How to Ease Back Into Running Post-Injury

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Guess what? I can start running again in one week! Let me back up a bit: Last October, I started having really intense heel pain in my left foot. If I stood for too long or went for a run, I would be limping by the end of the day. I went to a podiatrist and found out that I have heel spurs, which make it more likely for me to get plantar fasciitis, a condition in which the ligament that connects your heel to your toe bones becomes inflamed (translation: It hurts). If you’re a runner, then you probably know my pain (or at least know of someone who’s experienced it). Part of my treatment involved taking an indefinite break from running—but my podiatrist has finally given me the green light to start again on Memorial Day!

Granted, there is a catch—I can’t just go back to the mileage and speed I was at before my running ban. Like with almost any injury, I have to ease back into it. Now, I’ll admit: Patience is not my strong suit. But I really, really don’t want to hurt myself again. So I’ve devised a few strategies for making it easier to go slower and run shorter distances—at least in the beginning:

Make Running Dates with Some of My Slower Friends
I know, I kind of sound like a jerk right now. But it’s a fact of life: Some people are slower than others (and there are plenty of people out there who are faster than me). But to force myself to slow down, I plan to make running buddies out of friends who typically go at a slower pace than me. Or, when I join a running club, I’ll make sure to head out with the 11-minute-mile group, rather than the 9-minute-mile one. As an added bonus, I’ll have way more fun running with others  than I would on my own.

Run to the Gym…and Then Get on a Cardio Machine That Won’t Irritate My Heels
I’ve been allowed to work out on the elliptical, stationary bike, and rowing machine for a while now. So I know that running one or two miles won’t feel like a “real” workout to me because it will be finished relatively quickly. But if I run one mile and happen to have that mile end at the gym, then I can do another 30 or 40 minutes on a cardio machine and slowly build up to longer and longer distances.

Make a Playlist of Slower Songs
Research shows that you automatically run faster when you’re listening to songs with more beats per minute. So it follows that if I make a playlist filled with some of my favorite slow(er) jams, I’ll be less tempted to go at my max pace. (I’ll share the playlist I end up making with you in a future post.)

Intersperse Running with Walking
I’ve always been a proponent of the run/walk method, particularly for longer distances. It helps me recoup some of my energy and make sure I’m not sacrificing my form when I get tired. But whereas before I might have only walked for one or two minutes three or four times during a six-mile run, now I think I’ll alternate one song running with one song walking—and build up to shorter and shorter periods of walking.

Do you have any other suggestions for how I can pace myself and fight my natural inclination to overdo it? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

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