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

rainbowsI 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. says

    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. says

    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

  3. says

    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

  4. says

    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

  5. says

    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

  6. says

    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

  7. says

    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

  8. says

    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 😀
    TriGirl recently posted..My Runger MonsterMy Profile

  9. says

    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

  10. says

    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

  11. says

    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

  12. says

    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

  13. says

    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

  14. says

    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

  15. says

    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

  16. says

    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

  17. says

    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

  18. says

    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

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