If you think about any given day, being committed to training really isn’t that much of a commitment. An hour this day, an hour that day, maybe a couple of hours on weekend days. Manageable, and in the grand scheme of things, probably a very good time investment when you consider all the benefits outside of your running life that running provides. But sometimes life just gets in the way of running for whatever reason, and the next thing you know, you’ve taken a whole week off without meaning to. We’re not talking about an injury, just logistical or motivational challenges. So… … … what to do about it?
Step 1: Stop Freaking Out and/or Beating Yourself Up Yes, you missed some time. Maybe some or all of that could have been prevented, but it’s not going to make or break your goal. Go back to something I’ve said before: Have a short memory and a long outlook. “What I do today is for the long-term goal…” Turning into a negative Nancy has a 0% chance of making you a better runner tomorrow. It has a pretty good chance of getting you in a downward spiral of lack-of-confidence. Look forward!
Step 2: The First Rule of Training Still Applies There will be a tendency to want to make up for lost time here. That’s against the rules. Missed workouts are gone…no make-ups! If you are worried that you “lost fitness” during your unexpected time off, that’s simply not an issue. The general agreement among fitness experts is that it takes a few weeks of time off to really see declines. And let’s not forget that you still have a job to do with future workouts, and you need to keep to the pacing and spacing of work that your coach or training plan has prescribed. Don’t sabotage the next week, risk an injury, or put yourself in a bad position by trying to cram those missed miles back in.
Step 3: Run Easy for Time, Not Distance for a Week or 2 This step is to help with your mental state (really reduces pressure to not focus on a certain number of required miles) and to reinforce steps 1 and 2. The most important thing when you can get back to running is to reinforce the good habit of getting back out there. If you had to take time off from running because of a crazy work or travel schedule, use the first week to remind yourself how to schedule time for running and actually use the time. If you were dealing with some lost mojo, this is your chance to focus only on how much you get out of running just to run.
Step 4: Schedule Some Run(s) with Friends The final step to getting back in the groove is making yourself accountable. You can partially do that by interacting with your friends on dailymile, but the best way is to commit to meeting up with your running friends for some workouts.
Step 5: Resume and Move On Once you are feeling back to normal, just forget about the time off and move on with your training as planned. Keep your focus always forward, and don’t sweat the small stuff.
Remember, you’re not abnormal or uncommitted if you lose a week. Everyone needs time off for any number of reasons. Once you can find a way back to running, keep focused on the positives and keep your eye on the long-term prize.