How to Start Running Again after a Long Break

February 28, 2024

Nick Hancock
man running at sunset on grass

Getting back into running after taking a few weeks or longer off can seem daunting, especially if you lost the habit and motivation. As a pro running coach myself, I know first-hand how a long break can disrupt your momentum and leave you feeling like a couch potato. But re-building your running regimen from scratch ultimately allows you to progress safely, avoid injury, and re-discover your love for the sport.

The mental and physical perks make conquering those first post-break miles well worth any effort. The health benefits of regular running are widely known to reduce anxiety, boost mood, strengthen immunity, and control weight. So whether you took time off to recover from a sprain or simply got distracted by life’s demands, it’s never too late to lace up again.

With some patience and the right techniques, you can develop sustainable systems facilitating an awesome comeback. Let's take a look at the 8 expert-approved strategies to start running again after a long break.

1. Acknowledge Your Starting Point

When beginning to run again after an extended break, it’s important to meet yourself where you are physically and mentally. Avoid judging your current running shape or abilities compared to your peak fitness prior to the hiatus.

Whether you gained weight, lost speed, or simply feel out of the habit, know that expecting immediate past performance is unrealistic. Progress happens through consistency over time, not instantaneously. Rather than focusing on dismay over losing conditioning or beating personal bests right away, celebrate the commitment to regain your running shoes.

Maintain perspective by concentrating on celebrating small milestones like completing shorter distances you can gradually build upon vs large leaps leading to discouragement. Give yourself grace on the path to restoring cardio endurance, speed, flexibility and strength through reasonable, rewarding objectives.

A person running on a beach.

2. Start Slow and Steady

When eager to rebuild your running regimen after a long break, an incremental approach is crucial to safely progress while protecting your body from injury risk. Avoid launching straight into high-mileage or high-intensity training your current fitness level hasn’t adjusted to. Especially if you're returning to running after suffering from a cold or the flu.

Instead of jumping straight into intense workouts, think of it like a fun jog-and-stroll combo. Start with short bursts of running, like 1 minute, followed by chill walking breaks for 2 minutes (do this 5-8 times). As you feel stronger, you can gradually make those jogs longer.

Remember, pushing too hard too soon can lead to grumpy muscles and kill your running buzz. So, be smart, not speedy! Focus on being consistent, enjoying the feeling of moving your body, and celebrating even the small wins. Trust me, starting slower helps you build your running strength like a boss!

3. Listen To Your Body

Taking a break from running is totally cool, but when you're ready to jump back in, remember to be kind to your body. Give it rest days, especially after a long time off.

Mix things up with fun activities like yoga, swimming, or even some strength training to keep your fitness up without stressing out your muscles and joints. Listen to any aches or pains, and don't be afraid to adjust your speed, distance, or rest time – even if it means taking extra days off. You can also consult a physical therapist in case you need guidance on addressing any lingering pain or discomfort related to running.

Remember, small changes can prevent big problems down the road. And don't forget to check in with your mind too! Take breaks if you're feeling unmotivated or burnt out. When you listen to your body and treat it well, you'll be back to feeling awesome on the run in no time! ‍

4. Fuel Your Run

What you eat plays a big role in how you feel on the track. As you build back your endurance, focus on filling your plate with healthy, whole foods packed with nutrients and electrolytes. Think leafy greens for vitamins, whole grains and sweet potatoes for lasting energy, lean protein for muscle repair, and healthy fats to keep you feeling full.

Don't forget to stay hydrated before, during, and after your runs, especially as you start running longer distances. Need help figuring out the perfect fuel plan for your body and running goals? A dietitian or running coach can help you whip up a customized menu that'll make hitting your stride a breeze.

More experienced runners know that to reach peak running performance, it's important to ditch the junk food and focus on good stuff! And don't forget to reward yourself with yummy, healthy treats after your runs – you deserve it!

A runner drinking water after a marathon.

5. Incorporate Strength Training and Cross-Training

Running gets your heart pumping, but building strength and preventing injury are key to staying healthy and upping your running game.

Some exercises you can do to build strength:

  • Bodyweight Squats
  • Walking Lunges
  • Side Plank
  • Calf Raises

Strength training makes your muscles tougher, leading to better running form, faster speeds, and less risk of getting hurt. Think of it like building a stronger foundation for your running habit! Don't worry, adding variety keeps things exciting.

Research suggests that strength training can strengthen muscles, improve stability, and enhance proprioception, potentially leading to a reduced risk of injuries, particularly lower-limb issues. (Source).

Cross-training with activities like swimming, cycling, or yoga keeps your body happy and challenged, helping you lose weight and preventing boredom. A personal trainer or running coach can help you build a customized training plan and guide you on whether you should run before or after workouts. So, lace up your running shoes, but don't forget to build strength and cross-train for a well-rounded fitness routine!

6. Find Your Motivation

Finding the spark to run can be tough sometimes, but don't worry, you're not alone! Even experienced runners need a little boost! Instead of aiming for a super hard goal right away, set smaller, achievable targets. Think "run for 10 minutes 3 times a week" instead of "run a marathon next month."

Celebrate each milestone, no matter how small, like high-fiving yourself or rewarding yourself with a healthy treat. Remember, progress is progress, even if it's slower than others. Feeling overwhelmed? Take a break! Rest days are important for your body and mind. Come back refreshed and ready to conquer those goals!

7. Gear Up for Success

Feeling prepared makes every run smoother! The right gear sets you up for success and keeps you comfy mile after mile. Start with your shoes – get fitted for a pair that supports your feet and matches your running style.

Don't forget comfy, breathable clothes that move easily with you. Think moisture-wicking fabrics that dry quickly, especially on hot days. Pro tip: invest in a good water bottle and a reflective vest or headlamp for night runs.

Remember, you don't need fancy gadgets to get started, just the right gear to keep you feeling good and focused on your run! ‍

8. Find Your Running Community

Feeling like you're running solo? It's time to find your pack! Joining a running group or finding a buddy can make all the difference. Running with a group is fun, keeps you accountable, and gives you a chance to learn and share experiences.

Whether you're a beginner or a seasoned runner, there's a group out there for you. Don't be shy! Check out local running clubs, online forums, or ask your gym if they have a running programme.

Don't worry if you need a long break or can't keep up with everyone - most groups are super welcoming and understand everyone runs at their own pace. Plus, running with others can push you to try new things, like a longer distance race you might have never considered before. So lace up, find your crew, and get ready to run together!

A group of people jogging in a park.


Remember, getting back into running after a break is all about taking it easy, listening to your body, and celebrating small wins. Embrace a structured training plan that gradually builds your fitness, fuel your body with healthy foods, and don't forget to have fun!

Feeling lost or need a little extra guidance? That's where I come in! Our expert running coaches help you create a personalized plan, stay motivated, and crush your comeback goals. So lace up, dust off those shoes, and let us help you rediscover the joy of running! ‍

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