How to Restart Race Training After a Break

When you fall behind in training, you risk compounding the damage of missed runs with the risk of doing too much, too soon when you start back up. Here are three steps to coming back safely when you’ve fallen behind.

Adjust your mindset.
Once you miss a week or more of training, you’re no longer on course with your Plan A training plan. Let go of it and change your mindset to focus on Plan B. This reduces mental stress and allows you to better prepare based on your current journey. Worrying about where you ought to be based on your original plan is a waste of energy.

Reframe your break as a much-needed mental and physical retreat, and move forward with your bright, shiny, new Plan B.

Start from where you are instead of jumping ahead to where you “should be.”
This is always important to remember, but especially important when you’re returning from a break from training. The tempting thing to do is to pick up where you left off in your schedule, appeasing your mind while hurting your body, but that’s not wise.

Instead, invest in a transition period, during which you merge back into running gradually. Let go of the fear that you’re missing more time you could be devoting to hard workouts. It’s easier to calm the mind’s worries than to heal from an injury caused by trying to catch up too aggressively.

Keep it easy before you take it hard.
Keeping your effort level easy and your running duration to short, 30- to 40-minute runs during the first four or five days back will allow your body to run and recover and remember that it’s training for a race this fall. There is a much lower chance of muscular fatigue, soreness, and injury. If all feels well, run longer at the end of the first week (60 minutes) and celebrate your triumphant return.

The following week, keep your effort level easy during all runs, and build your running time to what you were running in your last full week of training. For instance, if you had run one 50-minute speed workout, one 45-minute hill run, and a long, slow 12K, run all three workouts for the same amount of time, but keep the effort level easy.

During your final transition week, resume the intensity of your runs by starting with the workouts you ran during the last full week of training before your break. If this goes well, progress gradually from there. You will end up getting in fewer quality and long runs overall during the season, but the progression rate will be better and the risk of injury will be lower.

Getting ahead when you’ve fallen behind is all about letting go of your initial plan, being mindful of where you are, and investing in a wise transition phase to allow your body time to adapt and move forward.

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