Losing Endurance and How To Get It Back

by Angela (Oh She Glows) on May 11, 2010

Good morning!

Check out some of the new Smiley faces that Eric hooked me up with…

:alien: :angel: :blush: :cwy: :biggrin: :kissing: :sleeping: :w00t: :wub:

Good times.

For breakfast, I craved one thing and one thing only.


In the Green Monster: 1 frozen banana, 3 cup spinach, 1 cup almond milk, 1 tbsp chia seeds, 1 tbsp peanut butter, 1/2 scoop Amazing Grass Wheatgrass powder, ice.

Engines are revved.

Losing Endurance and How To Get It Back

Last night, I headed out for a run. Since I had my groin pull back in April, I have not been on a long run since the end of March and I have only been on 2-3 runs during all of April. This does not bode well for half marathon training- My race is on May 30th!

However, I knew that I wasn’t going to run as long as I felt pain in my groin area. It just isn’t worth it to risk injury (groins are notorious for taking a long time to heal).

Now that my groin is finally feeling better, I need to get right back in the game for my half training. My last long run was at the end of March in Florida when I ran 12 miles. That was 5 weeks ago. :blush:

Yesterday, I headed out and decided to see where my body took me. Maybe it would be a long run or a short run, I really wasn’t sure. I went out and the first mile, while tough, felt good. I settled into my normal 8:30 min/mile pace and was enjoying being able to run pain free. I finished my first mile, including a large hill, in 8:34 min/mile. I felt good!

However, the next couple miles were a complete struggle. My pace started to drop and I knew immediately that I had lost endurance since being off running for those few weeks.

The symptoms of lost endurance:

  • More difficulty breathing
  • Cannot maintain normal pace
  • Cannot go long distances
  • Did not feel as automatic or as relaxing
  • Doesn’t feel as fun as usual

My first thought was, OK now I believe the readers who said that swimming doesn’t really help with running endurance! :lol: The thing that gets me is that I feel like I am in amazing shape, but all that work I have done on the bike and in the pool doesn’t seem to translate into running endurance!

The splits:

Mile 1: 8:34 mile/min (ascent- 164 ft)

Mile 2: 9:10 mile/min (ascent- 95 ft)

Mile 3: 9:20 mile/min (ascent- 61 ft)

Mile 3-3.55: 5:06 mile/min (ascent- 57 ft)

As you can see each mile got slower, even though the ascent decreased.

My overall time was 32:11 mins. with an average pace of 9:11 min/mile, which is not a bad pace by any means, however what matters to me is how I felt while running it. It was a complete struggle and prior to April, I could have done that run in my sleep.

I am 19 days away from my half marathon on May 30th and I am going to try to re-build some of my lost endurance without over-doing it. I previously set a goal for myself to beat my last half marathon time (1:56:33), but in all honesty this race may not be the race to do that! And I am ok with that. Not every race that we sign up for will turn out like we hope. Things get in the way of training and there isn’t much we can do about it sometimes. I have also been juggling my try-a-tri training (the race is June 6th) and in all honesty, training for two different events at the same time is not easy.

My goal for this week is to get in another shorter run and then attempt a long run this weekend. I am hoping with some consistency over the next couple weeks, I can get back some of that lost endurance. I may end up running the half with no goal time at all, it really just depends how the next two weeks go!

Today’s question- Have you ever taken time off training (for an injury, travel, or to focus on another sport) and lost endurance? How did you get it back?

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{ 39 comments… read them below or add one }

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Leah May 11, 2010 at 10:57 am

I injured my ankle a couple months ago, so I started to focus more on yoga and riding my stationary bike. I got back into running a little too early and now Im having ankle problems AGAIN. But before that, it really helped to run without my ipod. Thats probably the opposite of just about everyone, but it helped me focus on how I felt instead of the music.


Olivia May 11, 2010 at 10:59 am

I’ve been reading your blog for a while now without commenting, and though I should stop lurking. I really appreciated this post on endurance, as that is exactly where I am in my training goals. (Though I’ve never run more than a 5k!) I’m curious–and you’ve probably posted about this before–what’s your amazing huge GPS sports watch? I’m an info junkie, and would love to get one. Would you recommend yours?


AngelaOSG May 11, 2010 at 11:00 am

It is a Garmin 305 and I LOVE it!


