A common mistake that nearly everyone I know has made when getting into exercise is doing it too much. Being motivated and wanting to make progress quickly is something we all go through. I wanted to hit the road every day when I started running again, but this time, I let my brain override my overwhelming desire to get out there every day and I sat out every other day. This turned out to be the single most important key to my success in being able to continue running without injury for my first three months of running.
How I started back into running
The only plan I had was for 30 minutes of nonstop running. I didn’t care about my pace or speed: just shuffled along for 30 minutes. Looking back, it was a laughably slow pace, but I did it; I made it all the way through without stopping.
I continued by increasing my pace every time until I started noticing that the distances I was running were creeping up. I hit two miles, then two and a half, then three… and I was up to four and a half when I got sick and had to stop running for nearly two weeks.
That two week break was hell for me. There’s no other way to put it. I wanted to get out there so badly to run. I had time to think about what was compelling me to go, and I think it came down to the following:
- I had begun to enjoy running. It was something I was looking forward to every other day, and not being able to do it actually made me feel anxious.
- Didn’t want to lose progress. I had been increasing my pace and distance nicely, and I was very proud of the progress I was making. I was feeling good after runs, and sometimes, even during them. I didn’t want to go back to when runs were difficult.
- Had a 5k coming up I was training for. I was hoping to be in as good of shape as I possibly could before the run. With the cold hitting me when it did, I was unable to train until a week before the run.
Where I am today with running
Now, I’m back to my regular running. My last run was 3.53 miles at a 10 minute mile pace. It’s not my fastest, but it was comfortable. I will not push myself; I will do as I did before I got sick which is to allow my body to gradually get used to the distance and increase the pace enough to remain comfortable. I’m not competing with myself or in any hurry. I do push enough to keep improving, but I’m not looking to win any races, so I’m allowing my body to make its increases naturally. I am also making sure to take a day off between runs. This seems to be helping so much with regards to the progress I make. By giving my legs time to heal and strengthen, I am better able to get back out and run a little harder each time.
This isn’t a novel concept. It’s what I’ve been taught since I was in the Marines: a run/rest cycle is important to safely build muscle and stamina.It has been working for me for the past three months. I recommend you try it yourself.