Sometimes you have to take time off from your running or cycling workout routine. Whether it be due to an injury or other life events, there are times when we just can’t get to it. During those times we athletes can beat ourselves up and feel that we are “getting behind,” but we shouldn’t despair. It’s not all bad news; there are actually pros and cons to taking breaks. Let’s think about those today.
First, let me give you a piece of advice before we jump into the pros and cons. When you do have to take a break, embrace it. Tell yourself that you are on a break. Don’t try to throw one workout in and try to get back to it when whatever’s in the way is still there. One odd workout in a month of time off doesn’t help much and it may just make you feel lousy about starting and stopping. Embrace the break and then when you can get back to it fully commit to getting back to it!
Now let’s think through some pros and cons of taking breaks:
The big con #1 that jumps out right away (it’s what you’re all thinking about) is the loss of fitness: Yes, there is a loss of fitness during breaks so we don’t want to embrace so many breaks that we don’t ever train. The loss of fitness tends to hit your long endurance and top speed first. So what you may see when starting back up again is that you can still run or ride, and you may even be able to go pretty hard, but you won’t last long and you won’t be as sharp as normal. I’ve been known to do a sprint triathlon or a 5K race even after taking a month or so off. I wouldn’t expect to PR and I wouldn’t try that with a marathon or half-Ironman, but if it is something short and quick the body often remembers.
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