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How do you take time off without losing the progress you made?

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How do you take time off without losing the progress you made?

Post  Penelope on Sun Sep 08, 2013 9:31 pm

So, I made a lot of progress this spring / summer with running. I think in November, after my last race of the year (I only do halfs / 10 milers so I do a series of them rather than train for 1 goal race for many weeks) I want to take a short break from running. Just this week I did a mini taper for a race today and it could not have come at a more needed time.  Physically I felt run-down, and mentally I was just beginning to get bored of running.  A 6 mile week really helped.  I think if I keep up training the way I am now / at this intensity through mid November, which is my intent, I will need a break.

How long do other people take to chill after a hard training season / race or series of races?  I'm thinking 1-3 weeks but not sure. 

Do you completely stop running, or just do very easy runs or low miles? 

Do you cross train or strength train during that time, or is it a period of complete exercise rest?  (I'm not sure how long I can go without working out.  I'm more consistent at running now because I NEED to exercise to control work-related stress....so if it's doing nothing, I may last about a week before I can't take it and work out.)

And most importantly, if you do take a longer time period off, how do you not go backward, especially when you've had a recent breakthrough? Part of my progress was from weight loss, so if I don't gain it all back from not running, it'll help not undo everything. But part / ? more of it was from consistent running, pushing myself harder through running groups and harder runs / some speed work.  I don't want to lose that and start right back where I started last winter, or not far from it.  I'm doing so well (not to brag, just compared to me before) that I'm almost afraid to stop!  Would be interested in hearing others' take on this.
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Re: How do you take time off without losing the progress you made?

Post  Julie on Mon Sep 09, 2013 1:31 am

I'm not entirely sure. I know many professional runners just take a few weeks off completely and they seem to be just fine. I don't think 2-3 weeks of nothing would really hurt actually might help let you just heal and recover and give yourself a break.

I've had to take a lot longer than that off before and it seems like while it's a little slow getting back, previous fitness levels do return with a little effort. I can't imagine being perfectly healthy and taking a couple of weeks off could set you back that much (my breaks have all been forced due to health or injuries or non-related running stuff).

It sounds like it would be good for you to take some time off and enjoy it and I don't think I'd go too wild with the cross training if what you really need is a break, unless that is going to also feel refreshing I also need running or some exercise to relieve stress so maybe play it by ear?). I took a week off running a few yrs ago to bike 450 miles or so in a week in the bike ride across Nebraska and running was just fine when I got back to it a couple of weeks later (I had an accident the penultimate day and had to take longer off to heal my shoulder since it was too painful to move it during runs for maybe a week).
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Re: How do you take time off without losing the progress you made?

Post  Michele "1L" Keane on Mon Sep 09, 2013 7:44 am

Usually after a big race, I do a combination of both time off and low miles.  I take the week after a raced marathon off completely, and then I lessen the miles significantly for the net 2-3 weeks.  I do often take a full week off if I'm on vacation, but often that vacation is doing some other exercise like skiing.  I did take 3 wks off earlier this summer when I was in Europe, and it has taken until recently for me to feel like myself again.  Of course, I'm a few years older and summer is not necessarily the best time to start up again with the heat and humidity.

When I was younger, I always took off the entire month of January unless I was running Boston.
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Re: How do you take time off without losing the progress you made?

Post  Penelope on Tue Sep 10, 2013 6:31 pm

Thanks Michele and Julie!
I think I may aim to take 2-3 weeks off. If I cross train, I will be able to go longer without running from a stress standpoint.  If not, maybe just 10 days or so.  Or nothing until the desire to run returns strongly.  

Even if I do lose fitness, you're right, I'll still be able to get it back.  I guess I feared starting all over from square 1.  If I'm on square 4 or something now, maybe I start at square 3 after time off instead of square 1.  Dunno.  This will be an experiment.
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Re: How do you take time off without losing the progress you made?

Post  Julie on Tue Sep 10, 2013 9:17 pm

A few weeks off won't mean starting over at square one, especially if you maintain your disciplined attitude. I think especially with the cooler weather coming you'll feel great after a break as long as you have some good non-outdoor workout ideas in place to handle winter.
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Re: How do you take time off without losing the progress you made?

Post  nkrichards on Tue Sep 10, 2013 10:26 pm

I do struggle when I've taken a long break but I would think a short break of just a couple weeks...especially if you stay active in other ways should re-energize you.

I wouldn't plan the length of the break or alternate activities.  I'd just listen to your body and do what you enjoy for a few days before you dive back into serious training again.
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Re: How do you take time off without losing the progress you made?

Post  Jerry on Wed Sep 11, 2013 10:23 am

After the goal marathon of the year, I wouldn't hesitate to take 4-8 weeks off. Then 6-8 weeks, I can rebuild my fitness to a pretty decent level, if not as sharp as my last race, but good enough to expect improvement upon the last race after current training cycle. So I wouldn't worry about the loss of the fitness. In some way, it's by design we give back intentionally first, then rebuild back, then try to get to next level.


Your problem is though there is really not much time till Novermber. I hope it's late in the month. Ha. Then you have to trust yourself that you do need the down time.

I would suggest take one week at a time to see how it goes in this case, totally off. Then when you attempt to be back, you may be possibly still feei bored to run, vary the training approach than the last time. If this doesn't work, what the heck, you don't have to race Novermber with full effort training. With your recent PR, you are on a good trend, you don't want burn out to break it for the long term.
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Re: How do you take time off without losing the progress you made?

