Return from injury: it’s not all rainbows and unicorns

IMG 4046 300x225 Return from injury: its not all rainbows and unicornsI got in 19 miles this past week, divided up between four runs. Three of the four were on the roads and one was on the AlterG. I’m pretty happy with that as a starting point.

As much as I am loving the return to running, however, I have to admit, the first few weeks back aren’t always smooth sailing. In fact, they can feel downright slow, awkward and a bit discouraging. I forgot that part about coming back from injury.

I’m not sure exactly how to describe it, but it’s just hard to get into a normal rhythm. I feel kind of clumsy and sloppy. My form doesn’t feel right, either. There are small aches and pains as my little used muscles get used again, and as crazy as it sounds, I have been exhausted this week from this little bit of running. Then there’s that whole injury brain thing, which really started eating at me on Saturday.

I happened upon this article from Runner’s World over the weekend and it confirmed that it’s not all in my head–getting back to where you were pre-injury takes some time. If I recall from the past, it seems like it has taken me about four weeks to get back to feeling normal.

Don’t misunderstand: I wouldn’t go back to not running for anything. It’s just that I look forward to being back in shape and feeling like running is second nature. By my count, that’s about three weeks away; nothing to it.

If you’ve come back from injury before, have you gone through this awkward phase? How long did it take you to feel normal again?

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  1. I’m not near normal yet either. It’s good to know I’m not alone! :) My leg muscles are so fatigued after a measly 4 or 5 miles. What’s up with that? I wouldn’t get sore ever before. 3 more weeks you say? I think I can do this…
    Angela @ Happy Fit Mama recently posted..HappyMy Profile

  2. You will get there. You shouldn’t be discouraged in any way. My foot still aches all the time especially after a run. Keep at it and take it day by day.
    Kristina Walters @ Kris On Fitness recently posted..What I Ate Wednesday (Thursday Edition) – Pictsweet All Natural Collard Greens ReviewMy Profile

  3. Sometimes I am thinking I am back to normal, but other times I think aagh when will it ever happen!
    Christy @My Dirt Road Anthem recently posted..Last week in review and Ensō roller reviewMy Profile

  4. I was once 9 months off with a stress fracture, and it took me a furthure 3 months to get back into a real running routine. (maybe that was getting fitness back and learning which niggles are just niggles…

    Good luck in staying sane…
    Coach Dion recently posted..WHAT’S NEXT, a BLIND DATEMy Profile

  5. I know that feeling of your gait or cadence just being “off.” It will come back to you. I know you know this, but three weeks from now, you won’t think the time passed so slowly. Plus, you will hopefully be running in warmer temps by then!!!
    Allie recently posted..The Rundown: Go Big or Go HomeMy Profile

  6. Ugh yes I am all too familiar with that feeling! I think it took me about 3 weeks to start feeling back to somewhat normal the last time I took time off. (I had taken about 6 weeks off due to piriformis issues)I bet each run will feel a little better. Besides, if you need to have an awkward/getting back into running phase it might as well be now while we are still dealing with snow! Once spring is (finally) here you will be back to your old running routine!
    Lisa @ Running Out of Wine recently posted..The Problem with Rest DaysMy Profile

  7. i had to stop running in order to get pregnant (best thing ever!) but this is the longest break i’ve ever taken from running! i’ll be eager to get back to it!
    Linz @ Itz Linz recently posted..Like Mother Like Daughter | Pregnancy PhotosMy Profile

  8. It definitely takes time for those paces to come back and feel good again. But hooray for so many road miles! You’re on your way.
    Laura @ Mommy Run Fast recently posted..How I’m using Essential Oils in PregnancyMy Profile

  9. Yep, I know this stage, it is so frustrating, and yes, does make running unenjoyable, BUT you are so close to the other side, I can feel it! I always go through those doubts of whether I ever will be able to get back to where I was, but the pace will come, and you will start to enjoy it. Just give it one more week or two :)

    When I was returning from my muscle strain in January, it was raining and windy one day and I came back from my run crying saying I had enough, I did not want to run anymore…..but I toughed it out the next few days, and the next week I was running 6:20s in my long run! You will be fine, promise :)
    Tina Muir recently posted..Easy CanvasMy Profile

