So what if you took this winter (or...all of 2016 so far) off from running, you’re still a runner! And you can still get after it like a boss.
All you have to do is put one foot in front of the other (literally) and follow these four expert-backed strategies. On your mark, get set...
1. Lift Something Heavy
Strength training is one of the top tips for runners from trainers, so it's super important if you're making a comeback. “Strength is the great protector,” says sports medicine physician Jordan D. Metzl, M.D., author of Running Strong. “Before starting to run again, focus on strength training for at least three weeks," says Metzl.
That's especially true if you took some time off to give birth to a tiny human, he says. Pregnancy can make your ligaments weaker so that your hips don’t break while you're pushing a baby out.
On the other hand, if you've been hitting the weight room instead of the road on the regular, you’re probably good, he says.
Even if you’ve been doing lots of cardio, like swimming or cycling, during your running hiatus, your muscles will still need a tune-up before you start pounding the pavement, says Janet Hamilton, C.S.C.S., an exercise physiologist with Running Strong in Atlanta. Strength training builds your muscles, including those that other workout modalities, like your favorite cardio class, can miss, she adds.
Once you're back to hitting the pavement, keep up strength exercises at least three times a week, says Metzl.
2. Deal With Your Running Baggage
If you’ve suffered through shin splints, runner’s knee, plantar fasciitis, or any other ouchies when running in the past, now is the time to deal with them, says Hamilton. Otherwise, history will repeat itself (and you’ll have to read this article again next year). If you tracked your previous runs, take a hard look at your training and consider if you may have ramped up your mileage or speed too fast. Did you cross train enough? How old were your shoes?
And even if your injury was more of a nuisance than a sideliner, Hamilton recommends setting up an appointment with a physical therapist, sports medicine physician, or a certified running coach that’s trained in physiology, kinesiology, or biomechanics to talk things over. “Tune into the whispers of your body, and it will never have to shout at you,” she says. Wise words.
3. Don’t Be Afraid to (Gasp!) Walk
The fastest way to get back into running is to slow it down. Even if that means taking regular walk breaks or signing up for a couch-to-5K walk/run training program, says Hamilton. In fact, she tells all of her clients who have taken several months off of running to spend the first couple of weeks focusing on walking, not running. (Try pairing your strength workouts with walking a few miles several times a week to get some miles under your feet.) Because here’s the cold, hard truth: “If you don't have a long history of running behind you, you may need to start over at the beginning with your training,” she says.
But don’t freak out. You'll get back into the swing of things faster than you did the first time around, says Metzl. Thank you, muscle memory! Just be patient and listen to your body to know when it’s OK to ramp up your speed and/or mileage. “When you finish your runs (or walk/runs) the goal is to feel like, ‘Wow, that was easy. I could run more,’” says Hamilton. If you're exhausted or feel like you need to spend the rest of the day on the couch binge-watching House of Cards, you’ve pushed it too hard. Metzl suggests capping your speed and/or mileage increases to no more than 10 percent from week to week. (So if you run 5 miles during your first week back, you should cap your week two mileage at 5.5 miles.)
4. Go Shopping!
Buying new sneaks is the best—and not just because it makes you look like a badass. Wearing broke-down kicks can compromise your running form from the ground up, both making running way more difficult than it needs to be and increasing your risk of running injuries like IT-band syndrome, shin splints, and even stress fractures, she says.
Fact: Running shoes are generally ready to be retired after 300 to 500 miles, so if you’ve been wearing your running shoes just because they're cute AF for the last several months, chances are you’ve surpassed that benchmark, says Hamilton. She recommends every runner track their daily, weekly, and monthly mileage to make sure you aren’t running on shoes that have passed their expiration date. Plus, nothing motivates you to get after it like a fresh pair of kicks.
All gifs courtesy of giphy.com.