by Rachel McFarland in Start Running, image by Beto Ruiz Alonso

5 Ways to Get Back Into Running

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Every runner encounters at some point in their running life a time when they have to stop running.  Sometimes, its an injury, or life’s responsibilities getting in the way.  Regardless, getting back into running from a hiatus can be very difficult.

There are countless articles about how to begin running if you are truly a beginner.
But what about beginning to run… again?

The Emotional Aspect

Runners are an emotional bunch (even though we’ll never let on), and trying to re-enter the running game after a break can bring a lot of emotions to the surface, such as:

  • Self doubt
  • Loss of interest/motivation
  • Disappointment
  • Depression
  • Anger

Often, we may think a hiatus won’t affect us much once we try to get back into running.  Then, when we start running again, we can become surprised to find how difficult it can be, physically and mentally.  These emotions can manifest in various ways:

Self Doubt

We can feel like we’ll never get back to our previous conditioning, often leading to a ‘why bother’ exasperation.  This can lead to….

Loss of Interest/Motivation

When running again is more difficult than we expected, it can become difficult to get psyched up for runs, knowing they may be challenging.  Its human nature to not want to do something that we know could be painful or highly uncomfortable.

Disappointment

This normally sets in once we have accepted that our fitness level isn’t where it was prior to the break from running. Realizing just how many steps back we’ve taken can be a big blow to our egos.

Depression

When we are used to being able to do something, suddenly not being able to do it can be overwhelming.  Runners are especially used to being able to command how their bodies work, so being faced with some limitations can be profound.

Anger

Suddenly feeling like we have no control over our ability to run can be incredibly frustrating.  It can feel as though all of your previous hard work was for nothing, and that it’s just not fair that you aren’t able to run at the level you expect or wish to be.

Once you’ve recognized that these emotions are normal, then you can take a step back and reassess your situation.  Do you want to run a local half marathon in a month? Chances are that’s not currently possible. Currently.  The single most important thing runners who are trying to get back at it can do is to remember that this is a temporary situation, and it is important to go easy.  As runners, this is counterintuitive, but imperative in order to get back to previous running capabilities without getting injured or burned out.

Here are 5 ways to help ease your way back:

1. Wipe the Slate Clean

Approach the situation as an opportunity to restart.  Chances are the training for your last race was lacking in an area, such as strength, flexibility, or speed.  Look at this time as an opportunity to train properly in the way you want and know your body needs.  For example, have you always felt like you needed to do more core work? Start now.

2. Create New Workouts

You will not be able to just jump back into your old training program.  Period.  So use this time as a chance to try new workouts you’ve always been interested in- yoga, spinning, hiking, etc.  It will not only help get your fitness back up, but also strengthen other muscles that runners need, yet may sometimes ignore.

3. Start Small, Think Big

Deciding to run a half marathon in a month at this point is probably too much too soon.  Deciding to run a 5K in a month is doable.  Perhaps you can consider a 10K in 8 weeks, THEN a half marathon.  This not only gives you short-term goals, but also keeps your eyes on longer term (and longer distance) goal.

4. Train for Shorter Distances

If you do # 3 above, don’t just sign up for a 5K and then show up for it- train for it.  This may sound unnecessary and even a bit silly, but this will ensure you aren’t doing too much too soon, yet will still give you the satisfaction of having a day-to-day training program with an end goal.  Bonus: You’ll focus on training for shorter distances, which is often neglected when training for the longer distances.  Building this solid base will be a boon to you once you get back into the longer distances.

5. Run Slow(er)

It won’t be forever, but if you can slow your average pace down at the beginning, it will not only ease your body back into running, but also do wonders for the mental game.  Runs won’t be as difficult, so they will be more enjoyable than if you tried to jump back in at your normal pace.  This will keep you running, which will lead to success.  If you run with a running group, try running with a slightly slower pace for a week or two, then work your way back up to your normal pace.  If you run solo, back off your normal pace a bit in the same way.

It can be daunting to get back into running after a hiatus, but implementing some of these tips may help you, emotionally and physically.  Your (injury-free!) body will thank you for it.




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