Curious about how to start running again after time off? Then you’ve come to the right place.
Going back to running after two months off, or longer is easier said than done. ALL runners will a portion of their conditioning and fitness the longer they stay away from logging the miles.
The answer is to how to start running again after a long break is not black or white, but with my help today, you’ll have the exact tools you need to get back into running after months (even years) on the couch.
let’s get started.
How To Start Running Again After A long Break
Regardless of what stopped you from running, getting back into it from a an extended hiatus is no walk in the park, I daresay. But fret no more. Here’s how to get back into running after taking time off.
Start Small After a Long Break
Adopt a beginner’s mind.
After a long break from running—whether it’s due to injury, illness, life, whatever—expect some roadblocks on your way back to the running field.
In fact, expect to lose a significant portion of your stamina.
That’s why you will need to start on the right foot by going small.
To be safe, do just a little, and then progress slowly and gradually back to your former levels.
For example, if you are used to running a 10-miler without breaking a sweat, then run 3 to 5 miles at a slow and controlled pace.
You get the picture .
Commit to a 15 to 20-minute short runs, three times for one week.
Sure, you may want to do more, but just stick to 20-minute run sessions.
After three or four weeks of regular training, aim to increase your workload and running mileage.
Start with Where You’re At
Whether you have taken an extended layoff from running because of a busy life, lack of motivation, or severe injury, getting back to running can be quite challenging.
So, to ensure a smooth transition, start where you are.
Do not just head out the door and run a 5K—that’s how people get injured and discouraged.
Even if you’ve been cross training—cycling, swimming, weightlifting, or doing other cross training exercises—to maintain your cardiovascular endurance, remember that running is a high impact sport.
In fact, it can take up to weeks, even months, for your muscles, bones, tendons, and ligaments to grow strong enough to handle running again.
Here’s how to start running again.
Begin with two to three short easy “sessions” per week so that you’re “training” every other day.
Once your first session is over, ask yourself the following:
- Was it hard?
- Were you breathing easily and effortlessly?
- Did you feel any lingering pain?
- Did it hurt?
- Did you walk during the session?
Additional resource – How to start running with your dog
Choose One Goal To start Running Again
In my personal life, whenever I fell off the exercise wagon, it’s usually because I had too much going on in my life.
I was trying to do too much, squeezing everything in, with no intense focus.
The key to success in life is to keep your focus as much as possible on ONE thing.
Then, maintain that focus for as long as needed for the objective to be met.
This is easier said than done.
Speaking to you as an overachiever—a common trait among most runners—this is really hard.
For some people, focusing on one goal may seem counter-intuitive, but in my experience, it will pay off eventually.
Sit down and come up with the ONE goal you want to achieve.
Do you want to run a 5K under 30 minutes, or shoot for a sub 3-hour marathon?
Just make it accurate.
Write down your ONE goal, and keep it visible.
Your work desk is a good place, so is the living room.
Here’s the full guide setting fitness goals.
Rebuild Your Endurance—The Retraining Phase
As for how much conditioning you lost, there isn’t a fool-proof formula that will tell you the exact number because everyone is different and responds differently to a training stimulus.
This rate, in general, depends on the length of the break, the reason for the layoff (injury, work, vacation, etc.), and your conditioning level before the break.
Here are the general guidelines on how much maximal aerobic capacity is lost after a given break.
- You lose up to 5 to 7 percent of VO2max after two weeks.
- You lose up to 20 percent of VO2max after two months.
- You lose up to 30 to 50 percent of VO2max after three months.
Still curious? Check the following research papers on deconditioning:
- Learning From Human Responses to Deconditioning Environments:
- Physical fitness and aging: effects of deconditioning
- Exercise and Health-Related Risks of Physical Deconditioning After Spinal Cord Injury
- Does Physical Deconditioning in Chronic Low Back Pain Exist? A Systematic Review
- How fast do you fall out of shape?
The Golden Principle
As a rule of thumb, I advise returning to a running routine in a progressive manner.
If you pick things off from where you left, and do too much too soon, putting too large of a demand on your body, you could seriously hurt yourself.
Additional resource – Here’s your guide to running three miles a day.
The Conversational Pace
During the rebuilding period, stick to a conversational pace throughout your runs.
