How Long Does It Take to Get Into Running Shape & Out ?!


As one of the original sports, running has long been one of the best ways to exercise. In my opinion (and I am admittedly biased here), there is no better way to build a stronger and healthier body than through running. By simply heading out the door several times a week and running, your body will reap the benefits.

The ease of being able to head outside and go for a run is one of the sport’s biggest appeals for me. Cycling requires you to have at least a bike and a helmet. Swimming necessitates access to a body of water, a swimsuit, and a pair of goggles. But running is very simple. Outside of clothing, there is no additional equipment needed. Some runners following the barefoot running philosophy don’t bother with wearing shoes. Heck, some sometimes runners don’t even bother with wearing clothes! (Source)

So, how long does it take to get into running shape? It is widely believed that it takes between 3 to 12 months to get into shape running, however, the duration depends on the amount of training invested, the individual’s fitness level, and the personal objective definition of getting in shape.

While attempting to provide a clear answer to this question, the very likely unfortunate answer to this is it depends, just as it is with so many other things. To get a clearer idea of what to expect for your individual case, you must ask yourself the following questions,

  • What does it mean to get into shape?
  • What level of fitness I am trying to achieve?
  • How fit I am at the moment ?

If you are mainly trying to become a more fit person, then it wouldn’t take very long before you could consider yourself to be in shape. There are training programs that you can follow that show the path one can take to go from couch potato to 5k finisher in a manner of weeks.

When I first took up running, I was starting from zero. It was a struggle for me to jog more than a few blocks without walking. By keeping at it and slowly increasing the length of my runs, my running ability increased. After 3 months of training, I was able to finish my first 10K race. At that point, I considered myself in shape for that particular goal.

However, if your goal is to get your body in the type of shape where you can run your fastest races ever, then much more time will need to be invested. For those types of results, you should spend a few months building a solid running base. Once that base has been established, then there would need to be another block of training dedicated to developing speed. Altogether, it could take nearly a year before you would consider yourself to be in racing shape.

Can I Get Into Shape Through Just Running?

One can absolutely get into shape through running. It doesn’t matter whether you choose to follow a training plan or you set your own schedule. As long as you are consistently running several times a week, your fitness is going to improve.

Not to say that you couldn’t increase your fitness level by adding in additional sports like cycling or swimming (or even basketball, soccer, weight lifting, kickball, etc.). But running by itself is an incredible way to get your body into shape.

How Long Before You See Results from Running?

After a few weeks of consistent running 3-5 times a week, you will start to notice several changes in your body. One of the first things you will become aware of is your increased appetite. The fact that you are hungry more often means that your metabolism has increased. Your body is now consuming fuel (food) at a higher rate than it used to. This is a good thing! By feeding that hunger with healthy meals and snacks several times a day, you will be transforming your body into a more efficient running machine.

It could only be a matter of weeks before you will start to notice changes. 

The next thing you will start to notice is a change in your body shape. It might not be dramatic at first, but you will see some differences. That belt that you used to put on the third notch? Now that you’ve been running, it needs to be tightened a little more in order to keep your pants in place. Shirts will soon begin to hang just a little looser.

On a side note, consider checking out post on What You Should Think About When Running? The Fascinating Endurance Mindset!

How Long Does It Take to Get out Of Running Shape?

At the highest levels, running fitness can begin to fade if an athlete goes a couple of days in a row without running. That might mean the athlete would run a few seconds slower than they would have if they hadn’t missed those days. But for most of us, losing a few seconds here and there is not that big of a deal.

In my experience, it takes months of complete inactivity before one gets completely out of shape.

If you let months go by without any sort of running-like activity, you can fall out of running shape. If you choose to get back into a running routine after taking an extended break, don’t try to jump back in where you left off.  You might not have to start completely from zero like you did that day you took your first run. But it is a good idea to ease into the routine and not try to do too much right away.

There are ways to maintain a level of running fitness without actually running. If you have to take a break from running itself, consider one of these alternative training methods:

  • Cycling
  • Elliptical Machine
  • Pool Running
  • Cross Country skiing
  • Long walks

All these activities will work some of the same muscles that you use when running. By substituting them into your workout routine, you can maintain quite a bit of your fitness until you can get back to running.

How to Pool Run

What’s the Fastest Way to Get Back Into Running Shape?

The best way to get back into shape is by committing yourself to the process of going out for a run several times a week. You don’t have to start out going too fast or too long. You just have to start and keep it up consistently.

It sounds simple, but the fastest way to get back into running shape is by running!

As mentioned above, when getting back into training after a break, make sure to start off easy. The most common way runners injure themselves is by trying to do too much, too soon. So don’t try to run as fast and as long as you were before the rest period. You can gradually increase the speed and length of runs as your fitness level returns.

The rule of thumb is that it takes twice as long to gain back fitness as it does to lose it.

Say you were to take a month off due to an injury. You would need to resume training for two months to get back to the level of fitness you had before that hiatus. 

Why Have I Gained Weight Since I Started Running?

The reason the weight is increasing is muscle weighs more than fat. The act of consistent running has been burning up the body’s fat stores and converting them into lean muscle mass. If this happens to you, don’t let this concern you too much. Once the running muscles have been established, the body will switch over to purely fat-burning mode and the numbers on the scale should start to decrease.

Few beginning runners see an increase in their weight after a month or two. This can be demoralizing at first until you step back and realize what is happening.

How Much Weight Will I Lose if I Run Every Day for A Month?

This depends on how much you have to lose, how much you run, and how much you eat.

Generally, if you burn more calories than you take in, then you will lose weight. Running a mile burns an average of around 100 calories, and approximately 3500 calories equals 1 pound of body weight.

Calories burned per running mile comparison from RoadRunnerSports.com

If you were to run 3-4 miles every day for a month, while keeping your diet the same as it was before you started running, you might lose 1-2 pounds a week. If you were to eat a little less or run a little more, you would likely see more weight loss. (Source)

Does Running Give You Toned Legs?

A regular running routine will burn body fat and build lean muscles, especially in the legs. The keyword here is lean – don’t think you will develop Incredible Hulk-style legs through running. That kind of bulk only comes through hardcore weight lifting. Once your legs get used to running, they will become thinner and stronger.

Your legs are not the only place you will notice changes. Running consistently will eventually eat away fat from other parts of the body as well. The longer you run, the more you will notice areas like your arms, stomach, and more become toned.

Brad Birky

Brad Birky is an endurance athlete and trained chef who has qualified for and completed the Boston Marathon as well as multiple Ironman distance triathlons

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