Go easy when you return to running.
A two-week break from running is likely to lead to some decline in fitness. Declines in endurance, muscle and VO2 max, or aerobic capacity, are the most common setbacks. How much of a decline you experience depends on how fit you were before the break. Long-time runners have more to lose initially but maintain earlier gains better than novice athletes. Newer runners experience greater declines overall. No matter the reason or length of your break, you can safely return to running by starting at a lower level of intensity than the one you ended on.1.
Start slowly. Begin by walking or jogging at a pace that is 15 to 30 seconds slower than your pre-break pace. Warming muscles slowly helps you to avoid injury. Extend your warm-up time by up to five minutes. When you feel ready, begin running. If you are a newer runner, you may want to add in several walk breaks. For example, run for one minute and walk for 30 seconds to one minute. More experienced runners may do well to reduce their pace. If you ordinarily run a mile in 10 minutes, stretch it out for 12 minutes.2.
Reduce your mileage. Review your training log or training plan. Repeat the run you took three to four weeks before your break on your first run after voluntary time off. That may mean you will start back with only eight miles on your first week instead of 12 as you did the week before the break. Alternately, if you are following a training plan, go back three to four weeks and start over from this point. If an injury forced you onto the sidelines, let your body be your guide. Begin as a beginner until you feel confident that you are strong enough to hit the road without a significant setback.3.
Practice gentle stretches after the run while your muscles are still warm. Avoid bouncing as this may cause injury or strain. Consider using a foam roller as part of your recovery. These cylinder-shaped tools are particularly helpful for relaxing tired or overworked muscles and can help you work the kinks out quickly. Another way to soothe tired running muscles is with rest days. Try to include a day off from running every other day at a minimum. Incorporate other activities such as yoga or Pilates. Both strengthen your body and your core in particular.
- Training log
- Weather-appropriate running gear
- Foam roller
- Consider cross-training during your next running break to minimize fitness declines.
- If your break from running was due to an injury or significant illness, be sure to consult your healthcare provider before starting back.