As someone whose preferred exercise modality is sweating it out on a treadmill, I can attest that getting back into running after taking a long hiatus is exceptionally difficult. Whenever I try and get my legs moving again, I feel like the Tin Man, majorly in need of some muscle fluidity.
It's not like I can simply move on to an exercise bike or elliptical—it's not the same. My heart wants what it wants, despite my legs not cooperating. To figure out the best ways in order to get my body up and running again (literally), I chatted with a trainer for some pro intel.
Keep reading for 6 key tips on how to get back into running, according to a trainer.
1. Ensure you have a doctor’s clearance and start slow
If you haven't run in a long time, you have a higher chance of getting injured when starting up again—so check with your doc. "When jumping back into running after a long hiatus, be it for injury, travel, work, etc., you want to be sure you have full doctor’s clearance as your initial starting place," says Karli Alvino, instructor at Mile High Run Club and leader of the studio's new Desk to 5K program. "From there, you should begin slowly." Even if you're used to an 8-minute-mile pace, for example, don't attempt flyin' at that speed right away—Alvino recommends implementing a walk-slash-run method and light mileage over your first few weeks into regaining your running fitness.
2. Recognize and respect where you are
It's easy to fall into the mind trap that if you could previously sprint on an incline like it was NBD, you can always do the same. It's equally a thing where you can get caught up looking at fitness influencers on Insta that constantly share their running times—but Alvino says it's key to recognize where you are in your journey. "This tip ties into you sticking to a few very light mileage weeks as you resume your recreational running," she says. "You've most likely lost your running endurance after a long break, as well as some strength in key muscle areas that support your new constant sagittal plane motion. So to help ensure a safe jump back into running, you need to understand your body and proceed accordingly."
3. Hire a coach or begin to follow a structured running plan
If you're like me, no matter how hard you may try to push yourself in a workout, ya just take it (somewhat) easy on yourself—at least, compared to when you're trained or instructed in a class. "Ordinarily, there's a big difference in your training habits when you're held accountable by a coach versus trying to execute daily or weekly workouts on your own," says Alvino. "This accountability and structure can also come in the form of a personalized running plan that is tailored to your wants, needs, and demands per your daily life." So hit up a trainer or look online for training strategies that match up with your goals.
4. Don't ignore the rest of your body
As you know, there's much more to running than your legs. To execute the forward motion, you're using your core, your arms, and other parts of your body to help support you as you move—which is why it's important to also strength train these other areas. Think of it as working your foundation. "Whether or not you kept up with your strength training and/or cross training during your hiatus from running will start to be apparent after a few weeks of implementing your new running patterns," says Alvino. "For example, you may begin to feel slight injuries popping up, and this negative side effect might be able to be avoided if you stay consistent in your total body strength training."
5. Join a run club
When I'm going for a run, I tend to mimic those who are running around me—it's as if by simply watching others run, I can somehow glean their endurance just by proximity. That's why run clubs and having a running buddy are so popular—it's more fun (not to mention inspiring) to run as a pack. "If you feel like you are struggling a bit to stay motivated on your own, joining a running club or group can be an awesome way to find camaraderie with people who have like-minded goals and interests," says Alvino.
6. Register for a race
Just like with your career, it helps your running game if you're working towards a goal. "If you're a person who needs a concrete goal to work towards, this is a perfect idea for you," says Alvino. "Pick a short distance endurance running race to commit to and work specifically towards achieving that goal." Her advice? Start by signing up for a 5K that's about 8 weeks away, which is a sweet spot for how long it'll take you to train for one. You could also do some research online for race training plans and follow them on your own. You'll be back on your game in no time.
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