Yes! It’s a shocking but truly critical part of training and running. You must take time off! Now, I’m not preaching for anyone to take off every other day or every weekend – and still expect to improve their running…but I am saying that moderation is important and therefore rest is a critical part of improving as a runner and athlete. Your body needs it to heal; and your head needs time off at times as well for a break!
Here are some of the reasons why a runner may need some time off from running:
- A Planned Break: It’s been a long season with lots of hard training and racing. It may be the end of the school year and therefore end of the track season; it may be the conclusion of winter 5K and marathon racing in South Florida; and/or a full year of back to back to back marathons without sufficient race. All of this leads to the opportune time for a planned break in your training. In high school, Coach Rothman instructed us to take two weeks off from running in between Cross Country and Track. This meant immediately after Cross Country states or regionals, we took exactly two weeks off before beginning our training (low mileage to start) in preparation for Spring track. We did the same in the Summer right after Track and before the long summer of mileage build-up as well. Between High School and College, I personally took off approximately four weeks as instructed by my new college coach. (Looking back…I should have spent some time during those four weeks doing alternative exercise/activities and not just laying on the couch. It may the return to summer training much more difficult! Learn from my example!)
- Aches & Pains…Or Worse…An Injury: Listening to your body as a runner is so important – potentially more than any other sport. All of us have aches and pains at times and you need to know when something is hurting more than it should and/or for a longer period of time than it should. You need to know when simply applying ice or going for a massage will do and when you need to visit a trainer and/or doctor. When an injury happens, the doctor or trainer will often tell you to take off upwards of two or four weeks…so do yourself a favor and take off a few days, a week or more on your own when you are feeling a pain that you know isn’t going away. And in the meantime, try out some cross training. (Check out our recommendations/ideas here.)
- Other Reasons: Taking a break may also be needed if you feel tired, sick, or that your training it in a complete rut and there is no way to get out. Sometimes in this case the running break will help you more mentally than anything!
According to experts, in the hierarchy of training, breaks rank right up there with threshold runs, intervals, reps, and steady running. All have a purpose and when placed in proper sequence can and will ultimately build on one another. Leading to a stronger runner, and a better you!
Remember, breaks from running are also a great opportunity to look into cross training. Take the time to bike, swim, roller blade, ski, etc. This may also be a good opportunity to focus on your strength training exercises and increasing the number of trips you are making to the gym to “just lift.”