Taking Breaks

The most important workout between your runs is a recovery.

Gap Month

February 17, 2020

It wasn’t like it was part of some grand strategic training plan. I just needed a break. My body was telling me. I could feel it in every step. I needed a few weeks off.

As the decade turned over, I had been pretty sloth-like anyhow. December 2019 was a brutal month for fitness. In fact, I logged less than fifty klicks that month running. After a year of multiple races, and pushing myself to switch up my training plan, and week after week after week of the same kinds of steady, no-real-goal-in-sight running... meh. January arrived and I made it official. I’m taking a rest. A couple short runs a week to keep the legs limber, but besides that only committing to cross-training and planning for the spring and summer.

The story after that isn’t so exciting: spin classes, workouts, a gym membership, lots of walking, rest, chill, and disappointing friends by bailing on a few run nights... and then ending the whole break thing by winging a half marathon yesterday (but that’s a different story!)

So, what’s the point.

Recovery (even the little breaks between runs) is and has always been a reset. And a big break, a defined break, permission to just not run (as much?) for a few weeks has been a big reset. No matter who you are or the distances you run, the sport is physically and mentally draining. It works you, drives you, pushes you and also no matter who you are you can always push a little further, faster, stronger. The only real limit is yourself, so we do push, and we tend to run at the fringe of our comfort for weeks, months... years? Until it becomes an ache in the spaces between our muscles and mind. It builds up. It accumulates. And the maybe sometimes the only way, the best way, to scrub it away is a break.

If you need a break, take it. (But it always helps to have a bit of a plan to return at the end.)

The Long, Dark Walkbreak of the Soul

September 9, 2014

I’ve been doing math and the logical, cynical, lazy part of my brain keeps telling me that the year is a write-off. Deep down I know better, but logic has always been a solid ally in my life so even when it trails off into the shadowy paths of pessimism I tend to follow.

It has been a disappointing summer of running. Or, more accurately, not running very much at all.

Rather, it’s been a bit of a walkbreak. Run for ten months, walk three. Not exactly the right kind of interval training, and not when it came as abruptly and as unplanned as it did. I mean, in the do-as-I-say-not-as-do school of running, I would encourage that exact sort of thing. Take a break. Train for a goal … two maybe … and then take some time off, enjoy your new-found fitness, restore connections with family, have a beer, relax.

But there is a difference between choosing to take a break, and having a break thrust upon you mere days before … before … reaching a goal. It hurts. It aches. It jabs a knife into the dark recesses of your heart and …

This is what the math tells me: the math tells me that in the three summer months, June through August, I ran a total (including that botched half marathon a couple weeks ago) of two hundred and fifteen kilometers. Compare that to the summer of 2013, when I was … admittedly … training for a marathon and I racked up five hundred and seventy klicks over the same span of time. Heck, in July alone last year I was only a handful of meters short of two-hundred training klicks. Even the roughest, most generous of math, will tell you that I just barely ran one-third the distance this summer over last summer. One third. And those weren’t shorter runs, either. They were fewer. More scattered. Skipped. Leaving gaps and gaping holes in my plan and schedule.

Just as you are very probably shouting at your screen right now, that logical part of my brain is too: telling me to chill, relax, get over it. 

And maybe I should. I mean, I have those excuses, of course. 

I’ve been on a long, multi-year training schedule that has bent me into strange and crazy shapes, consumed swaths of my time, and sent me into a number of epic running events that will forever haunt my memory and fill my future moments of nostalgia with prolific bragging points. 

But then a sciatic nerve injury in late May led to weeks off, completely off, with no running. Followed by a slow, frustrating rebuild. Then sporadic training where I never really got my groove back.

A two week vacation in the middle of August was lovely, but I logged less than ten klicks on the Icelandic trails, and those were only vanity runs, little more than souvenir GPS trails for my collection.

And then? Well … there is part of me that wants to blame the calf muscle cramps for another week-long hiatus and slow rebuild, but there is another (much more honest) part of me that knows the reverse is true: the sporadic training and lax summer is responsible for the muscle cramps. Too little training. Too much confidence. And…

A walkbreak. A long, dark and unwelcome walkbreak of heartbreaking, soul-crushing frustration.

More math tells me that to meet my annual goals, even the adjusted mid-summer step-down and plan B, even that, I have over five hundred klicks to run in 2014. In less than four months. I would need to average nearly four and a half klicks per day, every day, on average to meet that milestone. Thirty klicks per week.

Part of me knows I could probably do it. I could set my mind on the task and push through to my imaginary finish line. But the other part of me is still stuck in that long, dark walkbreak and needing to find a way to listen to the beep of my less-logical mind and start running again. 

In a way it is true that I already have. The plan is to go out tonight again and the runs-in-a-row tally will hit an even ten. But in my mind I’m still stuck, still seeking to un-stick … carefully, methodically, and without re-injuring my still-fragile self … and I’m not sure I’ve figured out how to do that yet.

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