How to start running again after a long break

  • Post last modified:August 23, 2021
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Getting back into running after weeks, months or even years away can feel tough. Whether you took a long break because of an injury or life simply got in the way, it can feel daunting getting back into running.

In this blog, I’d like to share some tips on how to start running again after a long break. It can be frustrating to see all the progress that you’ve made over the last few years disappear in a matter of months.

It’s worth remembering that all your running experience, however distant it may seem now, is still important when it comes to building your fitness back up again. You definitely won’t be starting from scratch, and you will soon see how quickly your body is able to pick things up again.

If you’d like to make your return to running that much easier, follow these simple tips on how to start running again after a long break to make your return to running a success.

How to start running again after a long break

How to start running again after a long break

Manage your expectations

One of the most important things to remember when you start running again after a long break, is that you can’t expect to pick up where you left of. It will take time to build back your fitness, endurance and stamina.

Running is classed as a high impact sport, so your first run may feel uncomfortable. Don’t let this put you off though. It’s important to keep an open mind and be kind to yourself when you first get back into the swing of things.

Listen to your body and don’t feel pressurised to run at the same pace and distance that you were doing before your break.

Related: How to practice mindful running

Build a habit

When you start running again after a long break, it’s important to build a running habit that you can maintain consistently. Forget about your times, how fast you can run a mile or how many miles you’re running each week. 

As long as you’re running consistently each week, this is enough to slowly build momentum until you’re at a stage where you can think about improving your times.

Start small and slowly build from there. And when I say small, I mean baby steps! 

If during your long break you didn’t do any exercise at all, you may need to build up your base fitness again. This means your aerobic fitness and endurance.

You may feel out of breath on your run. This is often a shock for a lot of people who are returning to fitness after a long break. But don’t worry! You will build it back up again with consistent training. 

As you hit your goals, you will slowly regain your running confidence! 

Related: How to run for 30 minutes without stopping: 7 tips for beginners

Follow a training plan

Depending on the length of your break, you may need to start at the beginning again and build up from there.

There are many training plans out there that can get you from beginner runner to mile maiden in a matter of weeks. 

The most popular training plan by far is Couch to 5k. I love this plan because it’s ideal for beginner runners who are either completely new to running or returning after a long break.

Many runners start with Couch to 5k and go on to run a 10k, half marathon and even a marathon.

If you feel you’re not quite at the beginner stage and would like something a little more advanced, think about your goals and find a training plan that not only suits your goals but your fitness levels too.

The tendency for a lot of runners is to go full throttle into a training plan when you return from a long break. This may sound appealing, but you risk burnout and injury so take it in your stride.

Check out my intermediate 5k training plan and intermediate 10k training plan if you’re looking for some inspiration.

Join a running group

When you start running again after a long break, finding the motivation and accountability to get out there each week is hard, especially when you’re re-discovering your running mojo.

Find some local running groups near you and see what they have to offer. So many running groups are friendly and supportive, and even offer one-on-one coaching if you feel you’d benefit from this. You may also meet some new friends in the process!

Websites like RunTogether, MeetUp and Facebook list local running groups, so be sure to check those out.

7 ways to start running again after a long break

Sign up to a race

If you have a goal or milestone in mind, a good way to stay motivated and accountable is to sign up to a race. Make sure you choose a race that aligns with your running goals

For example, if you’re returning to running following a four year break and you sign up to a marathon that’s taking place within a matter of months, this may not be the best idea.

Any race, whether it’s a 5k, 10k, half marathon or marathon, is a huge accomplishment. You’ve already come so far by even deciding to start running again.

Related:  21 of the best motivational running quotes for race day

Do Parkrun

Parkrun is one of my favourite things about running. It’s a free 5k run that takes place every Saturday morning at 9am across the UK and worldwide.

There’s absolutely no pressure to go fast or achieve a PB, so it’s great for anyone who is new to running or returning to running after a long break.

You could also consider volunteering at your local Parkrun. Seeing all the amazing runners each week could be enough to reinvigorate your passion and fire for running.

Related: Love to run: What to expect at your first Parkrun

Cross train

Cross training is a great way to build up your aerobic fitness and endurance. Walking, cycling, strength training, yoga and swimming are all great cross training activities for runners. 

When you start running after a long break, you may want a bit of variation in your training plan, so consider adding cross training activities and you’ll reap the benefits on the running track.

Related: What is cross training? Essential cross training tips for runners

Stay positive

Stay positive and focus on the enjoyment of running. Don’t worry too much at this stage about achieving your next PB. 

When you start running again after a long break, it can be frustrating when you’re not quite at the level you were at before your break. This is only natural.

The key is not to beat yourself up or compare yourself to anyone else and their journey. Everyone is different and you need to allow yourself time to train and improve your fitness levels.

There’s plenty of time to run your fastest mile or achieve your next PB. In the meantime, just enjoy the ride!

Related: 6 tips to keep running fun and fight the boredom


Caroline Geoghegan

Caroline Geoghegan (aka Run With Caroline) helps people become faster and stronger runners. She started her blog in 2018 to share her passion for running. Caroline is a UK Athletics qualified Run Leader and Run Coach and NASM qualified Personal Trainer.

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. LK Nel

    Good tips… and encouraging. I used to run 6km in about 22nd a half minutes seconds in my early to mid thirties. I also ran a few ultra marathons in under 5 min a km. Due to work commitments and family commitments I had to scale down big time and running consisted of an odd run for enjoyment ever month or so. Recent after a break of 12 years I am slowly starting to run again. I started and could just manage a park run in 25 minutes but that was pushing it. I am doing about 20 -25 km a week for the last two and a half months but I seem to be getting slower and slower -sometimes over 6 min a km, for a short 5 km run. I try to vary the hard runs and easy runs but find My absolute limit is 9 or maybe 10 km a push. I struggle on the runs(especially up hills ehich used to be my strength)-I am not overweight maybe 2kg more than when I was fighting fit and am relatively, slightly built I turn 50 this year (am very healthy I think) and am determined to keep running this year. Do you think an immediate goal of 22 min for 5km in the next six months would be unrealistic? I have come to terms that I will never regain the fitness I once had but am wondering why am getting slower and not faster . I am going just to persevere because I am interested to see where I will end up ….?Any comments or tips would really be appreciated.

    1. Run With Caroline

      Hi! Glad you found the tips useful! Parkrun in 25 minutes is a great time! You should be so proud of this. My biggest bit of advice would be to not put so much pressure on yourself to perform. I know it sounds cliche and probably not what you’re wanting to hear, but it really does take the fun out of running if all you’re worried about is your times. Stay consistent with your running and you will get faster. Be sure to include some speedwork in there too as the long slow runs won’t cut it in the long term if you want to speed up. Your goal of 22min for a 5km is achievable. Practice the pace you need to run at during training. Running is a journey – just see where it takes you 🙂

  2. It’s so tough getting back into running after some time out! I found I had to do a lot of work on my mindset and get over my own ego about running ‘slower’ and ‘shorter’ than I’d done in the past, thankfully I got there in the end and now I enjoy running more than ever!

    1. Run With Caroline

      That’s great! So glad you enjoy it now! It’s best to just let go of any pressures and just do it for you.

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