PATHFINDER Life Guide Injury Recovery

This section includes information for rosters who have been cleared by their physician to come back to exercise after an injury, illness or are post-partum. The information here does not replace information given to you by your physician. If you have any questions about your personal health, please contact your physician.

Things to think about before your comeback (AKA don’t call it a comeback, I’ve been here for years)

Congratulations! You’ve made it to the other side. Depending on your injury, illness, or if you just had a baby, your first thought should be, “how much do I want to take on?” With a 90-day program, there’s time to slowly transition back into regular exercise and still patch with PATHFINDER Life.

Consider the size of the setback you took, and what was affected by the pause. You know you aren’t where you used to be, but you know it’s time (and you’ve been cleared by your doctor) to start regaining what you’ve lost. That first mile or workout can feel a little nerve wracking, and feeling your new level of fitness can sometimes feel disheartening. But it can also be a powerful motivator, and you’ve got grit. You know you have what it takes to get back to fighting form.

Ease in. Pushing your body before it’s ready can lead to swelling, stiffness or, if you had an injury, potentially making it worse. If you had to stop because of an overuse injury, you know your tendencies to over-do it and be careful not to aggravate any sensitive areas. Here's an awesome analogy we're going to pass along: Have you ever tried to turn your ignition and rev your car from 0-60 on a freezing day? That’s how your body feels after being off training on your first day back. The risk/reward ratio is definitely skewed. Be smart.

Listen to your body, not your miles at first. For now, don’t let your Garmin be your guide. We want you to start slowly, and a good guideline for returning to exercise is to expect around 40 - 50% of your former fitness level if you’ve been out for 6 or more weeks, had surgery or recovered from a serious illness. Obviously, the more drastic the issue you’re returning from, the more time it will take to feel like “you” again. This is not when you need to press yourself into serious action or berate yourself for not keeping up with the old image of yourself. If you feel the need or urge to stop, stop.

Schedule time to rest properly. You know what you need, so take it. You may feel more tired, quicker. You may just feel out of your old habits and it may just feel fuzzy. You may just feel grateful to walk again, much less ruck. There’s a big old spectrum of feelings and experiences out there. Just take what applies to you, come at recovery with some gratitude for having the grit to get back out there, and keep on going.

We've put together a sample calendar for what a month of injury recovery might look like. Check it out.

How to decide your mileage if you’re coming back from a medical absence

Since you’re coming back after an absence, the first thing you want to determine is how many miles make sense for you each week. Then, multiply out from there. Your base requirement is 60 miles. We have a few ways to look at that though.

Your mileage with PATHFINDER Life is flexible. Select what works best for you and your situation.

  • You can choose to do the 60-mile requirement, at any mix of miles per week that works for you. You may choose to start really slowly with the anticipation of adding more miles at the end. Fill out your calendar to decide if that makes sense.
  • You can choose to swap in up to 30 miles of your 60 mile requirement with our LifeFlex option, which is only available in the PATHFINDER Life program.
  • You can choose to do the 1.5x mile Challenge if rucking is where you want to focus most, and ruck up to 90 miles total.

How LifeFlex works:

Trade in 15 minutes of workout time for 1 mile rucking. Your workouts can be either PATHFINDER Ruck Workouts or any variety of cross training. You can swap out workouts for miles at any time during the 12 week program, and LifeFlex can be used for up to 30 miles worth of trade-in value.

Keep track of your LifeFlex conversions in the log by allocating a quarter-mile (.25) per 15 minute workout. In the Notes section of your log entry, write LifeFlex Trade to keep track.

How do I pick my workouts?

Selecting your workouts with PATHFINDER Life is easy. You can choose to do any length PATHFINDER Ruck Workout, or you can complete 45 minutes of any cross-training exercise of your choice. With a minimum of 12 workouts (or double your workouts for 24 total with the Double Workout Challenge), of any style, you create a doable program that keeps you strong, fit and active without taxing your reserves. And if you choose to include the 12 Yoga/Mobility Classes Challenge, you create a full-body routine that improves your mobility, flexibility and healing processes.

Your workouts can also be broken up if necessary. Your 45 minutes of cardio/strength can be divided up throughout the day, however your needs fit and days work, and still count as long as the overall time requirement has been met. 

Example: 10 minutes of upper body strength in the morning, 35 minute walk after dinner. 

