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 find ourselves at a loss, missing that time consuming activity.
Taking a break from running at some point is inevitable.
Throughout marathon training, I constantly remind myself of the sweet reward that comes after the race. That week of absolutely no running is always so well deserved. And yet, by the time that week arrives, I always find myself actually missing my regular runs and eager to make a running comeback.
The first few weeks after fall marathons coincide nicely with the transition to winter. As I take some time off from running, the temperature cools down, darkness comes earlier and snow begins to arrive. The length of time off varies depending on the race and weather, but as time progresses, I inevitably find myself ready to get back to running.
Making a running comeback can be a tricky process.
After an extended break from running, it’s easy to let the excitement get the best of you, start running again too much too soon, and wind up needing more time off after just a few runs.
Learning how to make a running comeback as safely as possible is crucial in maintaining a lifelong running routine. Getting back to running while avoiding injury involves building a strong running base and strengthening your entire body before diving in to any intense training.
Making a smart running comeback after a break can be tricky no matter what the circumstance. If you’re ready to start running again, don’t get discouraged during the process. Be patient and smart with your running comeback.
Whether you’re coming back from injury or just after a long break, 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 your longest distance during taper week.
A general rule to follow is to avoid running farther than your longest run during taper week. For most of my marathon and half marathon training plans, this meals no more than 3-6 miles. Having a set number helps you avoid doing too much too soon our of eagerness. Check your training plan and stick with shorter distances when you start running again.
Start out with one or two runs per week.
Your return to running will involve running less frequently than you did during training. Begin with just one or two runs per week for the first few weeks. After a week or two after you’ve started running again you can increase the frequency to three or four runs per week. As your running base increases, continue to increase the frequency until you’ve returned to a normal amount of running per week.
Increase frequency before distance.
After a few runs back, you’ll likely find yourself eager to run farther and fit in some long runs. You’ll miss the satisfaction that comes from knowing you’ve put in miles for the day, and want to come back from your running break as quickly as possible.
A good rule of thumb to follow to avoid injury is to increase your running frequency until it is back to where it used to be before increasing your mileage. Keep your runs shorter in the beginning of your comeback, gradually increasing their frequency before distance. Only once you’re back to running multiple times each week will your body be ready to add some mileage.
Walk whenever you need to.
Returning to anything after a break is going to be tough, and running is certainly no different. There will be many moments of frustration when you realize that the distance or pace you’re struggling with used to be something you considered easy. 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.
It’s so important to have a solid running base before jumping back in to any speed work.
Building a 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 increase your distance slowly.
Focus on distance before incorporating any speed work or hard workouts. Attempting speed work too soon before your body is acclimated to running 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 help make your return to running as smooth as possible. A solid strength base will help you increase frequency and mileage much more quickly.
Even after just a few weeks off, your first few runs back won’t feel quite like they used to. Give your body the time it needs to transition without injury, and don’t expect it to happen overnight.
Balancing the excitement of making a running comeback with listening to your body can be tricky and frustrating. What used to be easy suddenly feels like a challenge in and of itself – but it does get easier. Your running fitness will comeback, and before you know it you’ll be back on the roads logging mileage and hitting your goals.
Ready to return to running? Here’s how to safely increase your mileage.