Injuries, illness, LIFE happens, and your running falls off track. But you’re ready to return to running. That’s awesome and I am so ready to help you with my free return to running training plan (below).
I’ve had to do the return to running after injury twice in the past two years after extensive time off due to serious running injuries. Then, of course, I’ve had to return to running postpartum twice in the past eight years.
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Needless to say, I have a lot of return to running experience as a runner and as a running coach.
This FREE return to running program is a run/walk program that progresses you from walking to running.
In this article, I’m going to cover:
- How to return to running after injury or a long break
- Why it is hard to get back into running
- What the fastest way to get back into running shape is
- How long does it take to get back into running
- Does the run walk run method work
- Top return to running tips
- A sample week of the walk to run program
- Plus, the free return to running training plan download!
How do I return to running after injury or a long break?
The best way to return to running after injury or a long break is to start with walking. Once you can walk for 30 minutes comfortably with no pain or discomfort, you can begin run/walk intervals.
These run/walk intervals will vary but will generally begin with about 3 minutes running and 2 minutes walking, gradually increasing the time you spend running and decreasing the time you spend walking.
You work up to 30 minutes of continuous running. At this point, you can transition to straight running.
Related: When Can I Start Running After COVID?
Why is it hard to get back into running?
It’s hard to get back into running because running is HARD. While it takes a long time to completely lose running fitness, your body does become quickly deconditioned.
In a study of athletes who took a week off, researchers found:
- a reduction in capillary density and oxidative enzymes
- a reduction in blood volume and stroke volume
- a rise in how much oxygen a person then consumes over carbon dioxide produced
- a decrease in glycogen uptake
- an increase in fat-burning (which leads to slower running);
- and an increase in fast-twitch muscle fibers over the use of slow-twitch muscle fibers, leading to a faster accumulation of lactate leaving your legs burning and heavy.
This means your body becomes inefficient, but the good news is these changes are easily reversible with just a few runs. AND, it is easier to get back your fitness after you gained it in the first place.
Related: How to Treat, Prevent, & Diagnose Common Running Injuries
What is the fastest way to get back into running shape?
The fastest way to get back into running shape injury-free is to start with a run walk program such as mine. This is the best way to run longer without stopping.
Do run/walk intervals where you gradually increase running time. Do the running on nonconsecutive days. Over the course of several weeks or months, you will work up to straight running.
Related: How to Start Running
How long should my run/walk ratios be?
Your run/walk ratios should start conservatively to ensure your body can adjust to the stress of running. My program begins with a 3-minute run and a 2-minute walk. However, if that feels too difficult, you can scale it to run for less time and walk for more time.
For most soon-to-be runners, if you can walk for 30 minutes comfortably, running easy for 3 minutes and walking for 2 minutes is an appropriate starting point. Though, everyone is different and progresses at different rates.
After two run/walk sessions with these intervals, you progress to a longer running intervals—usually increasing in one or two-minute increments
How long does it take to get back into running?
How long it takes to get back into running depends on your starting point. If you are completely detrained (more than two months off running), then it will take at least two months to resume straight running.
Get more info on how long it takes to lose running fitness and how to get back into shape here.
Does the run walk run method work?
Yes, the run walk run method works to progress most everyone into being someone who can run continuously.
This method is a wonderful and effective way to allow your body to adapt to the impact of running at a progressive rate so that it can take on more stress over time.
Starting with a run/walk program is suggested for all runners no matter their experience. This is because our bones, tendons, joints, and muscles strengthen at a slower rate than our cardiovascular system.
Thus, even if your heart and lungs are capable of running 5 miles in 30 minutes, your musculoskeletal system is not ready for that and will break down.
The run/walk/run method keeps you from getting hurt!
Related: Lessons Learned from My Running Injury
My Top 6 Return to Run Tips
- Do not progress too quickly! Even if your body feels good, stick to the schedule. Be sure you do at least two run/walks that are the same before adding more run time.
- Run on nonconsecutive days. Don’t run two back-to-back days. Your body needs more than 24 hours to adjust to the training load.
- Run on a flat surface. Don’t add variables such as hills and speed until your body is used to the time you’ve spent running.
- Run easy. Your running should be done at a conversational pace! And you should feel like you could keep going when the run/walk session is over!
- Listen to your body. If pain increases on a run or goes above a level 3 on a 1-10 scale on the run or within 48 hours of the run, then you need to scale back. Take a break and repeat a week.
- Work up to 30 minutes. When you’re able to run for 30 minutes consecutively, you are ready to resume your running program (carefully!). Still increase week-over-week no more than 10 percent of the training volume!
Related: How to Return to Running After Injury
A sample week of the walk to run program—Week 3 of the 8-week return to run program:
- Monday: Run 8 minutes, walk 2 minutes, 3 times
- Tuesday: Strength train for 20 minutes and XT 30-60 minutes
- Wednesday: Run 8 minutes, walk 2 minutes, 3 times
- Thursday: Strength train for 20 minutes and XT 30-60 minutes
- Friday: Rest, Yoga, or XT
- Saturday: run 10 minutes, walk 1 minute, 2 times
- Sunday: REST
Free 8-week Return to Running Training Program
This Return-to Run Run-to-Walk training plan trains you to run for 30 minutes WITHOUT STOPPING in 8 weeks. Be sure you can walk for 30-minutes comfortably before beginning this plan.
This 8-week running plan is flexible and comes with my personal support.