Everyone has to start somewhere. Whether you’re coming back from injury or coming back from a planned break, you’ve got to start somewhere. Some of us start back with a few miles, some of us start back with a combination of walking and running and others of us start back one block at a time.

Lately, I’ve been struggling to find the motivation to lace up the shoes and hit roads. It’s in part because other interests have stepped forward and in part because of all the snow and ice we’re getting in the northeast. But I know, come Spring and Summer I want to be fit and fast (for me) and the only way that’s gonna happen is if I suck it up, put my Asics on and hit the roads/trails now.

Sometimes it’s hard to believe I was running 55-60 miles per week several months ago and whipping 200’s around the track, when I can’t imagine running 30 per week now.

There’s no other way to put this

There’s no other way to put this. You have to get off the couch, lace up your shoes and get to it. It doesn’t matter how long the run is. What’s important is you do it. My boyfriend makes fun of me when I tell him I’m going for a 15 minute run. “What’s the point of that?” He says. But the truth is there is a point–a good one.

There are physiological adaptations (increase in mitochondrial density, plasma volume and efficiency) that occur, the second you begin exercising. And as you continue to exercise/train, these adaptations continue to occur, making it easier for you to handle larger and larger workloads. I’m not going to go into all the adaptations that occur, because the point I’m making here is to start. And if starting with a 30 minute run seems daunting, then start with 15 minutes.

Have you ever noticed the first run after a lengthy break always seems to take forever, no matter how far it is. It is funny how things work that way–that a 4 mile run when I am out of shape can feel like it takes longer than a 10 mile run when I am in shape.

After all, it’s not only your body that got out of shape, your “running” mind did too. That’s why it’s good to start back with relatively low mileage. Not only does it help to avoid injury, it also gradually re-indoctrinates your “running” mind.

The other thing is you begin to make running a habit again. And when something is habitual, you’re more likely to do it whether you feel like doing it or not–an important ingredient for goal achievement.

When you first start running, expect to be sore in places you didn’t know you could be sore in. As I get older, there seem to be more and more places. Of course, how sore you are and how bad it feels depends on how much time you were off and what mileage/strength work you started back with. But after a few weeks or less, your body will adapt and running will become more comfortable and you’ll begin to love it again.

Goals & schedules are your friends

Having a goal will make it easier for you to lace up your shoes and head out the door. It doesn’t matter what that goal is–just as long as it’s something you desire to achieve. It can be anything from completing a 5k or marathon to setting a personal best to running your first 50 miler.

The key is to keep you inspired and moving forward. You may even want to join a group to keep your motivation up or bring some tunes along so that you are not just listening to the voices in your head. Or you may choose to meditate on the run or enjoy nature’s symphony.

But after you pick a goal, it’s important to follow a schedule. Knowing what you need to do each day to accomplish your goal, helps in the realization of it. I used Advanced Marathoning by Scott Douglass and Peter Pfitzinger to take me to a 2:43:59 first marathon. I also like Brad Hudson and Matt Fitzgerald’s Run Faster from the 5K to the Marathon: How to Be Your Own Best Coach.

Pep talks and rewards work

The thought of giving yourself a pep-talk may sound silly. And if you are in crowded space, it probably looks silly too. But, sometimes we are the only ones around to encourage ourselves. I remember going out for a 4 mile run one day, feeling like stopping after the first mile and pep-talking myself through the other three.

Another thing you can do is do something nice for yourself at the end of the run. You should do nice things for yourself anyway, but reminding yourself during a run of what’s to come can help get you through your miles. Get a massage, take an ice-bath, stretch, relax, curl up with a good book, enjoy your family or do all of these things.

In the summer, I will often look forward to a homemade ice-cold smoothie chocked full of blueberries, bananas, orange juice; Sometimes I will add flax seeds, whey protein or a veggie green powder to give me an extra boost. And if ice-cream is what I want, then I eat that!

Getting in running shape is a process and should be looked at that way. It is certainly not something that happens over night, even if you want it too. Physiological adaptation takes time. And to avoid injury, you must give it the time it needs to occur, but just start.

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