In the first two installments of this article we discussed the first two variables that are important when returning to running post-injury. Duration and speed are the first two and they must be conquered sufficiently without re-injury in order to introduce the third variable.
This third variable is terrain. For the most part this means hills. It can also mean running on another surface that you are not used to, but for the vast majority of runners it deals with re-introducing hills into the runs. Hills can mean either rolling hills or doing hill repeats. Hills test strength in a entirely new way so it is never wise to re-introduce your running beginning with any hills. Many of my runners live in an area where it is difficult to avoid hills. Even for these runners, I suggest that they drive to an area where they can find flat terrain. While this seems like a lot of work for those who usually just run from their house, it is the best way to ensure that the runner doesn’t get hurt. Like with the other two variables, this one should be done gradually. Don’t have your first hill run be an eight mile rolling hill trail run. Start with low volume or very slight inclines and progress from there. Doing 3 or 4 miles of rolling, mild hills would be a good place to start. Again, since this is a new variable you also don’t want to run your initial hill miles at a faster pace. These runs should be done at a comfortable pace. Once you are comfortable with these shorter hill runs you can gradually increase the distance. After multiple hill runs have been completed without pain, then you can start to introduce some steeper hills and some hills with increasing slope. Again, since hills really test a runner’s strength and it puts more strain on the muscles and joints, you most definitely need to be cautious.
Hills are a phenomenal, and I think integral, part of run training, but really need to be introduced correctly to not push the body before it is completely healed.
Getting back to running quickly is critical to many of my clients and these are the basic rules that I always follow. There are little variations with each runner, but if these rules are followed it allows the athlete the best chance of returning to full capacity without re- injuring their body.
For more information or to set up an appointment to help with your injury or return to running, call our office at (949)387-0060.