You’ve run your goal race, taken some time to recover and are now itching to get back to training. You may feel fully rested and ready to start running workouts again but it’s essential you don’t overdo it.
Following any race or hard effort, your muscles, joints and nervous system all need time to physically recover. This period can be as short as a few days for a 5 or 10K and as long as several weeks for a half or marathon. Taking a break from hard training is also good for your mental health and allows you to recharge, unwind and separate yourself from the demand of constant training.
The following is a template that provides a safe, effective and fun way to return to training without risking injury. It’s essentially a short interval workout with repeats of one, two and three minutes at a faster pace–some might even call it a fartlek.
The speed at which you run the hard sections of the workout should be no faster than your most recent race. Even if you feel you can, resist the urge to run faster than race pace as your body is still in recovery mode and you will still reap desired benefits without adding injury risk or burnout.
As always, begin with a warm up of very easy running. As long as you’re feeling good and aren’t in any physical discomfort–suggesting that you are still not recovered from your recent race–proceed to do the intervals.
Begin by running one set of intervals of one, two then three minutes at your most recent race pace. Take as many minutes rest between as the previous interval (one minute hard, one minute easy, etc.). Start by completing just one or two sets and gradually progress by adding another each session.
Be sure to cool down with some easy running afterwards to begin the recovery process.
Remember that running workouts represents a significant stress to the body. Take the next day or two to recover and resist the urge to do too many workouts each week. Over time, as your body continues to recover and adapt to the harder efforts, you will come back stronger and faster than ever before.