Why a Running Break is Necessary

To summarize my training last week, I ran once on Monday.  Then I got sick and slept for three days straight.  Not exaggerating, but I slept over 16 hours daily for three days.  By the fourth day, I still had a headache and didn’t want to run.  Finally, by day 5, I was already five days into not running, so I thought: “why not just extend my running break longer?”  I didn’t miss running at all. 
Why a running break is neccessary

So to recap, I ran once and haven’t run since Monday.  My plan this summer was to take an extended break from running and now worked out well.  I’m not sure how long I’ll take off, but I’ll run when I’m mentally ready to run again.

Instead of writing a traditional training post, I’ll talk about some reasons for resting.  The idea of rest isn’t new, unusual, or life-changing.  It’s essential for every single runner, new or old, elite or not, to take rest.

So what are some worries of taking a break from running?

Worry 1: You Worry about Losing Fitness

You aren’t running, and your body will lose fitness, and your vo2 max will decrease.  It’s a real statement.  The longer you don’t run and reduce your weekly mileage, the more likely you are to lose fitness.  However, studies show, you will gain fitness back quickly, and you will come back stronger.  A few weeks of training isn’t a big deal, and the benefits of taking the rest outweigh the consequence of losing fitness.

Worry 2: You’ll Gain Weight

I’ve gained a few pounds every time I’ve been injured.  That’s my body’s way of saying: “Hey, you are doing the recovery thing right.”  I used to think not running meant I should cross-train or strength train as much as I ran, but that isn’t the case.  Allowing your body rest might cause weight gain, but once you start running again, you will lose whatever you might have gained.

Yes, you might gain a few pounds but if you don’t rest and recover, the rest period doesn’t do you any good.  To clarify, I don’t think it’s easy and all rainbows and butterflies to take weeks off of running, but it’s necessary. 

For me, I’ve been running nonstop for about a year.  I’ve had cut back weeks and mini taper weeks but nothing considered significant rest.

My last two months of running, I’ve felt all of the following:

  • Physical Burnout: I’ve had more bad runs than good runs…
  • Mental Burnout: I’ve had more days I’ve felt like running is a chore and not a hobby.
  • Minor aches, issues, and pains: my butt hurt after Shamrock and metatarsal pain last month.

Most of the time, my running breaks come from a serious related running injury. Being injured forces me to take time off and give myself a break.  After resting, I come back stronger.  Since this break isn’t caused by an issue, it’s hard to “just take time off.”  I can rest when I want too, so I’ve pushed it off until tomorrow…and tomorrow…and tomorrow.

So what are the benefits of full running rest?

Not reduced mileage but full running rest and running o times a week.

Physical benefits:
  • Recovery: First and foremost, you’ll recover from months of possible damage to your body. The damage includes both hard races and just hard training cycles. Your body will recover from the stress that you’ve put on it.  You might not realize that you had several small aches and pains forming.
  • Injury Risk: Your injury risk goes much further down. It doesn’t matter your fitness level; a running break is the best form of injury prevention.

Mental Benefits:

  • Mental Recharge: This is the most important for me right now.  Mentally my heart isn’t into running, and it’s giving me time to recharge and do other things with my life.  When I miss running, I’ll start running.  It could be a week; it could be a month. You can’t run hard seven days a week and expect to run long term.
  • More Time: When you’re not following a training plan or training program, you have plenty of extra time to relax and get other things done.

Finally, How Can You Get the Most Out of Your Break?

  • First and foremost, actually rest.  Don’t substitute over cross-training for everything.  Sure, working out occasionally is fine but take your rest as serious as a big race and racing season.
  • Don’t fear weight gain: Like anything, your fitness is based on months and years.  You might lose fitness or gain weight, but you’ll get back to where you want to be when you return to running.

I can’t tell you how long my running rest will be.  Maybe I’ll run in another week, but perhaps it will be longer.  I did get in the pool on Sunday, which was more enjoyable than anticipated.

Finally, have you subscribed to the LOLZletter? It’s a free newsletter that comes out each Monday. In the newsletter, I share running industry trends and things relevant to the sport. 

Questions for you:

Outside of an injury, have you taken a break from running?

Have you felt burnt out from something before?



  1. Ive never taken a break from running just to recharge… I’ll be honest I am close to burning out and have been contemplating a break this summer. I’ve begun to reduce my mileage for now.

  2. I think breaks are necessary in running and really in any activity that we do repeatedly. burnout is a very real thing. sometimes we just have to take a step back and realize running isn’t everything, but it will always be there for us. this was a really helpful post.

  3. I take running breaks often. I find I get injured if I don’t, and I get burnt out. I usually take a break during the summer, frankly, because I’m a wuss in the heat!

