30 Tips and Tricks for Coming Back to Running After a Break

Spring is coming and that is the perfect time of year to get back into running! I wrote a post not that long ago about what to expect after you come back from a running break. I originally thought that I would put the tips and tricks in there too. But it was getting a bit long so I’ve gone ahead and split it up. Last time we talked about how you’ll feel coming back and not really concrete, step by step tips for getting back into running. So that’s what we’re going to do today. Tips you might find most useful do vary based on the length of your break. So I’ve broken it down by length of break but the tips will generally apply to ever category above yours too. So the tips for 6 weeks off are also applicable if you’ve been off for a whole year. Running breaks happen and having a concrete strategy on how to end them really helps!

Length of break

Less than a month

  • Guess what you really haven’t even had a break. You are virtually as fit as you were when you stopped running. You don’t have to do a lot to get back at it.
  • You may feel like it’s a bit harder or that you’re losing a lot of fitness, Here’s the thing though you’re not. Here’s the science on just how fast we actually lose fitness.
  • While you probably could get right back into it at the level you were before consider reducing weekly milage by up to 30%. Just follow the 10% rule to get back to where you were in the next three weeks.
  • You may not be quite as fast as you were but the difference will be nominal. Give it a week or two to settle back in and then get back to speed work again.
  • Expect your first run or two to feel just a shade or two harder but also to be surprised by just how fast and far you went.
  • Schedule your runs two weeks out to help you get back into ‘runner mode.’
  • Go running now though because the longer you wait the harder it is to get back to it physically AND mentally!

6-8 weeks 

I put this category in specifically because it’s how long you can expect to be out with an injury.

  • You should expect that your speed and endurance might have suffered just a bit. You’ll get it back in less than half the time you were off though with the same training as before.
  • There’s no need to start from scratch with a c25k. Just dial back you milage to whatever your doctor recommends or about 1/2 of what you were doing before. Follow the 10% rule from there.
  • Instead as you return just let go of your expectations for a couple of weeks and run as much and in a way that just feels like fun for you.
  • Ask yourself why the break happened and try to fix that. Either with physio exercises or rearranging your life do some work to return to regular running.
  • You might consider splurging on a special outfit or shoes to get you excited about running again.
  • Remember runners literally take this much time off all the time when they are injured. It’s really no big deal for them and it won’t be for you either.
  • Letting a break this long continue as you wait for the perfect moment to present itself is not necessary and can stretch out your break more. Pick a day and just get back at it.
  • If you are coming back from injury expect that it won’t feel 100% better right away. Your body part may still ache or be a little painful. 
  • If you’ve been out this long not because you’re injured then it’s time to look at your motivation sources and find some new ones. Watching running documentaries always works for me as does just thinking about all the reasons I love it.
  • Getting back to it seems intimidating now but it really isn’t going to feel like you’ve had that much of a break if you just take it easy at first but…
  • If you let the break go one much longer than two months it will be physically harder to get back to it. Don’t let that happen and get back out there now!

Three months to a year

  • If you don’t have a considerable running history before your break and it’s been closer to a year a c25k is not out of the question. No one says you have to start at week one though.
  • Depending on how long it’s been new clothes might be in order. Your body may have changed and so might have your preferences. Let go of that old you and don’t let your old running gear make you feel bad. If you know it will don’t even try it on, go shopping instead!
  • You know what can make running feel stale is an old playlist. Budget some time and some money to revamping your running tunes to motivate yourself out the door. PS what is an alternative to iTunes now that you can’t download new music to your phone? I’d rather not stream my music and keep my data plan lower.
  • Take a long hard think about why you haven’t been running in 90 – 300+ days. Whether it’s being busy, pulled in a new direction or just bad habits you need to make some life changes to make running part of your life again.
  • At this point getting back to it can seem like a huge task. It’s not really but I do get that it feels that way. Get back into the habit by starting walking for exercise instead. That way you’ll make the time, take the effort and make the space in your life for a return to running by starting with just walking. 
  • Think about starting with a running club to get that motivation boost to get back to it.
  • What about finding a running buddy to keep you honest there are even apps, website and even dating sites to help you in your quest.
  • Let go of what you were doing before and start back with a fresh set of expectations.
  • Get out there sooner rather than later because the longer you wait…

Longer than a year

Trust me it will not be quite so hard as it was to start running in the first place. I guess I should say that if you now have a new heath condition to potentially check with your doctor before returning to running.

  • Now is a perfect time to dig into proper running form and fixing yours. The corners may have been rounded out on your running habit by now. So this fresh start is a great time to fix your form.
  • Thinking about and signing up for a race in the future is a great way to keep getting out there and take on a new challenge. Just make sure that you give yourself enough time to actually crush your goals.
  • Making a list of why you want to get back to it, like a really honest list. Maybe you’ve gained weight, your mental health has suffered or you like that image of yourself more, put all that one the list. Then leave the list somewhere you’ll see it when you need to. It helps remind you of the big why you want to get back to running.
  • You may want to do a pre-boost to you fitness before you even think about running again. Walking is a great option but so is hiking, taking the stairs at work for a month or so or doing active family outings on the weekends. Basically find a way to make the time and space to be more active in your life again. It will also help with your confidence when you are ready to run.
  • Build some healthy momentum in your life. Clean up your diet, drink more moderately, hydrate better and sit less. Making positive changes leads to wanting to make more. Soon enough you’ll want to get back to running again.
  • No matter how long you’ve been off it won’t be like starting running for the very first time. Some of that ‘muscle memory’ is still there and you know what to expect at the very least. So capitalize on it and go for your first run in a long time.

My longest break from running was about 4 years during which my lifestyle really devolved, I gained a decent amount of weight (about 15 lbs) and sometimes that happens in life. Towards the end of that period in grad school I knew I had to get back to fitness to get back to any version of my best life. When I did I was so shocked by how easily I returned to the running habit. I mean physically and mentally and how amazing it made me feel so quickly in almost all aspects of my life. I’ve had a couple on month-is long breaks due to injury since then too. Coming back is always easier than you think it will be and makes you feel so much better than you expect! What’s your number one tip for coming back after a running break after a break because we all know they happen! Leave it in the comments.

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