Have you ever started back up running after a break lasting months or even longer? Have you ever thought it was harder than you expected to get back after it? What is it that makes an activity that used to be easy seem so difficult? I know a lot of us have been there- whether it was because of injury or the busyness of life getting in the way of our running. Sometimes after a break in it is not as fun or as easy as we might have expected to return to running. The real question is what can we do about it when we feel stuck and we want to get going again?
I think the first thing we can do is to think about why we stopped running in the first place. If, for instance, we sprained an ankle- then one of our first questions when we begin our return to running is about whether or not our previous injury has healed or not. Did we go to a doctor? A physical therapist? If so, were we a good patient? Did we do our homework? Or did we just “stay off it” for a while and pause our running? I think it is important to consider these types of things first so that we can adjust our expectations on how fast we will be able to return.
The second thing I would do is put your runs on your calendar/ schedule. I don’t know about you but I often don’t notice I have committed to too many things, or just things I am not ready for in general until I write them down. There is something about the act of writing them down and seeing all my planned runs in one place that can sometimes make me immediately change my mind and scale it back or ramp it up depending on how I am feeling. While it is always a good idea to listen to your body and be willing to change your plan I honestly believe it is still better to have a plan in the first place that you may end up changing.
The third thing I would do is sign up for a reasonable race that is a reasonable distance in the future from where you are at right now. It is really hard to make a plan if you do not have a goal and signing up for a running race is a concrete goal that can allow you to make a plan. I personally also find it motivating in a different way to wake up and realize that that race I signed up for is approaching whether or not I take my training seriously or not. It tends to get me out the door with less internal resistance when I am not super excited about how unpleasant the “getting back in shape” phase of coming back to running can be at times. Also, I really appreciate the fun community aspect of running races and so I genuinely look forward to them even if I have no expectation of “being fast” or “doing well” (which are all tricky loaded phrases for all of us at times).
So if you find yourself coming back to running after a break don’t be surprised if it seems a little harder to get out of bed or off the couch than you remember. Be kind to yourself and listen to your body. I always recommend making a plan but it is really important to not be a slave to that plan. It will take as long or as short as it takes. Don’t worry. Take it slow. An object at rest tends to stay at rest- but it doesn’t have to stay at rest forever. You got this. Happy running my friends.