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Returning to Running After Stress Fracture


So just what is it like, returning to running after stress fracture, particularly of the back? What is my plan for returning to my old self? What are my plans, how far will I go? 

Returning to Running After Stress Fracture

Linking up with Wild Workout Wednesday and Running Coaches Corner (see my post for Coaches Corner here!)

Coach Suz's Plan and Advice for Returning to Running After Stress Fracture. @suzlyfe

I have been able to do weight bearing cardio for the past 2.5 months and have been working with a top PT for the past 2 months (since I could do the elliptical without pain). I am also lucky to be a running coach specializing in bringing injured runners back to health and running. Now I have to be my own client. So here is how I am planning on returning to running:

(but if you are injured and returning to running, do what is best for you! Email me if you want to talk!)

The Emotional Side of Returning to Running After Injury

Let’s start, first and foremost, with the feels. I want to thank you all so, so much for your support over the past months and, finally, for your congratulations yesterday. I know that, for many, going for a run might not be a cause for celebration.

MY FIRST RUN BACK after sacral stress fracture.

For myself, returning to running after stress fracture feels like I am being released from a sort of purgatory–not just because I am running again but also because I am able to work through many of the fears associated with such an injury. I am, with each run, not as scared to move.

However, that first run will not feel so liberating. My first run on the Alter-G felt liberating, but I was running at 65% of my body weight, so I got to just enjoy the unadulterated joy of the range of motion. I still had pain when running across the street, etc. The first time of “real” running, honestly, is not fun.

You question every step. Each little step is potential for everything to fall down around you; each step might take you right back to square one (whether the threat is real or imagined). It doesn’t help that even if you are healed, you are still going to have little pains as you body adjusts to the impact and movement again. 

After you think you can't realize that you can!

The second run? Still scary, but less so. The third run? Still less scary. The first run after you return that has any semblance of pain? You will return to square one. And then the next run will be a bit less scary. Rinse and Repeat. 

Get Your Support System in Place

If things are going well, make sure you are surrounded by people who will celebrate with you (like you all!). If things don’t go well, make sure you have emotional support. Keep your objective support crew from when you were injured around to help you move forward (this is your team of PTs and coaches) and enlist expert help to help you figure out what to do next.

Do Your Homework

What got you where you are? Too much volume? Too hard and fast running? Bad shoes? Not enough rehab exercises? 

Figure it out, fix it. I know what I did wrong. And believe me, I am paying the price.

Pretty sad to be missing out on this.

Pretty sad to be missing out on this.

Start Slow, Stay Slow, Break It Up

Throw pace, duration, and volume out the window. Run walk intervals are your friend, and you should plan on running at LEAST a minute slower than your previous paces. That is both because of changes in fitness as well as in order not to stress your bones: doing too much too soon is a recipe for disaster, especially with bodies prone to stress injury.

Also, remember, that just because the injury is healed, that doesn’t mean that the rest of your body isn’t vulnerable! You will be focusing like crazy on that single recovered injury–you might miss something else or cause injury due to compensation.

Patience, Diligence, Vigilance

You might feel right as rain. You might not. Either way, stay patient. You are dealing with reactivating muscles, restressing bones, and mentally getting over the trauma of the injury. Be patient with yourself.

Walking it out in Nike Zoom Elites, Tiux Compression socks, and my favorite running gear!

Feeling good? STAY PATIENT. Again, don’t do too much, too soon, even if you are feeling FAN FREAKING TABULOUS. Stick with your prescribed intervals. I know it is hard, but trust me.

Don’t neglect your rehab exercises, strength training, and other preventative measures. Feeling great has a tendency to give us all amnesia: we forget that we have to do our work, we forget how terrible being injured feels. Stay diligent, stay vigilant. 

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Regardless of whether or not your recovery and return to running is going beautifully, breathe. Stress will only cause you more mental and physical stress, and that won’t do you any good, mentally or physically. So breathe.

How @suzlyfe is returning to #running after her stress fracture #runchat #fitfluential Click To Tweet

Good luck! Feel free to email me or leave questions in the comments!

Have you ever had a significant injury? Tell me about your recovery.

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