If you are going from a couch potato straight into running, you will want to temper the expectations a little bit.
Your body needs time to adapt to the accumulation of work and stress placed on it.
We can breakdown your progression based on the injuries you may have.
The first thing we can do is promote an environment where our tissues are loaded in a controlled manner so they can accommodate to increasing stress.
For Achilles and ankle/foot injuries, we will want to start to limit the amount of ground contacts we make, but we still need to increase our aerobic endurance.
This is where an Airdyne or stationary bike can be a great alternative as it unweights the ankle and foot, but allows us to maintain the conditioning components we would require for running later on.
During this time you want to perform exercises that progress the amount of weight that is loaded on the foot and ankle, allowing you to absorb and control your weight.
A start would be gravity reduced exercises such as bridges progressed to one leg, following with step ups and step-downs from low box/stair heights.
The key here for these types of injuries is to maintain full heel contact on the ground as you step and push into the ground. This allows you to stabilize the foot and ankle and distribute the loads more efficiently.
As the tissues build a tolerance and you have less pain and can control loaded movements, a tempo squat or split-squat would be a great start as you are under tension for longer periods of time with a decreased load.
You would want to perform 3 sets of 8-12 reps of slow bodyweight movements, keeping the heels planted, for 2s up and 2s down, WITHOUT locking out or stopping at the top or bottom. It is a continuous movement, followed by a 60s rest.
The tempos will improve your local tissue tolerance and aerobic endurance, which will enhance your running potential, even if you are not running as much as you would like to for the time being.
As you progress with tempos, you can use low box landings on 2 legs to learn how to absorb the forces, progressed to single-leg hops with a landing stick.
The end goal would to be able to perform pogo hops and low repeat jumps for short periods of time (10-20s) followed by 40s rest for multiple sets, along with skipping and marching progressions. These will all incorporate the ability to land, absorb, and recoil quickly with a more efficient movement pattern. This will translate into running as you repeat this process the whole time.
If this was a hamstring injury, the principles remain the same in regards to starting with moves that unload the leg first, then progress to absorbing abilities, followed by improving the tolerance of the tissues under repetitive loads.
Some exercises you can start with would be box bridges to control the pelvis. Then you can progress to single-leg RDL’s along with the pogo hops in the background to improve the spring action in the lower extremity.
Jumping progression would remain the same as ankle injuries, and you can also progress with repeat broad jumps as well to load the hamstrings more.
Another inclusion would be the same style tempo lift that you can do for split-squats, but with kettlebell deadlifts at light-moderate weight.
By improving the movement efficiency in your gait, along with progressively increasing the tissues capacity for stress, you can still perform running and progress the amount you do safely, without having to have a huge drop in your overall fitness capabilities.
Perhaps you have a lower leg injury and still don’t know how to progress safely to keep up with your running.
Send us an email and we can send you a 4-week exercise program that will be paired with your running progressions so you can safely navigate through everything without having to think about it. The program is already done for YOU, using everything we talked about earlier.
All you have to do is tell us a little about what you are having trouble with and what you want to achieve and we can help from there.
Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
This is a general training program and may not be for your SPECIFIC problem. Please make sure you a cleared for exercise prior to contacting us OR if you are not sure and you need a second opinion on what you should do, request a phone call with a PT below and we can make sure it is right for you.
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Dr. Peter Dionisopoulos is the owner and founder of Dynamic Performance & Rehab. He has worked with many high-level athletes and military personnel, but his true passion is to help active adults maintain their lifestyle by providing information and potential solutions to their aches and pains so they can continue with the activities they love.