1 Reason I Took a Running Break

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When should you take a break from running? I do think it does a body good once in a while. Any repetitive activity leaves you open to injury. Switching it up and giving your body a break is one way to stay injury free.

Fairytales and Fitness

Pay attention to your RHR (resting heart rate)
The line between pushing yourself and injuring yourself or burning out is so thin it’s almost invisible. This decision was easy for me, because I made it a while ago. Better to be proactive than reactive — I always tell Mr. Judy that about walking the dogs!

When it came time to actually take that break, I had already noticed an upward tick in my RHR. As far as I can deduce, Garmin averages your RHR throughout the day. So sometimes it will autocorrect the lower value a day or two later for me, when I’ve synced that day. That just means that much like a false positive test, sometimes a high RHR turns out to be a bit lower.

In my case, even allowing for time, there was a steady uptick. I actually started my running break a few days earlier than I’d planned to. I felt okay, but my body seemed to be indicating that I wasn’t recovering well. I am not a slave to data — but it’s one hint when something is coming off the rails.

In normal times, if I’d been training for a race or racing a lot as I often do in the Fall, I might have just pushed through it. Sometimes not having running goals can actually be a good thing!

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What I gained
I gained time. Running is time consuming. Making sure I fuel right, have my outfit laid out, making sure I have hydration, foam rolling, pre- and post-stretching: it all adds up. I used that time to walk more. Fall is the perfect time in the Northeast to explore and get out in nature.

Walking more allowed me to slow down. Slowing down allowed me to be more observant to everything around me. We see more on the run than we do driving in a car, right? You also see a lot more walking than you do running.

My RHR came back down into its normal range.

Final Thoughts
You may be able to run hard and many miles without taking breaks. As I wrote in You are an experiment of 1 here, every body is different. As I’ve so often mentioned, even elites take breaks from running. Sometimes long breaks. Yes, running is their job — but they are still wise enough to know that recovery is also their job.

Recovery may not be our job, but being kind to our body is.

Still struggling with whether or not it’s time for a break? Check out Embrace the Taper here for a list of my many posts on rest and recovery.

Are you afraid of losing running fitness if you stop running?

When was the last time you voluntarily took a break from running?

When was the last time you were forced to take a break from running due to illness or injury?

Are you really recovered?

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I’ll sleep when I’m dead. How often do you hear people say that? Yet we get stronger when we rest and recover properly. But how do you know if you’re recovered?

Meet my little friend
The pulse oximeter. That’s right, like the thing you wear on your finger when you’re in the hospital. It measures your pulse and your oxygen levels. It’s inexpensive, small, and easy to use.

So why would you need one? I don’t have a GPS watch with a heart monitor. I don’t want to wear a chest strap. But I did want to start tracking my resting heart rate (RHR). And the pulse oximeter has really helped me do just that!

It doesn’t wake up Mr. Judy (although I do make sure to cover it up with the blanket). It doesn’t require an app or a phone. I know most people sleep with their  phones, but I don’t. It’s the perfect solution for me.

You, of course, can do the same thing with your watch if it has a HR Monitor. Or if you don’t have to worry about waking someone up, you can just take your pulse. The tricky thing about resting heart rate is you need to take it before you get out of bed first thing in the morning. Although sometimes I have to make a pitstop in the middle of the night; I don’t take it then, but I will take it a few hours later right before I get up.

So are you recovered?
Bear in mind I am not a medical professional. If your heart rate is very elevated after a hard workout (I’ve seen 7 beats per minute or 10% used as a benchmark for very elevated), chances are you are not recovered. 

That doesn’t mean you need to take a rest day, but it would be wise to take it a little easier.

If you find that over time your RHR seems to be rising, that may also be a sign that you’re overtraining. Supposedly the opposite is true too: if over time your RHR declines, it’s a sign that you’re getting fitter. I’ve only been tracking mine for a few months, but definitely haven’t seen any declines.

However, of course after I wrote the paragraph above, I saw my lowest RHR to date. Hopefully that means I’m getting a little fitter.

I have shuffled around workouts occasionally when my RHR has been more elevated than usual. I haven’t been tracking long enough to know if it’s made a difference. It certainly hasn’t hurt.

There is no one way to tell if you’re recovered
Recovery and overtraining are tricky buggers. Sometimes you think you’re doing everything right, and yet you succumb to an illness at the worst times. Is it lack of recovery? Is it bad luck? I don’t think there’s any definitive way to tell.

I can tell you that I like having this simple tool in my toolbox.

What signs make you think you’re overtrainng?

Have you ever tracked your RHR?

See this article here for more information on RHR & Recovery

I’m linking up with with MCM Mama Runs, Marcia’s Healthy Slice, and My No Guilt Life for the Tuesdays on the Run linkup.

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This week I am also joining up with Running on Happy, Suzlyfe, Crazy Running Girl, and Coach Debbie Runs each week for the Coaches’ Corner linkup

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