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About that Return to Running

…it wasn’t quite as glorious as I had imagined.

Today is Friday, and I’ve run a total of 2 days this week. I plan on bringing that number up to 3 this afternoon. Maybe.

Even though I felt all fired up about running on Sunday night, I didn’t actually run on Monday. A long day spent in the car was enough to take away any motivation that had built up over the weekend. But on Tuesday morning I got up bright and early, determined to make my triumphant return. Before running, I popped in the one workout DVD that I own. I figured that Level 3 of the 30 Day Shred* was exactly what I needed to start toning up muscles that are beginning to feel a little marshmallowy. After 30 minutes with Jillian Michaels (that nearly killed me), it was finally time to run. So I laced up my shoes, strapped on my fully charged Garmin, and was off.

I’d love to tell you that my rested legs returned effortlessly to running. That I floated along the street, so happy to be back out there. That’s what I had imagined my run would be like, anyway. But in reality, I just sort of trudged along slowly. I kept the pace really easy and wasn’t struggling, but I didn’t exactly feel excited about running in that moment. I managed 4.5 miles before knee pain drove me back home.

I attempted another run yesterday, and although that went better than Tuesday’s jog, it brings my total to a whopping 10.5 miles for the week. Maybe I’ll bring that number up to 20 by the weekend. We’ll see. Honestly, I don’t really care about numbers at the moment. My plan for the next couple of months is to just run when I feel like it. Maybe I’ll run 10 miles a week, maybe I’ll run more. I’m not going to stress.

I actually look forward to these down times in my training. They give me a chance to refocus and rebuild. Plus, I think that most of us can agree that as great as running is, it’s not the only (or even the most important) form of physical activity. I’ve talked about this before, but I’m actually in better all around shape when I run less and focus on cross training and lifting more. Partially because it uses different muscles, and partially because I no longer use my mileage as an “excuse” to eat whatever I want.

So when I say that I want to return to training, you should know that I am using that term loosely. Very loosely. I don’t really plan to get back into training until around the 1st of the year. Until then, my very unspecific, totally relaxed {don’t get completely out of shape} plan will consist of:

  • Running 3 – 4 times a week, unless I feel inspired to do more
  • Cross training another 2 – 3 days a week
  • Strength training 2 – 3 times per week

I try to focus more on strength training/lifting when I’m not in the middle of training for a race, not because I love it, but because it makes me stronger. Also, it helps keep off the extra pounds that would otherwise creep on from my reduced mileage and increased holiday food intake. A necessary evil, of sorts. I will say now that I hope to keep up my lifting routine once marathon training starts again, but I’ve never been truly successful with this in the past. So I’m not making any promises.

Anyway the point of this rambling post is this: I may not know everything there is to know about running, but I do know my body. And I know that I do better in the long run when I give myself the chance to rest. If you can jump right back into training after running a hard marathon, more power to you. I am not a runner that can. I don’t fear rest days or weeks when I don’t run as much because my goal is to continue running for a very long time. In the scheme of an entire lifetime, a couple of weeks isn’t going to make or break me as a runner. (If you want to read more, in the past I’ve written in detail about why I think rest is so important)

To close on a completely unrelated note, here are a couple more awesome running picture for you. So flattering. And such model form.


Please note the crazy fingers in the photo below. For whatever reason, I do weird things with my hands when I get tired. If you see me running with my fingers splayed out like that, it’s a sure sign that I’m not doing so well.



*I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I don’t really use the DVD correctly. If you ever want to hear more about my super technical 30 Day Shred mentality, I’ll let you know. But basically – I use it more for a core strengthening/toning workout than a way to “shred” the pounds. I don’t do the workouts everyday so whenever I want to workout at home, I just put in Level 3. I’ve never actually done a workout from the other two levels. I assume they’re just okay.

