7 Tips to Start Running (After a Long Break Off)
Any sport is better with consistent training, and no doubt running is no exception. But if you're starting up again after a long break from running, you'll find that the most difficult step is taking the first step.
Its difficulty lies, not only in the physical, but also the psychological hardship. You might find yourself saying these over and over again:
"I can't run."
"I really can't run."
"I tried and still can't run."
"I've already tried many times, but I just can't keep going."
If you're currently stuck in this situation mid-pandemic, don't give up just yet - there's hope! Try these 7 tips to get back to running and learn to love running (again)!
1. Get Back Your Running Motivation
Instead of saying you can't run, try switching up your mantra to a more positive note. Tell yourself you can run, and that you can try it again. This will affect your psychological motive to run to be switched ON.
When your "psychological switch" is activated, you can begin slowly adding in runs, which will in turn establish your own running habit. This is essentially what will help you continue in the long-run. Having a positive mindset and telling yourself you can, is much more powerful motivators than you may give credit to.
Most runners who are getting back into running have had a break from running for a month or longer. Studies show that if you completely stop your regular exercise routine for over 3 weeks, your physical fitness and muscle strength will slowly begin to decrease.
2. Start Easy
When getting back to running, we need to start slow. You can determine your pace based on your own experience and feeling, but keep in mind that you should run at a very comfortable pace. This means you should be able to easily hold a conversation while running. This pace will help you to slowly ease back into your running routine.
Going too fast too soon has many risks, including fainting, heart palpitations, and in extreme cases, even shock. Not only is this dangerous and has a high chance of running injury, it will also de-motivate you to continue running. So when starting back out again, make sure you gradually restore your running pace and speed (step by step!).
3. Stretch Before and After Running
Stretching is an essential part of any workout, and it's even more important for anyone who's been out of the game for a while. Doing dynamic stretching before your run, and deeper stretches after your run will aid in getting your muscles properly warmed up, in overall recovery and performance. Try to keep your pre- and post-stretching within 10-15 minutes or so.
Proper stretching can effectively eliminate muscle stiffness after running, promote muscle elasticity, and aid in overall recovery. This is crucial when starting back up again, as we are suddenly re-activating our muscles and "waking them up".
Note: Do not stretch for too long or too hard, and make sure your pre-run stretch comprises of dynamic stretching to avoid injury.
4. Add Strength Training
Running does not rely purely on moving our legs and feet. Every step we take a forward, we use various muscles of all major body parts to give forward momentum and stability. Not only protecting our bodies from running injury, utilizing your full body can also help to increase running performance to run faster.
As mentioned above, prolonged inactivity can cause muscle strength to decrease. The muscles mentioned here are not only your leg muscles, but also the muscles in your hips, back, core and upper body. Proper strength training can play a crucial part in stabilizing your body to protect your joints, and keep you away from running injury.
Therefore, while you're on the road to regaining your running power, don't neglect proper strength training, so that your muscle strength can be improved simultaneously.
5. Don't Neglect Nutrition
Getting back to running after a (short or long) break, you'll notice feeling more tired from running than before. This is because your body consumption will be higher on your first few runs, as it's a big change going from not running to suddenly running. Because of this, it's crucial you remember to replenish your body correctly.
Not only do you want to be supplementing sugars, water, electrolytes etc., you'll also need a reasonable intake of carbohydrates and protein. When getting back to running, you should eat well-balanced meals that provide a sufficient amount of carbs – grains, pasta, vegetables etc - and a moderate amount of lean protein - chicken, lean beef, tofu, eggs etc.
You also want to remember to stay hydrated during your runs and throughout the day. Being dehydrated may actually negatively impact your training, as you may feel tired and exhausted if you're dehydrated. Aim to drink about 8 glasses of water each day, and an additional 3-5 glasses of water with each run you do (depending on length, duration and intensity of course).
6. Get Enough Sleep
Going from being relatively inactive to having a steady running routine in place is a major change and shock to our bodies. It may take some time for our bodies to adapt to the new strenuous activity, which in turn may result in feelings of weakness and fatigue.
The human body repairs and recovers from activity during the day almost completely during the time you sleep. That's why getting enough good-quality sleep is essential for eliminating fatigue and promoting muscle recovery.
When you start up running again, it's best to aim at getting 8 hours of sleep each night for proper recovery. Eating and sleeping well can better eliminate fatigue, promote recovery, and in turn optimize your running performance and "come-back".
7. Choose the Right Running Gear
You don't need to start off with all the gadgets, but having some good-quality running gear will really help you out when getting back into running.
A pair of comfortable and form-fitting running shoes can prevent your feet from blistering, any sprains or accidental injuries while providing additional forward driving force. On top of that, a pair of comfortable running shorts or pants and a quick-dry workout shirt can reduce friction of the skin during running, and with quick-drying components, will make you feel better during and after your run.
If you are into tracking your running progression, it's also a good idea to invest in a running GPS watch. That way you can easily track your runs directly from your wrist, keeping your runs safer than checking your phone every few minutes. For an affordable option, check out the Runtopia X3 GPS Watch HERE.