Ask The Expert

How To Get Back Into Running Again

Are you keen to get back into running but aren't quite sure where to start? We asked a group of experts to reveal their best tips for getting moving again

How To Get Back Into Running
(Photo: Adobe Stock)

After a long break, it can be difficult to get back into the groove of running again.

Of course, much will depend on how long it’s been since you were last running regularly, but there are still a number of things to bear in mind as you ease yourself back into action.

We asked a select group of experts to offer their best advice when it comes to getting back into running on a regular basis after a long break.

Here’s what they said.

Find A Training Plan And Listen To Your Body

Jordan Duncan, Owner of Olympic Spine and Sports Rehabilitation

Finding motivation can be difficult after a period of time away from running, however there are a few things that I have found beneficial to keep you motivated.

The first is to sign up for a running race a few months in the future. This can be a one mile, 5k, or 10k run, which gives you something to shoot for and keep you on track.

If you are interested in a longer distance race, for example a half or full marathon, I would allow for more training time, perhaps a half year or more.

Once you have signed up, I would find a training plan. There are many available in running books or online, and I would search for one that suits your schedule and style. Once you have found a plan that is the right fit, make a commitment to start it on a certain date and stick to it.

Finding a running partner or joining a running group can be a great way to keep yourself accountable for the inevitable days you may not feel like running.

From a physical standpoint, it’s best not to overdo it when starting out after a period of time away from running.

You can reach the mileage that you were once accustomed to at a certain point, however it is best to take your time getting there.

Training plans will help you with this gradual increase – but it is wise to listen to your body. Injuries such as plantar fasciitis and runner’s knee can occur because the overall training load was too much for an individual at a given time.

Initial soreness, especially the day after running, is common when starting out. This soreness is often located in the quadriceps, gluteal muscles, and calves, and should subside within a few days.

Soreness or pain that lasts for longer than a few days should warrant a reduction in training volume, frequency and/or intensity, and if that doesn’t help, consult a healthcare provider.

Running Race

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Be Patient With Yourself

Heather Hart, RRCA Certified Running Coach

One of the most important things I like to remind runners who are returning to running is to avoid the mindset of being frustrated that they have to start over, and rather think of this as an opportunity to build a solid foundation for their future training.

Think of the beginning phases of starting a running routine as building the foundation to a house.

If you take the time to focus on safely and slowly rebuilding mileage and volume, you will have a strong foundation on which to continue to rebuild your training (a strong, sturdy house).

But if you skip the foundation building phase, and try to pick up where you left off when you stopped running, you’ll have a weak foundation, and your future training may suffer (a weak, unstable house that may crumble).

You’ll eventually get back to the same level of running fitness you once had, but rushing to return to that level can lead to frustration and possible injury.

Mindset is everything, and patience absolutely pays off in the long run (pun intended!).

Woman Running

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Take It Slow And Steady

Samantha DuFlo, RRCA Certified Running Coach and Founder of Indigo Physiotherapy

Returning to running after a longer break, such as postpartum or post quarantine, requires the mental hustle of re-lacing your shoes, but also some considerations from a physical standpoint.

First, acknowledge that although muscle memory exists, your body will need to adapt cardiovascularly. This means increasing the heart’s ability to pump blood (and oxygen) to your muscles, the building of microcapillaries to more efficiently get muscles blood.

Additionally, the lungs will respond with greater efficiency in getting oxygen to the blood, and bones will adapt to tolerate the impact of running. Bone density in areas such as the feet, and long bones of the legs, can change based upon the stress that is placed on them.

More stress equals bone cells (osteoblasts) creating new bone formation. When stress is removed (when running stops), other bone cells (osteoclasts) reabsorb the excess and bones adapt to the lighter loads placed on them.

This means that the “low and slow” approach that your coach or PT advises isn’t just to help you prevent muscular injury, but also a bone injury such as a stress fracture.

