Running After a Long Layoff

Once you've experienced the benefits of running, including improved cardiovascular fitness, more energy and improved mood, it's easy to take it up again after a lull. Whether an injury took you out of the sport temporarily, you abandoned your training after meeting a race goal or life's demands simply interfered with your fitness plans, you can get back on track in a matter of weeks.

A man is standing on a running track. (Image: Ibrakovic/iStock/Getty Images)

Factors

Your strategy for building your running routine after a break depends on how long it's been since you've trained, your fitness level when you were running regularly and whether you've maintained cardiovascular endurance through other activities. The American Council on Exercise says that even though highly fit individuals experience a rapid tapering in cardiovascular endurance during the first three weeks off, you still retain a high level of fitness for about 12 weeks. As you start your training again, you can adjust your routine to match your current endurance capacity.

Expectations

A longer break from running means more work to get back to your old routine, but even if you've been away from running for more than three to four month, you can build your long runs up to four or five miles in 10 weeks or less, depending on your current fitness level. Since you may have retained some of your running ability, use your first week back as a trial and error period to help you find an appropriate starting place.

Initial Training

Start with intervals of walking and running, but listen to your body to determine how much running is right for you. If running for any length of time seems too difficult, use 20 to 30 minute walking workouts to establish a fitness base that you can build upon later. On the other hand, if running comes more easily than expected, extend your running intervals during initial training, taking care not to overdo it. The Road Runners Club of America advises new runners to run at a moderate-intensity pace and take walking breaks when needed. This guideline works well for runners in the retraining mode, as well. Build endurance first and then add speed and intensity.

Options

Training for a race can be motivating for new and returning runners alike. Progressively training for a 5K, 10K and half-marathon, for example, can help you work up to 10 miles over the course of five months or less. Although you can incorporate a 5K and 10K race into a half marathon training schedule, start with an 8 to 10 week training regimen focused on running a strong 5K. Once you've worked up to this level, you can take on a 12-week half marathon training schedule and run a 10K during the course of your training. On the other hand, if speed is your primary goal, add intervals and tempo runs into your routine once you're able to consistently run two to four miles.

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