Pretty much all runners have been there at some point: you find yourself out of shape after having taken a much longer break from running than you intended. 

If you experienced burnout from overtraining, were sidelined by an injury, had to give your time to work or other responsibilities, or lost your motivation, the more running time you’ve lost, the more intimidating it can be to feel to get back into it. But whether you’ve taken a few weeks or several months off of running, these tips can help you make a safe and successful comeback.

Start small and work your way up

Just like the old adage states, “you have to walk before you can run.” While you may be able to run right away, starting with 45-minute walks will recondition your muscles, tendons, ligaments, and connective tissues. 

If you don’t have any pain from walking, start introducing short, moderately paced runs with walking breaks in between every other day or a few times a week. As you increase your activity, a good rule of thumb is to only increase your pace and/or mileage 10% or less each week.

Cross-train

While it’s best to avoid running every single day at first, it doesn’t mean you can’t still have physical activity each day. Try adding cycling, swimming, yoga, or weight training to your weekly workout schedule. 

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Cross-training can help you build more strength and flexibility, protect your joints from injury, and keep your workout program fun and interesting.

Add strength training to your workout routine

Strength training can help prevent injuries as well as condition your body to tolerate longer or more frequent runs. Try adding some glute and ab exercises to your home or gym workouts to give you more power and endurance for climbing those hills.

Build a habit and keep a training schedule

A big part of the challenge of getting back into a running routine is creating a consistent routine based on reasonable expectations. “Consistency” is the key word here. 

Focus on creating a schedule and sticking to it before you start worrying about your speed or distance. Start by setting attainable goals for your schedule, for example, three 30-minute runs per week.

Plan a race

Once you’ve eased yourself into a comfortable routine, providing yourself with a fun and attainable goal like a 5k or 10k race can be a great motivator. Register for a race for a cause that you care about or one in a fun or attractive setting. 

Planning to do a race with a friend or family member can also add another level of enjoyment as well as an accountability partner to keep you on track.

Use painkillers with caution

While it might be tempting to use over-the-counter painkillers to combat the soreness you may experience when you start running again, it is best to avoid them as much as possible. 

Pain medications can mask injuries that should be rested in order to heal or cause new issues like gastric pain. If you’re experiencing pain from your new training routine, it’s best to rest, adjust your workouts, or consult a physician.  

Maintain a positive attitude

Dwelling on your pre-break fitness level and stressing about your progress are two common pitfalls that can kill your motivation. Set reasonable goals, focus on your current progress, and celebrate your milestones. Be patient with yourself and focus on experiencing the joy of running.

Whether you’re coming back from a period of no physical activity or are wanting to add running back into your fitness routine, these tips can help set you up for success. 

It can be frustrating and challenging at first, but if you focus on injury prevention, building your strength and endurance, and staying positive, you might just find yourself running faster, longer, or enjoying it more than ever before.