Tips for Coming Back to Running After a Break
Anyone that has had to take some time off running, either due to injury, pregnancy, work, personal circumstances, race cancellation or having just fallen out of love with the sport for a bit, will know that restarting is hard.
It can be easy to feel deflated when you think about how fast you were in the past, how easily you used to complete that loop, or how you used to run a half marathon like it was no big deal.
But the way I’m trying to think about it, is that I get to start again. Although I know it doesn’t always feel this way. I get to build back up from practically zero, fixing my weaknesses, enjoying the process and becoming (hopefully) a faster, strong runner.
I asked for advice on IG from those of you that have come back to running after some time off to see what you struggled with most, and crucially, what tips you’d share with those returning to running;
Stop Comparing Yourself To Yourself
Whilst it can be helpful to know you’ve been able to run a certain pace before, so you should have extra confidence that you can get there again. It can also be incredibly disheartening to constantly compare yourself to where you used to be. A number of runners have suggested deleting old PBs from your watch or removing Strava from your phone.
It can feel really hard at the beginning, and be very humbling when you first start running again. This is where you might have to be very honest with yourself and admit to where you really are in terms of fitness (not where you wish you were). It can take a while for things to click, and you probably need weeks of consistent running before you ‘get’ it. But patience is key, stick with it because it will get easier.
Run for Fun
I am guilty of sometimes feeling like I have to run or that I should run, when ultimately I run for fun, to enjoy myself and to relax. It’s a hobby! This is something I need to remember more often, and I know I’m not the only one. Take off the watch, explore a new route, download a new podcast (try this episode with Becs Gentry on Cook Eat Run) or listen to a great playlist and just zone out and enjoy your surroundings.
Commit to running a certain number of days per week, or miles over the week and try to stick to it. That’s ok if it’s two days per week, or 2 miles per day for 4 days, or 20 miles over 5 days. Whatever that looks like for you, but try to stick with it, building up the mileage slowly. Consistency is what builds strength, endurance, speed and stamina. Consistency is key for race training, whatever distance you’re looking to build up to.
Focus on your WHY
The reason I started running was in memory of my friend, Vic. It’s this reason I go back to time and time again, when I’m struggling in a race or stressing about lacing up. Remembering that for me, there’s so much more to running than PBs and medals, that is helped me deal with grief and gives me an outlet for my anxiety. Thinking about Vic during a race or tough workout also helps me dig that bit deeper.
Focus on your why when things get tricky, if you’re finding that you’re lacking in motivation or you are finding things mentally or physically challenging.
Ignore your Pace
So many people suggested leaving your watch at home or covering the pace so that you don’t stress too much about it. I also love to use a Run/Walk strategy, then it feels like only 4 mins of running at a time (and not quite so overwhelming). It also forces me to slow down and disregard pace as it includes the 1 min walking breaks too. Speed will come back, and although I like to inject bursts of speed using my Peloton outdoor guided runs during the week, but these are all based on time and perceived effort rather than pace.
Wearing Sweaty Betty Tie Dye Top and High Shine Shorts
Think about your Ultimate Goal
What is your ultimate running goal and why did you set it? I’ve had a goal to Boston Qualify since 2015, I ran the Chicago marathon that year and failed miserably at my goal!, and failed again twice more since then… but I have managed to knock 11 minutes off my marathon time in those years. This BIG goal helps me stick with the smaller goals, knowing each training run is ultimately taking me closer to that BQ.
Hard days Hard, Easy Days Easy
Do not ignore the easy days, these might need to be easier than in the past. It all feels kind of hard when you start again. So it’s important that you listen to your body and take things slow when you need.
This is the same philosophy I take when marathon training, doing my speed workouts and strength on the same days so that I can take the easy days, really easy.
Have Smaller Goals along the Way to Your Big Goal
Yes the end goal is important, whether that’s to finish your first marathon or complete a 5K, or run a BQ. But that goal can sometimes feel a long way off so setting yourself smaller goals, such as to run a certain distance non-stop, to run a certain mileage or number of days per week, can help on the way to that BIG goal. Maybe that’s reducing your tempo pace, increasing your 1 mile rep speed or getting a 10K/half PB on your way to a marathon PB.
My current goal is to run 30 mile weeks consistently throughout the month of July. Whilst that won’t be a lot to many people, right now it seems like a lot so I’ve been building up my mileage, week by week, throughout May and June.
Create A Support Network
If you’re coming back from an injury (or even if you aren’t) having a trusted physio, a go-to for sports massage if that’s your thing, podiatrist or osteopath. Whatever it takes for you to stay healthy and injury free as you build up your mileage. This also includes supportive non-runners, running buddies to keep you company or push you out of your comfort zone again. Honestly the instagram community have been the best support ever to help encourage me through the weeks where I’ve been struggling to run, and even more so as I build back up!
Use the Comeback to Work on Your Weaknesses
Do you skip your strength workouts? Forget to make time to stretch/rehab? Are you guilty of ignoring your recovery? Coming ‘back’ gives you the opportunity to start again, to include these key parts of training into your week. When you increase your mileage, injury is a real possibility so it’s even more important to focus on areas of previous weakness to help you become a stronger runner.
Find a Training Plan or Coach
If you’re concerned about starting to run again, it might be worth reaching out to a coach or finding a build up training plan, like Hal Higdon’s plans. This can be particularly helpful if you have big running goals, if you need someone else to be accountable to or if you’ve struggled with injuries before and want a wholistic approach to training this time round. However, if you do go down this route, I would highly recommend being as honest as possible with yourself/your coach as to where you’re starting from…there’s no point having workout right from the off that are beyond your current fitness.
Check out my post about the Pros and Cons of Working with an Online Running Coach
Nice photos of you AND of the tractor.G.
I love the resetting the PB’s on your watch. I think this can be so helpful to see myself rehitting those PB’s versus constantly trying to compare to my old ones.
Thank you so much for this post. I’ve been an Insta lurker for a while but always thought of myself as a “proper cyclist not a runner”. Then, 4 weeks into lockdown, I crashed and broke my collarbone. My confidence took a big hit and the injury also forced me off the bike and out walking as my only form of exercise. I gradually built up the distance and difficulty of the hikes, lost the sling and thought how much I would like to be able to run those trails. I don’t want to give up the bike but there is something pure about running through muddy trails and scrambling up hills – I’ve just started (this week) an 8 week 10k trail running plan and it has been a humbling experience! I thought my bike fitness would transfer and it probably has a bit but not very much. I feel like a lumbering elephant and have to do some walking on every run. I did FARTLEK for the first time today and it was HARD but the sense of achievement was immense. Admitting you are a beginner at something and that you need to start from scratch actually feels really freeing – and I am not recording runs on Strava yet because I don’t want this to become all about the numbers as cycling became a bit of a source of anxiety for me on that front.
I’m not sure I’ll ever think of myself as a runner and my husband (a die hard cyclist) says he’ll divorce me if I become a triathlete but I’ve set myself a goal of being able to run in the hills/mountains in the autumn. I’m also really keen to learn how to improve my running technique which I’m pretty sure isn’t very good …
I’ve taken some notes from this post. My running has been terrible, I was really ill and then we went in to lockdown and at first I was too afraid to go out. I’ve now restarted C25K to give me running some structure and knowing the first few weeks of it will be easy is making me more inclined to get outside.