Returning after Injury

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    Not looking for medical advice, just your experience on returning after injury as I am a newbee.
    I was on HM L1 Power about 5 weeks in having just completed HM L0 and done a half marathon race. I have been out injured for 6 weeks (tendon strain around the Piriformis area) and am gradualy getting back running under a Physio (up to 30 mins easy running now). I am assuming wont make my HM race in 7 weeks.
    I am cheering myself up by planning my return. When the physio gives me the OK what is the best way to get back in to my 8020. I was thinking of starting at the begining of L0 and seeing how I was after a week and then moving up 2 weeks if that feels OK. That sems the safest route, but seems a long slog. I am not sure how quickly the fitness will return – if it returns quicker can I jump further ahead? How do you judge how fast to progress?

    Many thanks in advance.


    I’ve been through this. Last spring, I missed 6 weeks from an injury. Personally, I would skip the half marathon for now. As tempting as it is, I would want to be absolutely sure that I was ready and that my body could handle it. Definitely don’t want to set yourself back after all of your recovery and hard work!

    As far as getting back into 80/20, I would suggest doing your first month strictly by perceived effort. Right now, you really don’t know what your zones are. Your fitness will be a moving target as it improves, so I don’t think doing a CP test right now would be very helpful. Save this for after the first month. If you’re uncertain about running by RPE, here’s basically how I would handle it:

    Zones 1 & 2 – Something you could easily maintain for hours without tiring out. When I say “hours”, I mean definitely longer than a marathon. It needs to be aerobically easy. Even after the run, you shouldn’t feel fatigued. It needs to be something your body can easily recover from. Personally, with RPE, I don’t differentiate between zones 1 and 2. It’s just whatever feels appropriate for the day. Faster or slower some days, depending on how I’m feeling. If necessary, you could even do a couple of heart rate based easy runs and just observe how it feels. Then switch to RPE and try to maintain this effort.

    Zone 3 – Something you could maintain between 30 minutes and an hour. It should be reasonably easy most of the time, but becomes more difficult the longer you go. If you mess up and run out of steam in 15-20 minutes or so, just dial it back a little the next time. You’ll figure it out.

    Zone 4 – Something you could maintain from about a mile to 5K or so. It’s challenging, but not an all out effort.

    Zone 5 – Slightly faster than your mile pace up to a dead sprint.

    You might have to do a few runs to calibrate your sense of RPE, but you’ll get it and you might just enjoy it! For what it’s worth, I use a Stryd Footpod and still do a lot of my running by RPE.

    As for judging your progress, I would suggest recording your stats on some kind of spreadsheet or Excel document. Pace, power, duration, distance, average heart rate, and temperature. Also having a separate column for comments (pushed harder than I should have…felt amazing…need to back off next time…ready to increase distance…etc). You should see some positive trends. Lower heart rate at a given pace or power level. Faster pace or greater power level at the same heart rate.

    As for increasing your workload, I would pay attention to you’re feeling. Mark it on your spreadsheet. If a given workout is really difficult, I wouldn’t advance just yet. Give it another week and see how it feels. If it’s noticeably easier, then increase it the following week. If you feel like you completed the workout with authority and your didn’t feel beat up afterwards, you’re probably ready to increase.

    Anyway, I know this is a lot of info, but I hope it helps. Let us know how your recovery and training goes. I wish you the best!


    Sorry, it looks like you were asking more about our own personal experience. I did the entire first month easy, then started with one faster run per week. Because mine was a foot injury, every run had the potential to make it worse. So I just started really short and easy. I think the first run back was 2 miles. At first, I just ran 3 times per week. Then I added a 4th run. The first 3 months of my recovery were during the summer, so I used aqua jogging on 2 of my non-running days.

    I paid very careful attention to how the foot was feeling. Initially, it would feel beat up after running. But it would return to feeling normal again. The idea was to stress the foot at a slower rate than it was able to heal. I used the following guidelines:

    1. If the foot felt good by bedtime of the running day, then I was OK to increase the distance / duration for the same run the following week.
    2. If the foot took any longer than this to recover, I would repeat the same run the following week.
    3. If the foot wasn’t recovered in time for a run, I would choose another minimal impact aerobic activity.

    Initially, the increases were in increments of 5 minutes or 1/2 mile, depending on whether I was going by time or distance. This worked really well. The first time I ran for 30 minutes, my foot felt really beat up and it hurt to walk for the rest of the day. The second time, it felt good within about 4 hours. The third time, it didn’t feel beat up at all.

    Adding in speed took more adjustment than I anticipated. My first fast finish run (on a Thursday) was just a 30 minute run with 5 minutes of faster running at the end. It took my foot almost 2 full days to feel normal again. So I repeated the same run the following Thursday. This time, my foot was OK by bedtime. I decided to play it conservative and give the run one more week. This time, it felt completely fine from the time I finished the run. So I was pretty confident in increasing for the following week.

    For the first couple of months, the increases were kind of slow. I had to repeat several runs to give the foot a chance to adapt. At a certain point, I could tell that my foot was feeling much better and recovering much quicker. So I would allow myself to increase by increments of 1 mile or 10 minutes, provided that the recovery time was still the same. Within 5 months or so, I was running around 35 miles per week with the long run being 13+ miles…all with no issues.

    It’s been almost a year and I still haven’t had any issues.

    As far as regaining stamina, once I started doing the easy runs by RPE, it came back pretty quick. Adding in the faster runs helped as well. I was say that I was completely back to where I left off within about 6 weeks. Then, by the end of the training season, I had improved quite a bit from where I was before the injury. I hope this helps!


    Thanks Alan for your thoughts. Using perceived effort to start with sounds like a good approach I will try.

    Did you follow a 8020 plan when you restarted? Did you go back to the start of your plan, drop a plan level or do something else (eg maintenance plan). I would prefer to use a plan for motivation.


    After about 2 months of easing back into it, I was feeling pretty good. So I started one of the 8020 half marathon plans. There was enough time before the race to finish the entire plan, so I started at the beginning.

    I still did the easy runs by perceived effort (which became faster), and everything zone 3 and up was done by power.

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