Newish runner starting up again after 6 months--where to begin?
February 13, 2017 10:00 AM   Subscribe

Back in May I started doing Couch to 5K, and did it consistently over 3 and a half months, getting to week 8 (of 9.) Then for various reasons I didn't run for 6 months. I was going to start up again by jogging slowly for 20 minutes--but now I think maybe I should start Couch to 5K over again, since it's been so long. Thoughts/opinions? I'm very new to all this, still. Thank you!
posted by Automocar to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I would start over and see how you feel. Six months is a long time off for any runner, but especially a new runner. You'll probably find Couch to 5k a lot easier the second time, but it's good to get your body used to the pounding again, really slowly.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:02 AM on February 13, 2017 [5 favorites]

I'd be more cautious than starting up at 20' -- maybe you'd be OK, or maybe you'd hurt your joints. Start about a month in and do every third recommendation until it's proper exercise? (Numbers pulled out of my hat.)
posted by clew at 10:03 AM on February 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Have you kept up your fitness via other means, even walking? If not, you are asking for injury. Start over.
posted by TORunner at 10:05 AM on February 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

I would start at Week 3 and see how you do with the first day. If that's easy, do the first day of Week 4, and so on.
posted by something something at 10:08 AM on February 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Agree with starting Couch to 5k again, though you may be able to fast forward some. Jumping into 20 minutes might anger your body, but I'd start Week 1 Day 1, and if it feels super incredibly easy, maybe next time you can do Week 2, Day 1.
posted by raztaj at 10:09 AM on February 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Start at the beginning again. You can always progress a little faster if you feel up to it, but six months off is a long time. You absolutely, positively want to avoid injuries, and taking an extra week or two on the build up is a small price to pay for that.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 10:10 AM on February 13, 2017 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I DID make the mistake you're suggesting. Off for about 6 months with neck problems, then jumped back in to Week 6. Serious shin splints developed, and I couldn't run at all for 10 days -- PT said wait till not a twinge of pain to start again -- start at week 1 or 2. Give yourself the time to build up again.
posted by mmf at 10:15 AM on February 13, 2017 [8 favorites]

Best answer: I do something like this pretty regularly - I tend to do the Couch to 5k in the spring, run through the summer and some of fall, and then take the winter off from running.

I'll sometimes skip forward a workout or two in the Couch to 5k program each spring as I restart and see how I feel, but I always initially plan to do the entire 9 week program. I think of it like this: I'm not running to kill myself. I'm getting outside to enjoy the weather, be active, and hopefully run a couple fun 5k races during the summer. The early C25K walking/running workouts are pleasant and relatively easy, a nice way to ease back into a running routine, and help me from developing any injuries by going slow.

ESPECIALLY since you never finished the entire C25K program the last time, I would recommend starting from the beginning and just enjoying the process.
posted by warble at 10:25 AM on February 13, 2017 [7 favorites]

I think the general C25K advice for someone with decent fitness but who can't run a full 5K is to run each 'week' at least one day each, and move up on the next scheduled day if you feel like it's not challenging enough. You could do a week of week one, week two, week three, then another of four five six - but I bet you'll get to one of those days and decide you want to stick with it for the full week because it suddenly starts to suck. In this scenario, you don't waste time at the absolute lowest level if you don't need to, but you don't overextend yourself either.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:25 AM on February 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

You will have a slightly higher level of baseline fitness when you start C25K this time, but six months of no training means you should start over anyway.
posted by radicalawyer at 10:47 AM on February 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've done this several times though generally with longer breaks between. I've found starting at week 3 to be good and then if I'm feeling good, skipping ahead one day in each week's program. Skipping ahead faster than that is asking for injury.
posted by raccoon409 at 11:51 AM on February 13, 2017

You can't do yourself any harm starting too slowly, whereas you can by pushing too hard. Unless you have a specific race that you are targeting, I'd say getting back into the habit of lacing up and getting out there every other day is the single most important thing. Just start over from the beginning. If you find it laughably easy, skip a week and jump to week 3 after week 1. I honestly think the single most important thing is just establishing the habit again.
posted by Lame_username at 11:54 AM on February 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

I am nthing starting at the very beginning. I've been off/on running for about twelve years and work my way up to half marathons every couple years. I always start with walking/running with the exception of one time, when I started at two miles and developed tendonitis. Start at the beginning (by the way I'm in week 8 myself!)
posted by pintapicasso at 1:21 PM on February 13, 2017

Go out for a short "test run". How does it feel? How much do you need to walk? You can probably gauge where you need to start from that. A lot depends on how fit you were before you started running and what exercise you've done in your layoff. You certainly won't be able to just pick up where you left off though.
posted by intensitymultiply at 1:55 PM on February 13, 2017

Adding to the "start it over" pile - something I learned from a coach, that I had never really thought of before, is that the buildup in a couch to 5k or similar program isn't just about building up muscles and cardio. Your ligaments and tendons also need time to adjust to any new activity - and this process really can't be sped up - and ignoring this leads to a lot of common running injuries in beginners. I restarted C25K three times myself before it really "stuck" and I don't regret it at all, even though at various times I really wanted to jump ahead and do more than I was ready for.
posted by augustimagination at 8:06 PM on February 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

In your shoes, I'd play it by ear. Time yourself for a half hour or forty minutes or so, and then run until you want to walk, and walk until you can start running again, until the time is up. I'd bet you're not more than a week or so off being able to do 5K at an easy job. (I'm an erratic exerciser, so I go through this sort of cycle every couple of years.)
posted by LizardBreath at 9:57 AM on February 14, 2017

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