This post was written by Jennifer Heidmann

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One of my favorite races of the year is coming up this weekend. And I won’t be there.

In truth, I could be there, but I cannot bring myself to toe the line when absolutely nothing has gone as planned in the last several weeks. Including my vague New Years resolution to run pretty much every day, come hell or high water.

This started out well, until work swallowed me whole. Now winter months are always busy in my profession, but this year is literally the worst I have ever seen. I would like to think that 13 hours on my feet seeing patients is as good as a long run, but as I peer at my ever growing middle aged spread and watch my dream of a PR at my favorite race fade into oblivion, I know the truth. There is only one way to be a runner, and that is to run.

I did manage a half marathon last weekend, with my kid (her first). I broke all the rules (ran it cold, after no running for at least 12 days), but we had a lovely run nonetheless.

Now it is time to get back on track (so to speak).

The thing is, I find myself a little paralyzed by the thought of reentry.

  • Do I just jump back into a 50 mile week?
  • Do I do Grandmotherly runs for a period of time?
  • Do I see my doctor first so I don’t drop dead of a heart attack from all the astoundingly unhealthy doctor’s lounge food I ate during my 13 hour days at work?

The answers:

  1. Not right away, but soon.
  2. There are some amazing Grandmas out there.
  3. Doctor, heal thyself.

Plan for Reentry, in Eight Steps:

1. Forgiveness. Forgive work, because that was your choice and no one made you do it.

Forgive yourself, because although you fancy yourself invincible, it has been a rough patch and you did the best you could. Plus those donuts were good.

Forgive those who got to stay in shape and get ready for your favorite race when you could not. This is their year, and that is OK.

2. Nutrition. Speaking of donuts…I do not actually believe there is one right way to eat as a runner. But when making a reentry to the running life, it helps to focus on what fuels you and makes you feel well.

Make a list of those foods,  go to your grocery store, park, go for a run, then hold your sweaty head high as you shop for the comeback foods.

3. Read. Peruse old running magazines. Read running blogs. Read running books. And while you are running, listen to a book. Thus catching up on your running and reading in one fell swoop.

4. Sleep. When I do not run, I sleep fitfully. Exercise helps people sleep better. And sleeping better helps people run better. It’s a win-win situation!

5. Dream. When I do not run, my dreams are bizarre. But what I mean by dream is not the technicolor musings of REM. I mean the awake dream of what you might accomplish this year as a runner.

For me, I hope it can be an ultra. My other dream is a marathon PR. In order to recover from my reentry paralysis, I need a dream. What is your dream?

6. Nature. If your job is like mine, it traps you indoors for long hours, sometimes never seeing the actual sunlight for days, except through windows.

You gaze out and feel a longing for the sun on your back.

Your Vitamin D levels plummet.

You think you can raise them by eating another donut. But I digress…

With the comeback comes the chance to be outside. Run a trail. Run in the snow. Run around your neighborhood. Drive to your favorite scenic spot and run there. Nature, like running, heals. Wendell Berry says it best, I think.

7. Music. Make a playlist, name it “Comeback 2014”, and listen to it while you run. In your minds eye, pretend you are running the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum. If that doesn’t fire you up, I don’t know what will.

8. Patience. You will not feel like your strong self for awhile. That’s OK (see number one above).

Don’t get injured by trying to resume where you left off (50 mile week–wait a little, it will just happen).

If you are reentering the running scene after years, or if after an injury, it might actually be wise to see your doctor first. There is one up side to starting anew: it is all up hill from here. And runners love uphills.

Photo Credit

Jennifer Heidmann has been running for 30 years, racing every distance from the 400m to the marathon. Her next adventure will be tackling her first 50 mile ultramarathon. She is also a physician, a pianist and a mother of 3 teenagers. Check out her personal running blog, Redwoods and Running, for more great tips and stories.

Author Doug Hay is the founder of Rock Creek Runner, host of the Trail Talk podcast, and fanatical about everything trail running -- beards, plaid shirts, bruised toenails, and all. He and his wife live and run in beautiful Black Mountain, NC.

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