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Injured? How to change your training when you can run again

Nursing a running injury is demoralizing. You’ve lost fitness. You can’t do what you love. And you feel like your progress has stagnated.

running injury

During my own running career, I’ve had countless injuries. Some were minor while others (like my ITBS injury) lasted six months.

After six months of being sedentary, wishing I could just take a few steps without shooting pain near my knee, and more reruns of House than I care to remember, I was finally able to start running again.

That experience – and what I’ve since learned about strategic injury recovery – prompted me to overhaul my approach to injury management.

My new approach has resulted in:

  • Only one major injury from 2009 – 2014 (I’m very proud of this considering the annual injury rate is around 70% for runners!)
  • Powerful results from my clients with injuries as diverse as patellofemoral pain syndrome, Achilles tendinopathy, and plantar fasciitis
  • Invitations to speak about injury prevention at the National Endurance Sports Summit at Princeton University

My #1 goal is to elevate the sport of running: to help runners get stronger, healthier, and a lot faster.

Any other goal is simply a distraction.

So you can imagine I love it when I hear from my runners:

This is why I love my job #thanksmike #healthyrunning ????????????????‍♀️

A post shared by Jason Fitzgerald (@jasonfitz1) on

And much like other areas of life, testing is what helped bring my injury approach from haphazard to stunningly effective.

But it wasn’t always that way…

The “Normal” Way of Treating Injuries

Most runners use a “Try Everything, Try Nothing” approach to injuries. They throw a bunch of treatments, ideas, and tactics against the wall and hope something will stick.

But this approach has no overall strategy. It has no progression to get you from injured and unable to run to healthy and able to run pain-free.

This mirrors exactly how I dealt with injuries in college. If something started to hurt, I’d ignore it and hope the pain would just go away.

Then it wouldn’t and I would ice the painful area. Then I’d sit in the warm bath at the trainer’s before going to practice.

Without fail, it would still hurt. So I’d take a week off from running, sporadically ice my leg, take some ibuprofen, and spend a little more time than usual doing some random core exercises.

Sometimes it would work. Sometimes I’d still be in pain a week later.

This entire process drove me crazy!

Why wasn’t my treatment approach formalized and put into a specific protocol – with detailed, daily steps to help me run again?

The answer is that at the time, I didn’t know any better. I had only been running for 6-7 years and my running geekery had yet to truly blossom.

Now, things are different. I’ve upgraded my approach after I:

  • Learned more about the sport during the USA Track & Field coaching education course
  • Read a few (ok ok, too many) books about running
  • Worked with thousands of runners on their own injury struggles

And while I’ve been called a magician, a “bloody little ripper,” and accused of having “mystical powers,” none of that is true.

I just tested many types of injury treatment approaches very well (you can get a sneak peak here).

The Testing Approach to Injury Management

When it comes to returning to running after an injury, there are a lot of unknowns. You might ask yourself a lot of questions:

How should I increase my mileage after my injury?

What should my first run back look like?

How should I modify that first week of running?

There are no clear-cut answers. But there is an approach that helps.

Episode 32 of Q&A with Coach goes into more detail about this testing approach to post-injury running.

Ultimately, it does depend on several factors:

  • the nature and severity of your injury
  • the amount of training time you missed
  • your history with injuries
  • whether you have a goal race coming up

To help with your individual situation, any coach needs to ask a lot of clarifying questions. Doing so helps whomever is giving you advice have a clearer picture of your unique injury.

If that interests you, then you’d love Team Strength Running where I do live Q&A’s with the team every few weeks.

Every member has the opportunity to ask their personal, individual questions and get immediate feedback. It’s my favorite aspect of the program.

We’ll be opening soon to those who want to get every advantage with their training:

  • A library of 30+ training plans that prioritize injury prevention, weight loss, ultra marathons, and even base training
  • Live Q&A’s with me
  • A new expert interview every month
  • Access to our private community to meet other members, share stories, and encourage each other
  • Team discounts on gear, programs, and clothes

Want to learn more? Sign up here and I’ll let you know more about the program next week.

Get Stronger & Run Healthy

Join our free course to help you better prevent injuries, develop runner-specific strength, and avoid the big mistakes that get runners hurt.