Return to running protocol – part 2

Before you dive into part 2 of our Return to Running Protocol, we’ve set out the rules and guidelines for our Return to running program in this post. Be sure to read those first before starting this running program.

Return to running protocol sessions

Phase 1 – focusing on movement

Note: this is the starting point for new runners or very deconditioned runners – it’s a deliberately steady start to give you time for your body to adapt to running.

If you’re an experienced runner AND you’ve been off running for less than 4 months, start with Phase 2 of the Return to Running Protocol.

  1. Brisk walk for 30+ minutes on flat terrain
  2. Brisk walk for 30+ minutes on hilly terrain
  3. Brisk walk for 30+ minutes on flat terrain with 6 x 30sec shuffles (easy jog) during the walk, separated by 2min of walking
  4. As per #3 with 8 x 30sec jogs
  5. As per #3 with 10 x 30sec jogs

Phase 2 – practicing the movement patterns without fatigue

Note: this phase can be the starting point for experienced runners recovering from absences of less than 4 months.

  1. Brisk walk for 40+ minutes with 6 x 45sec easy jogs, separated by 2min of walking
  2. As per #1 with 8 x 45sec easy jogs
  3. As per #1 with 8 x 60sec easy jogs
  4. As per #1 with 10 x 60sec easy jogs

Phase 3 – improving heart rate recovery and adding a little fatigue

As we’re now trying to aim for a little fatigue, expect some mild soreness to keep in but it should only be temporary, lasting one to two sessions.

Keep a close eye out for the warning signs of overload – sore/black toenails, very sore hip muscles, ankle pain or blisters on your feet (click on the issue to read more about its causes and fixes).

  1. Run/walk (2:3) session for 40+ minutes – after 5-10min walking warm up, run 2min then walk for 3min, repeating 6 times, then walk remainder of session
  2. As per #1 with 2:2 ratio (2min run then 2min walk)
  3. As per #1 with 2:2 ratio for 8 repetitions
  4. As per #1 with 2:2 ratio for 10 repetitions

Phase 4 – building endurance

  1. Run/walk (5:2) – after a 5min progressively faster walk for warm up, run for 5min then have a walking recovery for 2min, repeating 4 times
  2. Add one extra repetition of 5:2 every 2-3 days (or greater, for less experienced runners)
  3. Once you’ve reached 6 repetitions of 5:2, you can progress to:
    1. 5:2 for 8 repetitions
    2. 7:3 for 6 repetitions
    3. One 20min continuous run


On reaching step 3 of phase 4, you have now achieved 20min of continuous running and/or 40min of interval-based running. From this point, you need to focus on your running goal. This may be to get faster, go longer or just enjoy running.

Whatever your goal, progress towards it by changing only one parameter at a time (faster or longer or more hills) and maintaining two non-running days per week until you’ve reached your desired base or weekly volume.

Improve your running performance while reducing your risk of injury with a strength program specifically designed for runners. We’ve got free programs for runners and those returning from injury.