Sometimes the most important thing you can do for your running is take some time off!
We recently chatted with Coach Matt Thull from ThunderDome Running, to find out if runners actually need a break after a goal race and the right way to take one. Plus, how to get started again after taking a few days or weeks off.
To get started, when we refer to taking a break, what exactly does that mean?
Most runners think of a break as easy running or just running every other day or just going gym or cross training stuff – that is not truly a break. The nice part about completing a big race or PR is that you have earned a step back/recharge period. So take your break so the next part of training can be even better.
During a break, you fully absorb your prior training, recover, and get to set new goals for the next block of training. The mental and physical toll leading up to a big race is huge – so before you get going on the next goal take five days off or take 14 days off – it is different for everyone. It is okay to train year round but just split up the training into different periods/training blocks/goals.
What are some of the consequences that can happen if a runner doesn’t take time off to recover between training cycles?
One of the big consequences of never taking a break is burning out or overtraining along with injury risks – which, in turn, lead to having to take off weeks to fully recover. Instead, take a mini break after a big race. I find that during the time off, you can always find a different activity (yoga, spin class) or a different stretch or exercise that you can incorporate into your next training period. When I was running 100-120 miles a week, I would set out to find a new activity, exercise, or some challenge that I would bring into the start of my new training. Those types of activities are sometimes hard to plug-in when you are going full speed ahead during normal training.
What’s a good amount of time to take off after a big race? Does this amount of time differ depending on the race distance?
It does depend on the race distance (more time for marathon and half marathon runners) and each individual runner, too. If a runner is training year round and has three different training cycles in their year, three different 7-10, 100 % day-off periods is typically a pretty safe routine to wrap up each season and to prepare for the next one.
If a runner is feeling good after a goal race, is a break necessary?
A runner might want to set up another race or two and ride out the training peak and wave of fast running they are on after a goal race. This happens a lot and leads to not only one PR but maybe two or three. A training break is then taken after you have exhausted those race options.
Both in my own training when I was running professionally on the US circuit and for my runners, I pose this simple question: “Do you want to PEAK right or run a PR for your next key race whenever that might be down the road”? If the answer is yes, then you need to take an end-of-season break. There are exceptions but the majority of runners fall into that category of needing an end-of-season break, however long that might be.
Sometimes when runners miss their race goal, they are tempted to keep training so they can make another attempt on their goal in a few weeks. What are your thoughts on this?
This is a situation where each runner’s past training and racing experience comes into play. Some marathon and half marathon runners can extend their training another two to four weeks and run a PR a month after when their PR or goal race might have been. Those make for awesome running stories and those examples happen a lot with the right planning. Each runner just needs to assess the “WHY” a race might not have gone to plan and decide if it was something that can be “FIXED” immediately and the season can be extended with another race or two.
Is it ever appropriate for a runner to keep training at the same intensity after a big race?
Many times a runner can run a marathon and then extend their season to include a fast 5k or 10k. Many times, if you watch you recovery closely after the marathon, you can run really well in the 5k/10k races and then take your end-of-season break.
When runners are ready to start training again after a break, what’s the best way to get back into it?
That first week back is always that time when you are antsy to get back out there and run fast because you are rested. When you start back running, use your usual routes that you like to run where you know the distances. Instead of being married to the GPS, you can allow yourself to just run by minutes and time instead of being worried about pace and distance. That allows for a very nice ease back into things. Most running injuries happen during the first month of dedicated training – so that caution of easy pace and not pushing too much too early, helps keep runners healthy that first month back building up mileage again.
Thanks for chatting with us, Matt! If you’re interested in learning more about coaching services through ThunderDome Running, you can connect here:
What’s next, you ask? Coming soon, we’ll feature more local runners and highlight a few upcoming races. You won’t want to miss any of it 😉
Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!