  4. I always start to get mentally burnt out before I physically burn out. I’m not always great at recognizing it up front, but I’ve found if i really take a step back when I first feel that burnout, I’m less likely to have a real serious injury. I haven’t been rushing back into running in the past few months because I was enjoying other things and forcing it isn’t going to get me anywhere.

    1. I think I get mentally burnt out too. I try and push through and normally get physically injured. So why take it to that level?

  5. Such a good idea! I’m almost always training for a race so I don’t take alot of time off, but I definitely hit my mental burnout point and need a break. After my last marathon, I decided to take a break and just run or workout when I felt like it. We’re building a house and I need to spend my time there getting things done so something had to take a backseat! It’s been nice to not worry about when I’m going to fit in runs. It’s been so nice to just do whatever I want when I feel like it and have time rather than stressing about it all the time! Enjoy your break!

  6. Totally agree that a break is necessary. I haven’t so much taken a true break lately but I reduced mileage, had no official plan and ran without a watch for quite some time (and really still am while base building). I never want to get to that place feeling like running is a chore and taking it easy and/or complete rest I think helps keep the mental game strong.

  7. Awesome, awesome, awesome. I’m seriously impressed that you had the awareness that you needed to do this and clearly you needed it. I am jealous of that amazing sleep. WOW! I think this is something that everyone needs to be reminded of. And taking off a week can have huge rewards later down the line.

  8. I can’t EVEN believe I’m about to type this but today was the first time that I felt like I was burning out a bit from this whole running thing. Besides the duration of my pregnancy with Callum, I have logged an average of 70-90 miles per week since about 2011. But for the past couple of months I have been using Hansons Marathon method training plan and so I haven’t just been logging slow miles; I have been working HARD. I really miss running for the sake of running. I’m kinda over this hard training thing. I am curious to see if Hansons has helped my PR time (I’m at a 3:06 with no special training other than just logging miles) to get me in under 3 hours, or at least improve on my PR time. If all this hard work doesn’t really make much of a difference then I will be glad to go back to the way I’ve always done things. All I know is that for the first time in my life, I will definitely need a running break after my marathon in 3 weeks.

  9. I am actually taking a few unscheduled rest days myself after feeling burnt out & on the verge of illness. I take a full week off after every half — even if I have another one scheduled — but aside from injury, I don’t take extended breaks.

    I do think R&R is wrongfully maligned. 🙁

    Feel better!

  10. Ir’s such a good example to other runners when fast/semi-professional runners like you, Hollie, take a break and you’re okay with it, because it reminds me that repairing the body is SO important. I find that a running break really refreshes me and re-invigorates me to love running again.

  11. I’m just coming off an extended break from running and totally relate to this post. I was mentally, physically burned out and was suffering from some hip pain. Time off was just what I needed to find my love for running again and really build back my strength. Running is such an impactful thing on our body, the only way to truly get stronger is to rest.

  12. I have definitely taken breaks from training, some longer than others. When I first stopped running track in college (it was a pretty miserable experience for me!), I kept running some, but I focused a lot more on strength work and actually started to get in the pool some. A few months later, I took an unplanned break from all physical activity for 3-4 months. That wasn’t necessarily ideal, but it did give my body and mind the break I needed so that when I started exercising again, it truly felt like I was exercising on my own terms.

  13. I feel like the only sport that I’ve stuck to consistently through the years is snowboarding. With everything else, I go through phase where I really love it and then move on to something else… probably because I get a little burnt out and feel like I need to with to something else to get me back into it. I do think breaks (I just wrote breakfast 😆 ) are super important though.

  14. First of all, props on an awesome year thus far! Your proactive approach to burnout is so wise, even if it’s counterintuitive to the “more more more” mentality that tends to persist among runners. I jumped right into marathon training after my half and now I’m feeling a little beat up; think I’ll take a rest weekend to recuperate. Enjoy the rest of your break and weekend!

    1. I appreciate it Kathleen and thank you for stopping by. I hope your break is just as good!

  15. Loved reading this, Hollie! I wish every runner could read and internalize this post because rest is so important! It’s refreshing to see a blogger and runner who can accept rest and enjoy it and let it make them better in the end!

  16. This is a great post. It really important to give our body rest from all the things that we’re doing. Thanks for sharing this. It is a great help to everyone.

  17. I think this applies not just to running but to training in general. Sometimes, training and the whole push-yourself mantra can get tiring, physically and mentally. Taking a break isn’t bad. If your body is asking you for it, then take a break. A few months ago, I took a break from training, only about a week, and when I started again I felt even more motivated than before. Never underestimate the power of rest!

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