  10. Coming back from injury is so last injury, the stress fracture in my foot, was the most challenging. Even tho I biked like crazy, it simply does not replace running. The jarring of the pavement…the tight muscles…I did a lot of stretching and foam rolling. I agree, it takes a good 4 weeks to really get in a groove. Be patient with yourself…once things loosen up, your body will feel like itself again.
    Wendy@Taking the Long Way Home recently posted..Does size matter?My Profile

  11. So happy you’re able to run Alter-G free!
    I forgot about that part of returning from injury too. Last time I did I remember being upset that I was actually dreading a run. All injury I dreamed about it and now I dreaded it?! After a couple weeks of getting back into it, all was forgotten but that first little bit threw me for a loop.
    Abby recently posted..Yoga for runners, part IIMy Profile

  12. oh man…after having MiniE, those first few runs after not having run for a while were very discouraging. But I kept at it and am glad I did.
    Katie recently posted..Money, Miles and Rock ‘n’ RollMy Profile

  13. Been there, done that, feel your pain! But you’ve got the right attitude and will be kicking ass & taking names in no time!
    Nicole @ Work in Sweats Mama recently posted..A Brilliant IdeaMy Profile

  14. when my husband first came back after 8 months off, he ran with me. And we walked/run. No shame

  15. Yep, been there for sure. It’s a great reminder of how hard running is. As much as I like to think I don’t take things for granted, times like these always make me appreciate them even more. Hang in there.
    Marcia recently posted..February by Number and a Spartan BookMy Profile

  16. I have no idea what is going on with my legs lately but since my last Half Marathon last November that wasn’t even anything outrageous on effort, they’ve been troublesome. And to think a year ago I ran a marathon and had next to near NO problems with that higher mileage on my legs. I’m blaming this ugly winter :)
    Christina recently posted..Sauconys again, a new peanut sauce, and Macys shoppingMy Profile

  17. I know what you mean all too well.
    Jill @ Fitness, Health and Happiness recently posted..Heidi Klum for New BalanceMy Profile

  18. Ugh, yes. It took me months after my last injury to be able to run again, and it was as if I had never run in the past. Plus every little twitch had me worried I was reinjuring myself. It’s exhausting mentally and physically, but at least it gets better!! Keep going :D
    TriGirl recently posted..My Runger MonsterMy Profile

  19. Yes–that feeling when your body doesn’t feel strong and each mile feels like you have lead legs– I totally get it!

  20. You’re making such great progress! Hang in there and hopefully these next three weeks will pass quickly for you!
    Michelle @ Running with Attitude recently posted..Back to Weekly RecapsMy Profile

  21. At least you have a rough idea of how long this funkiness will last

  22. I think I remember this most from when I broke my foot a few years ago. At first learning to walk normal again was a struggle (I kept changing my form and overcompensating). When I started running again it just didn’t feel right. It took a few weeks of just trying to relax before I was able to really start feeling like myself again. I think the issue after injury is that fear of it coming back and that tends to hold us back. Once I let go of the fear I was able to run more relaxed and started feeling more and more like myself.
    Laura @losingrace recently posted..Boston Training: Rehabbin’ & Prehabbin’My Profile

  23. Oh my gosh- my ramping back up has been much much slower- though I realize that I need to start letting go of my fear that I will re-injure myself. You can do this (you are doing this!)
    Elena recently posted..I am a MarathonerMy Profile

  24. I hope you get to feeling like your mojo is back soon!
    Karen recently posted..My Abc’s and Monday SleepMy Profile

  25. yes!! I do agree about a month seems right. I don’t really know why that is, but suddenly all the muscle memory starts coming back
    Amanda @runtothefinish recently posted..Make every side your good sideMy Profile

  26. Yes – it is a bit hard (and discouraging) but so much better than not running.
    My hardest return to running was actually last year after having vein surgery – weird since it wasn’t even a running injury. The first few runs were scary, painful and horrible but it got better!!!
    I’m glad that you are running and I know that in a very short time you will be back to your normal running self!!!
    Kim recently posted..#Mania #Frenzy #OverloadMy Profile

  27. Injury brain is the worst. It totally messes with your head. But you’re right – it does take time to get back into the swing of things and for your muscles to “remember” but you will be there in no time. PS I love that you “return from injury” mileage is just about my peak mileage. Ha!
    Christine @ Love, Life, Surf recently posted..Ask a Yogini: Should I Use Yoga Props?My Profile

