If you’re returning to running after an injury, make sure you learn from it so you can avoid it happening again.

Every injury has the potential to teach us something about our bodies and our training. And every injury can teach us how to do things differently next time. So, next time you’re injured or struggling with a niggle, try to think of it as something positive to help you learn.

What caused it?

You just have to go back over your training and unpick it to find the answer. Did you increase your mileage too quickly? Did that niggling hip problem come back because you’ve forgotten to do your glute exercises? Have you been neglecting your conditioning work or slacking on the foam roller? Is that calf problem actually to do with your high heels rather than your running shoes? Were you dehydrated when you went for that long run? Injuries tend to “brew” for a while, and it’s only when we look back that we can see it. I know that for me, if I neglect my foam rolling or spend too much time in the car or at my desk, my hip starts to hurt. Too much road running is another trigger (I’m happier on the trail) and it took me years to work out that repeated calf problems were due to stiffness through my thoracic spine and sciatic nerve. Now I try to stay one step ahead of niggles with mileage management and loads of foam rolling and conditioning work.

Learn from your mistakes

The next time you’re injured or even just have a niggle, have an honest think about what caused it and what can you do to fix it. Learn from your mistakes and don’t repeat them again. And while I’m on this soapbox, I’m going to talk about how to return to running. Having a few days off and then going back to your usual training is not what I mean by “return to running”. That isn’t learning from mistakes or building up gently. So, how do you return after an injury? Well, after you work out what caused it, and you have done your resting/rehab/thrown your high heels away, you can get back on the road. Your first run back isn’t a fast six miler with your club or a long run, it’s a 15 minute jog/walk around the block to test it out. If you’ve been injured and out of running for a long time, you might just want to do 5-10 minutes of jog/walk. Throw the training plan away and start to listen to your body. Once you’ve done a 15 minute jog/walk a few times and you’re ok – no niggles, no injuries – you can increase it to 20 minutes, then 30 minutes. Keep monitoring your body and if the injury comes back or moves to another part of your body, then drop it back again. Depending on the severity of your injury and how long you’ve been out, you’ll then be able to build up slowly from there.

Consistency is key

Your first priority should be consistency – and that’s for every runner. What I mean by consistency is the ability to run regularly without getting injured. Consistency and injury-free running builds fitness, and that’s where performance comes from. Forget speed work and long runs for now… just build up a pattern of regular shorter runs and see how you respond. Once you’ve done that for a few months – and you’re not injured – then you can look at building up mileage. Training and staying injury free is a tricky balance. Successful runners learn from their experiences, take responsibility for what went wrong and implement a plan to make sure they don’t make the same mistakes again.


Sarah Russell has over 20 years experience in the fitness industry as a running coach, trainer, freelance writer and athlete. She also has a Masters degree in Sport Science and is a qualified England Athletics running coach – sarah-russell.co.uk