Getting back to training after time off running depends on so many complex and interlinking components. It depends on how long you’ve been an athlete, your injury history, your age, what equipment you’ve had available to you during the lockdown as well as the natural genetic functioning of your body.
In general, if you’ve had time off from running its advisable you take things slow (I’m pretty sure you’re all thinking “pssshhh easier said than done”) so here are some things to keep in mind as you begin your post lockdown training block!
You may be fit but need gradual conditioning
Even if you’ve had time on an indoor trainer and are feeling fit, your tendons, ligaments and bones need time to adapt to the high impact of running and the load you will be placing on them again. In fact those who had had access to any kind of no impact equipment like an elliptical or bike trainer will have to work even harder at reigning yourself in when you start running again. You may feel superhuman after 6 odd weeks of cycling every day but you’ll still require conditioning. Firstly biking or elliptical work are low impact and secondly they train different muscle patterns. Switching immediately and suddenly to only running because you feel fit is probably going to be a recipe for injury. Phase it in slowly, perhaps alternating days for the first week and then keeping mileage low but frequent in the second week. Stay in tune with your body, don’t let your mind tell you tricks on how much you NEED to do and focus on how much you CAN do.
Whatever ‘at home’ workout you’ve been following will have an impact on your running
There have been loads of ‘at home’ workouts flooding our screens for weeks on end. If or which one you’ve been doing will also have a difference on how you get back to running. If you’ve been doing things that are totally different to your previous routine (maybe you started yoga for the first time or did some HIIT burpee challenges), you may find that things feel different than before when you start running. Give yourself grace if you feel like an awkward giraffe those first few runs, take things slow and add in 3-4 x 20 second moderate hill strides once or twice a week!
Stress is stress
It’s been one heck of a stressful period for everyone to say the least. Remember that your body processes all stress the same, physical, emotional, mental etc. So If you’ve had a tough time the last few weeks or months due to the crisis at hand, going out and putting more physical stress on your body through running hard is going to lead to illness, injury or burnout. Try to listen to your body, take your previous ‘easy’ pace and make it easier for a week or two. Reframe your runs so that you feel rejuvenated and fresh afterwards rather than them adding stress to your system in any way.
It’s normal to have a panicky feeling when you feel back to square 0 after a lay off from running. You miss being able to run fast, feel strong and go far. You want it back, and fast! This approach is not going to work and could lead to prolonged frustration. Quiet your mind and try not to compare yourself to others. In fact I would advise taking a break from Strava or any other social media platforms that may be detrimental to your progress. Stick to your process and what your body can do given the circumstances and follow that. Comparison is the thief of all joy!
Process, process, process!
Goals are great but right now the world is so upside down we may not have goals for quite some time. Instead of being disappointed about this rather try to learn how to enjoy (truly enjoy) the process of running, gaining athleticism and getting stronger. Set your intention for each and every run whether it’s to clear your mind, rejuvenate, be kind to yourself or increase your capacity to maintain focus on the breath. Goals are awesome and fun but the process is what makes us better people and athletes. Use this time to be kinder to yourself than ever before and don’t get swept up in the craziness of who’s doing what mileage at what pace. None of that matters. What matters is that you have fun, maintain health and build consistency over time! If you are struggling to either hold yourself back or hold yourself accountable I’d advise signing up with a coach to help you maintain that objective, zoomed out perspective during this time.