Words by Ben Woodcock
Whether it be because of work commitments, family responsibilities, injury or just simply the lack of motivation, everyone may go through a spell where they fall out of their running routine and struggle to lace up the trainers again after an extended break. It doesn’t matter if your break has been days, weeks or months, here’s a few tips to get you back into the swing.
SET REALISTIC GOALS
Perhaps, due to work getting in the way, you’ve not hit your usual 5k route for a couple of weeks. When you do finally find the free time to head out, don’t expect yourself to be instantly as quick as you were before your break. Understand that it’s normal for it to take a few runs and a couple of weeks to get back up to speed. Instead, set yourself a goal of running 4.5km in your 5km personal best for example. This will help give you the motivation to run at a challenging speed, but not a speed that may leave you too fatigued the next day or one that would risk injury on your first run back.
FOLLOW A TRAINING (RUNNING) PLAN
If you’re someone who enjoys running once you step out of the front door but struggles to get themselves there in the first place, then following a running plan may be just the solution. A plan, while it needs to be realistic, will hold you accountable to achieve your goal, whatever that means to you. There are ample running plans which can be found with a quick internet search to suit all abilities, the couch to 5k is a great example for beginners who want to get to a stage where they can tick a 5k off without stopping. The great thing about a plan is that it will build a habit of running and providing you remain consistent, your level of fitness will improve, and your times will start getting quicker.
RUN WITH FRIENDS OR A GROUP
Not only will this pass the time as you can chat to friends while you run, if you have enough breath. It will make you get out of bed on a cold, November morning if you know your friend is shivering away outside your front door. Much like a running plan, having a training partner keeps you accountable in any form of fitness, running is no different. Alternatively, if you can’t twist your neighbour’s arm to tag along on your weekly run, signing up to running groups may be a good option for you. Many groups are local, very friendly and supportive. Even for experienced runners, it becomes a grind running on your own several times a week. Especially if you’ve had a long layoff, don’t heap the pressure on yourself, sharing the suffering does make it easier even if this is just a placebo affect!
DON'T RUN BEFORE YOU CAN WALK
If you’ve had a longer break from running than you would have liked, gradually build your bodies base level of fitness by going for a series of long walks to top up your endurance levels and prepare your soft tissue for more intense exercise before you think about hitting your quickest paces or even moderate ones. This is also a sensible idea if you’ve been stricken by injury. An hours walk will help you assess whether you’re in a position to pick up the pace.
USE OTHER TRAINING METHODS TOO
There’s only so many times a week you can run without placing too much strain on your joints, ligaments and tendons leading to another potential lay-off. Instead, it’s a good idea to drop into different methods of exercise. For example, strength training is great to help you tolerate a higher volume of running training, providing you perform the correct exercises that mimic the mechanics of running. This is where a plan to organise your training may be helpful, so you hit the right exercises on the correct days to supplement rather than hinder your running schedule. Other methods of training which can be used in tandem with running include but aren’t limited to cycling, swimming and rowing to target your ventilatory thresholds. Meanwhile, Yoga, Pilates and core exercises will condition the abdominals for medium to long distance running. Remember though, don’t fill everyday with different training methods, rest days are still just as important.
FIND YOUR RHYTHM
More experienced runners may choose to ditch the earphones whilst running to control their breathing rate. Yet, if you’ve had a long break then timing your breathes needn’t be high on your agenda, getting through a 10k breathing however you can will probably be enough of a test. So, pick music you find motivational, if motivation to get going is what you need. Alternatively, podcasts are great if you’d rather have your mind occupied by chat instead of how much further you need to go. Psychologically it will certainly be a time passer and could even make you go a few seconds quicker than expected.
This is a key point during the Autumn/ Winter months. We’ve all taken a chance on wearing just a top when it’s cold because “I’ll warm up once I’ve got going.” Ideally, base layers should be your go to. They are warm on days when you can see your breath out in front of you but also breathable and not heavy fabric which will feel uncomfortable when you inevitably start sweating. The next best thing behind base layers are thin sports sweaters/hoodies. They may begin to feel a little bit too warm if you’ve pushed the pace or found yourself ascending a steep hill but on the whole they’ll keep you warm and if you begin to overheat they’re easily tied around your waist. Don’t forget to be prepared when it comes to footwear as well, you’d be forgiven for thinking that after a break it doesn’t really matter what shoes you wear as you won’t be going quick anyway but to avoid foot and ankle pain, running trainers which encourage mid-foot striking are recommended.
It simply does not matter if you’ve not run for a week, a month or even a year, you shouldn’t feel it’s too difficult to get back into, because it isn’t. With a positive mindset and the wisdom to forget about comparing your running journey to those you see on social media you can achieve your goals. Remember to follow some of the tips above to help make your running resurgence trouble free.