How to Get Back to Running

My relationship with running over the course of 10 years has taken many forms.  First, when I was seeing someone else (the faster-paced, arguably more exciting and skilled sport of basketball) we didn’t get along at all.  Running punished me.  Up and down the court with my teammates.  Touching baseline then free-throw then baseline then half court then baseline then the other free-throw then baseline then far baseline and back.  Down and forth, faster and faster.  Not fast enough? Do it again.  Someone mouthing off? Do it again.  And again and again, until you puke (and maybe once or twice I did).  And so we ran, from line to line to line.

When I ended my relationship with basketball, running took a different form in my life.  I began to see it more seriously.  Exclusively, you could say.  We got along great.  It was 2008 and I was training for my first marathon.  Without the distraction or commitment of basketball, running and I were able to see each other three to four times per week.  The style changed too.  My dates with running were less punishing and more rewarding.  We took our runs outside, along the river and through the parks and neighborhoods of Memphis.   I fully committed myself to a lifetime with running after completing the St. Jude Marathon in 2008.  But no relationships are perfect.  Including mine with running.

Since then we’ve had some great times – traveling to Oregon, Florida and much of the mid-south for races.  Running helped me explore parts of Europe when I studied in Ireland that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise – especially Belgium (running with the scent of Belgium waffles in the air is just heavenly, we were together for hours that day).  We’ve been really committed; trudging through hard workouts together to PR in the St. Jude 2011 half or gritting teeth and cursing each other as we fight our way through rain/cold/heat/humidity and hills.

Like any healthy relationship, we’ve also had some rocky patches.  Weeks or months pass where I’m too busy, too sore, too tired. Hell, even too lazy to stay committed to running.  Sometimes you’re just too.  But, like a favorite old lover or faithful best friend I know we’ll always be able to pick up again.

I’m at that point now, and I alluded to that in a post earlier this week.  I want running back in my life.  I haven’t run since November and this 2 month break is the longest we’ve been apart since we first got together.

Here are some tips for the first few weeks back to your running relationship:

1. Start – Your shoes aren’t going to lace themselves up for you (unfortunately).  If you know you want it, go get it.  Even if it’s just a mile, let running (and in a way, yourself) know that you’re serious.  That might even mean enduring the first run back in the rain or on the treadmill or by yourself.  I find that once you’re out of a habit, excuses are easier to come across than screaming girls at a Bieber concert.  So, you may get lucky with perfect conditions the day you decide to get back to it, but you may not be able to wait for them.

Dust ’em off and lace ’em up! (Photo cred: Reid Sprenkel)

2. Choose your favorite routes– You’re going out with an old flame for the first time in a few months, would you take them to that place that you both hated with the loud atmosphere and slow service? No.  Don’t do it with running either.  A lap around the neighborhood not your favorite?  Drive to the lake instead.  Have a strange love for the treadmill?  Get on it.  You’re trying to re-solidify running as part of your daily or weekly routine.  Choosing a beautiful, scenic location or a favorite route will help remind you why you love running.  Until you remember why you loved it in the first place, you may have to use other parts of the routine to convince yourself.

One of my favorite places to run.

3. Don’t rush- Maybe could pick right back up where you left off with an old (human) flame, it’s not always a good idea with running.  Depending on the length of your break, you may end up getting discouraged at your current ability level, or worse injured from trying to come back too hard or too quickly.  Give it a little time – you’ll be as strong as your old self in no time.   Start off with an easy distance of 2 or 3 miles at a comfortable pace for the first week or so.

4. Spice it up – Once you’re back in the groove a bit, add in some variety by changing up the location, style and company of your runs.  Grab a friend, hit the track or ditch the tunes for a little change of pace.  Just like a human relationship, variety is the spice of life.

5. Pick a race – Nothin’ like a big event to keep you motivated!  There are plenty of races to keep you motivated through the gray and dreary days of winter’s end.


Have you ever taken a break from running?  Was it hard to come back?  What techniques did you use to help get you back out there?


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