If you are somebody who used to love running but has taken a break from it, you might be longing to get back to it – but not quite sure where to start. Running makes you feel great, and it also has significant health benefits, but if you’ve stopped for a while, you might feel stuck and unsure about where to begin.
Many people who try to return to running find it very challenging, and often give up again, so to try and make it easier, we’ve collected up some top tips to get you back into the groove and bring back the thing that you love.
Tip 1: Be Realistic
No matter how good at running you were when you stopped, you are not going to be as good when you go back to it. How much you will have lost depends on how long you have stopped running, but it is not a good idea to plunge back into your old routine straight off the bat.
You should draw up a completely new schedule, and make it easy for yourself. If you start off with any unrealistic expectations, you’re just likely to get frustrated and feel angry, which will not make it easy to keep running.
Tip 2: Listen To Your Body
Again, don’t use your past experience as a judge for your new experience. Just because you could run ten miles before doesn’t mean you should ignore signs that it is too much for you now.
Pay attention to how you feel and use this as your guide. Do not try to push through pain and discomfort; you run the risk of injuring yourself, and could end your running for months if you do.
Many runners stop running due to injury. If that is the case for you, this tip is particularly important to pay attention to. Seek advice from a doctor or a physiotherapist and don’t risk further damage to your body.
Tip 3: Find A Motivator
There are a number of reasons that people stop running for a while, and loss of motivation may not be the culprit – but even if it isn’t, you will need the motivation to get back into running. Find your drive before you start, or you will burn out fast.
Whether you are motivated by fitness, a love of running, or something else, make sure you establish your drive before you start lacing your running shoes.
Tip 4: Set New Goals
Ditch the old goals. They are meaningless now. Whatever interrupted your running is likely to have shifted some of your priorities and targets, so find new things to aim for. You might decide to run for charity, or for fitness, or for the sheer joy of it, but make yourself new targets and enjoy the challenge of reaching them.
Tip 5: Find New Routes
Look for new places to run. If you feel bad about having given up running before (whatever the reason), this can be a good way to change your attitude and make running a pleasure, rather than a comparison with what you used to do.
Tip 6: Make It A Social Activity
Many people find that running alone becomes boring, especially if they can only run the same routes over and over again. You need to find ways to make running more interesting, and turning it into a social occasion can help.
See if you can find a friend who is enthusiastic about joining you on your runs, or consider joining a running group. This might help to make running more fun, particularly if you gave up as a result of boredom last time.
Tip 7: Make It Interesting
You can make runs more interesting by changing the routes if possible, but there are also other techniques that you can apply. For example, try to find a podcast or audiobook that you love, and then only listen to this when you are running.
This can be a great way to make yourself look forward to runs, and can also make it easier to run for a set period of time (e.g. an episode of the podcast). It keeps running fresh and gives it a little more “purpose” for some people.
Music is another good option; try to regularly change your playlist so that it stays new.
Tip 8: Don’t Compare
The only value in comparing your current achievements with your past achievements is if you are thinking about goals you want to set. Perhaps you would like to reach a similar target to last time. This can be a useful motivator but is the only use you’ll get from thinking about your old routines and achievements.
Otherwise, avoid making comparisons between “now” and “then.” It can be draining and might stop you from ever reaching the “then” you long for. Focus on your current situation and how you can improve, not how much you have lost.
Tip 9: Get New Gear
You might find that some new shoes and/or sportswear help you get back into the running groove. While many people are rightly turning away from consumerism as a means to happiness, it’s also true that refreshing your wardrobe and looks can help give you energy and motivation.
You don’t have to get rid of your old gear if it still fits and feels good, but buy yourself one or two new pieces, particularly shoes. Having several pairs of running shoes is a good idea anyway as it means your feet will be supported in different ways, reducing the chance of injury.
Get a few new little pieces, and make your running feel like a new sport again.
Tip 10: Go Back To Basics
Just because you have been a runner before doesn’t mean you can forget about things like hydration, plenty of sleep, a balanced diet, and deep breathing.
Refresh yourself on the basics of good running practices, such as posture, walking and running breaks, and breathing techniques.
If you used to keep a log of your running, you might find it useful to glance back over this and see what sorts of things you struggled with last time. These may or may not be the same, but it is worth checking.
Tip 11: Vary Your Exercises
You may have stopped running for any reason, but boredom and injury are two particularly common ones, and both can be pre-empted by taking this approach this time. Do not just run; choose lots of exercises and work out in different ways.
You might love running more than any other sport, but you should still try and do other things. Use complementary sports such as Pilates or yoga to ensure you are stretching your muscles and getting rid of any tightness or pain.
You could take up a gym membership or play a sport with a friend, or start swimming. These are all good ways to spread out the stress on your muscles and keep you engaged and interested in the exercise. They may even make running more satisfying and will boost your overall fitness levels, making you a better runner.
Tip 12: Focus On Habits
Remember that it is more important to run consistently than to run a huge amount. Set your schedule so that you don’t end up taking long, unplanned breaks from running. You do not need to run every day (it is better not to), but you should have days that you plan to run on and stick to those days.
Use other habit-building techniques such as little rewards, regular run times, and good organization to try and help the habit stick. Don’t be discouraged if it does not do so immediately; habits take a long time to form.
Tip 13: Ease Into It
Many returning runners try to start off somewhere around where they left off, not remembering that even a short break makes a big difference to fitness levels. You do not want to do this – you risk injuring yourself. Even just a week away from running will mean that you should reduce your expectations a bit.
If you have been away from running for a few months, you are best simply starting from scratch. That may feel disheartening, but remember that many athletes have fluctuating relationships with their sports, and that is not a problem. Even trying to get back to it is admirable, so try not to feel disappointed in yourself.
Set up an achievable schedule and err on the side of too easy, rather than too hard, at least until you are back into the rhythm of running regularly. It is better to set easy goals that you can feel good about achieving than the opposite!
Related: How Often Should New Runners Run?
Bonus Tip: Hire a running coach
Most experienced running coaches can get you ramped up quickly and are available in-person or now virtually during the week if you have questions. A good running coach will start you off with a thorough questionnaire and assessment to determine where you currently are. If they don’t offer a thorough questionnaire and physical assessment – run in the opposite direction – quickly!
Getting back into running after a break can be challenging both physically and psychologically. Your body isn’t anywhere near as fit as your mind may feel it should be, and it can make all your previous hard work feel wasted.
Remember that it’s okay to step away from a sport for a while, and there’s no reason to be disappointed in your current condition. You will get better!
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