It happens to many runners: you start running, you push your body faster, you go farther, you dream about PRs and distance goals, you watch your intake meticulously, and suddenly you see possibilities you never had the courage to dream before. Then BOOM! Something stops you in your tracks. Perhaps you get hurt. Or you get busy. Or you burn out. And as quickly as you gained mileage, fitness, and confidence, it all disappears.
This was the case for me two years ago. In Spring of 2013 I began running. I was at the heaviest weight I’d ever been and knew I needed to do something to fight the Freshmen Twenty (plus an additional two years of college eating). I had never run prior and knew nothing of the sport, but I jumped head-first anyways. Joining a local running group, I trained for my first 5k. Following an extremely successful first race, I moved forward and trained for my first half marathon and completed this race only five months after I began pounding the ground in my running shoes. Not only did I lose more than fifty pounds during my first year in the sport, but I also gained a confidence I’d never felt and milestones I never believed I could achieve. When asked my hobbies, running was always my first response and I identified myself as a runner first and foremost.
Two years ago I completed the RunDisney Glass Slipper Challenge — a 10k and half marathon back-to-back in Orlando. However, upon my return home I hung up my shiny new medals along with my running shoes. It is about time for me to wipe the dust from the shoes though and hit restart on my running regimen.
Coming from such a lengthy hiatus is like cleaning out the cobwebs from my head though. Even though I have been working out consistently over the past three months does not necessarily mean my body remembers how to handle long miles of running. I consider it a personal victory if I can run a full ten minutes nowadays. I’ve heard the distance will come back more quickly after already teaching myself to be an endurance runner, so I need to be smart about how to increase my mileage and build back strength.
Since I love nothing more than being organized when entering a new game plan, I sat down and did some Googling on the struggles others have faced when coming back to running from years off. And I wrote a list of the things I felt were most important and most pertinent to me as I restart my journey. Here is what I came up with:
I need to set a goal. Goals create motivation. Goals get me excited. And achieving goals make me confident to continue for more.
I need to make a plan. Plans are the backbone to how I began running five years ago. I joined a running group and was given a training plan to stick with on a weekly basis.
I must practice patience. So what if 10 minutes of running is a personal victory for me? I shouldn’t expect my body to jump right back into the swing of running when it has been on pause for so long. I’m starting from scratch and need to create my goals slowly and realistically so I do not lose confidence and fail.
I have to focus on getting strong. I’m going to maintain my strength training in order to tolerate a higher volume of running in the future. One of the biggest reasons I quit running two years ago is because my knees simply couldn’t hold up to the mileage I was attempting. Knowing I need to focus on strengthening my quads, glutes, and lower abs in order to endure the jarring motion of running.
Most of all, I need to be excited. I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with running. I hate the actual exercise but love the endorphins and amazing confidence felt following it. To be excited, I need to know why I’m wanting to run again and keep that reason in mind after my first few runs when I start to question my decision of rejoining the sport.
So, first off, why do I want to start running again? There are multiple reasons: I miss being able to identify as a runner, I miss the confidence I’d feel following a great run, I miss the feeling of early-morning workouts outdoors, I’d like to become more active in my community literally, I would like to have a personal goal to work towards, and I wouldn’t cry about losing the weight I’ve gained back since my Big Drop.
Next, goals. I’ve already talked about my 8-week 5k training. I have been faithful to this training program! My aim is to set a goal on a daily basis strictly on how I expect my run to proceed. However, long-term, my first goal is to run (completely, no walking intervals included) a 5k on June 13th following the end of my training. Due to COVID, this will most likely be a virtual run. This will be a first for me, and I always love trying something new! Only more incentive!
Finally, my plan of action. Once I complete my 5k training program on June 10th, I plan to follow it with a half marathon training schedule. As I mentioned yesterday, my ultimate goal is to run a half marathon on August 16, 2020. (Eek!) This is the same time frame I had in 2013 and was able to succeed. And this time around I know the basics of running such as form, hydration, and listening to my body so I plan to be mindful of how my body reacts and not forcing myself into an injury.