7 Tips to Start Running After a Long Break

Are you ready to start running again? Maybe you took a break because of an injury, a lack of motivation, or work responsibilities that demanded your time. It can be daunting to get back into running after taking time off.

If you've only been sidelined from running for a short period of time (such as a week or two) check out these tips for coming back from a short running break. But if you've taken several weeks or months off of running, there are smart guidelines you can follow to ease back into your routine without injury or frustration.

1

Build a Habit

After a long break, it can be tough to get back into the groove of running on a regular basis. And if you are a typical runner, you set high standards for yourself for both pace and distance.

As you get back into running, it's important to focus on consistency first. Don't worry about how fast or how far you run, simply set small goals to run on a regular basis.

For example, on your first week or two back you might set a goal to complete two three-mile runs at an easy pace. These workouts will give you a sense of how your body feels as you return to your sport. Plus, you'll gain a sense of pride and accomplishment by setting and reaching your goal.

As you set and conquer small goals you'll reconnect with your love of running without putting your body at risk for injury or your brain at risk for burnout.

2

Follow a Training Schedule

When you first started running, you may have followed a beginner training schedule to learn how to run and to keep yourself motivated. Many runners who’ve taken a long break from running also find it helpful to follow a beginner schedule so they can re-establish a regular running habit and avoid getting injured.

Here are some beginner schedules you might want to try:

3

Cross Train

If you cross train on the days when you are not running, you can increase endurance and build strength without overstressing your joints and increasing your risk of injury.

Examples of good cross-training activities for runners include swimming, aqua jogging, cycling, walking, strength training, yoga, and Pilates. Choose activities that you enjoy so that your program stays consistent.

4

Limit Mileage

Many runners who return to the sport after an injury find themselves re-injured because they increase mileage too quickly. Even if you weren't injured, returning to your old mileage patterns can be detrimental after taking a break.

For example, if you were running seven miles a day before your break it's not a good idea to try to run seven miles again immediately after returning from your break. Not only are your muscles not ready, but your joints may not be prepared and you may not have the mental endurance to withstand the effort. The result is that you may end up feeling frustrated, defeated, and possibly even injured.

Instead, start slowly. Begin with a short easy route that you know you can run with ease. You'll build confidence, endurance, and strength while keeping your muscles and joints healthy.

During your initial runs, keep the run at an easy, conversational pace for six to eight weeks until you have a good running base established. Then increase pace cautiously and increase your overall mileage by no more than 10 percent per week.

Also, be conservative with your running schedule. Don't run two days in a row when you're first starting out. Take an active rest day or cross-train between runs.

If you've taken a break because of an injury, get clearance from your healthcare provider or physical therapist before you get back to running. They should be able to provide personalized advice on how much and how often to run.

5

Join a Running Group

As you get back into running, you may be able to boost your motivation and gain other great benefits by running with others. You'll meet friends who can help to hold you accountable as you rebuild your program and your runs may be more enjoyable with friendly conversations.

Check with local running clubs or running shops to see when they offer group runs. Some local races also offer some group runs leading up to the race. You can also find a charity training group—you'll find lots of people to run with and help a worthy cause at the same time.

6

Consider a Race

Once you've got a few weeks of running under your belt, you may want to pick a race to train for. Start with a shorter event, such as a 5K, before you register for a longer distance race.

Having a race on the calendar may help you to stay motivated while you train. You may even want to recruit a friend or family member to run it with you for increased motivation or fun.

If you are a runner who participates in the sport simply for the joy of running (rather than racing) consider setting a different goal. Perhaps there is an off road trail that you'd like to conquer. Or maybe you'd like to take a day-trip to explore a running route in a nearby town.

Setting any inspiring goal can help to you motivated and keep your program on track.

7

Stay Positive

It can be frustrating to think about your past running accomplishments and it may even feel like they’re out of reach at this point. But don't beat yourself up. Simply focus on the positive steps that you are taking and build momentum from there.

As you set and reach milestones you'll feel good about your progress and your confidence will increase. Patience is key during this building stage.

They'll be plenty of time to train and work on beating your PRs. Just try to enjoy running as you increase your fitness level gradually and safely.

If you do find yourself getting frustrated about your progress, talk to sympathetic running friends, who have probably had a similar experience at some point. And remind yourself to be grateful and happy to be able to run at all, even if it's not the same pace that you've run in the past.

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