Reader to Reader: Back After Injury

How do you bounce back when you feel like a beginner again?


Posted: 1 September 2006
by Jane Hoskyn

This week's problem is one that many runners will recognise: How do you cope with being a "beginner" again after injury?

"I used to be a half-decent runner. I've run seven marathons with a PB of 3:36, and loads of half marathons and 10Ks. Then in January, I had a car accident and completely crushed my foot, and had to take several months off. I've now started to get back into running, but it feels so much harder than it used to! Am I literally starting from scratch? My body is a beginner but my head is a pro!"Moose

Your answers...

  • The big advantage that you have over a complete beginner is "your head"! The hardest part about starting to run is believing that it's possible. You know it is, because you've done it before. Running four times a week for 30 or 45 minutes would sound like quite a lot to average club runners. It will get easier, but be patient and set reasonable goals for your situation. Don't keep looking back at "what might have been". – BillEarly
  • How long have you been back running? If it's not that long, then back up to 45 minutes three or four times a week is really good! Don't try to increase your distance too quickly, though. I had a minor accident with a broken leg, and was advised to build up slowly to avoid getting injured. I didn't listen, and ended up off my feet for much longer. – Cinders
  • I reckon you should go back to basics here. The best solution in my opinion is to not put any pressure or expectations on yourself. You're running, enjoy it; enjoy the buzz after a run. The fitness will return. – Jennster
  • In some ways, it may be harder for you than for a complete beginner. My best friend used to be a really good runner before having knee surgery. Since then, the mental battle has been even bigger than the physical battle – he remembers the 5:30-minute mile pace he used to do, so racing at 7-minute miles sticks in his throat. But believe in yourself and look forward, not back. Enjoy and celebrate every success, however small. – Ann Williams
  • There could be a positive side to this. Maybe you used to take your running ability for granted, so you may end up appreciating it more after the enforced break. Just imagine the self-esteem and pride that you'll get from your comeback. – The Hoose-Goer
  • I had a car accident in 2002, resulting in serious whiplash. I was off work for four months, almost unable to walk let alone run. I was told that I'd probably be unable to run again, and I was devastated – but a year after the accident I did my first five minutes on the treadmill. It was the best five minutes ever! Since then I've continued running, with the encouragement of my osteopath and chiropractic. I just completed a half-marathon (Burnham Beeches), and I really felt that I had reclaimed my running. My advice? Take it slowly, but don't give up! Muscles have a great memory, and I'm sure that with time you will be back to your super-fit self! – Minnie
  • You have the advantage of knowing how good you used to be, and the ability to get there again. Take things sensibly. I'm sure your previous fitness levels will be an advantage in returning to full fitness. – Chase Runner
  • We all managed to get past the "beginner" stage before, and it will happen again. – Aud
  • I'm sure I heard/read that it's easier to get fit again if you've been fit before, than if you're starting for the first time. The body is a pretty intelligent thing. – run michelle run


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