We all have periods in our lives where we exercise more than at other times. Perhaps you’re feeling extra-motivated to get in shape for a holiday, or maybe you’ve signed up for a half marathon to raise money for a chosen charity. But once we’ve completed that challenge, it can be easy to lose the motivation and stop running altogether.
I’ll be the first to admit that the process of starting running again can seem daunting, overwhelming and downright exhausting. That’s why we’ve highlighted our top tips for getting into running again, from joining a running group, setting a schedule to forming your long term goals!
Run in a Group
This is a really important tip and can often make or break whether your venture back into running is a success.
Joining a running group has lots of advantages, many of them psychological. Forming part of a team and calling yourself a runner instantly gives you a sense of responsibility, professionalism and togetherness – by running regularly with others you form a camaraderie.
Virtual Runner Rachel Bailey says that running in a group can be a great help, and that they’re not just for speedy runners. The support and encouragement received can be a real motivational boost, whatever level you’re at.
Knowing that other people are counting on you to show up and run with them can really drive you to push yourself further and commit to this change. You can make lasting friendships with people who have similar interests and give each other tips of where to run. Running groups are a great fountain of running knowledge, too, on everything including injury prevention, diet and safe areas to run!
Set Yourself a Training Schedule
Depending on how long you’ve had away from regular running, your training schedule should be different. Everyone’s body is different and we all have different aerobic capabilities. Use the below as a rough guide for getting back into running, based on how long you’ve had off:
- 1 week or less – Continue your current training schedule
- 2 weeks to 1 month – Run 60% of your previous mileage
- 1 month to 3 months – Run 50% of your previous mileage
- 3 months + – Start your training programme again.
Understanding how far you can push your body is the most important element when getting back into running. A good guideline is to use the 10% rule: if you’re starting training again from scratch, don’t increase your mileage by more than 10% week by week. This goes for your running pace too – maintain it at a comfortable level, with slow increments in keeping with your mileage increase.
Your running group meetups will be great for keeping you on track and running regularly with a fixed schedule.
Engage in Other Aerobic Activities
If you’re looking to get into shape, running is a cheap and flexible way of getting in your cardio through aerobic exercise.
However, it can put a lot of pressure on one specific activity to improve your base level of fitness. This can be particularly troublesome if you had to stop running because of an injury or are somewhat injury prone.
Overtraining or running without the necessary expertise can place unwanted stress on your joints. Mix up your fitness schedule by trying out other low-impact activities like swimming or cycling. By adding variety to your activities, it will keep you engaged with exercise for longer and places less importance on running being your only physical outlet.
Take Your Time
You will undoubtedly be less fit and capable than you were at your peak running condition. Your past running achievements cannot be taken away from you, but they also shouldn’t hold you back.
Try not to think back to how fast or how far you have run previously and focus on small improvements each time you go out for a run. Depending on your age you can lose aerobic capability faster than you think so do not be disheartened if you feel a lot less fit than you were before. Your VO2 max is the maximum amount of oxygen that your body can utilise during intense exercise. This will be lost as you do not train regularly, typically:
- After 2 weeks off you lose 5–7% of VO2max
- After 3 months off you lose 25–30% of VO2max
This shows that it is only natural to lose your base levels of fitness, therefore it will take some time to build it back up. Be patient and stick to your training schedule and you’ll see the progress you desire!
When we asked the Virtual running community their thoughts on getting back into running, one of the most common themes was the simple need to be patient, have a good time and to not beat yourself up about anything. Whatever your pace, as Virtual Runner Helen Hobbs said, you’re still beating those sat on the sofa!
When it comes to getting started again, Amanda Bishop pointed out that just getting out the door for a short walk is a great start. Build up to running as you feel more comfortable, and set small goals on your run – like speeding up to the next lamppost or street corner.
As several Virtual Runners pointed out, ‘jeffing’ can be really helpful here. This is the Jeff Galloway method, which simply put is a mixture of running and walking. Don’t forget that with Virtual Runner races, you race at your own pace, so feel free to jeff the whole run!
Virtual Runner Alison Simpson summed this theme up beautifully when she told us that it doesn’t matter how fast or slow you’re going, you’re still going forward!
Form a Habit
Research shows that it takes 21 days to form a new habit. This is when your mindset moves from having to actively think of doing something to it becoming second nature. It’ll be the same with your running habit.
Simply going on one run and being demoralised that you felt too unfit or didn’t achieve your goal will not help your long-term fitness. Persist with your training schedule, commit and create a running habit.
This will ultimately help you achieve long-lasting results that should last a lifetime. Your running club will be a great way for you to really cement the habit of getting off the sofa and starting running!
Set Yourself a Realistic Goal
Setting yourself a training goal gives you a target to aim for, helping to structure your training. This can be easily built into your training schedule.
Everyone is different when it comes to running ability, so make sure you set a goal achievable to you. That could be your local 5k run at the end of the month or a full marathon later in the year. Virtual Runner Jenny Gordon reminds us to be kind to yourself about your goals. Don’t create outcome goals; instead, celebrate every run and enjoy yourself!
By setting yourself targets it means there will be a sense of accomplishment when you complete them, meaning that you’re more likely to be committed to your fitness in the long run.
Track Your Progress
Whenever starting a journey of self-improvement you need to know where you have come from and how well you are progressing. The importance of tracking your progress cannot be underestimated.
This data will be your saviour in those times when you would rather be sat on your sofa watching television (not to mention the key to receiving your Virtual Runner medals!). Seeing how far you have come and how the exercise you are doing is improving your fitness will be the push you need to keep up your good work.
There are plenty of free running apps you can download on your smartphone to track your progress, upload photos and join part of a virtual running community. Strava, Runtastic, Runkeeper and MapMyRun are some of the most popular and effective for doing this. A big favourite with lots of Virtual Runners is the C25K app – Andrea Allen said it was great for helping her to get back into running!
Getting into running again should be an enjoyable process. Luckily with our top tips, you have everything you need to get off the sofa and go for a run. No matter your age or your fitness level, why not try these easy steps and start your running journey again today!
For more running hints, tips and inspiration, head on over to our blog, where you’ll see guides on topics like running in hot weather and how to safely run with dogs!