Whether an injury, a growing family, or simply trying another form of exercise, it can take a while to get back into running after a few years.
Perhaps life just got in the way, you took on a new, busy job or suffered a serious injury, whatever the reason the tracks have not moved and you can soon get back to running.
After a few runs, you may even be surprised at how quickly you get into it and how strong your running is, even after all that time away.
In this guide, we will look at the ways to get you back into running after a few years off.
This includes keeping your expectations in check, joining other runners, making running a good habit, and trying cross training.
We will also look at how looking after your body, improving your diet, limiting your mileage, keeping positive, and signing up for a race can be beneficial.
Keep Your Expectations In Check
Before you even head out for a run, try to see where your existing fitness levels are. If you have remained active by riding a bike or playing sport then running should not prove too difficult a task.
Should you have become a regular at the gym in your years off running then your leg muscles should be developed enough to withstand a run but that does not mean all the movement will have kept at the same level.
The remaining consideration is those unused muscles, ligaments, and tendons that you may have taken for granted and it is now time to get them back in motion.
After a spell out, you should be excited to be back out running again. All that fresh air, adrenaline, and motivation may actually be problematic as you should take it easy for those first few runs back and not go too hard, too soon.
Simply racing from the start is likely to get you tired before you truly gauge what your endurance levels are. Pick a comfortable distance, tighten your running shoes, and take it easy.
With so much time off, you can afford to gradually build back your stamina and fitness levels.
You may even want to set yourself a goal of completing a 10k or a half marathon, in which case find yourself a training plan that starts slow.
Perhaps a Couch to 5k program to start off with and then progress to a regular Parkrun every Saturday morning and see how you feel.
If it has truly been decades since you last ran then consider that. Sure, you may feel like a relatively fit 45-year-old yet your body has changed and developed in the decades that have gone by.
Keeping your expectations in check is not simply about being realistic that it may take a while to recover your previous personal bests but not being too disappointed if you cannot.
Maintain a positive mindset as simply going out for a run again is a great thing to do, no matter how long you have been out.
Join Other Runners
You may need some encouragement when you do get back to pounding the streets. Joining a running club is likely to enhance your motivation by joining others and forming a social bond along the way.
Those you run with are likely to help you stick to your own return to running simply by encouraging you to keep coming back.
You can also find it easier to run simply by having a conversation with someone new along the way.
If you are new to an area then find a running shop or research local running clubs you can join. They may even wear running shirts with the name of the running club on them.
Perhaps attend a local race and see if you can spot some running clubs being represented.
Make Running A Good Habit
With so much time away from running, it may take time to get back into the swing of things.
You could create your own tailored training plan, find one you like the look of and that matches your current fitness, follow a program like Couch to 5k, or simply commit to running a couple of times a week at your own pace.
It can be difficult to return to the groove, especially if you were an advanced runner before your break.
Look after your consistency first, even if that means a couple of short runs a week. Make sure you can find your breathing rhythm and your running form so that you can develop from there.
After these short runs and a few weeks, check-in with your body and see how it’s feeling. You should expect a few aches and pains but if you are committed to making it a good habit, increase your weekly mileage by 10%.
Getting the basics right is a good start yet so is investing in the right equipment which includes breathable clothing and comfortable running shoes.
Making running a good habit should mean it is something you enjoy doing so ensure you can do it comfortably.
It will still take time to recondition your leg muscles and tendons which may be longer than you anticipate based on how long you were out for.
Perhaps work on your technique by trying the treadmill at a gym so you can simply focus on your form and not be distracted by whatever you see outdoors.
Set yourself some small goals as incremental growth is key. Give it time and keep consistent at your running as making it a good habit should see you progress at a comfortable speed.
You may not hit the heights of your running before your break but you should gradually improve.
Follow A Training Plan
After so much time away, it helps to have a bit of guidance. Consider yourself a beginner at running and follow a training plan, even if it simply suggests a 10-minute jog to start off with.
As long as you remain consistent with the training plan and follow it to the letter, after a few weeks your form should improve and you will be covering longer distances.
Try not to deviate from whatever the training plan suggests you do as they are built for a reason; to improve your running and your fitness level.
Try Cross Training
Your body may have changed in the years when you have not been running so treat it differently.
On the days when you are not running, try some cross training to improve your endurance. Not only will you build up the strength in your muscles but also limit the risk of injury.
This is highly important for those returning to running after a serious injury as avoiding a further setback is key to making a full recovery.
Cross training can be varied and include activities such as yoga, Pilates, and aqua jogging.
It can also include more vigorous forms of exercise that use some of the same muscles but also some different ones such as cycling, swimming, and walking.
