There are many reasons runners take a break from running. It may be due to an injury, boredom or life events that get in the way. Some runners find themselves taking a break after completing a big race or a running season. No matter what the reason, how you ease back into running can be the difference between a safe and enjoyable return to the sport or pain and injury.
Returning to running will differ based on how long it’s been since you’ve run and why you’ve taken a break. For example, you’ll want to take things more slowly if you haven’t run for 2 months instead of 2 weeks. Or if you stopped running due to injury rather than simply being too busy with other things going on in your life.
Base your return to running on how long of a break you took:
- Short break (up to 2 weeks): It hasn’t been too long since you’ve run but take the first few runs easy. Run at a slower pace until you’re back in the groove. Don’t focus on pace right away or jump right back into a training plan until your body has had some time to re-adapt to the demands being placed on it.
- Moderate break (up to 1 month): Don’t expect to pick up right where you left off. Whether you took a break after the end of race season or are returning from injury, take it short and slow. Just as with a new runner, you need to slowly add time or distance as your body feels ready. It’s also a good idea to spend the time you would usually be running with some cross-training to increase strength and stamina.
- Long break (more than 1 month): Treat your return to running as a new beginning. And follow the rules and training tips recommended for beginner runners. Start at a pace you feel comfortable with and run for as long or as far as you feel you can handle. Then gradually ramp up your miles and your pace slowly, increasing by no more than 10 percent in total weekly mileage.
Need something to get you going again? Here are 6 tips that can help:
Follow a training schedule. If you’ve been on a break for a while, follow a beginner running schedule to ease you back into a routine. Or at least choose a training schedule that’s less aggressive than what you used to follow.
Join a running group. Or find a running partner to help get you excited about running again.
Find motivation. Sign up for a short race. Buy yourself some new running gear. Give yourself a reward for hitting a milestone. Motivation can go a long way towards helping you get back to your running best.
Cross-train. This will help you build strength and endurance and may reduce your risk of injury.
Don’t do too much too soon. It may feel good to return to running and that may spur you to increase mileage too quickly. But you risk injury if you do so. Track your mileage and don’t increase overall mileage by more than 10 percent per week.
Don’t get discouraged. If you find yourself frustrated because you’re not running at the same level as before, remind yourself that it’s safer and more enjoyable to get where you want to go gradually. That’s way better than pushing yourself too hard and risking injury.