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The 5 stages of returning to running

The emotional stages of coming back to the road, track or trail after a break

The holidays are a time when some runners ramp up their mileage and other runners decide to take a little downtime. If you’re in the process of returning to running after a couple of weeks of little to no exercise, prepare for a few tough days.

Your first run back will be notoriously difficult–but it gets better, we promise.

RELATED: How to (safely) return to running after taking time off

Bambi on ice

Returning to running after a long time away means that the exercise will feel very foreign to your body. It’s shocking how quickly your limbs forget what it’s like to run.

At a minimum, your stride will feel seriously devoid of rhythm and flow. Worst-case scenario, you might feel a little like the video clip above.

This GPS watch is broken

As you work to get your legs turning over normally, you may also find that you’re working really hard to hit a pace that’s usually conversational. You’ll blame your watch, you’ll blame your shoes, you’ll blame the weather–but deep inside you know it’s just the unfortunate loss of fitness as a result of your holiday break.

My whole body hurts

Did you run for 30 minutes at a very moderate pace but feel like you’ve just finished a marathon? Have no fear, this is completely normal. This total body meltdown is extremely common after your first run back. Go easy on yourself and maybe book a massage appointment while you’re at it.

I’m quitting


There’s a moment after the first run back where you’ll seriously question whether it’s worth it to continue this pursuit of putting one foot in front of the other faster than most. Your peripheral friends still call you a jogger, after all–what’s the glory in that?

But then you’ll snap yourself out of the first-run-back blues. Go have a snack and put this crappy initial workout behind you. You know it gets better from here.

What break?


After a couple of runs back (it usually takes three or four) you’ll start to feel like yourself again. All of a sudden your legs will feel much more like Usain Bolt than Bambi, your attitude will improve (bye bye, pity party of one) and your body won’t feel like it has sustained a significant trauma.

Soon you’ll be wondering what you were being so melodramatic about a few days earlier. Welcome back to the run club.

RELATED: How quickly do you lose running fitness?

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