Be it due to illness, injury, major life changes or simply because you didn’t feel up for it, at some point in life, you might take a break from running. Returning to running after a long break is not easy. When you lace up your shoes the second time over, you could feel your body is not reacting the way it used to.
Worried if you will be able to run the same way again?
Fret not, as experts say, it is easier for erstwhile runners to revisit the sport, thanks to what is called the ‘muscle memory’.
When we exercise or do physical activities like running that strengthens the muscle, ‘little protein factories’ or DNA-containing nuclei are generated in them. According to a study led by Kristian Gundersen, professor of physiology at the University of Oslo, such nuclei stick around even if you quit the physical activity. This forms a kind of muscle memory that allows the muscle to bounce back quickly when retrained.
So, once a runner, always a runner! Here are five tips that should get you back to your running best in quick time:
Take It Slow
It might be frustrating to not be able to perform as well as before, but remember that trying to run for too long on your first day of training is only going to end up in injuries and pain.
Your new running plan must be based on five things:
- How long you stayed away from running
- Your fitness level when you stopped running
- If you were injured, the severity of the injury
- How many years of running experience you have
- Whether you practiced any kind of physical activity during your break from running
Running coach DeeAnn Dougherty suggests that runners should be able to walk pain-free for 30 minutes continuously before they start running after a break.
If you have taken a break of two weeks, Dougherty suggests starting back trying to match up to 50 per cent of your previous weekly mileage. The longer the break, the lower the percentage. If you have been out of touch for more than six to eight weeks, then start with a walk or a jog.
Here’s a sample starting plan you can follow:
- Start with a 10-minute walk to warm up
- Move on to alternating between 100m jogs and 100m walks for the next four laps
- End with a 10-minute walk to cool down
- You can keep adding one lap every day for up to eight laps, and then gradually increase the running and decrease the walking. The idea is to build endurance before you can pick up speed and intensity.
Keep it slow and stay away from hills until you are back to running at least 75 to 80 per cent of your previous mileage.
Work Towards A Running Goal
It may help if returning runners train for a specific goal like running a half-marathon or any other race. With a deadline and/or an event in mind, it will be easier to get yourself on track.
Even if you do not plan to participate in a running event, following an 8-week or 10-week beginner’s training plan for running a 5K would be a good starting point.
Solve Your Running Problems
Retraining is the best time to take a look at any problems you may have experienced in the past while running. Be it plantar fasciitis, shin splints or runner’s knee, find a solution to it this time around so that you don’t fall off track because of such problems again. Listen to your body’s signs and act on them immediately to get back in top running shape.
Cross-training is the best option available for runners to prevent injury. But the benefits of cross-training does not end with just that. Runners can cross-train to improve fitness, promote recovery and rehabilitate injuries. It enables you to boost your cardiovascular strength and increase endurance without putting a lot of wear and tear on the body. Supplement your running schedule with a little strength training, flexibility training and endurance cross training.
Include activities like swimming, aqua jogging, cycling, walking, yoga and Pilates into your training.
Don’t Give Up
It can be frustrating when you take time to reach your previous performance levels. You may think of your past running accomplishments and put pressure on yourself to match them. But doing so will only lead to pain and injuries and make it harder for you to recover. Set small goals when you are starting out and your confidence will increase as and when you meet each of them. As you build your endurance, intensity and speed, running will start becoming more fun again.
So, instead of feeling disheartened about the low period, keep running. These small steps will take you a long way in reaching your running goals in the future.
5 Tips To Help You Start Running Again After A Break was originally published in CureJoy on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.