How to Start Running Again: Bounce Back to Training After a Break

A woman is running in New York City

It’s something that almost every runner has experienced: having to take time off from running due to injury, lack of motivation, pregnancy or sickness is very common. It is important for you to know how to bounce back into your training (the safe way!) after a longish break. Read my advice on how to come back stronger after time off from what we love the most: running.

A woman is running in the city

What happens to your body while taking time off?

It doesn’t matter if the reasons for your running break were because you had no choice (sickness, injury, fatigue, etc.) or because you have just become a bit lazy – the way our body reacts to it is the same. Your blood volume and lactate threshold will eventually decrease after some time off. The good thing is that the longer you’ve been training before the break, the faster your body will bounce back to its routine. Beginners will experience a much harder time going back to training than people who have been running for years.

Back to running after a break

Interesting fact: our body remembers its passion. As soon as you start running again, everything will feel very familiar. Muscle memory is a pretty amazing feature of our body. Psychologically, it is also easier for us to go back to something familiar – something we have done before – instead of starting a new sport activity for the first time. You will see that starting running after a longish break will feel much better than expected.

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Mindset over everything

When I had to take a break from running because of a stress fracture years ago, I was devastated at first. I was training for my very first half marathon and out of the blue, I needed to stop running for several weeks! What? If you ever come to a point in your “running career” like that: stay positive. There is something good in every situation even when it doesn’t seem reasonable to us at first. So I kept telling myself that I will be able to start training again in 4 weeks time and that it could be a lot worse. Don’t make the mistake of ordering pizza every night and becoming a couch potato. Help your body to heal and recover instead. Positive vibes only.

Use the time for things you haven’t had time for in the past. This could be the first weeks with your newborn child or exploring new cross-training activities like biking or swimming. Right now, it shouldn’t matter why you are not able to run. Don’t focus on that. Use the chance and grow with the situation. I have learned from my first running break that I have to listen to my body and take time off to recover and rest. The right mindset is the key!

Tips on how to go back to training

During your break from running, muscle loss will occur. This is normal and nothing to freak out about because you will get back the gains super quickly when you start working out again. But, no matter how eager you are, don’t forget the importance of taking it slow when getting back to training – no matter how long you’ve been running.

Here you will find a short overview of the training intensity depending on your time you had to take off:

This table shows you that shorter breaks won’t mess up your training very much at all. It’s actually easy to go back to your regular running mileage right away. Longer breaks, especially due to injuries or illness, will require much slower steps back to normality as a runner. In the case of injury or illness, you’ll know you’re ready to run again only if you are able to walk for 45 minutes without any breaks or pain. Shorter, lighter runs every other day are the best bet right now. Your body needs to adjust to the training so follow the 10% rule here. Increase your mileage about 10% every week until you are back on track before you took the break. As always, remember to schedule in your rest days.

When the motivation got lost along the way

Have you been less active the past weeks or even months? Did the motivation get lost along the way? How about signing up for a 5K race so there is something you are actually training for? It gives your training a purpose and helps with daily motivation. My personal advice: train with friends or join a running group. Running with a group is so much fun and great for accountability. And last but not least, never forget that failure happens and it does happen for a reason. It’s part of your journey and will only make you stronger.

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Sabrina Wieser Sabrina works as a running coach in NYC and is the Runtastic Ambassador for the US. "runningbrina" has combined her running training with active bodybuilding for the past two years. View all posts by Sabrina Wieser »

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