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What to consider when returning to training after a long injury break

An injury during a preparation or competition phase can severely disrupt the course of the season and lead to a significant reduction in physical performance. The longer the rest phase lasts, the more time must be invested in reconstruction. However, once the physical and psychological setback has been overcome, many positive aspects of the development can be gained.

Most runners experience it once: an injury forces them to take a break. Having to give up the sport they love is hard enough. But to start training again after a longer break should not be underestimated either.

When to start training again?

Of course, the type of injury you have to deal with, the speed of your recovery and your level of fitness before the forced break is important. A runner with good basic endurance will be back in shape much faster than a poorly trained endurance athlete. But for all those returning to fitness, it is important that you consciously take your time, start training gently and listen to your body. Pain is a warning signal and should not be eliminated with medication in order to complete the planned training sessions. So wait for the right time and only start training when the inflammation has subsided and the pain has gone. A quick start with too big a goal can lead to a renewed injury or a chronic symptoms. It is best to listen to the advice of your doctor or physiotherapist. A well-considered training plan with sufficient periods of regeneration could also help to avoid carelessly intensive training sessions. Set yourself small, realistic interim goals and remain open to having to adjust them if necessary.

Before you start running training, the structures of the musculoskeletal system must be prepared for the load. Muscular imbalances, which have arisen from relieving posture during the injury break, must first be compensated. Otherwise the problems can shift to another part of the body. It is best to have a physiotherapist give you the strengthening and mobility exercises that are right for you. Stability exercises for the legs and trunk also support the running economy and reduce incorrect and excessive strain.

Use these first weeks for alternative sports like aqua jogging, swimming or cycling. This can already improve performance, but the region affected by the injury is spared. During the rehabilitation phase, running training on the anti-gravity treadmill (AlterG) can also be valuable. This can provide weight relief, which makes painless running training possible at an early stage.

How do I get back in?

After the general preparation phase, the running shoes can finally be laced. However, I recommend that you start with a few units of Nordic Walking before you move on to short, loose running units (approx. 20 minutes). Pay attention to how your body reacts to the stress stimuli. If you experience pain, reduce the load or stop the training. The body signals that it is not yet ready for this intensity of stress. If, on the other hand, you can easily survive the first few easy runs, the training sessions can be gently extended. However, do not overdo it and allow the body sufficient recovery between the units. Damage caused by overloading should now be avoided at all costs! It is quite possible that you will need some walking breaks between the runs at the beginning. These can be reduced over time.

Use the first 3-4 months to build up your basic endurance by doing mainly quiet endurance runs. Only increase the intensity or running speed of individual training units when you can run through an hour of relaxed and painless training. If you need help planning your training, contact a trainer or sports scientist.

The important thing is: Be patient and be happy about small progress. Take the positive out of this situation. Use the time you have gained for other valuable things that would otherwise be missed out due to the numerous training sessions. Get to know your body and its load limits better. This will help to prevent over strain symptoms in the future. As hard as setbacks can be at the moment, they make us stronger in the end!

Tipps:

  • Listen to the recommendations of your doctor, physiotherapist or sports scientist
  • Start slowly and take enough time for the reconstruction
  • Supplement your running training with strength and flexibility exercises and alternative sports
  • Define small, realistic intermediate goals
  • Do not expose yourself to competition stress
  • Listen to your body and build in enough rest periods
  • Make sure you eat a healthy and balanced diet that provides you with sufficient energy

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No matter what level of sport experience and no matter how much time you have, a targeted training helps you to get the most out of your conditions and guarantees a long-term increase in performance. The correct dosage of load and break protects you from overloading and also maintains your performance in everyday working life. The content of the training and the scope of our advice is individually tailored to your needs.

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Zehnder_FranziskaAutor: Franziska Zehnder, Head of Performance Diagnostics Sports and Movement Scientist MAS Nutrition and Health at Medbase Zürich Löwenstrasse, Sports Medical Center

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