Are you ready to start running again? Perhaps you took time off due to an injury, lack of motivation, or work responsibilities that demanded your time. It can be overwhelming to get back into exercise after some time off, but it’s possible, and with the right plan plus a little patience, you can get right back into your training schedule.
It’s quite easy to get back into training after a short break (a week or two). But if you’ve gone several weeks or months without exercising, it’s important to return to your routine carefully to avoid injury and frustration.
If you’ve stopped running due to injury, keep in mind that you should be pain-free before returning to activity. Start slowly and incorporate strength training into your regimen; Research shows that resistance training for runners can aid in recovery and prevent further injury.
Depending on the severity of your injury, it may be a good idea to get clearance from your doctor or therapist before starting over. They may be able to give you personalized advice on how much and how often to run.
Build the habit of running
After a long break, it can be hard to get back into a routine and do it regularly. And if you’re a typical runner, high standards are set in both pace and distance.
When you return to running, it’s important to focus on consistency first. Don’t worry about how fast or how far you run, just set small goals to do it regularly.
For example, in your first few weeks back, you might set a goal to complete two 3-mile runs at an easy pace. These workouts will give you an idea of how your body is when you return to sports.
You can also start with a brisk walk or short intervals of running. Remember that you are in the process of rebuilding your habit and reconditioning the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and connective tissues of your legs.
This could take some time depending on how long you’ve been away from your launcher. But as long as you spend time exercising, even if it’s just walking, you’ll continue to make progress.
Another option is to take your first few runs to a track or treadmill so you can easily stop if you feel sore or out of breath. But for some people, these types of workouts aren’t motivating, so it depends on what works best for you.
Regardless of how you start training again, you will gain a sense of pride and accomplishment from recommitting to your sport. As you set and conquer small goals, you’ll reconnect with your love of the sport, without putting your body at risk of injury or burnout.
Follow a running training program
When you started running, you may have followed a beginner’s training program, with the purpose of learning and staying motivated. Many runners who have taken a long break from running also find it helpful to stick to a beginner’s schedule to re-establish the habit and prevent injury.
- 4 weeks for a mile.
- From 3 weeks to a 30-minute running habit.
- 4 weeks for two miles.
- 8 weeks for a 5K.
Cross training for running
By cross-training on days you’re not running, you can increase endurance and build strength without overloading your joints and increasing your risk of injury.
Examples of good cross-training activities for runners include swimming, water jogging, cycling, walking, strength training, yoga, and Pilates. Choose activities you enjoy so your schedule stays consistent.
If you’ve been cross-training during your break, that should help you get back into exercise; do not give up. Set up your exercise plan to include both.
Get enough rest
Be conservative with your hours of operation. Don’t run two days in a row when you’re starting out. Take an active rest day or train between races. Incorporating a full day of rest can also be beneficial for recovery.
Resistance training on rest days is crucial for both rehabilitation and injury prevention, especially for runners. Strengthening your quads, glutes, hamstrings, and calves can prepare your legs to go the distance, and mixing your workouts with core work can help you maintain good form while running.
Stretching can also be helpful on rest days: Perform stretches that release your hip flexors and stretch your quads and calves to prepare for and recover from your runs.
Keep in mind that if you feel pain on a day you’re scheduled to run, you may want to take the day off or go for a walk. It’s generally not a good idea to rely on painkillers to get you through a run.
Limit running mileage
Many runners who return to the sport after injury find that they have re-injured because they increased their mileage too quickly. Even if you weren’t injured, returning to your previous mileage patterns can be detrimental after taking a break.
Start slow. Start with a short route that you know you can easily run. Be conservative with your hours of operation. Don’t run two days in a row when you’re starting out. Take an active rest day or train between races.
Build confidence, endurance, and strength while keeping your muscles and joints healthy. During your initial runs, keep running at an easy pace for six to eight weeks, until you have a good running base established. Then, cautiously increase your pace and your total mileage by no more than 10% per week.
For example, if you were running seven miles a day before your break, don’t try to run seven miles again immediately after you return. Not only because your muscles aren’t ready, but also because your joints may not be ready and you may not have the mental toughness to take the strain. Thus, you may end up feeling frustrated and defeated, and possibly hurt.
Join a running group
As you get back to running, you may be able to increase your motivation and reap other great benefits by running in the company of others. You’ll meet friends who can help hold you accountable as you rebuild your program, and your runs can be more enjoyable with friendly conversations.
Check with local running clubs or running shops to see when they offer group races. You can also find a charity training group; you will find many people to work with and help a worthy cause at the same time.
Consider a career
Once you’ve been running for weeks, you may want to pick a race to train for. Start with a shorter event, like a 5K, before signing up for a longer run.
Having a race on the calendar can help keep you motivated while you train. You may even want to hire a friend or family member to do it with you to add to the motivation or the fun.
If you play sports simply for pleasure (as opposed to competition), consider setting a different goal. Perhaps there is a path you would like to conquer. Or maybe you’d like to take a day trip to explore a route in a nearby city. Setting any goals that inspire you can help keep you motivated and ensure your program stays on track.
Stay positive while running
It can be frustrating to think about your past career achievements and it may even seem like they are out of your reach right now. But don’t beat yourself up. Just focus on the positive steps you’re taking and build momentum from there.
As you set and reach milestones, you’ll feel good about your progress and your confidence will grow. Patience is key during this stage of construction.
You will have plenty of time to train and work. Try to enjoy running while increasing your level and improving your fitness in a gradual and safe way.
If you feel frustrated by your progress, talk to friends who are sympathetic to runners, who have probably had a similar experience at some point. And remember to be grateful, even if it’s not the same pace you ran in the past.
What do you think of these tips to get back to running after a break? Leave us your opinions in the comments.