At one point or another, many runners find themselves wondering if they should take a break from running. Whether they’re suffering from burnout, overtraining, low motivation, chronic injuries or just general fatigue, the idea of taking some time off eventually begins to sound appealing.
As much as we hate to admit it, taking regular breaks from running can actually be quite beneficial. Time off from running helps restore our health, energy and motivation. But many runners find themselves concerned that a running break will hurt their fitness.
While taking a planned break from running may be relatively easy to prepare for, being forced to take an unplanned break from running can create a sense of unease, anxiety and dread.
Having to make the decision to take a sudden break from running can often feel like a lose-lose situation for runners. The time off may be helpful for healing and motivation, but it can also cause you to lose running fitness that you have worked so hard to gain.
Should you take a break from running?
That is the ultimate question.
There are many factors that play in to runners deciding (or being forced) to take a break from running. More often than not, small issues have been building up throughout training until they finally become something which we cannot ignore.
A dull ache in your foot might feel like a minor annoyance that you can run through for weeks, until it suddenly becomes a sharp pain that stops you in your tracks.
The general fatigue and lethargy you feel might be something that you can push through for a few runs, until all of a sudden you no longer feel like yourself.
You might have spent weeks fitting in every workout and long run possible, avoiding those easy run days in an effort to squeeze in just one more workout – until suddenly, your entire body hurts and running feels nearly impossible.
Whether you’re overtrained, burnt out or in pain, deciding to take a break from running can actually be a turning point in your training.
Here are a few reasons that it might be beneficial for you to take a break from running.
8 Signs It’s Time to Take a Break from Running
Running no longer feels fun.
One of most common signs that you need a running break can often be the most challenging to wrap your head around. As runners, we are notorious for pushing through pain, low motivation and general life struggles.
When things get busy, we still find time to fit in a run. We conquer excuses that would often leave others sidelined for days. However, when running has been feeling like a drag for days on end, it might be time to stop powering through.
Burnout is something that affects all runners, no matter how much we hate to admit it or how much we love the sport. At some point, taking a break is healthy and necessary. If running hasn’t been bringing you joy lately and getting out the door feels like more and more of a challenge, taking a few days or weeks off might be just what you need to regain that excitement.
You’re tired every day, all week long.
As strange as it may seem, physical exercise is usually a good way to boost your energy each day. Sweating it out during an activity like running usually leaves you with tons of endorphins and even more energy than before you began.
So if you’ve been feeling really fatigued and tired for days on end, it’s definitely something to keep an eye on. When you notice your energy levels declining as your physical activity remains the same, it might be a sign that you need to take a break from running.
Both overtraining and burnout can lead to low energy levels and overall fatigue. When you’ve been running for a long time without a break, your body and mind eventually start to wear down. If general lethargy seems to have taken over your body for no apparent reason, it’s probably a sign that a running break is needed.
That nagging pain hasn’t gotten any better.
It’s easy to convince yourself that the dull ache you feel is just a one time thing – especially if the pain seems to lessen once you get started on your run. But when that pain lingers for days and weeks on end, it’s probably a sign that time off is necessary for it to heal.
Aches and pains can be tricky to navigate. While experiencing some soreness is usually very normal during training, a localized pain can often be a sign that an injury is on the horizon.
Listen to your body and pay attention to those times when it is trying to tell you to slow down. Those lingering pains can usually be healed quickly if you take a day or two off right away, but after weeks of running through it, you might find yourself forced to take a lengthy break from running.
Your body feels run down and achy.
Similar to feeling tired all the time, if you’ve been nursing some generalized aches, it might be time to take a break. When your body starts to feel run down or not quite healthy, it’s usually a sign that you need to take some time off.
Runners who end up overtraining often find themselves with a low-grade fever that never goes away. They usually feel run down each day and aren’t quite sure why.
This might be your body’s way of trying to tell you that it needs a rest. If you’ve been feeling less healthy than usual and can’t find a reason why, it might be a sign that your body needs a break from training.
When your effort increases but your pace does not.
Another way that runners often discover they need a break is when they continue to put in more and more effort, yet don’t see any results.
There is hardly anything more frustrating than giving it your all and not seeing any progress. However, more often than not, there is a reason.
When your body has been continuously pushed to the limits, it might be in need of a break to recover. After increasing your efforts and not seeing any results, it might be a sign that you need a bit of time off from running.
Your heart rate has been higher than usual.
Many runners and athletes track their heart rate during training and throughout the day, which can be a really helpful tool for monitoring your overall health. If you’ve noticed an increase in your heart rate during easy runs, it’s a sign that your body is working harder than normal to complete an easy effort.
Similarly, if you track your resting heart rate and notice that it has been higher the past few weeks, it might also be showing that your body has not properly recovered.
When your heart rate is higher than normal during easy efforts or rest, it’s probably time to take a quick break from running to recover.
It’s been hard to sleep lately, even when you’re tired.
One of the best parts about running and leading an active lifestyle is the fact that it helps you sleep soundly each night. Staying active throughout the day leaves your body feeling ready for bed each night, and often helps prevent insomnia from surfacing.
However, if you find yourself struggling to fall asleep or stay asleep on days when you feel really tired, it could be a sign that your body is overtrained.
When sleep suddenly becomes hard to come by, it often indicates that it’s time to take a break from running.
Your motivation to run seems to be fading.
Whether you’ve been training intensely 7 days a week or are just trying to maintain an every-other-day schedule, if you notice that your motivation gets lower and lower each day, a break from running might actually help you bounce back.
While it sounds counter-intuitive, a break from running is sometimes all you need to get back to it. Taking time off might help refresh your body and mind, and give you some time to actually miss the sport.
Before long, you might find yourself eager to head outside for another run.
Taking a break from running is never something that runners hope for, especially when running has been part of their routine from years. However, it’s important to remember that a few days or weeks off now may help prevent years off in the future.
If you’ve decided to take a break from running, make the most of it. Enjoy the time away without feeling guilty. Maintain fitness with cross-training and enjoy extra time off your feet each day.
Creating a plan for your return is key to maintaining success over the long-term, even if your return feels far off.
There are many reasons runners end up taking time off from the sport, so if your mind or body is sending you signs that a break is needed – don’t ignore it. A short break from the sport doesn’t make you any less of a runner. Make the most of the season you are in and remember – running will always be there for you when you are ready to return.
More tips for taking a break from running:
- 5 Ways to Return to Running After a Long Break
- How to Make a Running Comeback After Taking Time Off
- How to Stay Fit During the Running Off Season