As the body is adapting, it will also change how energy (glycogen) is stored in the body and then used (metabolized), nutritional needs will change as the body develops leaner muscle mass, and even sleep will change.

Understanding these physiological changes helps one to recognize why it feels at first like they are starting from scratch.

Other basics to remember when starting out running:

• Strengthen the core and hip musculature, which aids in injury prevention and helps with good gait mechanics.

• Toss those beat up shoes and get your foot size reassessed, especially if you’re postpartum.

• Work with a run coach or specialized PT to devise a plan appropriate for your fitness needs, i.e. short-term and long-term goals.

• Don’t run through pain or injury.

• Stay hydrated and nourished.

• Don’t ignore your feet: they play a big role in running

• Increase your distance slowly, even if you are feeling great, to prevent injury: there are certain % max weekly run increases that are suggested, but also a lot of great “couch to 5k” programs that are notable.

• Avoid burnout: expecting too much too soon can cause fatigue, and physical and mental burnout in returning runners – take it slow and steady.

• Cross train with activities that mimic the actions of running, such as cycling or swimming.

Man Running

(Photo: Adobe Stock)

Be Patient And Trust The Process

Molly Armesto, Founder Of All About Marathon Training

Running is truly a life-long sport but the beauty of it is that you can take time off from it when needed and revisit it again when the time is right.

Depending on your activity level when you begin to run again, it can be more or less difficult to transition back into running.

Here are some strategies one can use to make the jump back into running just a bit easier.

First, set short term goals. Take it one month at a time. Set a measurable goal for yourself, for example to run three times per week or to run 10 miles total each week. Don’t overwhelm yourself by committing to run a half marathon or setting a goal that is unrealistic for yourself at that moment.

You do not need to include fancy running workouts such as tempo runs, hill repeats, or strides. Simply focus on just running and listening to your body.

It is better to ignore how far you are going (mileage) and to instead concentrate on running for a set amount of time.

Maybe it’s simply running three times per week for 15 minutes the first week, 20 minutes the second week and 25 minutes the third week. After you are comfortable with running for at least 30 minutes, begin to start focusing on building and increasing your mileage.

Implementing a run-walk-run style of running is a wonderful way to avoid injury and build back your running endurance.

Begin with shorter running intervals and then slowly begin to lengthen the running intervals and shortening the walking intervals until you can do without the walking intervals completely.

Silence the inner voice that tells you that you will never get back to the running level you were once at.

Your body is amazing the way it adapts so quickly to what you challenge it to do.

Be patient and trust in the process. It takes time but it is wonderful to see when your hard work pays off and you see yourself becoming stronger!

Follow A Training Plan And Take Rest Days

Marnie Kunz, RRCA Certified Running Coach and Founder of Runstreet

Here are my tips for runners who want to get back into running:

• Follow a training plan – Beginning runners often get stuck in a rut or get too excited and run too much too soon and end up burned out and injured. Following a plan will keep you accountable and motivated without demanding too much of your body at the start.

• Take rest days – Rest days are important to allow your body to repair and rebuild from hard training days. Take at least one rest day a week for physical and mental recovery.

• Set goals – Running goals will help you stay motivated on those cold mornings or long days when you just want to curl up in bed.

• Track your progress – Use a running app like Strava or Nike Run Club to track your distance and pace and you will be able to see your hard work pay off in your total miles each week. Many apps also allow you to set goals and join virtual challenges for an extra motivational boost.

• Go slow – When you’re getting back into running, take it easy on your pace and just focus on building your base miles (slow, relaxed pace miles at a steady effort level). You’ll want to build your endurance gradually before you add intensity to your running workouts.

• Join a virtual challenge or friend – Making running social will keep running fun and help you stay accountable. Pick a running partner to train with or join a virtual group to help motivate each other.

• Sign up for a virtual race – A race will give you a goal to work toward and adds meaning to your miles. Pick a charity run or a race with a theme you love and you’ll enjoy it even more.

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