Also known as the talk test, this is a pace in which you can hold a conversation without panting for breath.
So, for instance, if you can barely recite the pledge of allegiance while running, you’re pushing it too far and too hard.
Rates Of Return To Running After A Break
Here is how to score a safe running comeback.
Running after Less than 10 Days Off
If you start running again after less than ten non-training days, feel free to resume training where you left off, as long as you’re training pain-free.
If you feel tired mid-run, slow it down, or walk to catch up your breath.
Additional Resource – Here’s how to plan a running route.
Running After Two to Three Weeks Off
If you return to running following a three-week break, you’d need to drop your typical pace and mileage.
As a general rule, run about one to two minutes per mile slower than your usual pace.
Moreover, run about half the distance you’re used to before the break to avoid soreness
Running After One to Two Months Break off
I don’t recommend taking things up where you left off following a longer than a month break.
In fact, this where you’ll need to start doing some hard work.
On your first session, alternate between 30 to 60 seconds running intervals and 30-second walks.
Train for a total of 20 to 30 minutes.
Then, over the coming days, gradually increase your running time while taking less for recovery until you can easily run for 30 to 45 minutes.
By the end of the third of the fourth week, you should be fit enough to run for an hour at a non-stop, conversational, pace.
Running after Three Months Break to a Year Off
Getting into running again after a three-month break can be strenuous.
In fact, if it’s been three months to one year since your last run, you may need to start training from scratch.
Think baby steps, and leave your ego at the door.
After such a long layoff, you’ll find that it takes a few weeks—even months—to get comfortable running again, even for no more than three miles.
So, what’s the best approach here?
Before taking up running again, you should be able to walk briskly for 45 to 60 minutes without discomfort or pain—especially if returning from an injury.
That’s why I’d recommend walking first.
This is especially the case if you’ve been a complete couch potato for the last few months.
Walking helps re-establish the exercise habit, reconditions soft tissue (muscles, tendons, ligaments, etc.), improves lung power, etc.
Once you can briskly walk for an hour without trouble, opt for the walk-run method in which you alternate between low-intensity jogging intervals and recovery.
For the full guide to the walk/run method, check my post here.
Then it’s just a matter of time and practice before you’re back to your former running glory.
Identify And Solve Your Running Problems
We have to learn from our mistakes.
Otherwise, we are bound to repeat them, especially if an injury was what derailed you from training in the first place.
Whether it’s runner’s knee, plantar fasciitis, or ITBS, you got to take a proactive approach this time around so that you don’t get derailed again.
Here is the good news
The rebuilding phase is a good time to take a look at any issues you may have experienced in the past while running.
It’s also not the time get lax on your physical therapy and rehab exercises.
In fact, a lot of runners recovering from injury find themselves re-injured because they either ignored proper rehab work or they increased mileage too soon.
So, pay attention to your body and adopt a beginners mind –both mentally and physically.
Keep on the lookout for any red signs, and readjust immediately to get back safely and effortlessly in top running shape.
Also, make sure to have the green light from your doctor to get back to running after a serious injury.
Otherwise, ignoring their advice will only hinder the process and lead to further discouragement.
Ask for guidelines on how much and how frequent you should be running.
They might know better—especially if your doctor has a running background.
Here’s how to motivated while running.
Struggling with motivation?
Reach for a book, fitness magazine or pull up a runners’ blog that motivates you.
I specifically started my blog as means for keeping me inspired and motivated.
Get into the habit of reading about people who love running and getting fit.
They can show you the peaks and valleys of the training process, and you can learn from their mistakes and successes.
Second-hand experience is vital, and it will save you a lot of trial-and-error time.
You can also Google your goals, and read success stories.
You can also join a forum of like-minded and goal oriented people.
Participate in the discussions, leave comments to their posts and contribute with your own posts.
I like to print them out and put them where I can see them on a regular basis—usually alongside my goals.
Here are a few:
- “Strive for progress, not perfection.” -Unknown
- “Running is the greatest metaphor for life because you get out of it what you put into it.” – Oprah Winfrey”
- “You want me to do something… tell me I can’t do it.” – Maya Angelou
- “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” ― Haruki Murakami,
- “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” -Wayne Gretzky
- “Pain is weakness leaving the body.” – Marine Corps
- “Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.” -Mahatma Gandhi
If these don’t do the trick for you, then you can always GOOGLE them.
