5 Phases of Stress Fracture Recovery

Think About Your Nutrition

Endurance athletes typically have an acidic nature to their blood. This side effect of endurance training, in addition to a poor diet, can lead to acid levels that are high enough to pull calcium out from the bones. Take 1200mg of calcium and 400 IU of Vitamin D per day. Also consider a lactic-acid buffer, such as Extreme Endurance, to make the blood less acidic. (Suggested Reading: The China Study by Colin Campbell and Thomas Campbell, pages 204 to 211.) 

More: How Endurance Athletes Can Lower Acid Levels

Establish what you want to accomplish during this four- to six-week timeframe. For example, do you want to increase flexibility, try other sports such as swimming or biking, spend more quality time with family, etc.?

Volunteer at a race to keep good running karma. Hand out nutrition during a marathon, cheer on your teammates, or volunteer at your favorite event. 

Phase 2: Recovery (3 to 4 weeks)

During this time, I assume the athlete has no pain. Continue all strengthening, flexibility and therapy from phase 1. Our goal during this phase is to understand why the stress fracture occurred. 

Gait analysis and shoe evaluation are often necessary to make sure all forces are appropriately distributed.

More: What Is Gait Analysis? 

Understand if there was a training error. It is important to know if too much mileage, too much intensity, or a too-quick build-up was the initial culprit. Get a coach to help make a plan for recovery and return to safe training. 

Appropriate run progression is essential. Slow progression of weight bearing from deep water running to running at a certain percent of body weight (Alter-G treadmill) is very beneficial. Check out Pete Pftizinger's plan on aqua jogging to learn how to run in the pool safely. 

More: What Is an Alter-G?

Try this run/walk program to progress into running successfully. 

Phase 3: Build Phase (3 to 4 weeks)

This is the time to prepare the body for the intensity to come. Do this by slowly increasing running volume, and:

  • Continue yoga and core exercises
  • Continue technique focus

More: 5 Core Exercises for Runners

Phase 4: Normal Prep for Race

This is dependent upon the distance of the race, your fitness level and expectations. 

More: Are You Ready to Run a Marathon?

Phase 5: Race 

We have found that if you follow these phases step by step, you have a great chance of recovery. If you skip a step (or phase), you will fall down to the bottom of the steps, and need to restart at phase 1. 

More: How to Run Injury-Free

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