Are you worried that taking breaks in your training will cause performance setbacks? Today I'm answering your questions on training breaks.

Stephanieruns Fitness

September 2, 2018 Newsletter

Do you take training breaks?

Sometimes I sound like a broken record telling runners that it's okay to take rest days and breaks from running. We are programmed to think that more is better, but is it? When you break exercise down it's stress and rest. You see rest is a part of your training, not an afterthought. You need the rest, along with the stress in order to grow and see gains. I talk to runners all the time who are worried about taking breaks in their training. Trust me, breaks are not only great for your training (depending what you do with your break), they will also help reenergize your training. Today I'm answering your questions about training breaks.

Tim Michael @Irun4coffee asks "How long (of a training break) is okay and how long starts to erode your athletic ability?' Tim also notes he is worried training breaks set back his progress.

How long of a training break you need depends. Of course there are guidelines and best practices but what works for you might not work for the next runner. For example the guideline on rest after a marathon is 7-28 days and most runners will fall somewhere in that range. However all of our bodies adapt to training differently. You can use how your body feels, aches, pains, and even your heart rate to help determine how recovered you are. The purpose of a training break is to recover. Starting another training cycle when you're not recovered is setting yourself up to fail. I can't stress this enough, you always win when you listen to your body. 

When we talk about how long before your athletic ability starts to decline this too also depends. This is really a question for a scientific study, because it would need to be measured in a lab to know for sure. However if you've ever taken an extended break you know your first run feels like you're a deer on ice, it's incredibly awkward. Let's talk about some general guidelines for athletic decline. If you have a solid endurance base, and have been consistently running you're probably looking between 14-21 days before you see a noticeable decline. If you don't have a solid endurance base you'll notice a bigger decline after just 7 days. However when you start back up again without a prolonged break you'll find that it doesn't take you as long to build back to where you are. You're noticeable decline are your gains from the last 2-3 months of training. However even with knowing that we will see some decline in our training with a training break don't let that scare you away from a break. Without training breaks you won't be able to have a long, injury and exhaustion free running career.

Myles McCormick @irunmc asks "balance of breaks/training insight will be appreciated"

After a training cycle a period of rest should be built in. When I talk about training breaks I'm talking about a period of complete rest followed by active recovery, and other fitness activities. There are natural times to take breaks in your training. Other times you should consider a training break would be if you have an injury or you're exhausted. Maybe you've lost your love of running or training. Your life might be too busy to commit to a training plan. All of these are reasons to hit pause on training and do what I call 'untraining' or pressure free training.

If you're used to training cycles you're probably used to training, racing, and then taking a break. A break with this cycle would have complete rest, followed by active recovery most likely followed by another training cycle.

However when you plan your training over a longer period of time you can use training breaks from running to improve your running. For example you could have a training cycle, race, training break of complete rest followed by active recovery, and then do 6-8 weeks of weight training, with some running, before starting your next training cycle. This would have you starting your subsequent training cycle in stronger form, because we know strength training improves your running. You could also decide you're a bit burnt out from running and use your training break to reenergize yourself. You could use this time to try new workouts, sports, and run for the love of running. Taking away the stress and pressure of training can help you see gains as well.

To generalize you're normally looking at a period of training of 12-16 weeks depending on your training plan. After you're looking at 1-4 weeks of a training break. Just remember you can opt for a training cycle that isn't race focused. You can work on other goals, or take away the pressure completely. At the end of the day we run to add value to our lives which means our training, and training breaks need to work for you and your life!

Weekly Challenge: Training Breaks

This week is all about training breaks so I'm challenging you to look at your next training break. I know some of you are currently training for races which are happening in the next month or two. Have you thought about what comes after the race?

I want you to sit down and make a rough plan for your next training break. Runners have a lot of problems sitting still. Maybe you need to make plans with family or friends. Maybe there's a movie or show you've been wanting to see. How can you set up your training break to be successful for yourself? Maybe you're a task focused coper and you need to plan your next training cycle while you're on your training break. That's okay! That means you know what you need!

For my nest training break I'd be looking at some tv shows I could binge watch followed by some activities I could do with the kids.

Take some time, sit down and plan your next training break. Let me know how it goes and of course if you need any help I'm here!

Ideal Training Breaks

Is there an ideal training break? There's the ideal training break for you! As a trainer and coach when I'm looking at the ideal training break I'm looking for my athlete to have complete rest to recover from the race/event they just completed. The amount of complete rest will vary based on the race/event and the intensity/duration. If you feel like 'everything hurts and you're dying' you most likely need more complete rest.

After complete rest you'll want to move into some active recovery. The most common is probably walking followed by swimming or biking. You want to get your body moving while not putting too much stress on your body. Depending on how you feel you might be able to add in some gentle running repeats.

After some active recovery you can slowly add back your cross training and start some gentle runs. While you are doing this you need to listen to your body as not to push yourself too hard.

Now you're ready to consider your next training adventure.

Not all training breaks/recovery will look like this and that's okay!

Do you need help with your training? Send me an e-mail at fitness@stephanieruns.com I'd love to talk to you about how I can help you with your training. I'm available to help you prepare for your next training adventure!

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Disclaimer: Always seek medical advice before starting an exercise program. This newsletter is not medical advice. Medical advice should be sought from a medical professional. Stephanieruns Fitness assumes no liability for any injuries or damages as a result of the above content.

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