physio and when they give you the all clear, ask them for a return to run plan that’s ideal for your situation. Follow it, be patient, and whatever you do, avoid the temptation to go all in as soon as you’re pain free. On this occasion, it was too much, too soon for James as he pulled up with a nagging knee pain 20 minutes in. I wasn’t so harsh as to say I told you so at the time, but he does receive these articles. James I hope you’re reading this!

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