Updated: Jan 8, 2020
By Chris Palmquist
Whether you are new to running or have had an extended break from running due to injury or any other reason, it can be very difficult to get back “in stride.” I have successfully restarted my own running more times than I can count, and I have witnessed hundreds of athletes go from non-running to running-well over the years. You can do it too. Here are some tested tips for success.
It is critical to start with very small steps on your way back to running. The first small step may be walking. Make sure that you can walk for 1-3 miles without pain before advancing to jogging. After a particularly bad knee injury and surgery, I focused on walking for months until I could walk without a limp. (My dog was very happy.) After I mastered the daily walking, I was ready to add in small amounts of jogging.
Walk 1-mile x 3 days a week.
Gradually build up to being able to walk 3+ miles a day x 5-6 days a week.
When it is time to add running back into your routine, start by alternating easy running with fast walking. Also including at least one day of no running after each running day to allow for good recovery. Where you start depends on your recent running experience. If in doubt, it's better to underestimate how much to run as you get back into it. If you get too ambitious at first, you are more likely to get tired, sore, or re-injured, and lose your momentum again.
Walk for 5:00. Then, alternate 15 seconds of running with 1:45 of walking for 20:00. Cool down with 5:00 of walking. Do this 3 X per week until it gets “easy.”
Progress to running 30 seconds, walking 1:30.
Progress to running 45 seconds, walking 1:15.
Progress to running 1:00, walking 1:00.
Progress to running 1:15, walking 45 seconds.
Progress to running 1:30, walking 30 seconds.
Progress to running 2:00, walking 1:00.
Progress to running 3-5 minutes, walking 1:00.
Once you can run 3-5 minutes with 1:00 walk breaks for 20 minutes, you can start to increase the length of your run. Try adding 5 minutes at a time. Continue starting and finishing each run with a 5:00 walk to warm up and cool down.
It will feel awful at first. You may doubt that you will ever feel good running again. But you will. Be consistent and determined and you will get there. And it will be worth it! Good luck!