You were busy with some important office assignment or holidaying, travelling, family commitments or nursing an injury because of which you couldn’t go out for your daily trot. Now, you are free from engagements and start running again with fervor and baam!! you get injured. It’s so frustrating.
It feels bad to loose your hard earned fitness because of the above reasons but you know what? It’s life! It will throw all kind of challenges and it’s upon us to face them boldly or sulk in our beloved couch with a pop corn tub. I was off running for more than a month recently and started again a couple of weeks back. Before that I was running a decent mileage per week. These kinds of breaks have happened a lot of times and I generally take it easy initially. Here’s what I do after I come back from a break or injury.
1. Maintain weight
It’s easy to lose track of your running objectives when you are off running for whatever reasons. That time your appetite generally remains the same as when you were running. So you tend to overeat and put on weight.
Best is to keep a long term, medium term and short term goals handy or just stay focused for the love of running. Keep reading them and inspire yourself from time to time. This will keep you from senseless eating. Maintaining weight during a lay off will help you make a faster and injury free comeback to running.
2. Don’t hurry
Generally the human body starts to lose fitness after 3 days. So, I try and get a run in or some active activity in this time frame. If not then you don’t have to hurry up to recover the lost fitness. Hurry can lead to injury. Practice patience.
According to Jeff Galloway in Lore of Running, walking breaks in running helps to delay muscular exhaustion, allows muscles to recover from repetitive eccentric movement and delays stretch shortening cycle fatigue. So, if you are a comeback runner, it is advisable to take walking breaks in between. For example I run a 200 metre, then walk a 100 or 50 metre and repeat for few days. Gradually, I increase the running distance and reduce walking distance. You may feel bit embarrassed but it is completely normal.
3. 10 percent rule
With respect to the above point, follow the 10 percent rule. What this rule entails is that you should only increase the overall mileage with only a 10 percent. This is a tried and tested formula which will ensure injury free comeback. Again for this, you may feel strong and fast one day, but don’t give in to the exuberance. Practice patience.
4. Keep intermediate goals
I guess it is best to have intermediate goals throughout your training year. It means that have a main goal or a race in mind and several small races or goals as a means to check fitness for the long term goal. Now when you are laying off from running, you will have these goals as a reminder to keep you on track and maintain weight. And when you comeback to running, you will be much clearer with respect to your goals in future and will not hurry up unnecessarily.
5. Aim for distance and not speed
Nothing new in this. But is where I myself have faltered a number of times. The aim of comeback should be to build endurance for distance first and then speed. Why? Because the body gets stronger and is more attuned to handling stress. Ignore it and you can suffer this and this and this and this. Build up slowly for distance and once the body gets comfortable at a particular distance, inject speed training session gradually.
6. Maintain journal
Writing down where you left running and starting again gives you a platform where you want to reach in what time frame and then progress ahead of that. Also with a journal you can keep a track of your workouts and know when and where are you going overboard and start overtraining. Overtraining is one of the most common side effect of a comeback runner’s routine. Avoid it at all costs and keeping a journal is a very great method.
7. Do strength training
Nothing like starting a comeback running programme in conjunction with strength tra
ining. Strength training will help ensure a strong core to minimise injuries and tolerate a sudden increase in physical activity. Have a look at this and this and this and this for a guide to strength train different regions of the body. Another option is to cross train in moderation to keep running fun.
Starting all over again is not a pleasant feeling. Especially DOMS(Delayed Onset Muscle Syndrome) really makes each movement quite painful. I suggest, which I try to implement myself, that keep doing some sort of physical exercise during the lay off time or at least be active. This will help coming back much easier.
Till then stay fit and keep running.
What are your strategies to make a comeback?
What is your longest lay off from running? How much time did it take you to get back the fitness?