AngelaOSG May 11, 2010 at 11:00 am

PS- you can get them at costco!


Cynthia (It All Changes) May 11, 2010 at 10:59 am

Honestly the only way I’ve ever been able to build back up my endurance is to treat it like I’m a newbie again. Not to push to hard too quickly. It will come back faster than you think but give it time.


Lizzie May 11, 2010 at 11:16 am

Hi Angela:

I took 3 months off to give my ankle a rest after I did something to it (still don’t know what!) during a 5k in October. Until that point I had been on track to do my first 1/2 but, like you, am finally learning that it’s not worth it to push it so I dropped out of that race! Fast forward to the middle of March – back on the t-mill for 3-4 mile easy runs, STILL no long runs, and the 1/2 I signed up for in December one month away! I ended up squeezing in 1×11 and 2×9 mile runs in the weeks leading up to the race and finished in just under 2 hours. However the race was not what I expected. It had hills (had done no hill training at all), it rained and was cold the entire time and my whole warm up/mental prep (strides, motivating iPod music) never happened. I just had to jump from umbrella to corral and start running. So I thank you for the reminder that races don’t always go according to plan. :)
I think what enabled me to maintain my endurance during my off time was getting to the gym 5 days a week and either cycling, working out on the elliptical, some strength, taking a kick boxing class, and some spinning classes. It didn’t make getting back into running any less harder mentally, but it helped to know that even though I wasn’t at my fastest, I could still compete and finish (though in the days leading up to it I was struggling to even believe that!). One thing I have been doing (that unfortunately finishes in 2 weeks b/c my insurance won’t pay anymore!) is physical therapy for my ankle at a local clinic. Initially I resented doing this, but decided to be proactive about it and maybe learn some strengthening exercises and ways to be preventative of injury. It has been very helpful!
You might surprise yourself on your 1/2 with your time. :)


Tay May 11, 2010 at 11:21 am

I definitely know where your’e at right now. I first took time off of running a little over a year ago in the middle of marathon training. I was doing 40-45 mpw, and was up to 18 mile long runs. I could whip out 8-10 mile runs during any normal day during the week. I originally took time off thinking that it would be a temporary thing. I could cross train and maintain most of my fitness. Fast forward a year, and I’m just now starting to get back into running. 3 and 4 miles runs are HARD. I went on a 5.5 mile run the other day, and it completely felt like a 20 miler. I even take multiple walk breaks now which is something I never did before! I know it’s possible to build the fitness back up, but it’s going to be a long journey. And as excited as I am, I’m also really discouraged that it’ll never happen! But gotta keep chuggin :-)


[email protected] May 11, 2010 at 11:32 am

yea HIIT training is all i can think of.. oh and hiking.. those two are what helped me. in terms of supplements id like to recommend coenzyme q10… i did a ltitle trial with it and totally saw an improvement in my running distance and pace. but yea, hopefully u’ll find what works for you. i think thats awesome that u noticed a pattern in ur speed by tracking it. thats awesome1


Megan @ The Oatmeal Diaries May 11, 2010 at 11:33 am

Wow, what a perfect post for me to read. I literally JUST got back from my first run in about 2 months since my stress fracture! I only did 15 minutes at a very slow pace, but I’m sure if I had pushed myself it would have been tough. We can get our endurance back together! I’m impressed you’re doing a race so soon!


G May 11, 2010 at 11:36 am

Hi Angie,
Do not worry about your timing. Like one of them said, it’s all ‘Muscle Memory’. It will come back to you soon. In the meantime, just train for what you can…but be consistent. It’s amazing how consistency can make one better at whatever we undertake!
If you have to train doing a walk/ jog- run, pls do. Our body knows best. With time our performance will only get stronger. And don’t worry about time etc, stress can only worsen things.
At the same time ‘honor your body’…the human body is the most complex, intricate machine…and it does an excellent job of letting us know how its doing…we just have to listen to our bodies.
Good luck on your races. You a person with amazing strength and integrity. You will do well in all your endeavors. Good Luck!
(I’ve been following your blog for a while now, but haven’t commented much). :)


Mel May 11, 2010 at 11:39 am

Here’s what worked for me:
Walk during warm up (at least 5 minutes)
Mile 1: Decrease normal pace (for you maybe try running 9:00 to 9:30 mms)
after 5 minutes take a walking break (30 seconds – 2 minutes) -whatever is needed
Mile 2: Repeat, even if its easy
Mile 3: Increase pace slightly if you feel good and try a shorter walking break
Mile 4: Hold pace or increase slightly if you still feel good
Cool down: Walk at least 5 minutes

The recipe for running longer is starting out slower, possibly much slower. Making peace with that is probably the hardest part. You seem to have a great attitude and sometimes that’s half the battle. After a few slow runs you’ll probably regain your endurance pretty quickly. Good luck!


