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I know what you’re thinking, all memories of covid and lockdown should be repressed and consigned to darkest recesses of our brains, and only spoken about in hushed tones.

People may view the lockdowns different. Some enjoyed the freedom of unlimited mileage (on your ‘one’ run of the day), others were bereft at the cancellation of racing. This article has no opinion on the matter either way. Instead, it is to inform you that lockdowns are FOR YOUR OWN GOOD!

When you’re injured…

That’s right, you’re a runner, and therefore, you can’t be trusted to look after your own health. We spend half the year convincing ourselves to get out and run, and the other half injured and finding any excuse to run through the pain.

“Maybe it’ll be better this time in this pair of shoes…”

“Maybe it’s just the wrong elevation, the wrong terrain…”

“Perhaps I just need to run in the evenings, everything is just still stiff in the morning…”

Whatever, junkie… You’re just trying to get your fix. And so you should right? It’s not fair, everyone else is training consistently and you’re having setback after setback. Well, there is a fix for that, at least.


The ‘R’ Rate (**shudder**), was one of the most used buzzwords that defined the last two years. It lost all meaning towards the end, but if the same concept is applied to an injured athlete, it works perfectly.

In regards to the pandemic, scientists used the ‘R’ Rate to define how contagious and spreadable to virus currently is. Anything above ‘1’ indicated that for every 1 person a contagious person met, another person would become ill. Therefore, if the ‘R’ Rating was at 5, for example, 5 people became sick for everyone one contagious meeting.

Conversely, if the ‘R’ Rate was below 1, we can see that the virus was spreading less

To apply this to an injury, you can use this scale to determine what activity causes the injury to worsen, at what speed and through which activity.

For example, if running on the road or hills causes immediate pain, you can apply an ‘R’ Rating of 3, if it’s causing minor pain but you’re still unable to run like before, you can apply a ‘R’ Rating of 1.5 – 2. If, however, you are able to run on grass with minor discomfort, you can give your ‘R’ Rating a score of 0.5 – 0.9, and use this to inform your progression out of your injury lockdown hell.


Now you have your personal method as to how you can gauge your current injury situation, you can apply it to 5 different stages to bring you back out of injury lockdown, without the constant regression and setbacks you’d normally endure.


Not a stage any of us wishes to be at, but it is, unfortunately, a necessary measure in the most extreme cases. When an injury is so bad that you can determine any activity at all, including walking, to be at an extreme ‘R’ Rate of 5 or above, it’s time to Stay at Home, Protect the Injury and Start S&C.

The sooner you can understand the need for this step, the less you delay, the quicker you will be out of this stage. No one likes to rest up completely, but sometimes it’s necessary to bring that ‘R’ Rate down enough to reach Level 4 and venture back outside (even if it’s minimally).

At this stage, preventative measures need to be addressed for future reoccurrences of the injury. Determine the imbalances and issues leading to the injury, and begin to think about strength and conditioning exercises to help strengthen the area that’s led to the injuring occurring.

Level 5 Actions:

  • Stay at home
  • Rest and recover
  • Create preventive plan to eliminate the issue from reoccurring in future


Now we feel like we’ve gotten our injury ‘R’ Rate out of the extreme region and feel it’s in the decline, we can begin to determine what activities and at what level we can do them, to continue our route out of lockdown. But ‘stay vigilant’ and be vary wary of the signs of what’s currently trigging your injury issue to worsen.

Perhaps for you, this is simply a walk around a local field with your dog, maybe you can handle some form of cross training with the bike, but running itself is still off the menu. Any running at all at this level causes major regression and your ‘R’ Rate begins to increase back up.

You may now feel comfortable beginning to strengthen the area of injury, but do not cause any further aggravation to the issue and increase the injury ‘R’ Rate. Only perform exercises you feel comfortable with and do not overload the injured area further. Keep the exercises to a minimal, using only body weight or resistance bands.

Continue in Level 4, until you feel comfortable to put the running shoes back on and head in to Level 3.

Level 4 Actions:

  • Get the injury moving but do not begin to run just yet
  • Find exercise or movements that do not aggravate the injury further
  • Begin strengthening exercises that do not aggravate the injury further – use only body weight and resistance bands


Remember how in some countries that there was a limit to the distance from your house you could run, or a time limit? Although it may have made little sense back then, for your own personal injury lockdown, it’s a crucial step.

