“A break? A total break? But my fitness will go, I’ll lose everything I’ve gained in training. I’m forced to take a break anyway when I’m injured, so why take one when I’m fit as well?!”
An injury can be the only time runners take a break, but scientific data as well as common sense backs up the benefits of taking a break at the end of your racing season or main event. Look to the fulltime athletes – they always take some time off at the end of the season or after their main race.
Recovery, mental as well as physical, is an incredibly important and often overlooked part of running. To get the best out of your training it is key to schedule some quality rest into your training plan. In the long term your overall fitness and running will benefit, and your susceptibility to injury should lessen as well.
Here are some possible signs you need a break:
- If you have a niggly injury that won’t go away.
This sounds obvious, but it can sometimes be very easy to get used to a niggle It is very unwise to let it go on too long, as it could turn into a major issue. This could be a good time to try focussing on strength work or trying out a Pilates class. If that doesn’t help go and see a good sports physio. (Check out our Sports Clinic).
- Your times haven’t improved despite following a training plan.
- Your enthusiasm to train has decreased.
- You keep getting injured.
- You have not recovered from a race or long run as well as you used to.
When to take a break?
The obvious time to take a break is at the end of your racing season or after your main race. This is also the time to regroup, and review your training goals. If you have been training really intensely through the season or towards a specific race then mentally as well as physically you will really benefit from a break.
Physically all those little strains in your muscles and ligaments will be able to heal. When you start up again, your legs will have that extra bounce in them. If you have been fairly strict with your diet during training, then this is the time to treat yourself, relax and reward yourself. Donuts!
With so many exciting races around now, it can sometimes be difficult to see a real end of season, but taking a proper break sometime is vital.
By taking a break you will lessen the likelihood of burnout and/or injury. It could also be a great opportunity to try strength training, if you haven’t tried that out, or focus more on stretching and flexibility. Both are often overlooked, but can pay great dividends.
How long a break?
This is, of course, totally individual and depends what event you have done and how far it was, but one formula often used is: for every mile you have raced take a day off. If you have never tried to take a complete break as you are worried about losing fitness, try it. Yes, some fitness will go away, but the overall benefits will far outweigh that.
It sometimes seems fulltime athletes are better at this than we lesser mortals are, who have, anyway, to juggle work with training and all the other life commitments that we have. All the more reason to take a break!
These are tips that we've found very useful and want to share with our customers. But we're not certified instructors. Always consult your specialist before beginning any exercise programme. This general information is not intended to diagnose any medical condition or to replace your healthcare professional. Consult with your healthcare professional to design an appropriate exercise prescription. If you experience any pain or difficulty with these exercises, stop and consult your healthcare provider.