Kacy May 11, 2010 at 11:40 am

I was sick for the majority of the time I was training for my first half. It was miserable, but the race still went well. I think racing is mainly a mental game, and I was just in a really good frame of mind so it all worked out.


Kristin May 11, 2010 at 11:52 am

As a long distance runner myself, I agree that you should slow down the pace. Even if you are hoping for a sub-2 hour half, you don’t need to be training at an 8:30 pace! Drop it to 9:30-10:00 and I think it will be easier on your body, allow you to run further, and help your endurance by increasing time on your legs. If you want to work on your speed a little, do some interval sprints at a faster pace (if you feel up to it). Increasing your distance and time spent running will do more for your endurance than running fast for short runs (in my opinion). Good luck!


Angela (Oh She Glows) May 11, 2010 at 1:29 pm

Good tip!


Courtney @ Sweet Tooth, Sweet Life May 11, 2010 at 12:11 pm

I actually noticed a big change just in the 10 days that I was away for my honeymoon this past January. When I came back and tried to get back “into the swing of things”, it took me another good week to actually start to feel like I was before I had left. I’ve really just started running at longer distances over the past 6 months or so, so I’m still working up my own endurance. Just increasing a little bit intermittently helps a lot!
P.S. – I LOVE the smiley faces! I gotta see if I can find some of those for my site! :)


Bekah - runtrackmind May 11, 2010 at 12:47 pm

Oh, Angie I feel for you. Why does it seem running endurance falters even after a short time off when we put so much time and effort in building it up? I am just getting over a head/chest cold which took me out of my marathon training for a week….My race is May 30th too! Of course I felt the affects of missing those days but my biggest obstacle is my mental attitude. Trying to stay positive, not letting the feeling of defeat or fear set in all the while trying to be smart about proceeding with the few weeks of training I have left. With an injury or illness we need to be so careful not to go out too fast (either in speed or distance) that we end up right back injured or sick. Stay positive, girl!


[email protected] May 11, 2010 at 1:19 pm

LOVE green monsters! I’ve never put PB/AB in it though…maybe tomorrow! I have had tons of injuries…after training at a high level for so long you just get used to the pain but this past summer I had to sit out the entire summer due to a leg injury and then had to jump right into 3-a-days….I made sure I was eating as well as I could so that I could provide the right energy at the right time, and then the best recovery foods during my recovery time. It was very specific and time consuming but totally worth it :-)


Samantha @ Food Edu May 11, 2010 at 1:39 pm

Your question makes me laugh because sometimes I won’t run for a week or week and a half and then I feel like I have no endurance at all. Then I kick myself for taking a break!


Carla May 11, 2010 at 1:43 pm

I totally know what you mean, this morning was my first run (3 miles) since my 10 mile race which was 10 days ago, and it felt like the hardest run ever. I wanted to take a few days off running after the race because I was having some tightness/pain and it turned into 10 days. I’ll never take that much time off again! I am hoping it comes back quickly!!


Kellie May 11, 2010 at 1:49 pm

I did loose endurance when I took off some time running, but I think you will find that it does come back quickly. Within a few weeks, I felt like it hadn’t even left. Just give it a little time and you will be back to where you were.


Jaya May 11, 2010 at 1:55 pm

I have to agree that I think swimming is actually great for when you need time off from running! I had a foot problem about 6 weeks before training camp last year, so I switched entirely to biking and swimming and was just amazed at how well I was able to take those gains into running, once my body was ready for impact again!
Having said that, it’s been almost 9 months since I’ve been able to exercise at all (only recently re-introduced running) and I really believe that the longer you are at it (in terms of your overall commitment to active living) the easier it is to rebuild your work capacity. I don’t really have any desire to run anymore – 15 years of non-stop pavement has not been ideal for my joints – but I have total faith that my fitness and strength will come back as well as ever as long as I follow my body’s feedback. Use that pain as a guide, and I know you will do great. It can be discouraging, but just try to remember that it’s not always about what you can “get back” but how you can move forward. I wish you, above all, good health!


