Have you ever let illness, work or just life’s responsibilities get your fitness plan off kilter? This happens to all of us at one time or another. While modifying your training schedule or even postponing workouts in cases of injury or illness is a wise decision, we have to know when and how to get back into a steady workout schedule and make it a healthy habit again. Learning how to really listen to your body is the best way to not over or under-do things, but this isn’t always an easy skill to acquire and does take practice.
I was just in one of these situations over the past two months. I completed 2 marathons in 2 weeks to qualify for Marathon Maniacs (my big fitness goal for the year), followed that with the Hal Higdon recovery training schedule (including the 0 week), then came a cold (with running a temperature for a week) and a trip to visit family out of state. I went from flying high on the accomplishment of finishing my marathons and joining the Marathon Maniacs (in the beginning of January), to not feeling like going out of the house (in the beginning of February). These are things that just happen in life and once we get over them, it’s time to create a plan to give ourselves a fresh start. Always remember to not beat yourself up over not starting back soon enough or getting out of a good habit in the first place. This just isn’t productive and really won’t help (and may even hurt) in the long run. It’s much better to pat yourself on the back for restarting your training schedule, whenever that happens to be. Also, if you’re dealing with stressful situations (and who isn’t), any exercise will help you release stress too! Many studies have also shown that exercising outside has even additional stress reducing benefits.
I got back from my family get together the last week in February and was still coughing a bit, so decided to give myself a new more days to rest and set my “fresh start” date to March 1st. I started off with a plan to race walk a little less distance and speed than my usual short / easy training walk. I ended up walking 4.3 miles rather than my usual 5.5 miles, at an easy speed. The workout felt great and I feel this is a good starting point for me at this point. From here I’ll choose my next Hal Higdon training schedule and set some new training goals. My first goal will be to race walk 100 miles over the month of March and choose some races to train for throughout this coming year.
Here are some steps that will help you restart your training schedule and create that healthy routine that we’re all know is both good for us and makes us feel better.
Access your level of fitness
Once you’re schedule allows you to get back into your running or walking routine, you’ll want to access your current level of fitness. If you try to begin where you left off, you may be asking for an injury and not be able to train for even longer. Where you start will depend on many factors (how long you’ve been out of the training schedule, were you injured and need extra rehabilitation time/exercises, etc.), so this will not be an exact science.
First go out for an easy walk or run, and see what feels comfortable for you. Initially target for half to ¾ of the time you are used to training, but with less intensity. (If your normal easy run was an hour, start out at 30 – 45 minutes.) Always listen to your body, and slow down or stop if or when you need to.
Building your base
Once you’ve accessed the duration that is comfortable for you. The next step is to make that a routine again. Start out with the duration you’ve decided on for 3 times a week for a few weeks (or until it is rather easy for you). At that point start adding additional days, more duration, or more speed.
Use the rule of thumb of only increasing 10% per week. This could be increasing speed or distance, but not both in the same week. This slow increase may not be very challenging, but it is the safest and healthiest way to build your base fitness level. You will be happy that you’ve built up slowing and trained smart as time goes on and you’ve increased without injury.
Congratulations for building your base and getting back on your training schedule. Now that you’re back, you have to stay motivated to keep it up. Set your next goal and choose a training schedule to get you there. Hal Higdon offers some great training schedules (both free and paid) for all levels and race distances. Even though I choose to race walk rather than run, I prefer using a running training schedule and have seen great improvements in both speed and endurance, since I’ve been doing this.
I wish you the best in both your training and attaining your goals!
Photo credit: Joe Zlomek on stock.xchng