Post  Nick Morris on Wed Sep 11, 2013 1:18 pm

The longest that I have taken off from running (non injury related) is two weeks.  That was following my first marathon.  Otherwise, I normally take a week off after my marathon.  Then, I work my way back into running.  Short, easy miles to start and then progressively get back into my normal off cycle routine.  Even when I go on vacation, I find myself packing running gear and getting out for a few runs.
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Re: How do you take time off without losing the progress you made?

Post  Jerry on Wed Sep 11, 2013 1:47 pm

@Nick Morris wrote:The longest that I have taken off from running (non injury related) is two weeks.  That was following my first marathon.  Otherwise, I normally take a week off after my marathon.  Then, I work my way back into running.  Short, easy miles to start and then progressively get back into my normal off cycle routine.  Even when I go on vacation, I find myself packing running gear and getting out for a few runs.
One of the reasons you still didn't BQ.affraid
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Re: How do you take time off without losing the progress you made?

Post  Nick Morris on Wed Sep 11, 2013 1:57 pm

@Jerry wrote:
@Nick Morris wrote:The longest that I have taken off from running (non injury related) is two weeks.  That was following my first marathon.  Otherwise, I normally take a week off after my marathon.  Then, I work my way back into running.  Short, easy miles to start and then progressively get back into my normal off cycle routine.  Even when I go on vacation, I find myself packing running gear and getting out for a few runs.
One of the reasons you still didn't BQ.affraid
So that is why??  Hmm, I was always wondering why.
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Re: How do you take time off without losing the progress you made?

Post  KBFitz on Wed Sep 11, 2013 1:58 pm

How do you take time off without losing the progress you've made? You don't. Well not much time anyway. I started running casually in 1999. Until 2006, I routinely took winters off ... 2 or 3 months. I didn't see much improvement, but I was not a competitive runner and ran just for fitness of body & mind. In 2006 I began training with more focus ... and I trained through the winter, reducing volume only slightly. Every week had at least some running, even if it was all very easy. The consistency paid off quite well as you can see from my race results displayed below. 



A week off after a long hard effort can be beneficial. But long periods (2+ weeks) with no running whatsoever will erode fitness (mine anyway). Your idea to maintain cross-training is very good. It may minimize the loss of running fitness from any running hiatus. But if your experience is like mine, you would be well advised to keep training consistently with only a few days to rest and recover after a hard race effort
(cross-training may qualify for a while anyway). Keep it up!
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Re: How do you take time off without losing the progress you made?

Post  ounce on Wed Sep 11, 2013 10:15 pm

I will usually take a week off, then do 10 miles the next, then 15 for the next couple of weeks after that to an eventual off-season running of around 18-20.

A month after the last marathon, I'll start back up with CrossFit 3 days a week and running 2 days a week.  In 2011, I re-started CrossFit after 2 weeks and that was way too early.
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Re: How do you take time off without losing the progress you made?

Post  Dave-O on Thu Sep 12, 2013 5:21 pm

Simple answer: You don't.  You will lose fitness with 2-3 weeks off.  Even the world's best talk about how getting back into it is tough after 2 weeks off.  However, long term, sometimes you need to lose fitness in order to put yourself in position to regain even more fitness. 

That being said, I thought you mentioned another race on 10/20 with some specific time goals in mind?  Frankly, taking time off while hoping to run sub-1:55 in October are conflicting. I think you need to choose one or the other.  Not saying there's a right answer, but that you should mentally commit to either maintaining "race" fitness or to letting your body detrain.
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Re: How do you take time off without losing the progress you made?

Post  Penelope on Mon Sep 16, 2013 10:29 pm

Thanks for all the replies!  Definitely some food for thought!  I don't know what I'm going to do--see how I feel and if I want any time off or not.  If so, then I'll see how long I need, and accept that I will lose some fitness.
Dave-O, I was thinking that if I do take any time off, it'd be in November, after the half marathon in October.  Agree that definitely trying to improve on the half time wouldn't make sense while taking time off, so the tentative plan is to keep on pushing for another few months and then decide.
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Re: How do you take time off without losing the progress you made?

Post  jon c on Thu Sep 26, 2013 9:07 am

As others have said, you will begin to lose some fitness after a week or two.  Most authorities that I have read say if you get into three or four weeks, the decline becomes more significant.  So unless you need off for mental and emotional health or an injury (obviously), it's not a good idea to lay off too long.
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Re: How do you take time off without losing the progress you made?

Post  Paula Sue on Fri Sep 27, 2013 10:08 am

I agree with Jon and the others.  I wouldn't break completely from running for more than a week or 10 days unless there was an injury that needed rest and attention.  The best thing to do is take off the watch and just go out for a short jaunt (2 to 3 miles) every other day.  Don't record it, don't ruminate over what you should be trying to accomplish...just run for fun.  It's fall...go to the park and run where there is something to see rather than keying in on asphalt and time.
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Re: How do you take time off without losing the progress you made?

Post  Penelope on Sun Oct 06, 2013 2:20 am

@Paula Sue wrote:I agree with Jon and the others.  I wouldn't break completely from running for more than a week or 10 days unless there was an injury that needed rest and attention.  The best thing to do is take off the watch and just go out for a short jaunt (2 to 3 miles) every other day.  Don't record it, don't ruminate over what you should be trying to accomplish...just run for fun.  It's fall...go to the park and run where there is something to see rather than keying in on asphalt and time.
I think you hit the nail on the head for me.  Right now I'm thinking after my next race, up to 10 days off, and then changing the focus and taking the pace calculations away and just running for the shear pleasure of it.  Right now, I'm too caught up in what I "should" be able to do each run that the enjoyment is suffering.
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