With so many other forms of exercise on offer, you may be forgiven for thinking that you have removed your focus on running, yet that is not the case.
If you remain consistent with your cross training, your running will improve too, especially if you put it into a training plan you can follow.
Look After Your Body
Though you may want to head out running every day, even if you are in fit shape you should look after your body and take a rest day.
Recovery is crucial to look after your body and those muscles that have been neglected for so long.
You may even benefit from resistance training to build the strength back up in those muscles. Focus on your hamstrings, calves, glutes, and quads so your legs are more capable of running longer distances.
Core work can also help with your endurance and stamina while simple stretches can improve your adductors to increase your mobility.
Recovery is key and if you are feeling your joints and muscles the day after a run then forget about your next run. Try a long walk and stretch it out so you feel fine for your next run.
Improve Your Diet
Our bodies can change over time and what you were eating years ago may have a more pronounced effect.
If you already eat well then great, stick at it with clean living involving plenty of fruit, vegetables, and a consistent amount of carbohydrates and protein.
You may allow yourself a cheat meal occasionally yet it may not be worth the bother if your fitness is still improving.
Once you begin running again, you may want to lose some weight so it feels easier. If you knew what your weight was when you finished running then set that up as a target to hit.
However, that does not mean pounding the streets in an attempt to quickly lose the weight. Adjust your diet accordingly yet keep your running consistent so you can gradually feel the benefit.
Gradually reduce your calorie intake and try to use your cross training as the means to lose weight as this will ultimately benefit your running.
Improve your mobility, lose a few pounds and soon enough you can get closer to your desired fitness level.
Limit Your Mileage
After your first few weeks of running, you may feel like you should push on and go further. However, if you have a Couch to 5k program that you feel comfortable with then stick at it.
The programs are made for beginner runners and after so much time away from running that may be the point where you have to start again.
If you are coming back from an injury, keep an eye on your weekly mileage as you may be aggravating the injury and not even realizing it.
Start with whatever the plan tells you to start with, even if it does seem like such a short distance. Though you may be excited to be back out there running, actively give yourself some rest days.
Your strength and confidence will gradually come back but at the start, you need to limit your mileage and gradually build it back to a previous level.
With years out of running, it will take a while to get back so remain positive.
If you suffer some aches and pains or feel that you cannot go as fast as you thought then consider that your muscles will take time to recover from the break too.
Any positive changes you make to your diet also take time to work their magic on your body, so take it all in your stride.
Even if you were able to do marathons before your break, you likely had years of conditions and followed a strict training regime.
All that preparation focuses your muscles to go the distance and you need to build that back up, gradually.
Set milestones of distances or a pace you want to reach and go from there. Be patient, enjoy your running and your consistency will see your fitness level improve.
Try not to get hung up if you feel frustrated about your seeming lack of progress.
Talk to other runners and you are likely to find that many have gone through the same situation and can offer sympathy and tips on how they returned to their previous fitness levels.
Be thankful that even after a break, you can still run even if it is not quite to the same high standards or fast pace.
Sign Up For A Race
After a few weeks or months of getting back into running, you could find it easier than you thought. With a solid training plan and a keen appetite to prove yourself, setting yourself the goal of a long-distance race may be in order.
Do not make it too onerous as your body will still be adapting to your newfound love for running again. Perhaps opt for a distance you have done in the past to prove to yourself that you can do it again.
Once you have completed that race, then sign up for the next distance up. However, if you simply love running for the sake of it then keep that up.
Not every runner is competitive enough to want to sign up for a race so pick a trail you have always wanted to complete and take your time with it.
Maybe a spot in nature you have always wanted to see or the chance to explore a city while running.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why Does It Feel So Hard When I Go Running Again?
Time away from running is likely to have had an adverse effect on your body making it feel difficult when you do run again.
Effectively, the progression and conditioning you achieved from regularly running have been diminished.
You may have lost your running form and your consistency while your muscles have lost their strength and your cardio capacity has reduced.
How Do I Return To Running After Such A Long Time Away?
Start slow and try some short runs, only around three or four a week to get you kickstarted. This may only be around 10 minutes each time but it helps to keep it regular so your body realizes that you are running again.
Try a mix of running, jogging, and walking to not overexert yourself, and try to follow a walk-to-run program that can gradually build up your endurance and running distance.
Anyone returning to running should take it easy, even if they believe they are physically in good shape.
Take it easy and take it slow as the specific muscles, tendons, and ligaments that you use for running will need time to warm up.
Following a training plan is the ideal way to start as it treats your body like it would any beginner runner. After so much time out, start from the bottom and work your way back.