Sometimes, even the most dedicated runners are forced to take a hiatus from pounding the pavement. Such breaks may be prompted by injury, a jam-packed schedule, or other life events. Regardless of the reason for your running sabbatical, it is important to take your time and avoid going all-in when returning to running. Too fast of a comeback can result in injuries, which can force you back to the sidelines. Here are some of our tips to keep in mind as you carefully resume your running lifestyle.
If you’ve recently taken time off running, your first impulse may be to increase your workouts in quantity and intensity to make up for lost time. Instead, plan an incremental return that involves walking several miles at a time before you advance to running. As you amp up your running routine, be sure to maintain full body awareness. Take time before, after, and during runs to determine whether you could be pushing your body too far. Only you can know when it’s time to give it your all—or when it’s time to pull back.
Begin or Continue Cross-Training
The right cross-training routine can help you maintain aerobic fitness and strengthen key muscles while reducing the risk of sustaining overuse injuries. Swimming and cycling are ideal, as both are high-endurance, low-impact forms of exercise.
After you return to your previous running routine, you may realize your performance has taken a hit. Don’t despair; it will take time to return to full form. If you’re struggling to stay motivated, consider pairing up with a fellow runner for joint workouts. A 2012 study published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine posits that the Kohler Motivation Gain Effect (which causes runners working out with in the company others to work harder) ultimately doubles the performance of those who exercise with partners compared with those who work out alone.
The prospect of a return to running is exciting, but take care—an excess of enthusiasm could lead to injury and another break from running. Baby steps are your best bet for ensuring a healthy and successful running comeback.