  28. I SO LOVE that you are sharing this for others!!!!
    Jody – Fit at 56 recently posted..Gratitude Monday & Family Fun in the RainMy Profile

  29. Your post comes at a good time… I’m worried about a pain I’m having ~ that at some point it might become an injury (or already is and I’m ignoring it). The road back to solid mileage and comfortable longer runs has been on my mind. Thank you for sharing your struggle to return to running after an injury. I needed to read this! Especially the line: ” I wouldn’t go back to not running for anything.” Since I wasn’t always a runner… this seems even more of a reality for me! recently posted..Special Run!My Profile

  30. ahhh Im not 100% either and have had a chance to run a half (!) come across my email recently.
    so hard to know what to do…
    Carla recently posted..Which of these friends do you have?My Profile

  31. I’ve been lucky my last serious comeback was many many years ago. I am in a comeback phase currently but not from a running injury. I usually take two weeks to feel sort of normal and then every third week or so is very hard. I think the whole process of feeling like a runner again takes 3 to 6 months.
    Johann recently posted..Ultra Running is Sexy!My Profile

  32. Hang in there (I know you will!). I have found when coming back from injury that my body comes back faster than my “injury brain”. It took me almost a year for my mind to finally relax and not be anxious/scared of getting inured again.
    Beth @ Miles and Trials recently posted..Phoenix Marathon Race RecapMy Profile

  33. Because of a lame toe ache and insane schedule over school vacation, I went 18 days without running. My first time back felt so awkward and it wasn’t until mile 4, when the run was over that it felt okay. It’s like I completely forgot how to move. Glad you’re on the mend!
    Carrie recently posted..Oh, hey…My Profile

  34. No advice just offering some encouragement. Must be very difficult, but hang in there!!
    Robin recently posted..9 Weeks TodayMy Profile

  35. Keep up the hard work! You deserve a huge pat on the back!!

  36. Moving past the “awkward phase”? So varied as is. h injury history. I do recall one run where it all seemed to nearly literally snap back into place. What has always gotten me through and what I tell injured athletes I work with is to think in terms of how far youve come vs. when you’ll feel ‘ normal. What I would do is use Sat runs as my bench mark: how much better did I feel, energy level, breathing, etc. Keep up the process!
    Adrienne recently posted..Event Recap: 2014 Fidelity Investments The Woodlands MarathonMy Profile

  37. You’ll get back to it. If you take it easy and just let it all come together in time, don’t analyze your runs too much, you’ll suddenly notice one day how great you feel.

    As for your third para. above, describing your current state of running, my entire winter has been like that. I’m not injured but this weather has sure been a challenge. It has made me slower than normal for my winter runs, plus trying to navigate snow covered/ice covered routes makes it completely UN-flowing and herky-jerky. Can’t wait for 40 – 50 degrees (even 30 degrees!) and clear roads.
    Joanne recently posted..Potato Pancakes aka BramborackyMy Profile

  38. I had 8 weeks off running a couple of years ago and coming back was hard. On the first run my legs didn’t seem like they remembered how to run. They felt heavy and clumsy. And I spent months over-thinking. Was I doing too much? Too little? Was I ever going to be able to run even a full kilometre again and not have to run/walk? It wasn’t a fun time but it was so worth pushing through.
    Char recently posted..A Normal, Quiet Saturday Morning Run – Not QuiteMy Profile

  39. I finally ran after several days off (not because of injury). I felt relaxed, loose, and very good. I still think that too many people approach running as some special, singular activity, and end up doing something forced, stiff, and unnatural. In my most recent post, I touch on an approach that may help avoid this. I don’t know if it makes sense, but movement patterns in activities are all kind of related. Walking, running, dancing, jazzercise, whatever.
    bob recently posted..Dancing along after several days offMy Profile

  40. I know the feeling you are talking about well…I’m sure many of us do. It seems like running should be like “riding a bike”…you just pick up where you left off. But it’s never that way. It’s always hard. Harder than you think it should be. But glad to see you getting in some miles!
    Michael recently posted..The Little Rock Half Marathon – An Epic MessMy Profile

  41. hmm.I think it took me a good 4-5 months to start feeling “normal.” I was still dealing with hip issues (and mental strength) in December…but the past month or so has been amazing.Hoping yours doesn’t take as long!!
    elizabeth recently posted..Hills, Nashville, and Fat TuesdayMy Profile

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