  • Keep track of your schedule if you follow this framework to log :45 cardio accurately.
  • At least 12 total workouts must be completed

Any mix of PATHFINDER Ruck Workouts or cross-training workouts of up to :45 min. counts.

PATHFINDER Workouts of any length


:45 min Cross-training minimum 1x/week (in any mix, no ruck requirements)

  • Swimming
  • Walking
  • Cycling/Spinning
  • Running
  • Lifting
  • Yoga
  • Rowing
  • CrossFit/Boot Camp/Home Gym
  • Treadmill/Elliptical
  • HDT / RuckStrong / GORUCK training app / etc

Depending on the injury you may be recovering from, our advice is:

  1. Do the workouts your physician or Physical Therapist (if you have one) recommends first. Even if you see an orthopedist without a PT, ask for advice on exercises you can or should be doing to strengthen the area of injury. Listen to your medical professionals. They really do know what’s best for you.
    1. Stay away from pain. If any exercise creates immediate pain, you have our absolute permission to AVOID it. There is nothing that a lunge creates that is so important that it’s worth further injuring yourself to accomplish it. Almost always, an exercise can be modified to suit your needs. Contact your CA or Amy Petersen directly for modifications.
    2. Really. Go SLOW. Even if this has been a nagging injury that you’ve been dealing with a while, or is just a product of aging and a life well lived, you have to live in the body you’ve been given for (hopefully) a really long time. Treat workouts carefully when they could impact your existing injury. Get informed, if you aren’t already, about how your injury ‘works’ so you can decide what exercises really are do-able, and avoidable, given your situation.

    How to select your PATHFINDER Challenges

    Select PATHFINDER Life Challenges to fit your current situation. Start by selecting three Challenges and fitting them on your calendar. Then, if you feel like you want to do more Challenges, do. If you don’t want to fit more, don’t. It really is that easy. 

    Since you have self-selected as a Returning from Injury roster, we strongly recommend you stay within 3 - 4 PATHFINDER Challenges. If, at the end of the 12-week program, you feel awesome and want to do more, be our guest. Many of our Challenges are written so that you can select ones later on in programming if you choose to. But for now, start with one bite of your recovery elephant. There will be more soon enough.

    We recommend stretching, and especially the 12 Yoga Classes/Mobility Challenge for our rosters following these guidelines.

    Select 3 - 4 Challenges if:
    • You are coming back from an injury, an extended illness, surgery or childbirth.
    Pick 5 - 6 Challenges if ...:
    • 5 - 6 Challenges are not recommended for PATHFINDER rosters who have self-selected this category.

    Check out the PATHFINDER Life Challenges here.

    What should I think about?

    Pain. We said this above, but we’re saying it again. If at any point, you feel pain, sharpness, or something just being “off,” back out of whatever it is you’re doing. That quick sting of pain is your body's way of letting you know things may still not be 100%, and you may need to take further action. Further action can be everything from ice and elevation, rest or even seeing a physical therapist or your physician if the pain continues or a larger problem seems to develop.

    If you saw a physical therapist or a physician who gave you workouts as your marching orders, do them. They COUNT. Your physical therapist knows your injury, and knows what you need to heal. Listen to their advice, and do their exercises. The time spent doing them counts as part of a :45 cross-training exercise day.

    If one cross-training discipline doesn’t work for you, try another. Swimming is an excellent workout that’s easy on joints and sore muscles. You don’t need to be proficient in the butterfly to make it count - a kickboard or a pull buoy are 100% okay to use.

    “Just” walking is also great and it also counts. The goal is to find something you enjoy doing that works with your goals. 

    Adopt the lessons you’ve learned. Especially if you’re coming back from injury, but this really can apply to everyone as your return to your old selves: Take the lesser road at first. Stretch. Try yoga if you haven’t. Eat well with an emphasis on good nutrition. Find a meditation app (we like the Buddhify app). Go to bed earlier. Spend less time sitting and more time standing or puttering. Be smart. You will get better, and you will get stronger. Maybe even more than before.

    Communicate with important people in your life as you find your new balance. Be gentle with yourself. It’s normal to feel frustrated or angry when something happens that changes what you can do, regardless of how temporary it may be, or how long it feels it’s dragged on. Holding it in when you’re frustrated denies you a support system that can make you feel heard. Our PATHFINDER community is here for you too. Comebacks are rough, and can feel like serious business. You’ve got this.