Short Version: Slowly, methodically and with no glamour.
May: Almost no activity besides PT and surviving the day
Early June: Light recumbent biking, PT
Late June: Light elliptical, biking, and PT
July: Elliptical, Walk Jogging, and PT
August: Walk-Jog to Continuous Jog 3 to 4 days a week
September: Building up to 5 days a week, initiation of basic workouts
October: 5 to 6 days a week, building to 35 miles per week, base phase workouts
Tearing my MCL was my first “surprise” running injury and as result, my recovery from my MCL was different from my fasciotomy and tarsal tunnel release. Because of the extent of damage to my knee and because the MCL is the “gatekeeper” of the knee joint, I was in a big, clunky immobilizer for almost 10 weeks. At first, I had to wear it any time I wasn’t sleeping or laying on the couch. This was because without an MCL, my knee was vulnerable to additional injury with any twisting or extension. After a few weeks, I graduated to only wearing it when I was going to be at work or walking around but could have it off for PT or around the house. Around this time, I started biking again with the immobilizer in place. This was essentially only to get blood flow through the knee. I assure you, there were minimal cardiovascular benefits. By the end of June (6 weeks out), I was on the elliptical for 30 minutes of very easy effort.
On July 3rd, I went for my very first “run.” The rules were strict: no pivoting, flat surface only, no more than a few seconds at a time. As this was my first walk without my brace with the exception of PT, suffice to say, I was very tentative. As I was starting to wean off my brace at work (12+ hours with stairs, elevators, standing and twisting), I took it easy with any additional exercise. Throughout the rest of July, I slowly built up my running with a run-walk approach. When I got to a point where I could run for 5 minutes before a break, I switched a continuous short run instead.
August was where I really started to run regularly again. I was still restricted to no pivoting so spent a huge amount of time on the bike path down by the river. I transitioned to slow, continuous running and built up to 20 minutes 3 to 4 times a week. By the end of August, I started adding drills back in. I started with just stretching drills first and finally added dynamic drills at the end of the month.
September was the first month where I felt like I might actually be able to recover from my injury, a full 4 months later. I built my runs to 30 minutes, added in a long run, started very simple workouts and finally, got back to 5 to 6 days of running a week. My last week in September was as follows:
Monday: Tempo Effort with 2 by mile at Tempo Pace, 5 miles total. Legs after.
Tuesday: 50 minute easy group run
Wednesday: Off day.
Thursday: 32 minute run
Friday: 30 minute run with 6 by 1 on, 1 off.
Saturday: 35 minute easy run
Sunday: 90 minute long run.
As you’ll notice, essentially all of my runs are time based. I did that intentionally to avoid any comparison trap for myself as I come back. Prior to my injury, I certainly wasn’t in peak shape but my mile pace was my usual 8:00 to 8:15 for easy runs. Afterwards, it took me anywhere from 10 to 11 minutes to run a mile and I wanted to avoid the temptation to push myself before I was ready.
I am a long way from where I want/need to be but I am also feeling well and have no knee pain. Even better, I have an endpoint to my MCL which means that things are coming back together. I still can’t pivot or run on other surfaces but I am slowly, slowly making forward progress.