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5 Tips To Help You Start Running Again After A Break

How-to-Return-to-Running-After-Time-Off

How-to-Return-to-Running-After-Time-Off

Tips To Start Running Again

If you're returning to running after a break, start slow. Your muscles still remember your running history. So you'll soon be able to run like you used to. But before picking up speed, build your endurance and flexibility to avoid injuries. Begin with a walk or a jog and gradually turn it into running. Whether you want to run a 5K or not, cross-train for it. Then set small goals, and address your running problems at the first sign of discomfort.

How easy running again will be depends on:

 

  • Your fitness level before the break
  • Duration of the break
  • Severity of your injuries (if any)
  • Physical activities performed during the break

At some point in life, you might have taken a long break from running whether due to illness, injury, major life changes, or simply because you didn’t feel up for it. Now when you want to start running again because you need the exercise or because you feel like it, remember that running after a long break is not easy. But it’s not impossible either. Science says it is easier for former runners to revisit the sport, thanks to their “muscle memory.” More about that in a bit. So, once a runner, always a runner! All you need is proper training that guides your body into adapting to your long-lost running style and performance. Here are a few tips to help you regain your running form after a break.

1. Start Slow

When you exercise or do physical activities like running that strengthens the muscle, “little protein factories” or DNA-containing nuclei are generated in them. These stick around even after you quit the physical activity. This is your muscle memory that allows the muscle to bounce back quickly when retrained.1

Your training plan to return to running also depends on your fitness level before you stopped running. If you were a sportsperson, a regular marathon runner, or have been running for over 4–5 years, even one year of a break won’t set you back by a great extent. You can be right back on track within 2–3 months. This is because of the muscle memory developed in seasonal runners.

However, if you’ve been running for only a year followed by a year of break, it might take several months before you can run at your full speed again.

2. Rebuild Endurance

It might be frustrating to not be able to perform as well as before, but remember that trying to run for too long on your first day of training is only going to end up in injuries and pain. When you don’t run for a long time, your physical stamina takes a hit. You might feel tired after running to catch or bus or even climbing one flight of stairs. Your pain threshold reduces and you become more prone to injuries. To begin running again, it’s important to build endurance. And the process of endurance-building depends on the duration of the gap you had taken from running.

Less Than A Week

If you return to running less than a week after you took a break, you can begin your training right where you left off, as long as you’re not injured. Take plenty of walk breaks so that your feet and legs don’t get sore. If you feel tired, take a break and return to your legs only after you rest for about 2 or 3 minutes.

2–3 Weeks

If it’s been about 3 weeks since you last ran, you need to drop your average mileage. Run about 2 or 3 minutes per mile slower than your average pace. Also, run half the distance you used to prior to the break.

  • Start by running for 20 seconds with a 40 second-walking time. Run for a total of 15 minutes.
  • On your second day back, pace up by running for 30 seconds and walking for 30 seconds. Run for a total of 20 minutes.
  • Make sure to take a rest day between the running days.
  • Reserve another day of the week only for walking, so you don’t overstrain yourself.
  • By the end of your first week back, you must be able to run 40 seconds with a 20-second walking time. Try to run for a total of 30 minutes.

2 Months

Running after a 2-month break can be strenuous. Drop your earlier pace or mileage by up to 50 percent.

  • On your first week back after the 2-month break, follow the above-mentioned running plan designed for a 2 or 3-week break.
  • On your second week, use the 40 seconds running/20 seconds walking ratio to run for a total of about 35 minutes.
  • Reserve one of the second week for only walking, and give yourself a day of rest.
  • By the end of your third week back, you must be able to run for about 40–45 minutes using the 40 seconds running/20 seconds walking ratio.

3 Months

If you’ve been away for over 3 months ranging up to a year, you may need to start training from scratch.

  • Begin by walking 5 times a week for about 30–45 minutes.
  • Once you’re able to walk for 45 minutes without any strain, begin by jogging.
  • Jog for 5 minutes with walking breaks after every minute of jogging.
  • Pace up your jogging speed and jog for about 15 minutes every alternate day.
  • After you’ve been jogging for about a month, begin running by using the 20 seconds running/40 seconds walking ratio.

While following this running pattern, don’t forget to warm up and cool down. A 10-minute walk before and after you finish your training is essential to build endurance and prevent injuries.

3. Identify And Solve Your Running Problems

Retraining is the best time to take a look at any problems you may have experienced in the past while running. Be it plantar fasciitis, shin splints, or runner’s knee, find a solution to it this time around so that you don’t fall off track because of such problems again. Listen to your body’s signs and act on them immediately to get back in top running shape.

4. Cross Train For Strength, Flexibility, And Endurance

Cross-training is the best option available for runners to prevent injury. But the benefits of cross-training do not end with just that. Runners can cross-train to improve fitness, build strength, promote recovery, and rehabilitate injuries. It enables you to boost your cardiovascular strength and increase endurance without putting a lot of wear and tear on the body. Supplement your running schedule with a little strength training, flexibility training, and endurance cross-training. Include activities like swimming, aqua jogging, cycling, walking, yoga, and Pilates into your training.

However, exercise caution while cross-training. Ensure you get enough rest days and don’t stress your body too much. Also, before beginning any new workout, consult your doctor and make sure it won’t worsen any injury.

5. Set Small Goals

It can be frustrating when you take time to reach your previous performance levels. You may think of your past running accomplishments and put pressure on yourself to match them. But doing so will only lead to pain and injuries and make it harder for you to recover. Set small goals when you are starting out and your confidence will increase when you meet each of them. As you build your endurance, intensity, and speed, running will start becoming more fun again.

It may help if returning runners train for a specific goal like running a half-marathon or any other race. With a deadline and/or an event in mind, it will be easier to get yourself back on track. Even if you do not plan to participate in a running event, following a beginner’s training plan for running a 5 km would be a good starting point.

So, instead of feeling disheartened about the low period, keep running. These small steps will help you leap toward achieving your running goals. However, be careful about your injuries (if any) before running again. You might need to wait for about 6 months to 2 years before you return to running, based on the severity of your injury.

References   [ + ]

1. Egner, Ingrid M., Jo C. Bruusgaard, Einar Eftestøl, and Kristian Gundersen. “A cellular memory mechanism aids overload hypertrophy in muscle long after an episodic exposure to anabolic steroids.” The Journal of physiology 591, no. 24 (2013): 6221-6230.

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.