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Return to running protocol

How to start running from scratch

A return to running program is designed to safely build up your running volume when returning after injury or a prolonged rest period.

The aim of return to running guidelines are to build resilience to fatigue, refine running technique and improve fitness.

It is important that you don’t “outrun” your current level of strength, as this leads to a loss of optimal running technique. That creates overload and (potentially) injury.


The rules

  1. Warning signs – if you experience any of these, move back to the previous level until it settles
    • Sharp pain during or soon after a run
    • Rising level of pain during or after a run
    • One-sided pain, tightness or soreness during or after a run
    • Excessive or prolonged soreness lasting more than 30 minutes on the following morning after a run
  2. Advance by no more than one step every two days, although most people will advance at a slower rate to allow their body to adapt
    • Anyone with a previous history of running will progress at a faster rate but still require time for physiological adaptation to occur. Don’t let your enthusiasm tell you differently!
    • Anyone without a running or athletic history will progress at a much more gradual rate. Don’t feel pressured to move up a step. Give your body time to respond to the training load
  3. You can run up to 5 days per week in this protocol, with the other two days being non-running days (rather than complete rest days)
  4. Do not progress your return to running program for one week after any upgrade in a strength-building program (defined as strength work with heavier weights or exercises designed to induce fatigue)
  5. If you have more than one week off running, drop back one step for every five days off (eg. After 7 days, drop back one step. After 10 days, drop back two steps)

Our return to running protocol can be found here but ensure that your strength exercises are always one step ahead of your running.

Keep an eye out for the warning signs that indicate that you may be susceptible to overload issues.