Jaya May 11, 2010 at 1:55 pm

Oops – I meant that I re-introduced walking!


Carolyn @ lovinlosing May 11, 2010 at 2:16 pm

I’ve been slacking on running the past few weeks due to a bad race, erratic weather, a short vacation, and (like you) triathlon training. I’ve got a 10K on the 29th so hopefully it won’t be too hard.


Lauren @ Health on the Run May 11, 2010 at 2:45 pm

First of all, I’m just now catching up on my blog reading and so I have to say — I love your new site layout!! The header is gorgeous and it’s apparent how much hard work you’ve put into it! So glad the site is finally up and running! :)

Secondly, I can definitely commiserate when it comes to losing endurance. It’s amazing how fast it goes away. I’ve been plagued by countless injuries throughout my running career and after each one, it’s so frustrating to have to work my way back up to my previous level of fitness. But honestly, the hardest thing is those first couple of runs back. Once you get over the hurdle of getting back out there, I find that things start to come back fairly quickly. My only little tidbit of advice is to not do too much, to quickly. Sometimes I can over-do it, because I either a) get excited about starting to feel better and so think I can make it a whole 10 miles instead of sticking with 5; or b.) just get impatient “waiting” for my body to catch up to what my mind thinks it should be able to do. Obviously this is counter-productive and can only lead to more injuries in the end!

Good luck with your training as you build up to your Half!!


Paige (Running Around Normal( May 11, 2010 at 3:23 pm

How discouraging! I’m a little worried about my endurance and I’ve only been off a week! You’ll get it back though, keep it up. It’s probably a great idea you didn’t push yourself to run with an injury!


Ilana May 11, 2010 at 4:05 pm

I’m actually in the same boat right now. I took a week off of Pilates because of a shoulder injury, and it ended up turning into three weeks. Before my break, I was super on top of everything, I could push my body to limits I didn’t know I was capable of, and felt very powerful. I just started going back, I’m a few weeks in and everything just feels harder. I know I’ll get back to where I was eventually, and I’m trying my hardest to relish the challenge instead of get frustrated at my own drawbacks.


Lizz @ Leading the Good Life May 11, 2010 at 4:43 pm

I’m going through a similar situation – it’s really hard! I try to remind myself that this time around won’t be as hard. Sure, my body needs to be trained again, but I haven’t lost everything. I know what to look out for, pain-wise; I know that I need more fuel and more sleep; I know how to zone-out during a run, if I need to; I know what kind of music gets me ready to run; I know what to eat before and during my runs….at one point I didn’t know any of this and had to learn as I went, making mistakes along the way that surely slowed down my training. I’m hoping my ‘mental endurance’ will make it easier to build up my physical endurance this time around!


Kilee May 11, 2010 at 4:46 pm

Wow! Great responses and advice from everyone! I had to wear a walking cast for 8 miserable weeks, in the middle of the summer while living on Maui. I was so antsy to get back to working out, but took my time to slowly ease into things. My ankle has been fine since then, I think that the rest & recovery really helped. I say to listed to your body and if race day comes and you aren’t ready, then wait until next year. I know that’s hard to do, but if it means saving yourself from reinjury, it’s worth it. Take care!


Lindsey May 11, 2010 at 5:11 pm

I love this post!! I fractured my foot and had to take 2 months off of running (and wearing high heels gasp). When I came back it was hard, and I found it discouraging but there is something about the mental preparation part and knowing that you have done it in the past that gets you through it. And sometimes there are just bad days where your body is just not feeling it. Good luck in the 1/2!!


Allie May 11, 2010 at 6:57 pm

I’ve had the endurance issue happen to me before. I took a break from running for a month or so around Christmas last year – and it was a tough haul getting back into it. I’m sure you’ll get rebuild your endurance in no time – good luck with the Half, and the Tri!


Jill May 11, 2010 at 7:28 pm

I am taking time off from running right now due to a foot injury. I’m in the middle of a 5K training program. I’ve never been able to run much before and I was finally feeling like I am getting somewhere! But now I have to wait until things heal… On the bright side, I can still bike and use the elliptical. Which means I can boost my endurance and ability another way for a while. It’s probably good for me too :)
Good luck, I’m sure you’ll be running easy again before you know it!