19 Responses to About that Return to Running

  1. I’m trying to ease back into running too, not because I just ran a marathon but because I have barely run at all in 2011. I have been walking a lot though, especially exploring my new city (I just moved to San Deigo two weeks ago). My first run “back” went better than I thought but wasn’t spectacular, you’ve got the right idea, just do what your body tells you to!
    Jess @JessCantCook´s last post ..Getting Our Football On

  2. Glad you’re listening to your body, but sorry your return has not been amazing so far. I need to be better about strength training, too. One day… :)
    Jen´s last post ..The real dangers of running

  3. I totally do that with my hands too. I also drop my arms and run with them by my sides for a few strides (woo rhyming). Can’t wait till I get that on film too.

    Your plan sounds great – hopefully you get back into running soon :)

  4. I think it’s hard to get back to running after not running for awhile. I think that is why I tend to fear it a little bit. Although it scares me for my half this weekend, I do think not running so much for the past month or so has been good for me in the long run. Sounds like you have a good plan. I really need to focus on more strength training and try to keep it up too… I am sure you will be ready to go come January! :)
    Celia´s last post ..why i am racing the philly half

  5. Your plan totally makes sense.And you’re right. It’s better to take it easy a bit to be able to run for the rest of your life.

    I actually do weird things with my hands when I’m tired too. I tend to spread out my fingers and shake my hand.
    Rena @ milehogger.blogspot.com´s last post ..Winter is here

  6. i do a weird thing with my hands when i run too (unfortunately it’s not just when i’m tired)! kinda like giving the peace sign with one hand and being kinda gangster with the other?!?!?! i definitely look odd.
    Kristy@RunTheLongRoad´s last post ..Another flattering set of race photos…

  7. You know how I feel about this… rest is important, especially after a big race. But not too much! Because then you get out of shape too quickly. I think your plan to ease back into training sounds really smart. And I know you’ll be ready to go come January for PR 2012!!!
    Lizzy´s last post ..Thanksgiving Day Menu

  8. I’m just getting back into running after a break all summer. It was a much MUCH needed break, but I love being back. Bonus: all the crossfit I did while on break is now TOTALLY showing up in my running. LOVE the increase muscle! love it!
    LizScott´s last post ..Getting It Back

  9. I’m sorry to hear that your return to running has not been easy, but I’m glad to hear that you are listening to your body and only doing what it is ready for. You just recently finished a big training schedule and now is the time to both mentally and physically rebuild for the next big training cycle. Incorporating the strength is an excellent way to change up the routine a bit and get your body even stronger for the next training cycle. I do Jillian ripped in 30 level three for a good CORE workout from time to time. My friend told me it was a good one to pick up and I really do like the routine. I’ve been doing a lot of barre classes and using the TRX at my gym for my strength training this fall, but I want to try out your “the core” workout sometime soon.

    Keep listening to your body, and I hope your progression back into running becomes a little easier soon :)
    Nancy@triathletestrials´s last post ..Be Still

  10. I really needed to read this, Lauren. Thanks for sharing! Since MCM I have run a total of 26 miles between 2 runs. The first week after the marathon was all rest, stretching and foam rolling. It was just what my body needed. I did an 8 miler one week out and felt awesome. The second week I started back into my strength training at the gym but no running yet. I did 17.5 miles of the Richmond marathon with my sister last weekend, she ran the full but I decided against running 2 marathons in 2 weeks. I know people do it but like you I knew I needed to listen to my own body and remember the BIG picture. I have big goals down the road the most important being that I want to be running for a long long time. Anyways all week this week I have thought about running but didn’t do it! I haven’t been idle – I’ve been at the gym lifting and working on my core, but I’m definitely getting the itch to run again. Marathon training starts up again for me Dec 4 (USA RnR) so the plan is easy/laid back running between now and then. I’m going to get out there this weekend though and run more regularly next week – three weeks of hardly any running has made me really crave it again! Rest does the body good. I’m feeling pumped about what’s ahead!

  11. You have such amazingly strong legs. I am struck by this fact yet again. They will spring back super soon. And the rebuilding phase is so important.
    XLMIC´s last post ..If you want to make progress, you have to actually start…

  12. 110% agreed on the rest! It’s great to listen to your body and yourself and give downtime when it’s needed. A month or two of working out by feel and strength training sounds like just what you need to get your head back in the game. By the time Boston training rolls around, you’ll be ready to go!

