Minimizing Damage: Maintaining Minimal Run Fitness

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What’s that you say? Your job just decided to demand more of your time? You just got pregnant? You just decided to go back to work while being a mother to three? You are a new parent and your kids are your focus? You are in a new relationship and that is your focus? You’ve decided you love a new sport? Whatever has come up, you are not as focused on running for the first time in a long time. And….that’s ok!

Most of us are not professional runners, and it is healthy to love other things besides running. It is healthy to put other pieces of your life before running. But there’s no reason you can’t “minimize damage” and keep your body in a place that will ease you back into running when and if you decide to get serious again!

English: 2009 ESPN Zone Chicago Ultimate Couch...
Although according to ESPN, Ultimate Couch Potato IS sort of considered a sport these days. (img via Wikipedia)

Let’s face it, if at any point in life you have been an avid runner you probably aren’t apt to become a complete couch potato. You will likely feel the pull to be active, even if it isn’t every day and even if you aren’t doing workouts like you were before. But there are some good habits that will help keep your minimal run fitness, and some habits that can certainly dig you a fitness hole.

With a lot going on at my job, a bum foot, and an awesome boyfriend, I’ve suddenly found myself back in the minimizing damage phase, so I’m considering what I can do to keep my basic fitness for when I get fired up to really get after it again.  Here are some tips for you in case you find yourself in the same situation:

Minimal Mileage Goals:

So you don’t want to run XXX amount of miles a week anymore, you are tired of squeezing in doubles and doing mental math to see your weekly total each week. That’s ok! But targeting a minimal amount of mileage/# of run days a week is a good idea. Without a plan to get in a minimum amount of runs it’s easy to let running slip to the back burner,  So what’s the best way to stay fit for running? (drum-roll please…)

That’s, right, running!

Workouts for Fun:

Nintendo Track & Field
As fun as this is, it does not count as running. Nintendo Track & Field img via Wikipedia

If you have a good group of running friends, try getting a group together for a fun workout (gasp!) on the track.  And before you say “But the track isn’t fun at all!” I’m going to encourage you to consider how much fun you can have with your friends if you’re relaxed and not killing yourself over five extra seconds. I plan to get on the track with a less aggressive group. In my case the runners are still local speedsters, but their workouts are a bit more relaxed, more rest between intervals. It will be way more fun than an easy run by myself!

In fact, there are many other ways you can include some faster run specific training without it feeling like a chore too. Workouts with slightly slower buddies to help them reach their goals, Fartlek-type efforts when you are feeling speedy, impromptu hill intervals, and untimed tempo efforts on a day when you feel strong are all ways to include some speed without feeling the pressure of nailing goal workouts each week.


Cross Training:

Salsa dancing
Now’s the time to take that salsa class you’ve always been curious about! img via Wikipedia

Were there other sports you felt like pursuing before that your run training didn’t allow for? Now’s the time to squeeze those into your schedule! Some are better than others for preserving run-specific fitness (see below) but all are good, and maybe some of the less run-specific options are just the mental and physical break you need right now (surfing lessons, anyone?)

Note if you decide to throw in any type of cross training with lateral motion you should ease into it if that isn’t your current norm. As someone who never did any type of “ball” sports my lateral motion muscles and tendons are much underused. A marathon session of Dance Central on the X-Box was enough to give me peroneal tendonitis! Just because you are running fit and have the lungs of a marathoner, it does not mean you can do just any activity for hours without repercussions!

My top choices for cross training are usually swimming and cycling, but I have been known to love yoga and boot camp type classes too!

Run-Specific Cross Training  activities include:

  • Pool Running
  • Elliptical
  • Cross Country Skiing

Complementary Cross Training activities include:

  • Cycling
  • Swimming
  • Resistance Training
  • Rowing
  • Plyometrics

If, like me, you are backing down on your run-specific training for a bit give some of these methods a try to help minimize the loss of run fitness for your future big return to running!

What other methods have you used to stay relatively fit when you weren’t able to train the way you want to for ultimate run fitness?

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A gal on a mission to save Cuyahoga County streams one storm water facility at a time. An ex runner of many facets including marathons, pacing, ultras and more. Chronic left side issues have me cycling more than running these days but I'm attempting to get back to my running roots.

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  1. I love our posts today: accept your body and accept yourself when not in peak training mode. I’m so glad you’re in a happy place with life and running. I do miss you though so let’s do one of those maintenance runs together soon 🙂

  2. Yep, I love the Salty Running posts today too! This is a good one, Pepper. I think we all have to “live a little” and while I love the hard training cycles as much as anyone, I also love taking breaks and putting other things WAY ahead of running for awhile. We all need downtime so we can come back ready for the intense time in the future!