It’s been over a year since I have stopped running races, and running in general. When I completed my ironman distance triathlon at EPIC Dartmouth Triathlon in June 2013, I decided after 8 years of running competitively that I needed a break. I wanted to focus on one activity, instead of three, and seeing that I enjoyed cycling so much, I put running and swimming aside to focus on enhancing my cycling fitness and skills. It has been all about the bike ever since. In the past year, I have focused more on developing my mountain biking and cyclocross skills. So far it’s been paying off with an awesome start to the 2014 mountain bike racing season by placing 2nd in the first two races and 1st in my last race in the female B category. I am definitely, at heart, a mountain biker chick!
Getting Started, Again
Anyway, back to running. By following my fellow triathlete and runner friends, I have become inspired to start running again (I just really truly wanna do it all). Seeing their posts and pictures on Facebook is great motivation. I realize how much I miss running, not for the competition, but for the playful free nature of the sport. I love the feeling that builds inside my body after a few steps, the adrenaline rush, and the sights you see, the sounds you hear, with the wind pushing you along or brushing your face. I especially love to trail run, it’s always magical, and so as soon as I get some base miles under me, I’ll be heading back into the woods.
Starting to run again after being off for a year was a bit challenging. I kept putting it off saying “it’s not the right time yet.” I used many excuses such as the cold spring, late start to summer, it’s windy, it’s raining, I’m too tired, and the list goes on. After being off for a year, I definitely had given my body tons of rest from the demands of running, so I can’t say I needed more of that, although I have used that excuse too.
Finally the “right time” arrived, I put on my sneakers and said, “I’m going for a run” and there I was, out pounding the pavement once again. Wow was I slow, and sluggish, and heavy, and totally out of running shape. It was a good reminder that it doesn’t matter how fit you are in one sport, it doesn’t necessarily carry over into another activity. My running muscles were slow to respond. The next day I was sore. I questioned what I was doing. Maybe 5k was too much to start off with but it was what I had set in my mind to do and I did it.
So with all that said, thinking that some of you may be in the same boat as me, I’ve generated a few of my own tips to help you get back up and running again. Sometimes we need that push, and if we can’t push ourselves, it’s good to look to someone else for inspiration…or push, and you if you know me, you know I love to push. So here are a few tips to give you a push:
Don’t Make Excuses
Just go out and do it! It only takes a few steps to remind you of what you have been missing and fall in love with running again. If you never liked running in the first place, then pick something else to do. But if you enjoy the sport, have been away from it for a while, want to get back into it, then the best thing you can do is put on your running gear and GO RUN!
Set Small Goals
Set a small, realistic, and attainable goal for your first run…and yor second run, and third, etc. To try and pick up where you left off the last time you ran is not logical and can lead to disappointment, or worse yet, an injury. Set a small goal that you know you can achieve. My goal for my first run was to cover a 5k distance, even if I had to walk it. I didn’t care about speed, I just wanted to do that distance. By setting a realistic short term goal and achieving it, it will boost your confidence, give you instant reward, and motivate you to run again.
When you start your run, take it easy for the first couple of runs. Remember, it’s been a while since you ran, and it doesn’t matter how fit you are in other sports, your running muscles need to be reconditioned and your body needs time to remember how to run. So be kind to yourself. Enjoy an easy warm-up and cool down. Walk out the last 5 – 10 minutes and reflect on how awesome you are by getting up and running again.
Make a Plan
Build a basic plan to keep you motivated. I decided for the first few weeks I will run 2 x a week, 5k (or 30 minutes) for each run, with no set time to finish. My goal is just to cover 10km per week between 2 runs. Once I feel comfortable with that, I’ll add a third run. I plan to progressively increase my weekly mileage first, then I will work on speed and power later. I haven’t been running in a year, and so for me to dive into run intervals or hill repeats would be ridiculous. First, I build some base miles progressively, then I can work on the rest.
Put aside your pride and lower your expectations. Who cares if you are going slower than you used to. No one else is going to notice and no one else cares how slow you go. People put too much thought into what they think others might be thinking about their performance. No one is sitting around wondering how fast you will run today. You are the only one wondering if others will wonder about how fast you will run today. Am I right? Yea. So if you think about it, it’s slightly egotistical to think that everyone else is thinking about how you are running. Truly, the only person that is thinking about your running performance today is YOU! And I can bet that if you shared your running data with others after you finished, they would be congratulating and encouraging you, not judging you. If they are judging you, then you might want to rethink sharing anything with them in the future…ever! Just sayin…
The most important thing to remember is that you haven’t been running for a while so to expect so much from yourself when you start up again is downright silly. Allow yourself to run free, go with the flow, enjoy the feeling of running again, feel your muscles, feel the joy, and slowly get back into it. You want to stay motivated so set small goals for each run and make sure you celebrate those successes.
“Remember, the feeling you get from a good run is far better than the feeling you get from sitting around wishing you were running.” ~ Sarah Condor
Now, get up and GO!
Oh, and if you liked this article, check out this new resource describing running drills that you can do to help you improve running form and efficiency.