It’s really funny how life works sometimes, and the lessons it teaches us. Why is it that whenever we are in the middle of something, all we can think about is taking a break? We can’t wait for some time off – whether it’s from running, school, work, a project, or anything else. But as soon as we get that time off, we realize everything we actually miss. Throughout marathon training, I would constantly remind myself of the sweet reward that would come after the race. That week of absolutely no running would be so well deserved. And yet by the time that week gets here, I find myself actually missing my regular runs and eager to make a running comeback.
I am currently at the point of recovery where I am desperately trying to make a running comeback but wanting to do so in the smartest way possible. After a long layoff from running my legs are excited to start running again.
Sure, that first week after the NYC marathon, there was some enjoyment that came from being lazy. I woke up at the beginning of the week and smiled to myself knowing that I didn’t have to complete a workout. I could lay on the couch a little while longer without feeling guilty. But as the days ticked by, I began to feel more and more antsy, and found myself missing my routine. My body couldn’t wait to return to running.
Since the marathon I’ve run a few times. A couple 5ks, weekend runs and a few mid week miles. I am constantly reminding myself not to jump back in full force too soon. Each time I run a marathon, I find myself hyped up on running excitement, come back from a running break too soon, and wind up needing more time off later that month. This time, however, I am determined to get through recovery differently. As we head into the winter months, I plan to recover smart, build a strong running base, and use this time to strengthen my entire body (not just those running muscles;).
Here are some tips I’ve learned from trial and error. Through many failed experiments and letting excitement get the best of me, I’ve determined what not to do. Making a smart running comeback after a break can be tricky no matter what the circumstance. Whether you’re coming back from injury, or after a long layoff, the way you return can make or break the future you have in the sport.
How to Make a Running Comeback After Taking Time Off
As exciting as something may seem when it is taken away from us, it is in our best interest to resist the urge to dive in full force. Ease back in to running slowly, even slower than you want to. When your body feels ready and antsy to run, don’t push it out of eagerness. Following your instincts may result in you getting back to running too quickly. Take your running comeback slow and it will benefit you in the long run.
Begin by running no more than the longest distance run during taper week.
I generally follow the rule that the first week back at it, I will run no more than I did for my “long run” during taper week. For this past marathon, that was only 4 miles. On other training plans, it could be as much as 6-10 miles. It all varies. Listen to your body.
Start out with one run per week. Run twice the next week, and slowly keep adding no more than one run per week.
After a big race, I usually spend a few weeks running only once. After those couple recovery weeks, I add one more run during the week. By the third or fourth week, I’m up to three runs a week. That’s not to say I’m running long distances, but the frequency of my runs is slowly getting back to usual.
Increase frequency before distance.
After my first few runs back I usually find myself itching to get in some longer runs. I miss the satisfaction that comes from knowing you’ve put in miles for the day, and want to come back from a running break as quickly as possible. Before I let myself run anything more than 5 or 6 miles, I make sure that my running frequency is back up to where it used to be. Throughout the year, I usually run about 4 times a week. Before I begin increasing my distance, I make sure to get back to my usual 4 runs a week, with each run being less than 5 miles.
Walk whenever you need to.
Returning to anything after a break is going to be tough, and running makes sure to throw that in your face. Your body will not be used to this activity, no matter what type of shape you are in. Miles are still the same distance whether you walk or run them, so don’t feel guilty about taking a walk break if you need it.
Spend at least a month building a distance base before jumping back in to any speed work.
Building a solid running foundation is so, so important. When we take time off from running, for whatever reason, we lose that base we have built. If you missed more than 3 weeks of running, pretend you are starting at square one of a training plan and need to build your distance up slowly. Attempting speed work too soon before your body is acclimated will lead to injuries, and even more time off.
Use your off days to build strength.
Take advantage of spending less time on the roads and use your free time to build strength. Cross train, strength train, lift weights, practice yoga – whatever works for you. Creating a well rounded sense of strength will benefit your body by the time you are ready to up your mileage.
Even with just a few weeks off, you won’t be able to return to running and have it feel like it used to. Give your body the time it needs to transition without injury, and don’t expect it to happen overnight.
As I begin this process of making a running comeback to my usual routine, I am reminding myself to practice patience as well. It is so tricky balancing the excitement of returning with listening to your body, but I am determined to do it right this time. A little patience now is easier than forced patience down the road due to injury.
Ready to return to running? Here’s how to safely increase your mileage.