Commit Publicly To Your Running Return
Share your goals with others and committing publicly that you gonna do whatever it takes to get them done.
Nowadays and thanks to social media networks, like Facebook and Twitter, you can tell everyone you are in contact with about your running and training goals.
You can commit your goals with your family members, friends, co-workers, your blog.
You can also participate in forums of runners with similar visions, and so on.
The possibilities are endless.
When everybody—your family, friends, Facebook contacts, whoever—know about your goals, it’s gonna be really hard for you to back down.
You have leverage on yourself, which is always a good thing in case you needed motivation.
Just the act of going public about it can help you go the extra mile.
Think long term…
You will also need to hold yourself accountable—long term—for your actions.
Don’t just commit once and it’s over, but hold yourself accountable for the long term by providing everyone on your accountability list with regular progress updates every week or so.
That’s how they (and you) will know if you are progressing or lagging behind.
Feedback is essential.
How to start the commitment?
Commit to run three to four times each week for the upcoming four weeks.
Schedule the runs then share your schedule with your social group.
After you cover all bases, do what you have to do to carry your plan into fruition.
Change up your Running Routine
Running gets boring when you do the same routine over and over again.
In fact, this is one of the most profound running lessons I have ever learned.
One of the fastest ways to lose your enthusiasm for your regular running program is the classic mistake of sticking with the same running routine, day in and day out.
After a certain time of doing the same runs over and over again, your body will adapt to the workload and hit a plateau.
So what’s the trick here?
You have to stay vigilant with your running program.
Learn how to spot the signs that it’s time to shake-up your running routine so you can stay consistent with it.
Look for new running routes, incorporate more running workouts—intervals, Fartleks, tempo, long, and recovery runs—into your training program.
You can also change your running music playlist, your shoes and other running gear, etc.
And make sure to do other workout routines too.
Hit the weight room regularly or add a regular Yoga routine to your cross-training program.
I think that the yoga mat is the best compliment to a runners road work.
They say that you become the people you surround yourself with.
I touched lightly on the subject of peer pressure as means for keeping motivated, but there is still more to cover about the importance of the social group you surround yourself with.
For introvert runners, like me, this is a hard one to swallow.
But in case you have usually ran alone in the past—especially if your running has stalled— try to boost your motivation by hitting the pavement with other runners.
Running with a partner is awesome.
A running buddy will also hold you (and hold each other) accountable for your actions.
You are less likely to pull out if you knew your training buddy is waiting for you.
Again, the peer pressure tool working to your advantage.
If you spend time with other runners, it will rub off eventually.
Beliefs are contagious, and it’s better to be infected with the empowering beliefs than limiting ones.
Therefore, do the bulk of your running with a partner and try to hang out with runners like you.
That’s how you will instill discipline for the long term.
In case you don’t have a running partner yet, then ask around and approach local runners at your local running club.
Check your local health clubs to see when they offer group runs.
Ask your co-workers, ask your Facebook contacts, ask everyone.
In fact, you are more likely to get approached by someone if you reach enough people with your public commitment plan.
Just make sure to get your message out there for maximum exposure.
Celebrate your Successes
Just the fact that you are thinking about going back to running again is a cause for celebration, even if you are not capable of running the way you used to.
As a result, reward yourself often during the early stages, and rejoice in everything you do.
So when you are successful with your first week, do something nice for yourself.
There are so many things you can do to make yourself feel good.
You can go get a manicure, see a new movie (The new Avengers movie is out, and I can’t wait to go see it), or go play football or a baseball game, get new clothes, etc.
Do whatever makes you happy.
New to Running? Start Here…
If you’re serious about running, getting fit, and staying injury free, then make sure to download my Runners Blueprint Guide!
Inside this guide, you’ll learn how to start running and lose weight weight the easy and painless way. This is, in fact, your ultimate manifesto to becoming a faster and a stronger runner. And you want that, don’t you?
Click HERE to check out my Runners Blueprint System today!
Don’t miss out! My awesome running plan is just one click away.
So what are you waiting for?
Now it’s the time to start running again since you have the exact tools you need.
And please be careful out there.
Thank you for reading my blog post.
Please feel free to leave your comments and questions below