Today, I share with you 5 tips that will help you run happy and smart, or happier and smarter.
Have you been away from running for a while and want to get back into it? In a slump? Need that extra something to light that fire under your ass again?
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. Seeing that I enjoyed cycling so much, I put running and swimming aside to focus on enhancing my cycling fitness and skills. I soon found myself missing those runs, missing my running friends and yes, missing that runner’s high!
I had to get started again. Because I was away for so long, starting again meant starting from the beginning, sort of.
When you don’t run, you lose your running-specific fitness. It’s the Principle of Specificity – fitness is relative to the activity that you do. I know this.
While I still have all the knowledge about run training, the running fitness wasn’t there and the running skills were dull.
Getting Started, Again
Seeing my running friends post on Facebook is great motivation. I realized 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. Trail running is my favourite. It’s always magical and entertaining. If you run, I’m sure you can relate to all of this.
Starting to run again after being off for any amount of time can be a bit challenging. You might keep putting it off saying “it’s not the right time yet.” Excuses pop up such as it’s cold, it’s windy, it’s raining, I’m too tired, and the list goes on.
Finally the “right time” arrives and you put on your sneakers. There you are, out pounding the pavement once again. You find yourself slow, sluggish, heavy, and totally out of running shape. Ugh!
I know this feeling. So, I’ve generated 5 tips to help you get back up and running again. They work for me. I hope they work for you too.
TIP 1: Don’t Make Excuses
Easier said than done, right? We get in our own way thou. So, to get out of your own way you have to just go. I promise you that 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 maybe this just isn’t your jam. Try cycling instead? 😉
For the runners that truly love their sport but have been away from it for a while, the best thing you can do to light up that fire again is put on your running gear and GO RUN!
TIP 2: Set Small Goals
Set a small, realistic, and attainable goal for your first run, and your second run, and third, etc.
Do NOT try and pick up where you left off the last time you ran. You will trash yourself. It is not a logical expectation and it will lead to disappointment, or worse yet, an injury.
Every time you skip out on a run, you lose a little bit of running fitness. It’s the Principle of Reversibility. If you have not run for weeks, months, or even years, then you lost a lot of running fitness.
This means your joints, ligaments, tendons, and “running muscles” have lost their load tolerance. It’s not just about the heart and lungs.
Set a small goal that you know you can achieve. Forget about speed and distance. Go for time instead because after all, we build fitness through time under tension (TUT).
I suggest starting with a 5 to 10-minute walk. Then do a 3 to 6-minute walk-run or steady run. Finish up with a 5 to 10-minute walk. That is a doable goal to start.
Doable goals boost your confidence, give you instant rewards, and motivate you to run again.
TIP 3: Start Easy
When you start your run again, take it easy for the first couple of weeks or even months.
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 adapt.
Did you know that running is among one of the most injurious sports? Most of the injuries are preventable. Three common reasons why people get injured are:
- overloading with too much intensity (time, distance, frequency)
- improper warm up and recovery
- improper footwear
I see it on Strava all the time. People don’t run for months and then they go hammer out 5k, and without even warming up first. For the next week, they can barely walk.
Below is a chart of the running shock loads at various speeds on specific muscles. Take the number and multiply it by your weight.
As you can see, when speed increases, so do the shock loads. Now think duration. Add that stress together. If you do too much too soon, you are going to put yourself at risk of getting injured.
Not mentioned in the above chart is the gluteus medius, one of the glute muscles important for hip stabilization. When running, that sucker can generate 3.99 x bodyweight of force.
It’s important to also start with longer warm-ups and cooldowns. Keep running intensity low and slow. Aim for under 60% of your max or threshold heart rate. Build up a base.
Also, give your sneaks a good going over. If you need a new pair, have a proper fit done.
Forget about what other people think. Mute the noise. Do the thing that makes most sense which is if you haven’t been running, START EASY!
TIP 4: Make a Simple Plan
You know the saying, “Fail to plan, plan to fail.”
Building a basic plan will keep you motivated. Start with three super short runs in your first week. Then add a bit more running time the following week.
A general rule for safe progressive overload is roughly a 10 – 20% increase each week. For example, if you run for a total of 15 minutes in your first week (5 minutes per run), then add 1.5 to 3 minutes of total running time in your following week.
For example, week one is 5 minutes of run time per session. Three running sessions per week = 15 total running minutes for the whole week.
Week two could then be 6 minutes of total run time per running session. Three runs per week = 18 total running minutes. Continue to build little by little each week.
After a few months, and with a solid base under you, you can change your plan to continue building your running fitness by adding intervals, hills and fartleks.
GO Learn to RUN 5K
TIP 5: Lower Expectations
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. 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!
I bet my bottom dollar that if you shared your running data with others, they would be congratulating and encouraging you, not judging you.
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. They matter just as much, if not more than the bigger goals, because you can’t get to the big goals without accomplishing the little ones first. They are the foundation of your success!
If these 5 tips to get up and running again have helped you, please let me know your thoughts below.
Now, lace up those sneaks and GO RUN!
5 tips to help you get up and running again.
1. Don’t make excuses.
2. Set small goals.
3. Start easy.
4. Make a simple plan.
5. Lower your expectations.
Kasper Korey, MD. (April 2019). Sports Training Principles. Current Sports Medicine Reports. https://journals.lww.com/acsm-csmr/fulltext/2019/04000/sports_training_principles.2.aspx
Dorn, et al. (2012). Muscular strategy shift in human running: dependence of running speed on hip and ankle muscle performance. Journal of Experimental Biology. https://journals.biologists.com/jeb/article/215/11/1944/10883/Muscular-strategy-shift-in-human-running
Luke Nelson. (April 16, 2020). Running. It’s all in the hips? Health +High Performance. https://www.healthhp.com.au/post/running-its-all-in-the-hips