Sometimes we have to quit running for one reason or another and getting back into running after an extended break due to injury, illness, or just life can be both challenging and discouraging. Use these tips for running after a break from an Aspen Running Coach to help you get started again…
Running after a Break from an Aspen Running Coach
The average runner can become 100% detrained in about twelve weeks. So you can see, it does not take long until you find yourself at square one and starting over. If you are a new runner, the impacts of taking unplanned time off can be even more so.
From personal observation and from over 20 years of running, it seems to me that it takes about two weeks of running to make up for one week lost to get back to the previous level of fitness before the break began.
Example, if I caught a cold and that kept me from running for two weeks solid, I could expect it to take four weeks after starting again to be back to where I left off.
For those who are coming back from an extended break from running, or just getting started, here are some rules, guidelines, and tips these tips for running after a break from an Aspen Running Coach to consider when starting running again.
Tips For Running after a Break from an Aspen Running Coach
- If you had to stop running because of an injury make sure you are healed and ready to run again. If you cannot walk without pain or the without aggravating the injury then it is best to keep taking time off. When you can walk without pain then try to run. If you cannot walk without pain or discomfort, the chances are you cannot run without pain or discomfort. Now is not the time to be a hero and push it thus potentially setting you back even further.
- Walking is good if you are injured and can walk pain free but cannot run pain free. Several years ago, I was injured in a marathon in mid March and could not run more than three miles at a time without my knee completely giving me fits. However, I could walk pain free, so that is what I did every day. Instead of running the miles for my workouts, I walked, and after seven weeks when I could run again I felt pretty good and estimated that through those seven weeks of just walking that I was able to keep at least 80% of my fitness.
- Be realistic. If you dropped a sub forty minute 10K last summer but have taken a few months off since, do not expect if by magic to be able to do duplicate that effort, speed, and pace from the get go. Set realistic goals for yourself when you are starting back into a running or training regiment.
- Be patient. This goes along with being realistic. Do not beat yourself up for being slower than you were or if you are not able to run as far as you were previously. It takes time to build a fitness base. Respect that.
- Be kind to yourself. This both follows up and includes both being realistic and being patient. Again, do not beat yourself up but rather be glad that you can run (again) and for wherever you may fall on the fitness scale when you are starting over.
- Do not try to do too much too soon. Do not try to log a heaping ton of miles your first week back after an extended break. That is just inviting an overuse injury. The same goes for intensity. Start slow, warm up slowly, and allow yourself to time to cool off too. This will also prevent burnout and the need for taking more time off.
- Focus on staying within your aerobic zone when first starting over. Dr. Phil Mafetone wrote the book, literally, on heart rate based training and how to use that to stay healthy. When starting over it is best to stay in zone-two to rebuild the aerobic engine and base fitness. “Nobody ever gets injured in their aerobic zone.”
- Observe the rest day and keep it holy. You only become stronger after stressing the body and allowing it to adapt to that stress, and that only happens when you are resting. Make sure you get lots of sleep.
- Be aware of any over training symptoms and adjust accordingly. Look out for any unexplained depressed mood, inability to sleep, elevated resting heart rate and loss of appetite. If you feel like you were making progress and then suddenly feel as if you are going in the opposite direction – take an unplanned day or two off to unload the accumulated fatigue. If you keep running, the only thing you will end up doing is running yourself into the ground.
- Even though we might like to think we could be, 99.9% of runners are not paid to run; it is not a job that puts food on the table and pays the rent. Keep this in perspective if you become frustrated. This is what you do for fun and enjoyment, so don’t forget that. If the fun goes out of running it is a sign that something is amiss. Pay attention to that.
- Running can be a cruel sport in the sense that what we love – running – usually causes our injuries and the only way to get over those injuries is to refrain from doing what we love. However, running should be about health and wellness and not just about medals and PR’s. Don’t forget; never go to the start line injured. Being tired is okay, and maybe even a little under trained is okay, but starting a race injured is just asking for problems that could result in more time off.
- Assuming there are no injuries or other outstanding issues, consistency is the key. Stick to your training plan and stick to your rest days. Don’t try to get creative switching runs and days around if you don’t understand the impact it could have. Just try to have one good training day at a time, one good training week at a time and after you string a few good weeks together, that is when you are doing something and getting ahead.
As a runner, and as an Aspen Running coach, and after more then twenty years of running, these are the 12 things that I always consider after a break or even during a breakdown in training. When working with athletes I can usually narrow a problem down to one of the items above unless there are other issues such as nutrition, hydration, or just a lot of life stress. Follow these guidelines and you should have a fun and healthy experience in running and training be it for a 5K, a Marathon, or any other distances.
Hopefully these tips for running after a break from an Aspen Running Coach will to help you get started again if you need them. Of course, always feel free to reach out via email or comment for any specific questions that I can help with!
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Photo By Andy Wooten April 2013