Often injuries or illnesses occur and derail our fitness and progress made over many months and years of effort. This can be extremely frustrating to any hard charging military or fitness buff. Getting back into it after several weeks or months of recovery time can be a shock to the system and a bruise to the ego if efforts and expectations are too high. Here is an email from a British Army soldier needing help after an illness sidelined him for several months:
Stew - Well my fitness has gone completely! I am serving in the British army, unfortunately just over five months ago I was struck with kidney stones. The doctors immediately stopped me from doing all physical exercise until this week when they have finally given me the all clear to start again! I was feeling completely wasted after a ten minute jog and struggled to complete a measly 10 mins on the static bike! Could you please advise me as to whether any of your other programmes would help me in starting to get back to fitness, any help would be more than gratefully received!
Whether it is a job related / combat injury or debilitating illness, it is recommended to treat your fitness in the same manner you would advise a beginner to start a fitness program. Because, if you try to start off where you left off (5 months ago) you are going to likely injure yourself again. Overuse injuries are RELATIVE. Though pre-injury/illness, running 5 miles 4–5 times a week was common, jumping back into a 5 mile run after 5 months of no activity or rehab will likely cause a overuse injuries like tendonitis, muscle soreness, joint pain, or even worse a stress-fracture. So start off slow!
Start walking first. If there is no pain mix in a few minutes of jogging followed by a few minutes of walking. You might find your cardio endurance has weakened and in an effort to catch your breath you may need to walk anyway. If walking is painful then definitely DO NOT RUN. But you can use a non-impact option like biking, elliptical gliding, rowing, or swimming to build your cardio endurance back up. The good thing about these non impact options is that rarely are joint pains / stress fractures associated with these methods of cardiovascular exercise.
Building back up to running / running fast - You will obviously want to build your running pace back to where you left it as you will still be tested in fitness regularly with your unit. I recommend building a foundation of 2–3 miles of running (3–4 times/week) over about a 4 week period then start to work on your mile pace doing interval runs and paced distance run sets. See related articles for ideas:
PT Progressions — Starting off with simple pyramids is a great way to rebuild your fitness PT foundation. See the five part series of great long term PT options for you to start and grow with over time.
After about 6–8 weeks, you should be feeling close to “back to normal” and see quick results whether it is with cardio endurance or muscle strength and stamina. But give it some time to progress and you will be much happier with the quick results and reduced injury possibilities.