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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Walk/Run Program for Injury Rehabilitation

The Walk/Run Program

Most sporting activities require some running. Running can be an excellent return to activity conditioner. After recovering from an injury, the athlete finds great physical and emotional strength from a gradual buildup of running. Injury rehabilitation can involve crutches, cast, surgery, and rest. At some point, when the athlete is back to walking 30 minutes, without pain, and without a limp, a Walk/Run program can be started.
The Walk/Run Program that I have used for many years uses a 30 minute time period, based after the more classic 30 minute hard walk test that qualifies the athlete to begin jogging. However, you can start the program based on a 20, 30, 40, or even 50 minute period. It all depends on what you want to get to. I have used the 30 minute program personally twice in my life, once after a back injury, and the other after a knee injury. I found the program difficult since I was out of shape for running, yet safe with its low start and gradual progression. It was not as easy as it looks when you have not run for awhile.

There are 10 levels:

Level 1     Walk 9 min Run 1 min Repeat 3 times for 30 mins
Level 2     Walk 8 min Run 2 min Repeat 3 times for 30 mins
Level 3     Walk 7 min Run 3 min Repeat 3 times for 30 mins
Level 4     Walk 6 min Run 4 min Repeat 3 times for 30 mins
Level 5     Walk 5 min Run 5 min Repeat 3 times for 30 mins
Level 6     Walk 4 min Run 6 min Repeat 3 times for 30 mins
Level 7     Walk 3 min Run 7 min Repeat 3 times for 30 mins
Level 8     Walk 2 min Run 8 min Repeat 3 times for 30 mins
Level 9     Walk 1 min Run 9 min Repeat 3 times for 30 mins
Level 10                    30 min Straight Running

Each level should be done 3 times minimum depending on how you feel. Each session should be followed by a rest day to see how you feel. Therefore, completing Level 1 should take a minimum of 6 days. For example, start Walk/Run on Monday, rest Tuesday, 2nd session Wednesday, rest Thursday, 3rd session Friday, rest Saturday, and ready to start Level 2 Sunday as long as Level 1 was fine.

Gradually work your way through all the 10 levels. Remember to stay pain free. If you pass to the next level, but your pain starts to come back, rest 3 days, and go back to the level you were comfortable at for 3 more sessions. Again try to get to the next level. If you again have troubles, stay for 6 sessions at the comfortable level continuing to run every other day. Most patients gradually go through the 10 levels in 2 months (60 days), but some have taken a lot longer to progress. Remember, if you listen to your body, not push through pain, you will make it very safely.

The Walk/Run Program works well with even minor injuries where there are questions of when to start running. If you have only been off running for a short time, but you feel anxious about starting running, try this program. In its quickest form, Level one first day, then a rest day, then level 2, then other rest day, and so on. As long as your symptoms are fine, and you do not push through pain, you can get through the 10 levels in 20 days. This is normally better than running 3 miles the first day, having a flare up of symptoms, then stopping running for 2 more weeks. It allows you to test the waters of running more safely.

Remember another Golden Rule of Foot: It is better to run 1 second than not at all. Patients ask me all the time if they can start running. If they can walk 30 minutes at a good pace, without pain, and without limping, then they can start running. Any running for most athletes is better than not running. If you can not do the 1 minute for Level 1 Walk/Run, try 10 to 30 seconds running telephone pole to telephone pole.

Getting back into running shape can be safe with a Walk/Run program. It may require some individualization, but you will go either at the speed you were meant to, or slightly slower. You will get there!! Good Luck.


  1. I remember this approach and it sure worked well for me Rich.

  2. Thanks Jenny and Happy Thanksgiving! Rich


Thank you very much for leaving a comment. Due to my time restraints, some comments may not be answered.I will answer questions that I feel will help the community as a whole.. I can only answer medical questions in a general form. No specific answers can be given. Please consult a podiatrist, therapist, orthopedist, or sports medicine physician in your area for specific questions.