I can’t believe the marathon was nearly a month ago (November, where did you go??)! I’ve been having some good runs lately, so I thought I’d share my tips on building up mileage after a break. Let me know what you think!
Take a break – for as long as you need. Whether you’ve just finish a big goal race (like a marathon) or you’re just feeling stale, sluggish, and unmotivated (classic signs of overtraining), allow your body the rest that it needs. A healthy training cycle involves peaks and valleys – it’s not sustainable to run high mileage and workouts year round! After the NYC marathon, I took 7 full days off of running. I didn’t cycle, swim, or do yoga. I just…rested. On the 7th day I did a very easy elliptical workout, but I read a magazine and didn’t push myself at all. Since most runners crave exercise and the accompanying endorphin release, taking a break can be really hard. But if you want to have successful workouts and races down the road, you need this break. Instead of worrying about losing fitness, envision your damaged and tired muscle fibers healing themselves during your time off.
When you feel ready to begin running again, make your return to training fun. Even if you’ve been feeling antsy, your return to running might not be as blissful as anticipated. During my first few runs back, I felt blah and slow. To make the time more enjoyable, I scheduled running dates with my friends. I’m also not above bribery! Sometimes the only thing that gets me out of bed in the morning is the promise of a post-run latte.
Look at your schedule and determine what your goals are for the next few months. Running just for fun can work for some people, but personally I like to have goals. Without something to work towards or a schedule to follow, I get very lazy. After this year’s marathon I thought about what I wanted to accomplish in 2011 (break 40:30 for the 10k, run sub 1:30 for the half-marathon) and then made these goals public. I’d like to run these peak races sometime in the Spring, so for the next month or so, I’m just working on building back my base little by little.
Once you’ve decided what purpose your running is going to have (i.e. to race a 5k, run a marathon PR, lose 10 lbs), sketch a rough training schedule. Make mini goals for yourself! Example – The Run for the Diamonds was my first “long run” since the marathon (10 miles total) and this Sunday’s 10k will be my first hard race effort. Whether your schedule is made on paper or in your google calendar, make it visible! I schedule my runs and workouts like appointments – they’re just as important to my well being!
Listen to your body. (Well, at least most of the time.) An often repeated bit of running advice is to only increase your mileage by 10% each week. I think that’s a fine suggestion for newbies, but if you’re used to running higher mileage, I don’t think you need to stick to that rule. Here’s my running schedule since the marathon-
Week One –
- Monday 4.5 miles
- Tuesday OFF
- Wednesday 3.5 miles
- Thursday 6 miles
- Friday OFF
- Saturday 4 miles, 25 mins elliptical
- Sunday OFF
- Total: 18 miles
Week 2 –
- Mon 5 miles
- Tues 5 miles
- Wed OFF
- Thurs 10 miles (incl. 9 mile race)
- Fri 4 miles
- Sat OFF
- Sun 5 miles
- Total: 29 miles
Week 3 –
- Mon – 9 miles
- Tues – 4 miles
- Wed – 3 miles
- Thurs – 7.5 miles
- Fri – 4.5 miles
- Sat – 3 miles
- Sun – 10 miles (incl. 10k race)
- Total: 41 miles
If everything goes as expected, I should be up to 40 miles by week’s end. Since I’m used to running 50-60 mpw, my mileage increases thus far have definitely felt manageable. I haven’t been tired or sore. And I’m feeling positive about running. All signs that my body is handling things A-OK. When I mentioned “listen to your body”, I added the caveat “at least most of the time”. My legs usually tell me if I’ve been running too much or not sleeping enough, but occasionally I just don’t feel like going for a run. What to do in this situation? Do I listen to my body and veg out on the couch? Or do I get my butt out the door? I almost always feel better after a run, so usually I try to stick to my training plan (enter the bribery system here!). But if there’s a day when the thought of running just seems completely unappealing – I give myself the day off.
When you don’t feel like running, how do you know whether you need a day off? Or just some extra motivation? What gets you out the door?
What’s your approach to building up mileage after some time off?