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How to start running (again)

make your running comeback: how to start running again after a break

I’m a few weeks away from having my baby, and am extremely fortunate to still be running. But my walking breaks are getting longer and happening more often, so I have a feeling my pregnancy running career is coming to an end pretty soon.

Even if I’m able to run right up until the big day, I’ll still need to take a few weeks – or months! – off from running to completely recover from childbirth.

The thought of starting to run again after many zero mileage weeks is intimidating. However, a safe and healthy running comeback is possible whether you’re returning after having a baby, being injured, getting sick, or just being swamped with life.

They key is to not do too much, too soon. You may be eager to start doing 4- and 5-milers, but it’s better for your body in the long run (ha!) if you slowly ease into running.

Here are some things to keep in mind when running again after a hiatus:

  • Don’t hit the ground running at first. If you haven’t been active at all, walk for a few weeks – or find other ways to cross-train — first to build up your fitness.
  • Slowly add in running intervals. Once you feel ready, start adding running intervals to your walks. Don’t time or plan for them, though, just do them when you feel the urge. In time, your running intervals will get longer.
  • Don’t follow a training plan … yet. It can be tempting to jump back into training, but resist the urge until you’re able to run a few miles comfortably at a time. Trying to follow a training plan when you’re coming back from a long break may only leave you feeling frustrated and discouraged.
  • Ignore the clock. Yes, you’re going to be slower at first. In some cases, much slower. Keep reminding yourself you’ll more than likely be able to hit your old paces eventually – it will just take some time.
  • Run only every other day. It may seem silly to take so many rest days when you’re only running a few miles at a time, but taking enough time to recover as you’re getting back in shape is crucial for injury prevention.
  • Track your mileage. Likewise, be careful not to increase your mileage too drastically. Going from running 10 miles one week to 20 miles the next will only set you up for injury.
  • Anticipate setbacks. Keep in mind that running is hard! If it was easy, everyone would do it. After I had my son, I was back to running 5-milers after a couple of months. Then one day, I literally could not complete a 3-mile loop without taking a walk break every few minutes. I was embarrassed and frustrated until I remembered bad runs happen to the best of us. Acknowledge it, and move on – don’t let setbacks dishearten you.

Written by Jen Matz.

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