How Do I Get Back To Exercising After An Injury?

Ankle Injury


I see many people not giving themselves the best chance of staying active and healthy, simply because they don’t receive the best advice – and that’s unfortunate. So I’d like to take a moment to address a question that is commonly asked of me; One that I think is vitally important to make understood.


Nick, although I have healed from my ankle injury and I can return to exercise safely, I still have hesitations when I set out to run.

I have nightmares of landing on my foot awkwardly or rolling my ankle slightly and causing my injury to flare up all over again.

So I slow down, cut my run short, and sometimes even walk home even though my ankle is completely fine.

So what I want to know is… how can I be sure whether to go for a run or not? The fear of aggravating my old injury is getting in the way of my weekly runs!”


Let me start by saying that you are right to be concerned about the potential recurrence of your old injury. If you run on a weekly basis and pain flares up you’re going to be missing out on social runs, your favorite weekly exercises, or the endorphin rush that comes with running. And that’s no small loss! However, you have done the best thing for your recovery by seeking expert advice!


Here are some exercises to help to prevent injury.

So What Can You do to Stop the Fear From Taking Over?

Once you’ve recovered from the injury that was stopping you from running in the first place and you decide to get back into running again – my advice is to be gentle and patient with yourself.

The more time you have taken off to heal, the more gradually you need to get back into your training.

For example…

Let’s say you’ve had two to three weeks off from running because of an injured foot – I’d suggest beginning with shorter runs 2-3 times a week with plenty of rest in between, and then, week after week slowly build it up to what you were doing before. The general rule of thumb is to increase your mileage by 10% per week.

This can seem small at first but, it builds pretty rapidly. If you are running 9 miles a week your first week back (think 3 miles 3 times a week), then only add 0.9 miles on to next week (okay, you can make it an even ONE mile). But you only add that mile to ONE of the days. Do not add that extra mile to each day! I’m watching you!

When you do return to running, start with a few short easy runs to get your ankle accustomed to the weight and pressure on your body again. This will ensure that your ankle feels strong enough before you start to push yourself…

And if you do feel any irritation or discomfort, ice it as soon as possible.

I know it can be frustrating to take things slow when doctors only tell you to quit running or find something else to do instead. I’ve been there, I had ortho surgeons tell me if I don’t stop running I’m going to end up having my knees replaced. It’s wrong and inaccurate, I’ve known plenty of people who never ran and had their knees replaced. Running isn’t the cause.

What they should be telling you, (aside from the standard exercises and rest from running), are things like:

  • Exactly what you should expect WHEN you return back to being active
  • What you’re likely to feel when you hit the pavement
  • All of the warning signs of an injury to look out for (and what each one means)

When a patient is well informed, I have found they no longer “run in fear” because they are equipped with the knowledge they need to actively participate in their recovery… and succeed!

To sum it up…

You can run if… your ankle is pain-free (and even if your muscles are a little achy). It’s important to remember that as long as there’s no “pain” that’s affecting you, you’re good to run!

You should rest if… you feel a sharp pain that lingers, even when you slow down, then apply ice right away for 10 minutes at a time.

When it comes to your health, fitness, and lifestyle, it’s important to seek out expert advice and follow it – that way you can be sure to get back to running quickly and safely… as you deserve.


Nick Hunter, PT, DPT

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