Kickstarting a Restart
By Paul Towers
Image © lassedesignen / Fotolia
I originally thought the hardest thing about running was getting started. But it’s not. It’s actually kickstarting a restart after taking a break. This is the third time I have tried to get back into running after taking a break and I can tell you that it’s damn tough.
This post isn’t written for people new to running. It’s written for those who love running but had to take a break. Whether it was due to family, work or injury you have found yourself on the sidelines for an extended period of time (in my case more than 12 months). The passion for running still burns strongly, but the actual doing part is where you fall apart.
It started with the birth of my second child and a new job. There were so many extra things to do on a daily basis and so little time. I was also a touch burned out, so I took a step back and stopped running. A couple of months went by, and then a few more. Eventually it was Christmas and I hadn’t run in over eight months.
With the New Year came a renewed desire to get back out there and start running again. I hit the road and knocked out 10kms on January 1st. It wasn’t too bad and a few days later I completed another 10kms. It was much, much harder. Even though I had clearly lost my ability to recover as quickly as I used to, I was still determined to keep going.
Sadly, this determination didn’t last long. A few days later I was back at work and all that renewed interest had left me. I’m not sure what it was. Whether it was the kids being sick or a meeting at work? But it happened. I missed one run. Then I missed two. And then it was a few weeks and I was wondering where time had gone, again.
Another few months would pass before I finally snapped. I picked myself up and decided it was time to run again. I committed to the moderate goal of running just twice a week. If I could do that, then eventually everything would fall into place. Or so I believed.
I lasted a week before I was sidelined again.
Why? Was this it so much harder to start running once I’d stopped than it was to get started in the first place. What a frustrating place to be in when all I wanted to do was run like I used to.
I’m now on attempt number three and I’m taking a different approach. I’m focusing on fitness and training with friends. We aren’t necessarily going for ‘runs’ but are incorporating running into a wider mix of training. It’s been two weeks and being in a group means I can’t pull out. With a couple more weeks of fitness training under my belt it will then be time to turn my attention back onto ‘running’.
While, I haven’t yet reclaimed anything like my former running glory days, I still have some practical tips:
- Start Small – Everyone wishes they could do what they used to but it won’t be the case. I thought 10km would be easy enough, having run ultra marathons in the past. But boy was I wrong. 3km or 5km would have been a much better starting point.
- Space things out – When I first started running I only did it once per week. This time round I was trying to do two or even three runs a week straight out of the door. I was destroying my body and my legs hurt like hell. I should have realised what my body was saying. I needed a larger amount of recovery time between sessions.
- Be at peace with the mind – Running slower than before or struggling to make the distance can play on your mind. For someone who is competitive it can be hard to accept. But you need to be at peace with this and move on. Focus on running for enjoyment, not for time or distance.
- It will take time – Don’t expect miracles. In my most recent attempt at a comeback I pushed myself too hard and threw up. It wasn’t a pretty site. Take things easy and remember that there are many more training sessions to come. You don’t need to go hard from day one.
- Surround yourself with friends – if you train in a group you are more likely to stay committed to your new training regime. No one wants to phone their friend to say they will be skipping a session (or two).
- Look to alternatives until you are ready to run – The biggest change for me this time round is that I am focusing on fitness in general. I am building a base and doing some running. But I won’t focus on running until I know I am ready for it again.
- Embrace new running goals – If you’re time off was a manifestation of a lifestyle shift, like children, careers or you simply grew strong interest for something that wasn’t running, consider that your struggle to return is because you’ve matured and your priorities have changed. This is fine! Maybe the struggle is against and old benchmark, when your new benchmark should be on an entirely different level.