Why can't I run at all?

Return to work after a break

The first step out the door is usually the hardest for many runners, not just for beginners. Even after an injury, a long illness or a prolonged low motivation, you can't just start running again as if you had never done anything else. If you haven't been able to run for a long time or haven't run for other reasons, it can even feel like you've forgotten how to run. But don't worry: your body can still do it.

Regardless of whether you want to find your way back to running or start from scratch - the inner barriers that stand between you and your ambitions often seem insurmountable. You first have to overcome a threshold in order to find your way into running for the first time or to find your way back to running. The body's adaptations to training may take a while. But when the heart is stronger again and the cell power plants in the muscles generate more energy again, you feel better, stronger and healthier. So stay tuned. Our bodies are extremely capable of learning, so with the right training almost anyone can become a runner, even a marathon runner.

Our most popular plans to get started running

This is how you can get back into running

Even reaching the milestones can take weeks or months to restart, but take your time. How long it takes to get back to normal is directly related to the running experience and condition you had before the break, and the length of your break. Basically you need at least as long as you had to stop training in order to reach the old level again. Here are three tips to help you get back on track successfully.

1. No competition stress

Free yourself from the stress of competition to get back into the game. A competition just puts you under unnecessary pressure and urges you to overpacify your training. The first competition may only be planned if you have been back in training for at least half as long as you have been suspended.

2. Walking instead of running

Especially formerly experienced runners can often not see why you should go back to training instead of running. But that is exactly what is recommended: The first “running units” are not at all! 20 to 30 minutes of fast walking is the most sensible way to start running. If you have done this three to four times, you can start with a steady alternation of, for example, 3-minute walk-run intervals. "Walking is not doing nothing", said the former European marathon champion Ulrike Maisch, whose morning units often consisted of two hours of walking instead of 40 minutes of running. Such precautionary measures could prevent orthopedic overload.

This is how running works with breaks

3. A test unit

If you have done at least five run-walk units, then test your ability to run, preferably on a 400-meter lane: first run very slowly for 30 minutes and then a little faster every 5 minutes. If you have reached a pace at which your running style seems pleasantly fluid and you feel challenged without getting out of breath (this is called "comfortable pace"), then try to determine the appropriate speed. You shouldn't go beyond this running pace for the next few weeks.

The return to work depends on the length of the break

If you actually train according to a training plan, you can use the following rules as a guide to help you get back into training:

  • A maximum of one week break: Resume plan from where it left off
  • One to two weeks break from running: Start with 70 percent of the old size
  • Two to four weeks break from running: Start with 60 percent of the old size
  • One to three months break: Start with 50 percent of the old size
  • More than three months break:Use the entry-level plan

Phases of the comeback

Listen to your body when you return to work and reduce the load as soon as you experience stress symptoms. Remember that muscles, tendons and joints have to get used to the strain again. When you can run for half an hour at a time, you can add three comeback phases:

The first third of the comeback consists only of slow, easy endurance runs at 70 to 75 percent of the maximum heart rate for a maximum of 45 minutes.

In the second third, every third running unit can be longer. Extend the longest session by only 10 percent from week to week.

In the last third, every third running unit can be run at a faster pace again. Again, make sure you only carefully increase the distance of the faster runs from week to week.

Stay healthy!

Make sure you have good conditions. With the right equipment and the right diet, you can relieve your body of a lot of work.

Protein supplements: When you take a break from training, you lose muscles where you need them as a runner: in your legs. In order to support muscle building and prevent overloading, drink a protein shake daily (maximum 0.3 liters) in the first few weeks after restarting.

New running shoes: Treat yourself to new running shoes for your comeback: A fresh outfit not only motivates, but also prevents the risk that the old shoes no longer fit your changed requirements (other routes? Higher body weight? Slower pace?).

Five motivational tricks

About self-reward and goal setting: With these tips it will be easier for you to stick with it after you get started.

1. Measure time, not distance

Set time and no distance specifications for your running units. This frees you up for a running load that is adapted to your daily form. If you are not in a good mood on day X, you can only cover four to five kilometers in 30 minutes, if you are in a good mood it is five to six. But since you've only set a time goal, you don't care at all.

2. Think ahead

If running is the last thing you feel like doing, think ahead for a few minutes: Remember how well you are after a run when you are in the shower and know what you have achieved . Is it not so? Let's go!

3. Reward yourself

On Monday you decide on which days of the week ahead you want to run. And if you manage the plan - you also decide that now - then reward yourself with a great menu in your favorite restaurant on the weekend.

4. Watch out for negative feelings

Don't put aside the bad thoughts and feelings that involve running. Allow them and try to get to the bottom of them. When you get to the heart of the problem, it's easier to resolve it. Example: At the end of every run you don't enjoy it? Could it be that you are always running too fast?

5. Set yourself short-term goals

Not every goal has to be planned and prepared well in advance. Be spontaneous from time to time and on the eve of a run you can set yourself surprising goals for the next day: the first time a lap that you have never done before, or the first time to the running meeting that you are going to have not yet dared.

With these tips you will certainly find it easy to get started. Enjoy the process and take the time it takes to get back inside.

If you want to get professional support when getting back to work, you will find information about our individual running coaching here:

This article may contain links to providers from whom RUNNER'S WORLD receives a commission. These links are marked with the following icon: