6 Tips for Getting Back into Running
22 days ago
While the treadmill can be a lifesaver in those winter months, nothing compares to getting outside for a run. With the weather finally improving and the days getting longer, you might find yourself a little more motivated to run, but getting started after a few months off can be daunting. Here are a few tips for making the most of those first few runs after a long break.
What happens when you don’t run for a while
You know what they say: use it or lose it. And while we wish that we could take indefinite periods of time off without losing fitness, that just isn’t the case, especially for runners. Like other athletes, runners lose muscular fitness after long periods off, but they are also impacted in another key area: aerobic fitness.
The VO2 max measurement is one of the best ways to assess aerobic runners’ fitness. This measurement calculates the maximum amount of oxygen that your body can use while exercising. Your body uses oxygen while exercising to produce ATP or energy. The higher your VO2 max, the more oxygen you can use and thus generate more energy. Runners generally have high VO2 max amounts, but these levels can be impacted by extended periods of rest. Studies have found that periods of about 10 days of rest have little impact on VO2 max amounts in athletes, however, there may be a bigger difference in beginners. The impact also increases with time: after about 3 months, VO2 max capacity fell by about 25% according to this study.
With that in mind, it can only be expected that you will not be running at the same rate after time off. If that sounds like you, read on. We can get back to peak performance with some training and tips.
1. Get prepped
If you are a complete beginner or haven’t ran in a long time, you might consider preparing your body through other physical activities, like walking. A week of walking regularly could make a huge difference once you start running or jogging, plus it has plenty of other benefits including increased longevity, reduced blood pressure, and improved mental health.
You should also check in on your gear–while running doesn’t require much, make sure you have comfortable, well-fitting running shoes. Poorly fitting shoes can lead to discomfort and in some cases even injury.
If you want to ruin your run before your feet even hit the pavement, don’t hydrate. But if you want a great first run, especially if you are prone to cramping, start drinking water the day before your run. Chugging water right before your run just won’t cut it–your body will want to flush it out, leading to bathroom breaks, and you could even throw off your salt balances as you sweat. Instead, try to hit these benchmarks:
Hydrate the days before your run
16 ounces an hour before your run
Small sips of water during your long run as you sweat
If you struggle to stay hydrated, check out our tips for drinking more water here.
3. Don’t skip the warm-up
Before you start running, warm-up for a few minutes with light cardio and stretching. You may want to walk for a few minutes, march in place, or jog. Light exercise before running will make sure your muscles are loose so you can avoid tears or strain.
4. Start with short distances
When you are just getting back into running, don’t feel bad if you can only run for short distances. This is totally normal and better for your body.
One great way to ease into running and keep your motivation up is by alternating between running and walking. This will help prevent muscle strain and help you stretch your VO2 max.
5. Take it easy
Have you ever gone out for a run at full speed only to immediately start cramping? When the weather is perfect and your energy is up, you may feel ready to start running full speed ahead. But your body might not be ready for that, and that could hurt your progress in the long run (no pun intended). That’s why most running coaches recommend you focus on one word: easy. The beginning of every run should feel easy. You shouldn’t feel out of breath or strained.
Now notice that we said easy, not slow. As you increase speed and distance, remember this word. As you push yourself to go faster or longer, pay attention to what feels easy. You will start to notice that more becomes easier over time.
Focusing on the word easy also takes off some of the pressure to run faster than what your body can handle. Instead of beating yourself up for running slowly, focus on your wins: you are running and you are running with ease. The speed will come.
6. Set reasonable goals
Stay motivated by setting an attainable goal! While we love pushing ourselves, setting your eyes on a marathon when you haven’t ran before could be a recipe for failure. Instead, set goals that you can meet in a timely manner. Your successes will only motivate you to run more.
A new mile time
Sign up for a 5k with your family
Train for a 10k or half marathon
Run 4 times a week
Get on the run
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