This past weekend I joined a friend on a long run. As we made our way back to the car, all I could think about was how good it would feel to stop moving. My feet hurt. My back hurt. And for some reason, I could barely move my neck left or right. I was in bad shape; all I could do was sit next to the car and catch my breath. I had just finished my first training run longer than 75 minutes and was having trouble seeing straight.
If you follow me on social media, you might remember that I shared last week that I have decided to start training again. Besides inconsistent runs with the dog and mountain adventures when I have time, I have taken the previous seven years off of consistent running. Right now, I feel fat, out of shape, and overwhelmed by the work I know I must do to return to that fit feeling. Once I publicized that I would start training again, there was no going back. I will not lie: it’s only been nine days, but some days it has been hard putting on my shoes, and I have found myself looking for random jobs around the house to keep busy as an excuse not to get out there. Friends have asked me, “What are you training for?”. In my dreams, I would love to get back to my peak fitness with a tunnel vision of racing and winning, but in reality, my main goal is to get fit again because I enjoy running and want it to feel good rather than a death march. Life runs smoother, and I feel better when I am fit and healthy.
One of the biggest mistakes people make when starting training or returning to consistent running after some time off is forgetting how much work it took them to get to that place when they last felt fit and fast. They may try to recreate past workouts or timed long runs, be unsuccessful, and feel beaten down and defeated. The number one rule of running well (and living well) is to start where you are right now. It is necessary to be realistic and work from a training plan that reflects your current situation. Accepting this can be challenging, but you can plan and build from it once you do. I started running on the treadmill last week, and once I accepted that I was starting from scratch and set the speed to a mellow jogging pace, I could run a solid 35 minutes. As I kept getting back on the treadmill and putting in the effort, the days ticked by, and my strength increased. I’m now up to 1 hour. I’m feeling good, my body is healthy, and I’m motivated to keep improving. It may seem that these fitness gains happened fast, but it is important to remember that I used to run a lot and that by being consistent, my body is remembering these old habits.
Consistency and knowing where your starting point is are the main ingredients to jumping back into a focused routine. Nail those two things; you will see speed and strength gains before you know it. You’ll feel better, and the steps back to fitness will feel smaller and more manageable. Take it from me- the first two to four weeks are tough, but once you get over that hump, it is always worth it.