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Trail Tips

Ask the Coach: 3 Tips for Getting Back in the Game

Getting back into serious running after injury, illness or another setback can be daunting and frustrating. Here's how to make it easier.

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How can you regain confidence as an athlete after a subpar year of racing and training?

—Emily Gordon, Minneapolis, MN

Last year, my wife, Megan, was diagnosed with mono, which can be disastrous for adult runners. After accepting a six-month down period, she used these three tips to start growing again.

1. Step back.

Think about your goals and ask the existential questions. If you’re racing for podiums or PRs alone, you’ll likely be let down, if not now then as the body declines with age.

Try to focus on rewards that are independent of performance, such as the purpose, joy or extra burned calories that running brings. Write down why you are running, and remember that the point in life is usually not results but embracing the process.

RELATED: Ask the Coach: Strength Training

2. Step up.

Build your confidence in semi-competitive settings that don’t allow you to fail. Instead of jumping right back into national-class competition, Megan started with group runs organized by a local running store and low-key races on her favorite trails.

3. Change things up.

Finally, mix up your training. If you were running low mileage, increase the volume. If you were doing lots of workouts, do more easy running. If you’re overweight, lose a few pounds (and if you’re too skinny, gain a few). The body adapts to stimulus, so the same pattern produces diminishing returns.

Megan shifted to more easy running than in the past, only progressing to longer workouts when she saw aerobic breakthroughs. Just a few months later, she won the 2016 Way Too Cool 50K.

RELATED: 5 Mental Tricks To Get Race Ready

David Roche partners with runners of all abilities through his coaching service, Some Work, All Play. With Megan Roche, M.D., he hosts the Some Work, All Play podcast on running (and other things), and they wrote a book called The Happy Runner.