fitness · running · training

Tracy’s lost cardio fitness

Oh wow is it ever a challenge getting back to running since I took an involuntary hiatus from it after the Around the Bay 30K sidelined me with debilitating back pain. By the time that started to resolve it was time to go to Rwanda. Then I was only home for 12 hours before flying to Vancouver. And then the jet lag kicked my butt. And then I got home to the week (or was it 10 days?) from hell.

During all that time (just over 2.5 months) I have run four or five times, not for more than 30 minutes. And I can report with confidence that 2.5 months is sufficient time to lose whatever cardio fitness I had gained through a winter of training for 30K.

My most palpable rude awakening came this past Sunday. Before that, all my runs were tentative, cautious outings aimed at testing my back more than anything else. But Sunday, my back having not given me any trouble for at least a month and no jet lag, I ventured out for a short run with the express purpose of getting back to routine. I planned for about 20-25 minutes of continuous running at an easy pace. Instead, after just 7 minutes I could hardy breathe, and that’s not because I went out too quickly. I just didn’t have the endurance anymore. I ended up being out for about 30 minutes of run-walk and it all felt pretty laboured.

I try not to feel discouraged when I have set backs. It happens. The conditioning will return. I know this. But it did shock me how very difficult that short run felt.

On a positive note: my strength training hasn’t suffered to quite the same degree. I managed 3 sets of 13 pull ups yesterday. And I have new shoes, which I tested out for the first time Sunday. They’re great!

Image description: overhead shot looking down at pavement, with grass beside, Tracy’s lower legs and feet visible in her new pink running shoes.

What’s your best strategy for getting back on track after a voluntary or involuntary hiatus?

8 thoughts on “Tracy’s lost cardio fitness

  1. Bummer but easy, I think, to bounce back. I went to a talk once by a kinesiology professor at Western about running fitness. It’s incredibly easily lost. Fitness decreases after only a week or two off at rates unlike other sports. Lifting you retain something like 80% for quite awhile. Cycling is in the middle. But the bright side, according to this guy, is that running fitness is also result regained. Easily lost, bummer, but bright side, easily regained. Anyway, it’s summer. You love running. Enjoy!

  2. As someone who’s lost and rebuilt running fitness several times (overuse injuries are killer!), my experience is that it’s usually easier to regain lost fitness than it was to build it for the first time. Frustrating for sure, but doable (and usually my cardio recovers more quickly than my joints, unfortunately, so I have to be extra careful not to overdo it).

    I’m on a similar running hiatus right now due to minor injury that is taking a while to recover, and my plan for when I eventually go back is to take it easy at first and enjoy the fact that “shorter” distances (for me, probably 2-3 miles, but it’s all relative) at a not-fast pace feel like a workout again! 😀

    1. Sounds as if we have similar plans! Good luck getting back on track when you’re ready. Thanks for your comment.

  3. I go through many cycles of falling out of routines and getting back into them as my busy schedule gets too full of obligations and gym time is one of the first things that gets cut. I find it’s best if I map out a weekly schedule on my calendar that I know I can stick to, and get right back into it. Mostly, this is for strength training, so all I have to adjust is the weight if I can’t do what I had been before the break. I keep the sets the same, otherwise. This seems to work pretty well for me.

  4. So, I think I’m remembering this right, but I believe it takes a consistent stimulus for a week to 10 days to signal to our bodies to build more mitochondria in our multinucleated muscle cells. Once those get built up (another handful of days), the “cardio” part of the running (or other endurance sports) gets easier again. It is the loss of these mitochondria that results in the fasted decline in respiratory function. . . Gaining and losing muscles takes more time, which is why we can go longer with less of a decline in strength, and also why it takes longer to build up strength.

    This suggests to me that you are on the right track! Do what you can with limited discomfort for a few weeks, and then there may be that magic moment when it doesn’t feel too hard anymore! (The best part of running, IMO.) I’m hoping I can do that, too, when my insides no longer hate me. 🙂

  5. I can find setbacks extremely discouraging, so I always try to reconnect with how I feel about the activity (for me, weightlifting and cycling) and celebrate each milestone the way I would have the first time around. It’s always frustrating to know that your body used to be able to do more, but I prefer to try to turn it into inspiration, fixating on what I know I am capable of when I feel like quitting.

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