Exercise: Returning to Running


Exercise: Slow Return to Running

If you have not figured it out yet, I am in the US Military.  The military is very interested in readiness and part of readiness is being able to run from incoming fire.  I can run if you chase me with a baseball bat.  In fact, I am pretty sure I can run faster than I have in a long time if you give me that incentive to run.  For years, I have been on a limited duty profit that limits my PT test to walking.  

Why do I have this limitation?  

In 2005-2006, I stepped in a hole while walking to the chow hall (dining facility) and I fractured or broke my left ankle.  There were three fragments.  Being that I am the classic hard-headed male, I decided to lace my boots up and continue to fight the pain for the remaining 10 months of deployment.  On my return, I had my ankle fully evaluated and found that I not only had a 3 fragment feature of the ankle, but I also had an osteochondral defect (cartilage defect).  What does that mean?  I had bone rubbing on the bone with no cushion.  This resulted in a surgical repair of the ankle reconstruction of the lateral ligaments and microfractures of the Talar dome (an ankle bone) to provide protection from arthritis.  

I am 8 years out from that surgery.  I am doing very well, but I had never returned to running.  Well, that all changed today.  

I ran today for the first time in 8 years.  It was not a fantastic run and it was not fast.  I ran 2 miles in 22 minutes for a run to remember the fallen Soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan.   This pace is 1 minute 30 seconds off from a passing PT test, but to be honest with you, that is a miracle.   I am in very good shape to be able to run this from scratch at that pace.  I am confident after today that I will be able to return to my prior glory.  I have never been a runner, but I did at least show up and run for several 10 mile runs and complete them.  


Consider this before you try to start running:

  1. Review your plans with a medical provider and possibly a trainer before you start.  You should absolutely see a medical provider if you are over 40 and not accustomed to exercise or if you are more than 20 pounds overweight.  You should also consult a provider if you have diabetes or heart disease.  I also recommend that you consider a physical and clearance from a medical provider if you have been sedentary (not physically active) for 24 months or more.  It is always safer to check before you start a new strenuous exercise and running is strenuous.
  2. Keep a positive attitude and have a realistic goal.  Unless you quit, almost everyone meets their goals.  The key is having a realistic goal.  Sure, if you have never run and your goal is to win a marathon in 6 months, you will likely fail, but if your goal is to complete one, then you can be successful.  Focus on realistic goals and positives.  I recommend that your goal to be improved health over all else.  
  3. Schedule your workouts. I do mine at lunchtime.  I find this particularly relaxing and it reduces my work stress level.  If you do not make time for exercise, it will not happen.   Put them in your phone, computer, tablet, paper planner, post it on the front of your refrigerator, or wherever else you keep your schedule.  It needs to become a fixed part of your day.  
  4. Expect setbacks. Less successful days are a part of training but do not let them discourage you.  Bad days will pass quickly and everyone has them.  Tomorrow’s workout will be better than yesterday. Stick with the program and keep pushing forward.
  5. Rushing success is the enemy.  Be patient and the world is your canvas.  If you rush to completion, you will become discouraged and likely fail to meet your goals.  Start slow and be happy as you progress. 
  6. Run-on a flat surface.  Uneven surfaces greatly increase injuries.  

Run to walk program:  

So what do I plan to do?  I plan to start slower after today.  I am absolutely certain that tomorrow I am going to pray that our maker will have mercy on my aching bones, but I will push forward and try this walk to run protocol listed below.  

Walk-to-Run Schedule
Walk-to-Run Schedule

The bottom line: Take it slow. You can do this. I hope you found this entertaining and helpful.  Let me know if you find a better walk-to-run scheduled.  I really hope to help others improve their waistline and fitness level.  

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About the Author

I am a family physician who has served in the US Army. In 2016, I found myself overweight, out of shape, and unhealthy, so I made a change to improve my health. This blog is the chronology of my path to better health and what I have learned along the way.

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