No matter what injury you have, the amount of time you spend running after an injury needs to be built up, and a set time limit and distance is essential in not overdoing it.

Make sure you do not venture too far from your house. Doing loops locally and having a cut off limit in time will get you back to regular running quicker. If you plan to run 4 – 5 miles and your injury becomes too much with the ‘R’ Rate spiralling upwards, you have a long hobble back to base, where you may have to take a step backwards to Level 4 or worse.

Alternatively, if you have access to a treadmill, this can also be a great option as you are able to control the pace and time and you are able to stop at the first signs of the injury worsening.

At this stage you may also be able to increase the amount of load your injury can cope with when performing strengthening exercises. Begin to introduce light weighted items if your injury rehab programme suggests them.

Keep positive, keep it sensible, keep it close to home and keep it short and sweet. Build up the time and distance slowly and stay in this level until you’re comfortable in the knowledge the ‘R’ Rate isn’t on the increase.

Level 3 Actions:

  • Stay close to home and keep the time running limited
  • Use a treadmill if you have access to one
  • Introduce light weights to your injury rehab S&C programme


There was a time during the pandemic where we had to test to see which venues increased the ‘R’ Rate, and which did not.

Likewise, you now need to determine what kind of running you can do without increasing the injury ‘R’ Rate. Are you able to run or road, trail or grass? If so, can you cope with hills? Does running too slow or too fast trigger things further?

You will sense the ‘R’ Rate increase and decrease often at this stage as you determine the type of running you can now handle and at what load. Explore what works, increase the intensity, distance and time spent doing it over the next few weeks and gradually re-introduce other types of running back in too, ensuring the injury ‘R’ Rate remains low.

If you are now able to comfortably perform exercises with light weights in your strength and conditioning programme, you are now able to progress to heavier weights. You may also be able to increase the load, volume and duration of each exercise too – but keep it slow and steady.

Level 2 Actions:

  • Determine which locations and running activities work for you and slowly build up fitness with what works for you
  • Explore other elements, such as terrains, durations and elevations one at a time and gradually reintroduce if the injury ‘R’ Rate remains low
  • Introduce heavier weights to your injury rehab S&C programme, and slowly increase load, volume and duration 


Good news, through the hard work and patience you’ve shown through your own personal injury roadmap, you are now in a position to return to training as usual but must remain cautious and adhere to the measures you’ve put in place.

Continue with your strength and conditioning programme, it may not need to be as intense and you may now wish to look at an all encompassing routine that strengthens all areas, instead of a focussed pursuit on injury management. Ensure consistent S&C routines remain, keep building your fitness back up sensibly and soon you’ll be back in a position to enter a race.

Spend a few weeks enjoying being injury free, don’t do anything extreme and allow the bodies pain pathways to continue to settle, soon your Lockdown misery will be a think of the past.

Level 1 Actions:

  • Resume normal training, but keep it simple and minimal to begin with, then increase gradually.
  • Keep S&C routines in place, but adapt to a holistic approach and cover all basis
  • Keep it sensible, don’t get giddy and overdo it too soon and enjoy your injury free freedom


After the ordeal, you’ll want to make a note, preferably written down somewhere of the measures you took to overcome your injury. Mistakes can be repeated if reflection isn’t performed.

Make a note of how it occurred, or your reasons you believed it to have occurred in the first place, and try to be honest with yourself.

Make a note of how the things you did that helped to successfully move you through the stages of your lockdown so you can fine-tune your Roadmap in the future.

Make a note of things that didn’t work so well, eg, did icing work better than heat therapy? Or vice-versa? Did cushioned shoes work better than minimal? Did 3 days off at the first major signs of injury work better than 2 days off?

Remember anything you did that increased the injury ‘R’ Rate and made you go back a level to avoid the same happening in the next injury pandemic.

No two injuries are ever alike, but often, some of the same treatments can help inform the other. Tendonitis often behaves the same wherever it occurs in the body, for example.

Should you find yourself back on the Roadmap out of Injury Lockdown, knowing the steps to getting you quickly back out of it as soon as possible will keep that injury ‘R’ Rate down to a minimal, avoid constant set backs and return you to your regular training routine much sooner.

About the author

Endurance State Coach, specialising in long distance and trail running disciplines. As an all round runner with a successful background in a variety of running disciplines, from 5k to Ultramarathons. Chris has competed internationally for Great Britain and England in various mountain running disciplines.

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