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After a long year of isolation, runners all over the world may soon be able to start racing again in the near future. We are seeing signs of things returning to normal, and while we’re not out of the woods yet, we are getting close! ‘Normal’ for a lot of runners will include the weekly 5ks at the local park and even the big hometown marathon. We will get back to all of that soon enough, so if you’re wondering how to get back into running after an extended break, this is the article for you.
Over the course of the pandemic, we’ve seen many race organizations get clever with virtual races. There have been unique ways to get people pumped up to participate in a virtual race, with great swag and innovative methods of results tracking. These have been great temporary solutions, but we all want to get back to proper in-person races. Nothing beats the feeling of lining up in your corral and waiting for the starting gun to go off.
Many areas have some level of races already available, but these usually have strict social distancing guidelines and limits on the number of participants. The 40,000 runners gathering to run a marathon together isn’t quite back in action yet. But they will be soon, and when they are, you’ll want to be ready.
Get Back into Running – Tips
If you were race-ready in March of 2020, odds are you have a ways to go to get back into that same shape. When you lace up for that first time after a long break, be sure to start slow. Low mileage with a slower than usual pace will be the way to go. If you go too hard the first few times out, you will be prone to injury and will just end up frustrating yourself.
If you felt great after that first slow and steady run, do yourself a favor and wait an extra day before your next one. Your body isn’t used to running every day, even if it once was. Proper rest in between your first few runs will be very important.
Join a Club or Find a Buddy:
Your first run may be painful or even demoralizing. If you were used to a race pace of 7-minute miles and now are winded after a 9-minute pace, that can really get you down. Running is usually an individual sport, but having a group or a running buddy can be a great way to get you through the rough period. Moral support, mutual cheerleading, and hanging out after the run is all things that can make a frustrating session a lot easier to take.
Trail running is much easier on the body. Running on grass, dirt, gravel or sand is much better for your legs than the shock of striking asphalt day after day. The hilly nature of trail running might seem much harder than road running, but the varied terrain with heavy uphill and downhill stretches can actually be easier in the long run. You will be using different muscle groups to propel yourself up or to control your momentum on the way down. Your legs will feel different than if you had put them through a repetitive motion for the same amount of time. Plus, trail races will be some of the first races to come back since their numbers are usually limited.
Make a Plan and Stick to it:
Make yourself a week-by-week plan for your first month back on the road. Plan out the weekly mileage and pace goals that represent the smart, slow, and steady way to get back into things. Then gradually increase the mileage and the speed in a way that is comfortable for you. Once you have the plan, make sure you follow it. Don’t deviate. Don’t go longer or harder just because you’re feeling good at the moment. Just follow the plan and safely get yourself back on track.
Be Gentle with Yourself:
If you’ve spent the quarantine working from home and snacking all day, you may have lost some fitness and gained some weight. It’s ok! There is a pandemic happening! The best thing you could have done for yourself, your family, and your community was to stay home. If you’ve got some work to do to get back to where you were, that is nothing to be upset about.
Do Your Research
At the same time, we all want to get back to the starting line. Here are some tips for participating in races once we’re back to normal:
- Research Safety Protocols: Find out how the race is approaching social distancing and other COVID-19 protocols. Ensure that the race organization’s stance is similar to your own and that you’re comfortable with how they are handling things.
- Sign Up for the Distance You Can Handle: Just because there’s a really cool half-marathon in your neighborhood in a couple of weeks does not mean you should do it. If you don’t have the time to properly train for the distance, wait until you do. There will always be more races.
- Join a Trail Race: Trail races are always smaller and more spread out. They’ll typically have a starting corral, but once the gun goes off the participants tend to spread out on the course. Trail races are a great option to get back into running for this reason.
Also, let’s not forget about getting our nutrition back in check. As the old saying goes, you can’t outrun a bad diet. If you are looking for tips on how to dial in your diet you can check out the helpful articles on our Eat page.
If you are brand new to running and looking to shed some weight on that journey, check out our new article here!
We should be back to normal soon. Once we are, we’ll surely see a boom in races becoming available in-person. When that happens, you’ll want to jump off the couch and get back out there. The community, the excitement, the crowds, all of the aspects of running a race will be back. These tips should help you be ready for it all!
Looking for an epic trail adventure? Check out our new article on running a marathon up a volcano in Guatemala!
Get started. You don’t want to have to sit out the first few races that you’d like to do while you wait for your body to acclimate. There’s no better time than now to get back into the sport that we all love. Welcome back!