Kristin (Cook, Bake and Nibble) May 11, 2010 at 7:39 pm

I’m working on endurance right now, after 2 years of not running more than 3 miles. Not so easy! But the way you’re approaching it is awesome!! I’m sure you’ll rock the race :D



Triathlonbabe May 11, 2010 at 9:37 pm

OMG, I took off in 2008 after my last big triathlon because my bulging discs finally said quit, so I had to take a few months off from everything in order to do physical therapy and epidural steroid injections. It took me a long while to get my endurance back. I was able to swim, cycle and light walking but no running. Then recently in Dec. I had a major surgery (female stuff) and at the moment am having to build the endurance back up. It’s hard but I know from experience it takes time. Speaking of time, since you know you might disappoint yourself and for the sake of injury again, do this race “for fun”, you might surprise yourself even if you don’t push it. :)


Jackie (Peaces of Earth) May 12, 2010 at 2:17 am

I have definitely lost endurance before! It’s not fun, but just know that you’ve been there before and are totally capable of getting back to your bad self. :) I think someone said something similar already but I would recommend slowing down a little. Training at a slightly slower pace would make working your way up distance wise easier. I haven’t done this but have you ever tried heart rate training? My impression is that you concentrate on increasing your distance all while running in your target heart rate and never pushing yourself beyond (this includes walking if you have to). After a while you’ll be able to go faster while maintaining the same heart rate. This way, you’re naturally increasing your speed as you increase your distance and are not burning yourself out trying to improve both.


Michelle May 13, 2010 at 3:54 pm

I actually lose endurance pretty easily. Especially when there’s hills involved. I find that doing interval runs full of short sprints and recovery time gets ke back in shape quick!


beatriz August 23, 2010 at 3:07 pm

hi! i am working through recovery for my groin right now, still having trouble balancing rest and working out…when i read this thought your experience could help me. what happened to you and how did u recover? thanks


Lauren December 3, 2012 at 3:52 pm

Hi!! I feel your pain!! despite having shoulder arthroscopic surgeryand being 10 weeks out, i have not gained any endurance back since i was released 2 weeks ago. I am having difficulty with running 2.5 miles when i was running a schedule of :
s:off, m:5, t:4 and aerobics, w: off, th: 7, f: off, s: 3 or 5m. And with thehope of running a 1/2 marathonin fall (that was put on hold). I am jut disgusted with myself and I want to run longer runs and also not die from exhaustion. Please someone say i am not the only one who feels this terrible and not to give up!


Catherine June 9, 2013 at 3:56 pm

Wow, I’m so glad I came across this page because I definitely feel less alone now. I took 4 weeks off from all activity and now I’m back to running and my endurance has gone to pieces. I could run 6km before fairly easily but now I’m lucky if I can make it to 2.5km. I have a 10k race in just 3 weeks and I think I have to accept the fact that there’s no way I can be ready in time. It feels horrible that all the work I’ve put into my fitness can be taken from me in such a short amount of time!

Also have to agree about the swimming. I was a competitive swimmer up until the age of 23 and running and swimming are totally different. Most of the propulsion in swimming comes from the arms (I believe it’s 80%+) and your body weight is supported by buoyancy whereas running is the legs and the legs also have to work against gravity. I actually think swimming is one of the worst cross-training sports for running as a result!


dahee park December 10, 2014 at 6:22 am

I used to be a runner, then moved on to mountain biking within a group, and ultimately became a triathlete… and won in the female division in a small town. However i got into bodybuilding and then cut down all my cardio.. its been almost 2 years since ive switched over… and my endurance is completely down! I cant even run a mile without taking deep breaths… but hey run everyday, push yourself and challenge yourself everyday. ANd you can be that again! Why?? Because you once were & you are perfectly capable! Im upping my cardio more and more.. running, biking, and swimming.. expanding my lungs again.so i can conquer more races… the thrill is so awesome. These sports i love… my ultimatum is to be a bodybuilder triathlete!!! Strong mindset: endless possibilities. Good luck. Make a goal & just stick to it… most of all stay strong, and consistency is key! Also, youre stronger than you think! ☺


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