Returning to a Running Plan

Tis’ a weird time to be a runner isn’t it? It turns out it really is going to be a whole year without racing. Our favorite family reindeer run is canceled this year too. Sad face. Personally I took the summer to focus on other things like work and growing a new business which went really, really well actually. But now I’m thinking it’s time to get back to it. If I don’t soon then next year the marathon that was the goal for this year might be off the table. Most of the racing runners I know well have been in a similar boat to me too. That is running some, when they feel like it but no where as much as usual and feeling guilty about it. So how do you get back to a training plan after a break? We’ll get into that generally and after each section we’ll adapt that to how you might do that in 2020 or even 2021.

Check out my training plans here!

There’s just something about working a plan right?

Even if you’re not working a training plan right now but you have #goals in the near future that looming structure on the horizon keeps you running regularly. It sort of takes the choice out of the matter which isn’t always a bad thing. It also keeps us plugged into the greater running community even if that’s just buying more socks. This year though we can’t look forward to anything on the horizon so if you’re struggling give yourself a break. Know that when things do return to normal you will too.

First thing first, build a base

I’f you’ve been a lapsed runner for a while the first step is to build a base and be kind to yourself. A good place to start with that is to get back to running two or ideally three days a week. You could go back and restart a couch to 5k program if you want but even after a months long break it’s probably not necessary. Just keep the principals of that program in mind as you return.

Start with the lowest distance you used to cover on the days where you just had barely enough time to get out there. For me that’s about 4k but 3k is also good too. Let go of pace completely and just take it easy. If you want to walk for a bit then walk for a bit. During this stage you’re just getting back into the habit of getting out there on the regular and taking it as easy as possible on you body. As such its best not to run on back to back days. Keep up like this for about 3 weeks and if you feel like going a little bit faster or a bit further some runs go for it. It goes without saying during this phase (and all the phases) make sure not to break the 10% weekly milage rule any week. You’re supposed to be taking it easy after all!

In 2020 that could be all you really need to do to get back into running on the regular. Just get out there on non-consecutive days a few times a week and go as far and as fast as you want. If that’s all you do for now you will go further and faster with a significant running history faster than you’d think. If you decide to amp it up at some point for a miraculously scheduled race or a virtual race you can. We all know starting at 3 5k’s a week is a whole lot different than starting from nothing! 


Morph your base into the training realm

Once that phase is no sweat and you want to start challenging yourself add one run a week so that you are running on back to back days once a week. Or you could equally just move one of your three runs so that they are on consecutive days. One of the hardest things do manage in a training plan is running when you’re already tiered or sore. Remember though we’re re-introducing the idea of recovery runs here so make that day after run shorter, slower and the easiest of the week. Take it up a notch by doing some short burst of speed work on that first of the back to back runs.

The next step is to re-introduce some form of a long run (probably on the weekend) to your base building phase. Of course we’re still not breaking that 10% rule right? So in this phase you might be dialing back slightly the distance of some other runs in the week to keep that true. So now you’re running one faster workout each week, a recovery run the next day and a longer run on the weekend. Maybe with another run (perhaps a shakeout the day before the long one) every week. Sounds a lot like a real training program right? If you are planning on starting a training plan after your base ideally you will hold a milage that has the same frequency as your plan’s first week and with in 10% of the milage for three or more weeks. At a minimum you should get there in the week before your plan starts.

In 2020 doing some speed work, a recovery run and a longer run each week is practically marathon training! If you want just get to a distance with those runs that feels doable and practical for your life going forward for say at least a year. If you really have nothing on the horizon every 6 weeks throw in a half milage week to just recharge and rest your body and repeat the week before. Even if you’re looking forward to a full or an ultra when that’s possible again, whenever that is, at this point there really isn’t a reason to get to 10% less of what you would be doing in week one to train for that. Keep up a milage that makes you feel your best and not tiered or time stressed. Stressing your body in preparation for something that may or may not happen in the foreseeable future just doesn’t make sense right now. That way you can still work on your speed, keep up ALL the good runner habits and let go of all of the stress of working toward a ‘real’ plan. Who doesn’t want that?

What if you want to work a plan right now?

That idea might sound crazy with nothing to train for but there is no reason that you can’t. Most of the races this year have converted to a virtual option. Wanting to support your favorite cause or even your favorite race in difficult times might be reason enough to train and participate. Even if your main reason is just wanting to run more channeling this charitable aspect might help with motivation. In these trying times for runners one of your best bests could be recruiting another runner to join you (possibly virtually) in your goal. Maybe you can train together in person or maybe you can’t but either way there is a lot of motivation in an extra layer of accountability. Returning to a training plan right now might not be your real goal but rather a step on the path to your goals for next year. Usually the short term goal of the race at the end of a plan that keeps you going, we can steal a little bit of that right now by focusing on the big goal next year to help us get going right now.

Returning to a running plan isn’t always as simple as just diving in feet first on day one, at least it shouldn’t be. Some of us this year might be thinking about training for no race at all just because we miss it so much. I know that no matter how our running is going (or not) right now we’re all at least dreaming of the day we’ll have a reason to train again. In the meantime we can all start taking the steps or at least start thinking about. How is your running going this year? Are you feeling less motivated too? Asking for a friend. Leave it in the comments below!

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