I am a firm believer that recovery is important — and often overlooked by runners. I have written about the need for it many times (see the bottom of the post for links to more on recovery).
How do you know when it’s time for a break?
I’m not talking about how to recover, but how to know it’s time to recover. Before you get yourself into trouble with overuse injuries or burn out.
I think it boils down to one thing: Are you happy when you’re not running? Of course we all get tired towards the end of a training cycle. One more cold run, one more windy run, one more wet run, one more hot run . . . it can all seem like too much. It’s normal to feel this way if you’ve been working hard for a long time.
Ask yourself this: will I get FOMO if I’m not running? If the answer is no, you are probably ready for that break. Do I feel as though I have to run, rather than I get to run?
The other time it’s time for a break, and this is much more difficult to listen for, is when your body is simply begging for it. Sometimes that comes at a really inconvenient time: when you have a big goal race or even multiple goal races all lined up — ones that really excite you — but your body just can’t take the training. Those little niggles start turning into bona fide pains.
It’s hard to let go of those dreams and give your body the rest it’s begging for, but sometimes it’s the best decision you can make. Often you come back even stronger because you address the problems you’ve been trying so hard to ignore.
Will I lose my running fitness?
The short answer is probably not. If you’re an experienced and/or consistent runner, you won’t start losing much endurance for a couple of weeks. It will probably come back quickly, too.
Beginning runners, who haven’t been running as long or as consistently, will most likely lose their fitness more quickly. I think it’s even more important for beginners to take that break rather than risk burn out — they are much more likely to throw in the towel altogether because it’s “just too hard”. Even beginners won’t completely lose their running fitness, but most likely it will feel much more like starting from zero again.
You will start losing your structural fitness (muscles, ligaments, tendons, etc) quicker. That’s why it’s a good idea to come back running slower, not the pace you were running when you stopped — you’ll feel as though you can run the same pace, but it takes your body a while to adapt to that pace again. Adding in strength training during your break can help you keep some of your structural fitness, but there really isn’t a replacement for pounding the pavement.
Why take the break?
It’s counterintuitive in some ways, I know: if working hard got me here, how far can I go by working even harder? Just like it’s counterintuitive that running slower (sometimes) will actually help you to run faster.
Being forced to take weeks or months off for a nagging injury or a stress fracture or worse will set you back much further. It’s a really fine line to walk, of course. Between pushing yourself hard to find your edge — and pushing yourself right over the edge.
Taking that break will help you fall in love with running all over again. You’ll come back stronger — mentally and physically ready to run; wanting to run. If you’re not looking forward to it, then your break was too short.
More information about recovery:
Here are a few other posts I’ve written on recovery:
- 8 Ways I Recovered from my Longest Long Runs Ever
- 5 Ways to Recover Faster
- 5 Ways to Recover Better
- 5 Signs You Need Rest
- Rest is Not a 4 Letter Word
- Are You Really Recovered?
Maybe I am a little obsessed with recovery. That’s because I think it’s so important!