Rediscovering your 'mojo' at the start of a long road back

Trail Running training editor and #Run1000Miles ambassador Paul Halford enthuses about how quickly your mind and body can return to fitness

Whether it's been the warming temperature or attending events such as the Virgin Money London Marathon, my mojo is well and truly back.

I often describe my motivation for running as if it's a switch - it's definitely at "on" at the moment and by Sunday I should be at more than 60 miles for the week for the first time in a while.

One of the things about running I've been reminded of is how quickly the transformation in fitness and mental approach can take place. 

Running the Regent's Canal in mid-April and feeling unfit (pic: Tom Bailey)

Running the Regent's Canal in mid-April and feeling unfit (pic: Tom Bailey)

One minute I was a "fat jogger" who felt like he had run a marathon after an 11-mile run along Regent's Canal for a Trail Running magazine piece (see picture), seeming to be a million miles away from where I need to be fitness-wise.

After a couple of weeks I felt like a runner again. Then the weight starts coming off, the runs are seeming slightly easier and I'm starting to think of races and speedwork.

The mental side has a direct effect on the physical as it inspires you to get the miles in and then the physical results in a boost in how you perceive yourself. On yesterday's run, I was under a minute-per-mile barrier I hadn't breached in quite a while and I was feeling fitter than in a long time.

It's still a long journey back but each step towards the ultimate goal seems to be bigger than the last one.

However, if you're not careful under such circumstances, you find the mental side comes back too quickly for your body. I am trying to make sure my return to fitness is steady by adhering to the following tips:

  • Step up the distance again gradually. Although your muscles are remarkably good at "remembering" what mileage you used to do, it still takes time. So that old rule of "no more than 10% per week" is a good one to follow.
  • Do core stability and weights work. You're trying to re-shape your body. While knocking off a few pounds, it's good to ensure your "new" body is stronger than perhaps even the last time you were race-fit. 
  • Stretch. Increases in mileage are prime time for injury so stopping those muscles from tightening up is important. Again, this is a chance to maybe do things you didn't do before and come back a better version.
  • Don't race straight away. You'll see those training times tumbling, but often you can be in for a rude awakening when you put a race bib on and you risk injury by racing hard before you've done speedwork. Then again, don't leave it too long either - it can be very heartening to see your times improve.
  • Realise the miracle of fitness returns won't last forever. At some point, the advancements will taper off and it's then that you need to make sure you have some big goals in place to ensure your motivation doesn't go away again.