Getting Into Shape & Races

Recovering from an injury or taking some time off is always interesting because eventually, you have to get back to it. Finally you are recovered or your time frees up again and suddenly, surprise! Back to the grind of working out. Yet it’s not always that easy, so let’s be straight.

Getting back into shape sucks.

For a few reasons really, and not even ones that are necessarily easy to overcome. Or rather, they’re more often than not about mind over matter and being the master of yourself. You know, that sort of stuff.

Time to re-establish the routine.

For whatever your reason, be it injury or life, it’s now time to get back into it. Time to challenge yourself and start the journey, again. Which means no more cheesecake every night (my weakness) or sleeping in just because you can (well, maybe sometimes…). It’s a renewed struggle to get yourself back into a routine where it’s more habit to get up and get the workout done than to not. You have to reset your boundaries and schedule to make sure time is designated for exercise. No more “I’ll do it tomorrow” or “I’m too tired” and such excuses.

Yeah, I’m still working on that…

Starting again from zero means not focusing on where you once were.

Focus on your current goals and how you’re going to achieve them, one day at a time. I struggle with this facet of getting back into shape the most. It’s too easy for me to fall back into thinking about the shape I was in before. Especially after this past year of running, when I set PRs at nearly every race and took part in several events for the first time (Ragnar!).

Even as I try hard to just stay in the ‘now’ of getting back to it, I’m constantly thinking about where I was before and the great races I was having. Not that I believe I won’t reach that level again, but it seems so far away. It was 10 months from me starting at zero and running the Marine Corps Marathon. Not that it necessarily needs to take that long, but it’s surely not an overnight process.

A few of my ways to approach getting back into shape without too much pressure.

I’ve tried something different this time around for starting back at running and training. Here’s the short list:

  • Run without a watch or Garmin
  • No races on the calendar (to start with)
  • Train to a comfortable distance before joining the group
  • Do not fear the cross training

So there’s a few reasons for all of these. First off, I’m running distances I know by heart without a watch. No watch, Garmin or even checking the clock when I leave/return. The goal is to just go out and get a comfortable set of miles in. I made the executive decision not to sign up for any races for the first few months. As a relatively competitive person, if I signed up for a race I’d want to race. So by not putting any on my calendar, I allowed exercise to happen at a rate of improvement based on effort/feel and not on the pressure of my own expectations on race morning.

The next point is really something that is super individual specific. I decided to not join back up with my running group (for the most part) on runs until I could comfortably run the distances they do. While several you can set the distance because they’re repeats (hills, speed work), others were kind of set distances (no shorter than 4 miles). I am also a horribly Type A personality aka super competitive. If I ran with the group, I’d want to keep up. So I’ve been running for several weeks on my own with shorter distances to build my cardio back up.

It’s only this week I’ve started to reappear at group runs, as I now feel comfortable that even if I’m still out of shape, I can at least complete the bulk of the distances we’ll do (average on our weekday runs is 5 miles). Finally, I’m not slacking as much and making sure to substitute in more cross training days (cycling for the most part). While I may not feel like I worked as hard at the end, I do feel accomplished and these days let me rest my knees.

Of course, reaching the point where I’m back out with the group means I’m one step closer to race ready. I won’t be hitting any quite yet, but I’ve committed to my first event post-injections with the Women’s Running Half Marathon in November. Now I have something on my calendar that’s a still far off goal to work towards. Yay for progress!

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