Let’s say you want to start run training for the first time or you are looking for a safe return to recreational or competitive running after an injury or surgery.

This return to run program can be used for return to continuous running and it should be started once you are able to walk 30 minutes consecutively without pain/injury. This return to run program should be performed 3 non-consecutive days a week.

There are a few simple and elegant rules to let the return to running be safe. If the pain should return with running, you may continue as long as:

  • The pain is not sharp
  • The pain lessens or remains unchanged as the running session continues
  • The presence of pain does not alter your normal pattern of motion (no limping)

Begin each session with a warm-up consisting of a 2-5 minute brisk walk, followed by any of your specific stretching exercise. Stretch again at the end of the running session.

Return to Run Program Guide:

Week Day 1 Day 2 Day 3
1 6x: walk 4.5 minutes + run 0.5 minutes 6x: walk 4.0 minutes + run 1.0 minutes 6x: walk 3.5 minutes + run 1.5 minutes
2 6x: walk 3.0 minutes + run 2.0 minutes 6x: walk 2.5 minutes + run 2.5 minutes 6x: walk 2.0 minutes + run 3.0 minutes
3 6x: walk 1.5 minutes + run 3.5 minutes 6x: walk 1.0 minutes + run 4.0 minutes 6x: walk 0.5 minutes + run 4.5 minutes
4 Run 30 minutes Run 30 minutes Run 30 minutes


As you return to pre-injury running level, training duration or intensity should be increased by no more than 10% per week to minimize risk for injury recurrence. Not everyone needs or wants to run 30 consecutive minutes to meet their physical needs and fitness goals. Continuing with a walk to run duration can often be the best fit for an individual. You may steadily increase your running duration up from 30 minutes, but you may find that a 2-minute walk to 3-minute run ratio is where you want to keep your training intensity.

Please feel free to ask the Physical Therapy department at Graham Rehabilitation and Wellness any questions you may have. We are here to help.

Adapted from 1) Heiderscheit, Bryan PT, PhD (2010) UW Health Runners’ Clinic 137. 2) Johnston et al. (2003) Can Fam Physician 49: 1101-1109.