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?