How to Return to Running After Taking a Break

Lara Rosenbaum
by Lara Rosenbaum
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How to Return to Running After Taking a Break

John Lennon said life is what happens when you’re busy making plans and the same can sometimes be said for your runs. If you’re currently training for a race — or any goal, whether it’s weight loss, general fitness or your next PR — chances are you might skip some of your runs. Here’s what to consider — based on how much time you’ve missed — to help you navigate back to your running game plan.

YOU MISSED 1–3 TRAINING DAYS

Sometimes a big project or a small cold can sideline your efforts. Most training plans build mileage each week (or follow the 10% rule), especially when it comes to long runs, so whether or not you jump back in depends on your fitness level and what you missed. “Look back on runs you did and note how you felt,” suggests Jesse Riley, DC, a Denver, Colorado-based sports medicine specialist and marathon runner. “If you felt good, you’re in good shape. And if you missed your long run, you may be able to add the additional mileage to your next week’s runs, to still get that time on your feet.”

“You don’t have to worry too much if you miss a run here or there,” Riley adds. “This especially holds true if you allow yourself enough time (at least several months) to train, so you can automatically build in cushions for things that come up.”

YOU MISSED 1–2 TRAINING WEEKS

This might happen if you’re traveling or if you had something like the flu. “You’ll finish your race, but you may need to reassess your goals, depending on how soon your race is coming up,” Riley says. “You can typically jump back in where you left off, and not where your plan is currently, though it’s safest not to push too much. The body has to adapt to changing muscle fiber types, bone stress reactions and how much it can tolerate in a given time.”

“It also depends on how much mileage your plan has you running, and if that’s new for you,” says Nat Viranond, a San Francisco-based trainer. “If your last long run was 10 miles, and you’re supposed to be at 14 when you return [you missed the 12-mile run], you may need to go back to 10 miles.”

“If you’ve been sick, you’ll need to make sure you are 100% healed, too” Viranond adds. “You may need to ease back into your training more slowly, depending on the severity of your illness.”

YOU MISSED 3+ WEEKS OF TRAINING

If you’re in this group, chances are you’ve experienced an injury and have needed time to heal. With any fitness plan you should follow the guidance of your doctor, and in this case especially, you’d want to work with your healthcare professional to help determine when you can return to exercise, and how best to do it.

“You’ll need to earn your range of motion back after an injury, and then train it in a way that strengthens those tissues and facilitates motor learning,” Viranond says. Such can usually be accomplished with physical therapy.

“Your return to training will also depend on your injury,” Riley says. “If you hurt your shoulder, that may obviously impact your running less than if you had an ankle problem.

“Where you jump back in relates to that, along with your time off,” Riley adds. “You may be able to go back to where you’d left off, but chances are, you may have to go back to where you were last most comfortable, even if that was the beginning. You can then apply the 10% rule to work your way back up. More often than not, running injuries are related to overuse, which is why it’s especially important to give yourself the time you need to properly prepare.”

About the Author

Lara Rosenbaum
Lara Rosenbaum
Lara is a writer, athlete and wellness expert living in Nashville, Tennessee. She has held editorial positions at several magazines, including Women’s Health, where she was the founding fitness editor. Lara is a former elite athlete, traveling the world as a member of the U.S. Freestyle Ski Team, as well as a certified personal trainer and yoga teacher. In her free time she enjoys playing with her dogs, spotting art and strumming her guitar.

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