Perhaps you became injured and took time off to heal and never quite got back into the swing of things. Maybe you had children and had to take several months or years off in the process of becoming a new parent. Maybe your work schedule changed and life became too busy and running quietly slid to the wayside. Or maybe you had a change of heart and running just wasn’t fun anymore. Regardless of the reason for the break, returning to running can seem daunting at first, with the struggle to rebuild your base mileage, and the frustration at your screaming lungs leaving you wondering why you ever found it fun. Returning to running doesn’t have to be torture. Let’s discuss why you left and get you moving again.
Pull out your running shoes and get back out there!
If you left due to an injury:
Most joint and muscle injuries heal within 6-8 weeks. If you are now outside of that window, tissue healing should have occurred. The important thing to acknowledge before returning to running is why the injury occurred: was it an overuse injury that crept up, or did you just simply step off a curb wrong and roll your ankle? If the injury is one that slowly crept up and you are now pain free, it is important to analyze whether it was due to a running form issue, or perhaps a shoe issue. It may be time for a new running shoe or start cross training by building your core and doing body weight resistance strength training.
Some exercises for general knee, hip, pelvis, and foot pain can be found here:
When you begin to return to running, start by doing a run/ walk ratio of 1:2 respectively. For example run 1 minute then walk 2 minutes for 15- 30 minutes. If you are running outside, choose a loop near your home in case you need a break. Each week, decrease your walk time until you are running 30 minutes solid. From here, increase either your speed or your mileage, but not both on the same week. Increasing both too quickly is often the cause of overuse injury.
If you left due to a busy schedule:
Ask yourself what about this busy schedule got in the way of your running. Was it that work hours were long and there was no longer daylight to run in? Was it that you were just exhausted by the schedule and did not feel motivated to run? One solution is to join a running club. Often times running clubs meet early in the morning, or offer several meetup times throughout the week to accommodate varying schedules. Squeezing your run in first thing in the morning may not seem enticing to a busy person who could use an extra hour of sleep, but regular exercise can improve your energy level, and can improve productivity throughout the day, especially for people with desk jobs. Knowing that you have made a commitment to show up and join people in the morning increases accountability. Squeezing in a quick 30 minute run during your lunch hour or right after work before you return home is another thought.
Investing money in your running is another way to improve accountability to training. If you spend money registering for a race and set a goal, you are more likely to adhere to a training schedule and embed running time.
If you left due to pregnancy:
Pregnancy can do a number on a woman’s body. Running mechanics can change, as can skeletal alignment. You can read a full research report on running mechanics changes after pregnancy here:
Depending on how long you took off from running, you may bounce back relatively quickly after your physician releases you to run again, usually around 6-8 weeks at the earliest. If this is the case, you will want to be mindful of the fact that your core musculature including 4 layers of abdominals and pelvic floor muscles are going to be weak. Building core strength back up and practicing pelvic floor exercises will be beneficial in preventing injury and maintaining running form.
For return to running activity, use the same return to running program as mentioned above for injured runners: start by doing a run/ walk ratio of 1:2 respectively. For example run 1 minute then walk 2 minutes for 15- 30 minutes. If you are running outside, choose a loop near your home in case you need a break. Each week, decrease your walk time until you are running 30 minutes solid. From here, increase either your speed or your mileage, but not both on the same week. Increasing both too quickly is often the cause of overuse injury.
If you left due to a change of heart:
Runners can burn out or grow weary of running for many reasons. While accomplishing a major goal such as finishing a marathon can inspire some to sign up for more, other runners experience dysphoria and stop running altogether due to burn out. Some have a hard time staying motivated and drop running altogether.
Assuming that you still love running and are reading this article with true intentions of returning to running, some self analysis of what steered you away is always helpful. Did you fail to meet a goal and became discouraged? Did you overtrain and exhaust yourself? Sometimes it is helpful to book a non-chip timed race, or a unique destination race. Mixing it up with an obstacle run with friends or a mud or color run can be a fun way to get back in shape, Finding joy in running for the sake of running and without heavy pace expectations can be extremely psychologically renewing. In the past after a sour racing experience I registered for the Silver Falls Half Marathon, a gorgeous non-chip timed half marathon in Oregon’s Willamette valley. You can read my review of this gorgeous race here: https://runningyourbody.wordpress.com/2014/11/04/on-silver-falls-half-marathon-a-race-review/
Running in such a beautiful setting was like a ctrl+alt+delete for my running, and I have made it a goal to seek out at least one non-chip timed destination race every year.
In terms of beginning training again, it may be beneficial to start running 30 minutes 3-4 days per week and leave the other days open to cross training in activities that bring you joy. Yoga, hiking, skiing, snowshoeing, Zumba, whatever you like. By building up your base running miles and supporting it with other activities you decrease the risk of injury and attention burnout.
Take care, and make your day great,