How to Start Running Again: 5 Smart Ways to Get Back on Track

Wondering how to start running again?

Run enough miles or keep putting one foot in front of the other long enough, and chances are pretty good you'll eventually need to take time off from running. 

You know, so you can...

  • Recover from a running-related injury
  • Rest after heavy training or race
  • Heal from an accident or illness
  • Focus on work, relationships, or some major life event that needs extra attention
  • Crosstrain, try other sports, or build a base of strength with yoga for runners

When you have to take a break from running, it might feel like an eternity.

Been there, done that?

When you really love the sport, you'll eventually find your way back.

Are you all fired up to lace up your running shoes and go hard after a break?

Bonus points for enthusiasm. But that might not be the best plan for how to start running again.

Looking for some help about how to start running again? Check out these FIVE no-pressure ways to ease back into it.

1. Hike First

Trail runners love the sport because it takes us into nature. 

  • When we are not running, we not only long to run, we long for the peaceful, easy feeling that comes from spending time outside.
  • When we are able to return to the woods, some of us may let our excitement take over and bolt down the trail like an eager child, hopping and skipping along the way. 

That ever happen?

  • Others of us may go in tentatively, nervous to start again. Whether we are eager, nervous, or somewhere in between, it’s best to go slowly.

And the first step toward running is walking, or hiking, if we’re on trails. 

  • Wondering how to start running again?

Hiking before running will provide a wonderful stepping stone while giving us a hearty dose of nature. 

Hiking before running will provide a wonderful stepping stone while giving us a hearty dose of nature.

—Brynn Cunningham
Author on a two-hour hike on the Appalachian Trail, Shenandoah National Park.

2. Run/Hike

Once you have enough hikes under your belt, rather than going straight to running, it’s a good idea to employ the run/walk method on the trail, where it’s known as run/hike. 

  • Alternating running with hiking is how lots of trail runners manage tough terrain and steep hills on the norm. It’s an effective method for climbing uphill and conserves the muscles for the long haul. 
  • Power hiking is the pumped up version of hiking and a technique used by novice as well as the most elite and skilled trail runners. To learn how to take your hike to the next level, click here.

3. Use a Walking Stick or Trekking Poles

Trekking poles can make returning to trail running less intimidating. Sometimes when we are out of trail running practice, taking that first step upon uneven terrain can feel daunting.

If your running break was taken because of tragedy, such as a near-fatal fall, or injury, such as broken bones or concussion, especially if it occurred upon the trail in the first place, it can be downright scary to return.

Trail running requires more :

  • Stability
  • Balance, and...
  • Control than road running
  • And poles can assist with those actions

Poles also take weight off the feet

  • They utilize the strength of the arms and core, putting the entire body into the effort of running. 

Since my vacation from running was due to a heel spur on the bottom of the right foot, I was happy to use poles to hike, and then run/hike, for about three weeks before transitioning to solid running. 

If poles are out of the budget, try a walking stick. There’s nothing like a good old-fashioned hiking stick to make you feel like a kid again.

Author day-hiking the Appalachian Trail with her Leki Micro Trail Pro poles and two sons. (Photo/Eric Harder)

4. Run Alone or Run with Friends?

Should you run alone or run with friends when you're trying to figure out how to start running again?

This one is debatable. 

  • If your running break happened due to lack of motivation, running with others can certainly get you going.
  • But if your break was due to injury, sometimes it’s better to start alone.


Because when we run with others, for the most part, we become energized by our running buddies and get caught up in chatting.

And there's a consequence...We do not pay attention to what’s going on with the injured part (or parts) we just spent so much time healing. 

When we run alone, we tune inward, listen to our bodies and walk or slow down when needed.

However, with that being said, if you have a solid group of running friends who are OK with you:

  • Leading
  • Taking walking breaks
  • Setting the pace
  • And have zero expectations from the run on that given day...

Then inviting others to help you figure out how to start running again might be just what the doctor ordered. Friends can be the best medicine.

Inviting others to help you figure out how to start running again might be just what the doctor ordered. Friends can be the best medicine.

—Brynn Cunningham

On the other hand, if you’re testing out a repaired injury after quite some time off, this is not the time to join a new running group or run with people you hardly know. 

It can be defeating to show up and not be able to keep up if you haven’t had the chance to explain beforehand that you’re just beginning again. 

Play it safe, and don’t run with strangers… at least for now. It's a smart way to figure out how to start running again.

Warming up with some hiking before running with my best friends, ladies from the Trail Run Tribe. (Photo/Kristen Muscaro)

5. Enjoy the Scenery

It's another smart way to ease back into things and figure out how to start running again...

  • Spend time at the views and overlooks
  • Look up at the trees
  • Look down at the mushrooms
  • Stop to observe critters and wildlife

All too often, runners...including me, typically zip right by when running strong and healthy. 

After all, you wanted so badly to get back outside, running through the woods, right? 

When you're ready to figure out how to start running again, don't rush back into it at breakneck speed.

  • Enjoy it
  • Ditch the desire to clock a certain pace or distance
  • Lose all expectations
  • Ignore the stats
  • Be kind to yourself
  • And count your blessings you're making a comeback

That's how to start running again!

Toad at Bear Run Nature Reserve (Photo/author)

Have you taken a break from running and made your way back? Tell us about it in the comments.

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Brynn Cunningham
15 Following

Trail runner, ultrarunner, white water boater, cyclist (mostly MTB), swimmer, triathlete, cross country and backcountry skier...


Marci McGuinness This is such great advice from a girl who knows. Anyone living in a human body has injuries and flare-ups. Knowing how to heal while still getting out there is gold...and will keep you sane.

Brynn Cunningham Thanks!

Lauren Worrell Awesome advice! Thanks Brynn!

Brynn Cunningham You’re welcome, Lauren! I hope you’re doing well!

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