5 Ways to Return to Running Fitness Successfully

After the long hazy days of summer with no training structure, it can be tempting to rush back to running and overdo it. STOP!

First, read our guide to getting back to race sharpness swiftly, safely and without adding stress to an already busy life.

Words & Pictures: Sarah Shaw

As we dash around, dusting off our work-life juggling skills, getting kids sorted for school while attempting to relocate our hole-free work tights from the back of drawers, it will hit many of us how much we’ve let our running fitness go.

But there’s no need to panic, as the new season is a great time to outline new training goals, and structure your training so it fits into your life-work balance, rather than leaving you feeling guilty that you’re running, when you should be *working/spending time with the kids/friends/husband (insert as appropriate). 

Follow our top five tips to getting back into run sharpness fast and we promise you’ll be back to running strong, long after the tan has faded, and the Bake Off contestants fade back into obscurity… 

Establish a new base line

If September has you full of baguette and fromage-flavoured regret, avoid the temptation to dive headlong back into a punishing running regime.  First, applaud yourself for taking time out.  It allows our bodies to go through a natural cycle of repair and growth. And yes, while we lose race sharpness and fitness, having a well earned rest is good for your mind and body.  

Even the most seasoned endurance runners and triathletes target one or two key races per year, with off-seasons in between to allow adequate recovery and follow a periodised training programme to account for this.

What we suggest is to run a route that you’re familiar with, a local parkrun or 10k for instance. Run it as hard as you can, so that you have a new baseline from which to progress. 

Knowing your current running PB will help you or your coach to set ‘challenging but achievable’ targets to progress you in your Autumn season training. 

Build gradually

Avoid jumping straight back into an overly ambitious routine which is more likely to leave you fatigued or injured. 

Your body needs time to readjust with more recovery days while you build intensity and volume back up. A general rule of thumb is to increase weekly distance by no more than 10%.  

Take a holistic approach 

It can be tempting to try and accelerate your fitness reboot by filling your calendar with races. But races are more demanding on your mind and body than training.  

Be selective and target one ‘goal race’ for the season,  and then plan backwards, selecting one or two carefully chosen tune-up races. For example, if you are targeting a marathon in November, you might aim for a half marathon approximately 6-4 weeks out, ideally similar to your A race in terms of climate and terrain. 

Ensure you consider you life/work/family commitments when you choose your race, so that you know the training will fit within the structure of your life, allowing you time to train and achieve your goals without added stress and the risk of burning out. 

The training plan should mix cross-training and recovery runs, which are the best way to rebuild muscular and cardiovascular strength, whilst building endurance.  Ensure all your workouts get equal priority and don’t assume that if you can just fit in the harder running efforts, you’ll scrape by. If you can’t fit it all in, consider adjusting your goal and your training accordingly. 

Be accountable 

Write down your goals and how you will get there with your coach or for yourself and keep them close to hand. The format doesn’t matter; digital, bullet diary, doodles – even make a chart and give yourself gold stars when you achieve your goals.

Invest some time in it, and make it personal. That way you’ll be more likely to refer back to it, and  if enthusiasm ever starts to wane, you’ll be reminded of your good September intentions when you started out. 

Now, take that next step, book your race, hire a coach or get a training plan sorted. 

Good luck and enjoy your Autumn training.