Keen to start running again after a break? Here’s how to make your comeback

Expert runner Laura Hill knows that you can’t go from zero to hero. Here’s how to work your way up to a proper run.

At some point, all runners have a break from the sport.

For some it’s due to injury, medical conditions or burnout. While for others, it might be because of a long overseas holiday (we can dream right?) or a change in exercise focus.

If you’ve had an extended break and want to start running again here are five ways to safely make a comeback and set yourself up for success.

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1. Check in with your intentions

Firstly, it’s awesome that you want to start running again and you should commend yourself for wanting to get back into the sport. But before you lace up your runners, stop and think about why you want to make a comeback. Is the intention a positive one?

If it’s to destress or lose weight, then try rephrasing your why or intention into a positive reason. Focus on gaining something instead of losing something.

For example, “I want to start running again to get stronger rather than to lose weight.” Or “I want to gain perspective and increase my focus instead of losing stress.” Setting positive intentions will help to keep you going when things get tough.

2. Be a realist

If someone has been running consistently for several years, then they’ll be fitter and find it easier to return to running than someone who has been running on and off.

This is because they’ll have a stronger foundation of aerobic strength. And while having time off running results in losing strength and condition in the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and connective tissues, it won’t happen as quickly to someone who has been a regular runner.

So, it’s important to truthfully assess where your fitness and strength is before starting running. Being honest with yourself about your current levels will help to prevent you from getting injured when you start running or increase your training. A general guide is:

  • 1 week or less off running: Pick up your plan where you left off.
  • Up to 10 days off running: Start running 70 per cent of previous mileage.
  • 15 to 30 days off running: Start running 60 per cent of previous mileage.
  • 30 days to 3 months off running: Start running 50 per cent of previous mileage.
  • 3 months off running: Start over.

3. Get walking

Just like the saying, you need to walk before you run. To recondition your body and the critical parts needed to run such as the muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia, bones and connective tissue, be sure you can walk at least 45 minutes comfortably and without pain.

The simple act of walking will help prepare you for the high impact forces running has on the body.

From there, build up to running by doing short, easy runs, and take walk breaks. Start with three to four short runs per week so that you’re running every other day. Try five to 10 minutes of running at a time or alternate between running and walking.

4. Focus on the process not the outcome

Goals are important to achieving success and setting the right type of goal can either help or hinder your ability to achieve it. Most runners set aggressive end goals or outcome goals, such as completing a half marathon or running a certain time.

With an outcome goal, we view our goals by knowing and stating clearly what we want. While outcome goals are a huge carrot, they can sometimes feel distant and unmotivating.

Whereas a process goal focuses on how you might go about positioning yourself for success to achieve your outcome goal. When you restart running try setting smaller goals or milestones that you can pass along the way.

For example, to complete your first run or to run for 20 minutes or to finish a speed workout. These little goals accumulate, are great for maintaining motivation and keep you going in the direction of your outcome goal.

6. Get support

Unless you’re an elite athlete, it’s pretty unlikely you have a running coach. But the great news is there are loads of excellent apps and training programs that can help inspire, motivate and support your return to running.

These days, apps can not only track your run, but also coach you, motivate you with music, keep you safe, and more. Take the guesswork out of your training program and follow expertly curated plans or be pushed outside your comfort zone with virtual coaching. Here are some good apps to check out.

Nike Run Club

Whatever your goal, via the NRC app your Nike running coach has a plan for you. One that starts with your goals and fitness level and adapts as you progress. There’s workouts for everyone including ‘first run’, ‘first speed run’, ‘long runs’ and even a half marathon guided plan. The NRC app allows users to track their runs like any other activity tracker, but the app’s winning feature is the guided runs.

C25K® – 5K Running Trainer

The popular Couch-to-5K app does exactly what it says: Turns you from sedentary couch potato into a runner. It guides you through three 30-minute workouts per week to get you ready for the 5K race in nine weeks. Along the way, it tracks your time and distance via GPS, and a virtual coach gives you verbal cues about your workout.


Check out Runcoach to create a workout schedule and stick to it. Set a running goal and input information on your schedule, and the algorithm will deliver customised guidance on how to train.

Follow Laura Hill and her running adventures on her Instagram.

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