I just finished a road racing season. It wasn’t that intense, but I definitely feel it. I want to take some downtime, but I was wondering your thoughts of taking time completely off running to recover? Should I run at all?
Even if you think your season wasn’t crazy demanding, the fact that you had a “racing season” means you would probably benefit from a “resting season.” Definitely take some time completely off running. Even multiple world record holder Paul Tergat told me he takes four weeks completely off after each season and doesn’t run a step, instead focusing on his family and his business. The minimum amount of time I’d recommend is a week completely off with another week of only running every other day or so for 2-5 miles.
I finished my season on Sunday after the NYC Marathon so I’ll provide an example of what I’ll be doing for my time off for reference:
- Two weeks with no running (with the exception of one 15 min run tomorrow to make sure I don’t have any injuries from the marathon that need special attention during my break.
- The first week I’ll be lazy as hell physically and focus on work.
- The second week I’ll go on some walks with my sister-in-law, and maybe ride my bike or ElliptiGo at sunset a couple times to get fresh air. Anything I do will be strictly for pleasure and I won’t exert myself much.
- The third week I’ll exercise every day and some of those days will be running. The focus will be on fun so I’ll choose some trails I rarely run, go on a long hike to a hot spring on the weekend, and ride my road bike with my husband once or twice if the weather is nice. Might even bust out my roller blades.
- The fourth week I’ll be fully invested mentally and physically.
Structure your break around what you think you need. Will you get out of shape? Yep. Will you gain a few pounds? Probably. But you will replenish those deep stores of vitamins and minerals, your structures will rebuild, and your hormones will find their equilibrium. Plus you’ll have time to catch up with friends you don’t see much or finish that scarf you started three years ago.
Running can become overly structured and automatic over time; you have to stop moving to fully appreciate the view. If you’re like me, during your break you’ll be a little depressed from missing the endorphins, but you’ll miss the hell out of running and will be chomping at the bit to get back. A break makes you appreciate running and feel like you have a lot of work to do to get back in shape. It’s a good time to think about the bigger picture of your goals and make changes to last year’s approach. A training diary is a good place to process things and kick-start your new season.