    Also, I always do feel better and look better when I incorporate more weights and core into my routine, which I tend to do when I’m running less because I have more energy and more time. However, once the mileage goes up, that goes completely out the window! Each training cycle, it’s the same story :)
    Lindsay´s last post ..Greetings from the Road

  13. I am exactly the same way. I love when I can run 5 days a week and such, but I cannot do that all year round. I was thinking about it today while I was cross training. My foot kind of hurt (which did some before the marathon) and my IT band made it 45 min until it started to hurt. I think if I tried to go back running all the time now, it would be a disaster. I’m glad someone as fast and experienced as you feels the same way!

    Im so excited to start training for something again, but my body just can’t handle all of the pounding right now. I think my plan of action is to run 2-3 per week as tolerated and cross train 3-4 per week hoping to get 5-6 days in of activity (hopefully 6, I mostly need to 2 off for pounding on the roads). Then, when I get back into training, it may hard because of the pounding, but cardiovascularly, I’ll be there. Or at least that’s what I tell myself.

    It is a little scary to think, “wait if I take it this easy, will I ever be able to get back to what I was doing before?” I think that’s just doubt. In college, I’d end up taking most of Nov and Dec off from tennis (I’d play at home over Christmas break)…it never hurt me. Hoping running is the same way!
    Meggie´s last post ..How We Will Know What Our Favorite Things Are This Year?

  14. I like your approach! I think your body probably appreciates it too. I think mine is similar to yours – I can’t even fathom jumping back into training now physically. Mentally, I’d love to be the type of runner that can bounce back in no time and run multiple marathons in a season! It would be fun (I think?)! Even though I’m injured at the moment, I hope my return to running looks like yours – slowly but surely getting back at it. I have to say though, I’m kind of itching to get healthy and start training for something!
    Kelly´s last post ..Readjusting

  15. You’re really smart and if your body needs rest, there’s no reason you shouldn’t take it. I haven’t been as good at resting as I hoped after my marathon, but I toned it down quite a bit and have been going really slow. I actually just had my first decent run today, more than a month after my marathon (which I’m sure means I should have rested longer than 5 days after my marathon…but I guess we all make mistakes sometimes). Honestly, I woke up this morning and knew that something felt different and I’d finally have a good run. I could just feel it. I think our bodies know when they’re ready to come back and we have to trust that.
    I always need some extra motiviation on the weight-lifting front…I try so hard to stick to a routine but it usually doesn’t happen. If you have any secrets, I’d love to hear them :)
    Corey´s last post ..On Non-Achieving

    • What Corey said: You’re really smart and if your body needs rest, there’s no reason you shouldn’t take it.


      I was going to generate some sort of cohesive comment in my head, and then I read Corey’s and, as usual, she just writes what I want to say and makes it sound so good.

      You ARE a smart girl, Lauren — one of the smartest runners I know, in fact. And when the time is right to run, and run fast, and run long, it’ll happen. And it will happen in NYC…right?
      Ali´s last post ..Three In A Row

  16. I feel you! I’ve been sick on and off for the last 2 months with a head cold that just won’t go completely away. Some days I’ll feel better, run, then feel worse, then not run for a week. Its frustrating to say the least. I do find that workout videos are A. better than nothing and B. great for keeping your metabolism moving when you can’t run. I like doing free videos on demand on exercise TV. The 10lb slimdown extreme series is my favorite. You should check it out! Good luck getting back into it!
    Betsy´s last post ..Beef Stew Hijinks

  17. I give two thumbs up when I run…it’s weird and I always realize I’m doing it and stop myself. Only to have it happen all over again! You’re great. Keep it up. Did my first run today (5 days after an internet promise to get back on the horse???). Slow and steady wins the race!
    kristin miller´s last post ..Post-NYC Marathon days of Glory Part 3: Runner’s Depression and back

  18. This post was just what I needed. I am about to run my third marathon and am gearing up for training for my fourth in January. I have been trying to figure out a “training” plan for the in between time.

    I am sure your body both physically and mentally needs a break and will respond well once you start training again.

    Happy Thanksgiving!
    Tess´s last post ..Taking Dad’s advice

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