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.
If you want to start running again after a long break, the good news is there are simple tips that you can use to make your return to running that much easier.
In this guide we’ll explore:
- How long it takes to lose your aerobic fitness
- How long it takes to get back in running shape
- How to start running again when you’re overweight
- How to start running again at a certain age
- How to start running again after a break: 8 actionable tips
Let’s get started!
How long does it take to lose aerobic fitness?
Although 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 is still valid.
However distant it may seem now, the running experience you gained before your break 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.
For the majority of runners, it takes between 7 to 14 days for your running fitness to start declining.
If you’ve been running for a number of years, or even your whole life, you will retain much of your aerobic fitness for several months.
In other words, the better running shape you’re in, the more fitness you’ll hold onto when you’re not running during a break.
How long does it take to get back in running shape?
There isn’t a one size fits all approach when you want to start running again after a long break and determine how long it will take to get back into shape.
How long it takes will depend on various factors, namely:
- The length of time you’ve been running (before your break)
- The length of time you took off from running (during your break)
So what does this actually mean? Let’s take these two example runners:
- Meet Sandra. Before her break, she was running for well over 10 years and she took a 2-month break from running to recover from knee pain. She will find she’s be able to build up her fitness back again fairly quickly.
- Meet Joe. Before his break, he was running for about a year and he took off a 6-month break from running to recover from surgery. He will find he’ll need to work a lot harder to build up his fitness again.
How to start running again when overweight
It can be daunting for anyone when you want to start running again after a long break, but if you are carrying a little more weight, it can be even scarier.
The good news is that running offers a multitude of physical and mental benefits.
The process of running also triggers the body to release ‘feel good’ hormones, and many runners love running because of how life-changing it becomes for them.
If you’re overweight and looking to get back into running, you may want to consider starting off with a walking programme before going straight into a running plan.
This will help your bones, ligaments, tendons and muscles adjust and strengthen them for exercise.
How to start running again at a certain age
Running is so great because there are no major barriers or obstacles to going for a run – anyone can do it, no matter their age.
If you’re 40 or older, you may even wonder if it’s the right time to start running again after a long break.
After all, it’s a high-impact sport and taking on a strenuous fitness routine after 40 is not for the faint hearted.
However, don’t let those doubts stop you from making your running comeback! There’s no better time to start your running journey, regardless of your age.
Here are some tips for getting back into running at 40, or any other age:
- Get in touch with your healthcare provider. If you haven’t exercised for a while, or you’ve previously experienced heart rate issues, then it’s a good idea to touch base with your healthcare provider.
- Invest in quality running gear. The key is to find a well-fitting pair of running shoes. Gear like running tights, a good fitting sports bra (for the ladies) and clothes that are suited for the climate are also essentials.
- Don’t compare yourself to anyone else.
- Connect with a community. Many cities nowadays offer running clubs that are targeted at a specific age group or gender. Check out sites like Meetup to find a group near you.
How to start running again after a long break: 8 actionable tips
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 first 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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
Sign up to a race
When you start running again after a long break and 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.
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.
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.
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!