Some Workouts for Coming Back from Injury

If you’re a runner at some point you are bound to get injured. While we do what we can to prevent injury, they are inevitable. I suffered from two acute injuries this spring – a sprained ankle followed by a broken foot, unfortunately in the same foot. As I was cross-training and doing all the rehab things I thought I would share what I learned.

Heart rate is queen when it comes to cross-training. Running is one of those activities that generally gets your heart rate up really quickly and for sustained efforts. If you do not have a watch or device with heart rate, I recommend investing in one, not just through injury but also for managing training post-injury. Failing your own heart rate device the ones built into the cardio machines are reasonably accurate.

My second piece of advice is with respect to environment. There is a physiological response to getting outside in the fresh air. As much as you can get your cross-training done outside. Find a local outdoor pool, go to your local bike shop and rent a bike, or find a gym that has machines outside.

I put together some of my favourite workouts I did this summer to cross-train through this injury. I have divided them up amongst the various activities and included a section on getting back to blending running with cross-training. Regardless of what medium you choose to cross-train I recommend being conservative in your return to running, the last thing you want is another setback.

Pool Running (warm-up = 10min, cool-down = 5-10min):
1. 4 x 90 seconds with equal rest (i.e. 90 seconds), 4 x 60 seconds with equal rest, 4 x 45 seconds with equal rest, 4 x 30 seconds with equal rest, 4 x 15 seconds with equal rest.
2. 10 to 20 reps of 2 minutes hard one-minute recovery
3. 1 or 2 sets of 10 minutes hard, 2 minutes easy, 7 minutes hard, 2 minutes easy, 5 minutes hard, 1:30 easy, 4 min hard, 1 minute easy, 3 minutes hard, 30 seconds easy, 1 minute all out.

Cycling (warm-up 10-20 minutes, cool-down 10-20 minutes):
1. 10-20 hill repeats: Find a hill that is 30 seconds to 90 seconds in length. Your rest is the turn around from the top coasting to the bottom.
2. Tempo – depending on your race length anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours of getting your heart rate into that tempo zone.
3. 5min Time Trial (TT) efforts. 4-6x 5 minutes as hard as you can go with

Elliptical (warm-up 10-20 minutes + 4×30 second ‘strides’ with 30 seconds easy, cool-down 10-20 minutes):
1. 4-6 sets of 2min hard, 30 seconds easy, 30 seconds all out with 3 to 5 minutes between sets.
2. 5-10 x 2 minutes with 1 minute easy. Followed by a 3 to 4 minutes set rest. 5-10 x 1 minutes with 30 seconds easy.
3. 2-4 x 5 minutes with 1 minute easy. Followed by a 3 to 4 minutes set rest. 2-4 x 1:30 minutes with 45 seconds easy. Followed by a 3 to 4 minutes set rest. Followed by 2-4 x 30 seconds hard with 30 seconds easy.

Your First Runs Back (You only get to move forward to the next workout if you are pain-free not just running but the days following too):
Week 1: Day 1 – 10 minutes of 1 minute easy run 1 minute walk (i.e. 5 x 1 minute run, 1 min walk). (You really have to wait 2 days after this one to make sure your injury is doing ok). Day 4: 15 minutes total – 5 sets of 2 min easy run, 1 min walk. Day 6: 7 to 10 sets of 3 minutes run with 30 seconds to 1 minute walk.
Week 2: Day 8 – 5-8 sets of 5 minutes run with 30 seconds to 1 minute walk. Day 10 – 15-30 minute run. Day 12 – 2-5 sets of 10 minute run with 1 minute walk. Day 14: 20-40 minute run.
Week 3: Day 16 – 2-5 sets of 10 minute run with 1 minute walk. Day 17 – 20 minute run. Day 19 – 20-40 minute run. Day 20 – 20-40 minute run. Day 21 – 20-40 minute run.

Transition Workouts (blending running with cross-training):
1. Run warm-up with drills and strides (your strides may feel super awkward and really slow!). Pool workout. Run cool-down.
2. Run warm-up + drills and strides. 1/4 of a workout going solely by feel (i.e. if 2 minutes at 10k pace, it’s 10k pace feel not kilometre or mile splits) + 3/4 pool workout. Run – strides + cooldown.
3. Run warm-up + drills and strides. 1/2 run workout. 1/2 pool workout. Run cool-down and strides.

Weight Assisted Running (i.e. A Light Speed Lift, Alter-G, etc)
Another option when returning to running is to use a device that removes some of your weight while running. I was fortunate to have LightSpeed Lift loan me a device on my return to running.
1. Easy 20 minute run with 20-40lbs of your total weight off your body (aim for about a 25% decrease in total weight).
2. 5-10 min warm up. 5-10 x 2 minutes at tempo pace with 1 minute recovery jog or walk. 5-10 minute cool down.
3. 5 min warm up. 30-60 minutes at marathon pace. 5 min cool down.