Adding a Planned Break to Your Running Schedule

“Although runners are often reluctant to take breaks, most breaks are beneficial in terms of overall development. A break gives both the body and the mind some time to regroup from what might have been a pretty strenuous period of training and competition.” Jack Daniels, running coach and author of Daniel’s Running Formula

A reader asked how best to return to running after a planned break. With good reason because a planned break from your regular run schedule is viewed by coaches as having positive benefits. Also, coaches like to add a deliberate, gradual return to regular training, too. A planned break is also needed when important life events take priority, like a maternity leave, medical procedure, vacation, and so forth.

It’s natural for runners to be somewhat reluctant to take a planned break. After all, a lot of hard work goes into building fitness. Nevertheless, a break allows little injuries to heal and/or a renewed enthusiasm for training returns. Also it’s important to keep in mind that maintaining fitness is easier than building fitness. This means once a certain running fitness level is achieved, it’s relatively easier to build back up to this level after a break.

How Long Should a Planned Break Last?
Among professional Kenyan runners, it's common to take two-months completely off from running. With this reduced activity, it’s natural for weight gain to happen. However, depending on how you look at it, weight gain enables these runners to build up depleted nutrient stores (like iron) that will serve them well when strenuous training is resumed.

The length and time of a break depends on how hard your training has been and how many unplanned setbacks you’ve endured over the year. If you’ve had a lengthy setback or a series of smaller setbacks over the year; it might provide the recovery needed from regular run training and a planned break may not be necessary. Regardless of whether breaks are planned or unplanned, they both should be viewed as stepping stones toward better future training and race performances.

Elite runners tend to take breaks in between seasons, like cross-country and track seasons. Whereas, age-group runners tend to plan breaks after a key race, like a marathon. A good rule of thumb is to take one day off from hard training per the number of miles raced in this key race. So after completing a marathon, a runner would take 26 days off from hard training. During this time, easy runs could be scheduled when the runner notices that rest begins to turn into restlessness.

What to do During a Break?
The answer to this question really varies from runner to runner.  As mentioned before, Kenyan runners take complete time off from running. Other runners cut back significantly on their running volume and intensity, to at least 50% of their pre-existing training schedule for a number of weeks. Some runners like to replace some of their runs with cross-training activities, especially during winter when putting in mileage on roads and trails can be difficult. Some runners place greater emphasis on building strength and flexibility to prepare for a return to run training.

Returning to Running
Surprisingly, of the sources consulted, there is no rush to return to pre-existing volume and intensity levels after a break. In fact, a gradual, deliberate return seems to be part of a planned break. And this gradual return happens regardless of whether the runner has taken time totally off running or significantly curtailed their running volume and intensity. Below is what running coach, Jack Daniels, recommends for returning to running (more on strides can be found HERE): 

Length of Break

Adjustment to Training

1 week or less

0% adjustment to volume or intensity

8 days - 4 weeks

2 weeks @ 50% pre-existing load

2 weeks @ 75% pre-existing load + strides

29 days - 8 weeks

2 weeks @ 33% pre-existing load

2 weeks @ 50% pre-existing load

2 weeks @ 75% pre-existing load + strides

Over 8 weeks

3 weeks @ 33% pre-existing load

3 weeks @ 50% pre-existing load

3 weeks @ 70% pre-existing load + strides

3 weeks @ 85% pre-existing load + strides

Thanks for reading! If you're interested in more posts on recovery and running check out "Recovery from Training & Racing" found in the EOOC IN BOOK FORM page located in the sidebar of the homepage.



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