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Top 3 Return to Run Tips (not just for injured runners)

While a lot of focus for return to running is around coming back from an injury or surgery, there are also a lot of people making New Year's Resolutions who are coming back to the sport or just getting started. We want to help make your returning to running smooth and injury-free, no matter your background or experience!

Below are three key concepts to implement no matter what return to run program you use or reason you had a break from running:

1. Time Not Distance

All runners do not have the same fitness levels and experience, but time is the same for all. A return to run program based on time accounts for different paces. The goal of a return to run program is to allow the body to adapt to the stress of running and promote proper recovering before the next session. Going by time will provide better progressions for a broader range of athletes. (we believe most training should be done by time, but that is a conversation to come.)

2. Focus on Form

It is easier to make a habit than to break a habit, so take the time to focus on proper running form at the beginning of a program. This should be done at the first session of a return to run program, injured or not! Your goal is not to make the athlete have “perfect running form” (doesn’t exist), but focusing on one simple cue can make a big difference. You can also stage the cues to progressively improve their form. Helping someone become comfortable with cadence before focusing on other things like knee drive, lean, or collapsing can allow for easier adaptations later in the program.

3. Effort-based Training

The last thing you want to do is have someone go through a return to run program and wind up with the same (or different) injury 3-4 weeks after they started. Assuming the underlying reason for an injury was addressed, this scenario is often the result of training load errors where someone starts too fast and too frequently. “Go slow to go fast” is a great motto for return to run. Ideally, we want a runner to be in the 4-5/10 range for effort level. We encourage people to stay around 4/10, but we know that it can be more physically challenging to run when they are adopting a new form, so it's okay to let them range up to a 5/10. It may take a session or two for the runner to learn what a 4 or 5 feels like, so be sure to educate them on the soreness rules to get feedback (see below). Our other general rule of thumb is that they should be able to sing the happy birthday song without gasping to make sure their effort isn’t too high.


If you're a runner interested in getting a personalized plan, take the assessment with our Plan Builder. If you're a running professional interested in learning more about RunDNA's Systematic Approach to getting excellent results with runners, check out our Education Courses!

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