Runners: Coming Back from Time Off

by Louise | June 13th, 2011 | Running

Returning from time off takes a bit of finesse and a lot of patience for runners. Of course, we want to get back to our former shape as soon as possible. Yet, if we come back too strong, we risk paying for it later, physically and literally. It’s all about finding the perfect balance on the road to a successful return, and that can be quite difficult to do.

The amount of miles a runner returns to depends on both the amount of time taken off and the reason. Many runners fear that their fitness will drop after just a few days off. In reality, consistent runners will usually see improvement after taking a few days off, which gives their bodies a chance to recover. After more than one week, the loss of fitness starts to negatively outweigh the benefits of rest. It is unlikely that the athlete will be able to go on the same run, at the same pace, without a bit of struggle.

Here are a few key things to remember when coming back from time off:

  • Listen to your body. If you are returning from time off due to an injury, the most important thing to do is listen to your body.  If you feel pain that you can’t attribute to soreness, back off on your mileage. If you don’t want to lose your level of fitness, try cross training by using an elliptical or by aqua-jogging. Some say recovery time to get back to one’s peak level is double the amount taken off, but this can certainly vary.
  • Start low, not slow. This is one of harder pieces of advice to follow after 2-3 weeks off. It can really feel like crap when going for a run after a few weeks off. The tendency will be to slow down to a “comfortable” pace, but this runs the risk of injury (no pun intended); going significantly slower than your former pace is likely to compromise your running form and may result in injury.
  • Follow the 10% rule. In order to avoid injury, the 10% rule is often used as a basic guideline for increasing mileage from week to week. (20 miles for one week means you can safely run 22, or 20 plus 10% of 20, miles the next week). This rule works well in the 20-40 miles per week range; however, this “rule” is perhaps a bit too general. The best thing you can do is listen to your body.
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All health and fitness information is provided for educational purposes. Please consult with your physician before beginning any exercise regimen.