AOPT Health Blog
Return to Running Program

Following an injury or a period of inactivity, it is important to return to running at a gradual pace in order to avoid reinjury. For those recovering from a more serious injury or surgery, keep in mind that before starting any sort of return to activity program it is important that you are cleared first by your doctor or physical therapist.

General Tips for Avoiding Injury

  • Increasing running distance too quickly is a common cause of reinjury. Don’t increase weekly running distance by more than 10%.
  • Be sure to rest adequately between workouts.
  • Avoid excessive downhill and hard surface runs – it’s fine to start out on a treadmill.
  • When first getting back to running, increase your cadence, and decrease your stride length.
  • Maintain proper nutrition and sleep.
  • Change out running shoes every 300-400 miles.

Listen to your body:

Good Pain

  • General muscle soreness
  • Joint soreness that occurs after the workout or the next day but is gone within 24 hours.
  • Slight stiffness at the beginning of a walk/run that lessens after about 10 minutes.
Bad Pain

  • Pain that keeps you up at night.
  • Pain that increases with activity.
  • Pain that causes a change in your stride.

If any of these symptoms occur, stop the activity and consult with your doctor or physical therapist before resuming.

Return to Running Program

Phase I: Walking Program

You should be able to walk, pain-free at a fast pace (about 4-5 miles an hour) in a controlled environment (i.e. a treadmill) before progressing onto the next phases.

Phase II: Plyometric Routine

Two-leg hop in place330
Two-leg hop forward/backward330
Two-leg hop side/side330
Single leg hops in place330
Single leg hops forward/backward330
Single leg hops side/side330

If this plyometric routine can be completed without resulting in pain, you can proceed to the next phase.

Phase III: Walk/Jog Progression

For this phase be sure to run on level ground such as a treadmill or track. Only begin this phase once you have successfully completed phase I and II without pain and have returned pain-free to all of your normal daily activities.

StageWalkJogRepeat for
Stage 15 minutes1 minute30 minutes
Stage 24 minutes2 minutes30 minutes
Stage 33 minutes3 minutes30 minutes
Stage 42 minutes4 minutes30 minutes
Stage 5Jog every other day with the goal of reaching 30 minutes. Begin each jog with 5 minutes of fast paced walking and end with 5 minutes of walking where you gradually decrease the speed to a comfortable pace.


After this phase has been completed continue to train up to your desired level. It is recommended to run every other day with cross-training in between for those looking to get back to competitive running or sports.

What to do if You Experience Pain

If swelling or pain develops in your joints or muscles following a workout and lasts for more than 72 hours, it means you have done too much too quickly. If this happens, decrease the duration/intensity of your workouts, and increase the rest time in between.

If you develop tightness in a muscle during your workout, stop and stretch the affected muscle (at least 3 sets of 30-second holds) before resuming. If the pain persists, stop the activity.

If you have pain that keeps you up at night or is constant with everyday activities, increase your rest time, and decrease the level of activity to the previous stage. If you continue to have pain, consult your doctor or physical therapist.


It is important to note that this is a general protocol. If you have sustained a serious injury or are recovering from surgery, consult with your doctor or physical therapist as modifications may need to be made to your return to activity protocol. At Advanced Orthopedic Physical Therapy, we want to partner with you during your journey to recovery and help you get back to all the activities you love. If you have questions or would like more information about how a physical therapist can help, schedule a free screen with our office today!


Wilcox, R. (2007) Running Injury Prevention Tips & Return to Running Program.
Returning to running after injury. Retrieved from

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