How Long To Regain Fitness After Injury Time Off?

#1
Last November, I developed what I thought was IT Band Syndrome, but after multiple visits to the physical therapist and orthopedist and eventually a steroid shot into my bursa (none of which helped), it was discovered that it was actually a stress fracture in my femoral neck that was causing my hip pain.

After six weeks off from running, I have finally been able to start running again this week and so far I have managed to do so without any hip pain.

I'm hoping to slowly ramp up my mileage over the coming weeks and months and was just wondering how long I should expect it to take to get back to where I was in terms of fitness before I was sidelined due to injury.

I'm not running at my pre-injury pace right now, but my heart rate at these slower paces is significantly higher that it was before at much faster paces. This is to be expected, given that I haven't run in six weeks and hadn't been able to run regularly for nearly two months before that.

I know that if I can keep myself injury free, I'll eventually get back to where I was before this forced break, but I'm just wondering if anyone has any thoughts on how long it might take to begin to regain my aerobic fitness? Can expect to see improvements in a matter of weeks or should I expect this to take several months?
 
#2
It could happen faster than you expect! The cardiovascular system always adapts faster than the musculoskeletal system, so the latter will ultimately be the limiting factor.

I would say the three influences at play will be:
  1. Your accumulated fitness prior to the break (consistent volume over months or years)
  2. Exactly what you were able to do while not running and/or could supplement your running with now (walking, pool, cycling, strength, etc.)
  3. How conservative you have to be building running volume post-break in order to not reaggravate the injured area
 
#3
Completely anecdotal but after I ran my last marathon in early 2019 I took a full year off from running (my professional life blew up in both good in bad ways...)

I generally agree with Andrew, that I was surprised how quickly my cardio fitness returned. The first week or two were pretty rough. Running 5 miles was a chore, but after about two weeks or so I could run a half at an easier pace without really sweating it. From there it was all about reclaiming speed and that was a much longer process.
 
#4
Thanks for the responses.

Prior to my injury, I was running 50+ miles per week/200+ miles per month.

With the onset of my injury, I tried to continue to run but my distance dropped dramatically and I wasn't doing even 100 miles per month. Interestingly, even though my mileage dropped, my aerobic fitness stayed pretty much the same.

During my six weeks off of running, I either walked daily or used the ARC trainer at the gym. Neither of those provided anywhere near the cardio workout that running does, but they were the best I could do at the time.

Right now I am only running about 30 minutes per day at an easy pace as I resume my training and yet my heart rate is significantly higher than it was before and even these short runs are surprisingly difficult. I'm hoping that'll improve in the coming weeks.
 
#5
Thanks for the responses.

Prior to my injury, I was running 50+ miles per week/200+ miles per month.

With the onset of my injury, I tried to continue to run but my distance dropped dramatically and I wasn't doing even 100 miles per month. Interestingly, even though my mileage dropped, my aerobic fitness stayed pretty much the same.

During my six weeks off of running, I either walked daily or used the ARC trainer at the gym. Neither of those provided anywhere near the cardio workout that running does, but they were the best I could do at the time.

Right now I am only running about 30 minutes per day at an easy pace as I resume my training and yet my heart rate is significantly higher than it was before and even these short runs are surprisingly difficult. I'm hoping that'll improve in the coming weeks.
How is your HR now? It can take quite some time to regain your past level of fitness. After about a month off, your heart has shrinks substantially and becomes weaker, compared to how it was at peak fitness. That's part of why your HR spikes on short runs now, since your heart is working much harder to deliver blood to your muscles, etc. Another factor is your lungs, which become less efficient during an offseason or injury recovery. These will take some time to train, but you have the advantage of rested legs and experience.
 
#6
During my time off, I was using the ARC trainer at the gym, so I wasn't completely idle, but upon my return to running, a run that I could have done with a mid-130s HR before my injury had me at a high 150s HR. Since then, I have been running regularly and slowing ramping up my distances and times, so my HR is now is the 140s for such a run, which is progress, but still higher than it was before I had to take time off.
 
Top