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Getting Back Into Running After Injury or Long Time Not Running

Stew Smith, CSCS

Getting into a running program after an injury or just starting running for the first time ever or many years is very tough. For one, the joints, soft tissues, and bones can all be injured by common “overuse” injuries such as:

  • Shin Splints
  • Very Common Knee Tendinitis
  • Runner’s Knee (PFS)
  • ITB Syndrome
  • Heel Injuries (Plantar Fasciitis)
  • Stress Fractures

For more detailed information click the links above to see what Dr. Pribut says about the most common running injuries and how to recover from them at

Last year after a heavy running program through the winter and sprint (30-40 miles a week) and some uncommon yard work (moving dead trees), I hit a wall and thought my leg was going to fall off. To make a long story short, after a month of self-rehab and not noticeable changes, I went to the doctor for both an MRI and Bone Scan. The bone scan showed stress fracture in my femur on the very base of the femur within the knee socket itself. PAINFUL!

I just had to take a year off of running and could only swim without fins. Biking even hurt it. So for nearly a full year of NO RUNNING, when I was ready to get back on the running plan, I knew I had to be smart about it.

I got the idea that I would start on Spring Solstice (as the days start to get longer) and would gradually ramp it up by getting up earlier with the sun as the mornings with daylight got earlier. It started off at 0630 in late March – run for 15 minutes for two weeks and then swim at 0645 to finish off the workout. By April, I started my run at 0615 and ran longer and further. By May, the daylight started by 0600 and I ran longer and longer until I peaked in June 21 – the longest day of the year with a hour long run. Now, it is early August and the days are getting shorter and so are my runs, but my swims are still 30-45 minutes long which I will continue throughout the winter months and taper the running accordingly.

Too much running, too soon, too fast, and too long can in any combination put you in the hurt locker and unable to run – even walk if you are not careful. Listen to the body.

This is how I got back into running gently for about 2 months:

Week 1 – 4 days a week only run 1 mile – then swim, bike, etc.

Week 2 – 3 days a week only run 2 miles

Week 3 – took off as injuries usually occur week 3 of running again… non-impact only

Week 4 – 4 days a week run 2 miles

Week 5 – 4 days a week run 3 miles

Week 6 – 5 days a week run 3 miles

Week 7 – 3 days a week run 3 miles / 2 days a week run 4 miles

Week 8 – 3 days a week run 4 miles / 2 days a week run 5 miles

Now I can run 5 to 7 miles no sweat.

Here are some extra tips to avoid injury when running or starting to run again:

1. Warm up properly and then stretch. Run nice and easy for about 5-10 minutes, then stretch once you are warm and the muscles and joints are more pliable. Never stretch “cold.” See stretches in the 6 week Running Program . Read Dr. Pribut’s information of stretching too.

2. Replace running shoes often. I go through shoes about every 2-3 months and ONLY run in my running shoes. Do not walk in your running shoes since you walk differently than you run. You do get what you pay for too. There are a number of types of shoes out there that range from $80-$120 for the better brands, however, you can save $20-30 by going online at retailers such as – this site also has information of gait analysis and the importance of orthotics (shoe insets) to help prevent injuries.

3. Or check out the running shoe list that Dr. Pribut put together.

I hope these links can help you prevent some of the common injuries. However, it is always recommended to see a doctor if you are in pain. Three running rules I use are: “If it hurts to run – stop running” and “If it hurts to walk – DO NOT run, and if it hurts when doing nothing – go to a doctor immediately.”

Want to improve your workouts? Visit Stew Smith’s PoliceLink Fitness Store for customized, downloadable ebooks written specifically for law enforcers.

© 2009, Stew Smith

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    11 months ago


    i was a very avid runner and i was out for about a year and a half for 2 medial plica removals. notmally the recovery is much faster, but i had really large plicas. the year after i was in physical therapy for about a year with my knees and ankles (non related) and i just gave up on running altogether. i was emotionally tied to running and i was in amazing shape. i have gained weight from being out but i look forward to becoming toned again. I started with .5 of a mile and once that was perfected and i had a good time i went up by half a mile every time until i got to a 5k. stretching and the right shoes are key. And if something is hurting, lay off and get it checked out. i learned the hard way. DON'T WAIT

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 1 year ago


    as a victim of a knee sprain that has had me sidelined for 1.5 years, would you propose that I follow the same rehab running step as you have, Stew Smith or should i take more caution as I proceed in slowly retraining my legs?

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    almost 5 years ago

    luv da info provided now i know wht 2 du 2 prepare mah body 2 adjust 2 running again im goin 2 follow this plan nd i hope it works....

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 5 years ago


    Great info. I am going to start running today.

  • Wind_therapy-_angel_max50


    about 5 years ago


    Great informtion

  • Dscn0191_max50


    about 5 years ago


    Much needed information that i can really put to use ASAP.

  • Robertmitchum_max50


    over 7 years ago


    Every artical by this guy is good information to have

  • Copy_of_eduardo_074_max50


    almost 8 years ago


    Good stuff..thanks it will help me get back into it.

  • Meangreen01_max50


    almost 8 years ago


    Thanks for this article, it's something I've been struggling with after my on-duty vehicle accident.

  • Policelinkbadge_max160_max160_max160_max160_max50


    almost 8 years ago


    great article, that reminds us that we are not 18 anymore and we need to start off slow.

  • 2004_0304macandanna0005_max50


    almost 8 years ago


    Great article Stew. I want to get back into a little running. In our academy we ran a lot every other day. i still have leg pain in one of my legs, shin bone. It seems to be getting better but that injury is an old one. M.Cline

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