Updated: April 20, 2020
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: we can’t wait to start running again.
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.
Related: How to Stay Fit During the Running Off Season
Making a running comeback can be tricky.
After an extended break from running, it’s easy to let the excitement get the best of you, start running again too soon, and wind up needing to take 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.
So how do you safely start running again?
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 as you return.
Whether you’re coming back from injury or after a self-imposed long break, the way you return to running can make or break your future 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 if you feel like you’re ready to dive in.
When your body feels ready and antsy to run, remind yourself the importance of taking things slow. Following your instincts may result in you getting back to running too quickly and thus getting injured or suffering from burnout.
Be patient; remember that making a slow comeback to running will pay off 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 a 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 and letting your excitement get the best of you. Always stick with shorter distances as you begin to start running again.
Start out with one or two runs per week.
Your return to running will probably involve running less frequently than you did during training – and that’s okay. Begin with just one or two runs per week for the first few weeks.
A few weeks after you’ve started running, gradually 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.
Free Download: 12 Week Running Base Building Training Plan
Increase running 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 focus on regaining your running frequency before starting to increase your mileage. Keep your runs shorter in the beginning of your comeback, focusing on first creating a solid running base.
Walk whenever you need.
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.
Avoid comparing yourself to where you used to be, and focus on your present accomplishments.
Your body will no longer be used to this type of activity, regardless of how fit you might be. Remember that a mile is still the same distance whether you walk or run, 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 full body 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 come back, and before you know it you’ll be back on the roads logging mileage and accomplishing new goals.
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