8 Tips to Start Running Again 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. But, with the right plan and a little patience, you can get on back on track with your training schedule.

If you've only been sidelined briefly, it is fairly easy to come back from a short running break (such as a week or two). But if you've taken several weeks or months off of running, it's important to ease back into your routine carefully to avoid injury and frustration.

If you've taken a break from running because of an injury, note 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 help 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 physical therapist before you start running again. They should be able to provide you with personalized advice on how much and how often to run.

Woman running on track

Verywell / Ryan Kelly

How to Get Back Into Running

It can be daunting to get back into running after taking time off, but returning to running is achievable. Plan your return carefully to avoid overtraining, which can lead to injury and set you back in your goals. Follow a training schedule that helps you create a new habit and gradually builds to your optimal mileage. Also try cross training to keep your fitness balanced and reduce injury risk. For motivation, consider joining a running group or signing up for a race. Finally, make sure you rest adequately between runs.


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 regularly.

For example, on your first week or two back you might set a goal to complete two 3-mile runs at an easy pace. These workouts will give you a sense of how your body feels as you return to your sport.

You could also start out with brisk walking or with short run/walk intervals. Remember that you are in the process of rebuilding your running habit and reconditioning the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and connective tissues in your legs. This could take some time depending on how long you've been on a break from your running schedule. But as long as you're making time for physical exercise, even if it's just walking, you're still making progress.

Another option is to take your first couple of runs to a track or a treadmill so that you can stop more easily if pain develops or you become too winded. But for some people, these types of workouts are not motivating, so it depends on what works best for you.

Regardless of how you start training again, you'll gain a sense of pride and accomplishment by recommitting to your sport. As you set and conquer small goals, you'll reconnect with your love of running without putting your body at risk for injury or burnout.


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 reestablish a running habit and avoid getting injured. Consider these options:


Cross Train

If you cross train on the days when you are not running, you can increase endurance and build strength without over-stressing 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.

If you have been cross-training during your running break, that should help you get back into running; don’t give it up. Set up your exercise plan so it includes both.


Get Enough Rest

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. 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 the quads, glutes, hamstrings, and calves can prime your legs to go the distance, and mixing up your workouts with core work can help you maintain good form while you're running.

Stretching can also be helpful on rest days—perform stretches that release the hip flexors and stretch the quadriceps and calves to both prepare for and recover from your runs.

Note that if you're experiencing pain on a day you're scheduled to run, you may want to take the day off or go for a walk instead. It's generally not a good idea to rely on pain relievers in order to get through a run.


Limit Mileage

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

Start slowly. Begin with a short route that you know you can run with ease. 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.

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% 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 returning. 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 and defeated, and possibly even injured.


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 group runs leading up to a 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.


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 participate 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 goal that inspires you can help you to stay motivated and keep your program on track.


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.

2 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Toresdahl BG, McElheny K, Metzl J, Ammerman B, Chang B, Kinderknecht J. A randomized study of a strength training program to prevent injuries in runners of the new york city marathonSports Health. 2020;12(1):74-79. doi:10.1177/1941738119877180

  2. Ristolainen L, Kettunen J, Waller B, Heinonen A, Kujala U. Training-related risk factors in the etiology of overuse injuries in endurance sportsJ Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2014;54(1):78-87.

By Christine Luff, ACE-CPT
Christine Many Luff is a personal trainer, fitness nutrition specialist, and Road Runners Club of America Certified Coach.