How to Ruin a Comeback
I'm no journalist and this is no "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days", but as this post came together in my head, I realized that it was much easier to express the "don't"s than the "do"s in this scenario. How many of us have been injured? Or maybe had shifting priorities that took us away from running? Or maybe just a complete lack of running that led to a long break? You remember that, once upon a time, you were a pretty good runner. Maybe you weren't elite, maybe you weren't winning awards, but you could hold together a solid run and return home feeling good about yourself and your accomplishment. At some point, you're ready to return. You're ready to get back out there. The problem is... well, often there are lots of problems...
- Don't expect to find the "love" overnight. If you want a relationship and not a one-night stand, you have to commit to putting in an effort. Often the love part will come later. The first goal has to be consistency, and sometimes that means pushing yourself out the door even when you don't want to. Once you get back into the habit, then you remember why you ran in the first place. It might take 2 weeks, it might take 6 weeks, but it is very unlikely it'll happen the first run out of the gate.
- Don't discount the value of schedule. As a coach, the thing I most often hear when someone is starting to work back is that they don't want the pressure of a schedule. They want to run when they feel like it. The myth is that it'll somehow be easier or more fun without the expectation and deadline. The truth is, like I said in the last point, that you're likely not going to hit your stride without forcing yourself out the door for several weeks. The body typically takes 6 weeks to adapt, so you have to give it the time it needs. - Don't base your training on where you were. Your last race may have been a marathon, but that doesn't mean you can start back in at marathon-level training. If you want to stay in the game, and stay for awhile, you absolutely have to start slowly, and build even more slowly. It requires a lot of patience, but the eye has to be on the long term benefit. This is not only so that you don't get injured, but starting too fast can also take a toll on you mentally when you realize you can't push the distances you used to. - Don't judge your accomplishments by your past. Directly related to the last point, you have to stop judging what you are accomplishing now based on what you once were capable of. For example, even if you've run a half marathon in the past, just a comeback 5k might be a huge accomplishment. And I'm talking about distance AND pace comparisons. I know, for me, I often look at my mileage as I slowly rebuild and get very frustrated with my 14 mile long run. Do you hear that? I'm disappointed and frustrated that my long run is "only" 14 miles. Seriously? The truth is, I am rebuilding, and I'm stronger and going further everyday... and I have to stop and celebrate and appreciate that. Just like when you were brand new to running, allow yourself to appreciate every step back! - Don't go into it alone. Sure a lot of running is solitary, but we are a big community. Have someone to help keep you accountable and to be supportive. It might mean someone to run with or maybe getting a coach or maybe just someone to occasionally check-in with or maybe even accountability via social media. Whatever path you choose, having someone know what your goals are will keep you focused on moving towards them.