If you used to run and want to get back into running, it can be hard to know where to start. You may have stopped running on your own, or maybe life got busy once you left school. Maybe you had to stop due to an injury.
Starting to run again after a significant break, whether it’s been months or years, can be overwhelming as you figure out how you can achieve the goals you once set out to attain. You spent time working your way up to that point and just want to pick up where you left off.
Unfortunately, once your body gets used to not running regularly, you will need to introduce it back slowly, or else you risk hurting yourself. The good news is, with time and patience, you can become a confident runner again.
Here are three ways you can work towards your running goals after being out of the game.
1. Start With Strength Training
Strength training is essential to build and strengthen your joints and muscles, whether you last ran yesterday or two years ago. Since strength training is associated with bulking up, some runners skip it. However, strength training is essential to preventing injury. Strength training can boost your metabolism and help you lose weight by burning more calories during your run and rest days.
Strength training will also help you run faster and increase your running efficiency by strengthening your core and helping you maintain your form. This makes strength training particularly important if you want to work up to longer distance running, since minor efficiency improvements will improve your performance and keep you feeling good.
Your muscles can go longer before getting fatigued, which helps you ward off the cramps of the “hitting the wall” phase of longer runs.
Strength training also helps you get faster without injury due to increased endurance and the ability to keep your form. Many running injuries are caused by imbalanced muscles or weakness. Core and lower body exercises help to strengthen the muscles you need to perform, and incorporating resistance training can prepare your muscles for the next run.
You don’t have to devote a lot of time to strength training, but just a few minutes a few times per week can make a huge difference.
2. Take It Slow
It’s easy to want to jump back into your old running routine, but doing so after a break can quickly lead to fatigue and injury.
Start with interval training every-other day and work your way back up to your old pace and distance. Rest or cross-train between running days to help your muscles adjust to running and recover. Make sure to take time to stretch well to release your hip flexors and stretch your calves and quadriceps on rest days before and after a run to keep them in good shape.
If you try to return to your old mileage patterns right away, you will likely not be able to keep running for long. Your body needs time to readjust after not running for some time. Begin with a shorter route that’s easy to run as you get used to running again to avoid frustration or injury.
If you used to run a 10K regularly, you wouldn’t be able to get back to that distance the first week you begin running again. However, with a good training regimen, you can reach that goal while avoiding stress and injury.
3. Work Towards a Goal
Once you start running again, it might motivate you to set a running goal.
You can sign up for a race to train for, such as a 5K or 10K. Be sure to pick a race far enough in the future that you can reasonably train without overexerting yourself. Once you accomplish that race, you can move on to training for longer races.
Seeing the race date on the calendar can help you become motivated while you train, and you may even want to take a friend or family member with you to make the process more enjoyable.
If you don’t want to race, you can motivate yourself in other ways, including choosing a new trail you want to run or a new mile goal you can reach.
It can be hard to be patient, especially when you’ve achieved milestones in the past that will take a while for you to get to again or that you may not reach again. Positivity is integral to reaching your goals, but it can be frustrating if you’re not making the progress you want.
Focus on one small milestone at a time, work toward your goals little by little, and give yourself the time you need to reach your goals healthily. This will help you achieve long-term success.
Joining running groups with runners who have been through similar situations can motivate you to keep going when things get complicated.
How to Get Back Into Running After a Long Break
There’s a reason you want to make a plan to start running again, whether it’s for your health, a rediscovered hobby, or it helps you de-stress during the week.
When you’re starting to run again after a break, you can feel defeated by how much work you need to put in to reach where you used to be. But with training and patience, you can achieve your running goals in no time.